How To Study Books of the Bible

Here are suggestions to help you study a book of the Bible. Before reading any portion of Scripture, ask the Holy Spirit in prayer to give you a teachable heart. Read the Bible to learn His will for your life, now. It has been written to encourage your heart, convict you of sin, teach you principles that will shape your life. The Bible will help you to know and love God. Enjoy your discoveries.

Read the entire book at one sitting. Start with shorter books.

The Christian life is not a 100-yard dash, or long distance run so much as it is a daily walk. Consistency in daily Bible reading and study is a key to growth. Sometimes you may learn new facts, but find little you can see that applies to your own life. Be faithful. As you seek to know Christ, God will teach you through “dry” and lush times truths that will live in you.

Watch allowing the telephone or other things to be first, interrupting your time with God.

Plan your schedule and study time; if you don't, others will fill it for you. Plan your work, work your plan.

Read the book you are studying again, more slowly.

On your next read, use different translations each time when possible, as you read. NIV, Living Bible, New American Standard, Berkeley, The Williams, New English, are some enjoyable translations that give you a change of pace as you read.

Look for the theme or main idea in the book.

Enjoy reading. Seek to see what God had in mind in causing the book to be written. Note the persons to whom written, the circumstances of the author, backgrounds. Check into a Bible dictionary or handbook to get additional information 

Read it again!

Remember, this isn't a dash -- it's a daily walk!

Pick out the basic verse, the key idea that pegs down the doctrinal thought, in each chapter. The basic verse is the one verse you would memorize if you were going to think through the book for its doctrinal teachings to get into your life. 

Write down notes, ideas, and cross references. 

You'll begin to compare teaching in chapters. See the basic groupings of ideas and thought transitions as you reread. Note the divisions of teaching.

Divide these larger groupings of ideas into smaller units or sections.

As needed, analyze these units. Break them into smaller parts. Then outline or paraphrase all these units into a whole.

Seek a personal application for the book's message to your life.

Can you summarize the book into a sentence statement? Try. Ask God to give you some course of action or life challenge from each chapter, week by week as you study. 

G. Campbell Morgan, one of the world's greatest Bible teachers, read each book through at least 50 times before teaching it once. IDEA: To master a book so that it masters you, read it at least 30 times, four chapters each day, until you have let it go through you the 30 times. For example, Philippians has four chapters. Reading it through each day will take about 16 minutes. At the end of one month you will know that book better than any other in the Bible, and its contents will have revealed Christ and His will for your life in a refreshing new and wonderful way. I discuss this Bible study method in my January 2005 International Mentoring Newsletter; look it up. To subscribe to our quarterly newsletter, go here for email or here for paper.

Here is a simple outline of 1 Thessalonians. Its theme became to me “Building Disciples In The Local Church.” Because I preached through the book over a period of time, some of the outlines are different in style.


Chapter 1 – The Foundation For Discipleship: Sound conversion and Christ-like example. 

  1. The Message from God They Proclaimed vs. 1-4
    The Godhead is mentioned in nine of 10 verses. Note teaching. New believers must get pure doctrine.
  2. The Model of Christ They Exampled vs. 5-6a
    The fastest way to learn anything is having it modeled before you. They saw Christ translucent through the Team of Paul, Silas and Timothy.
  3. The Ministry of the Holy Spirit They Obeyed vs. 6b-10
    Paul modeled the life (vs 5). Thessalonian believers followed (imitated) Paul, (vs 6). These converts thus became ensamples (molds, patterns) to others (vs 7-8). Because Paul was evangelizing in the midst of great affliction (vs 6) then converts, in turn, also witnessed, serving as slaves (vs 9) of Christ in outreach.

Chapter 2 – The Fellowship For Discipleship 2:1-12
“fellowship” means a joint-participator, partner, IDEA: sharing.

  1. The Dedication involved in sharing, vs 1-2
    Babies come out of labor and travail, men too!
  2. The Declaration essential for sharing, vs 3-6, 9-10. 
    What you are, and what you say blend together for eternal impact on hearts; “approved” (vs. 4) means “tested.” We hve been entrusted with a “franchise” of the Gospel. Our motivation is to please God (see Revelation 4:11) rather than man.
  3. The Desire that produces sharing. vs 7, 8, 11
    The love and tenderness of a nursing mother (vs. 7), the heart commitment to the needs of others that causes us to give “our very lives” (vs. 8) and the training ministry of a father's heart (vs. 11) is the desire that God uses to make disciples.
  4. The Direction purposed through sharing. vs. 12
    “walk” is a key word used by Paul to describe Christian life.

Chapter 2 – Attack and Counter-attack to strengthen Fellowship 2:13-20; 3:1, 2. 

  1. Satan's attack on essential sharing: Spiritual Genocide!
    • Stopping fellowship vs. 18
    • Steady suffering vs. 14-15
    • Strangling speech vs. 16 (Satan's conspiracy against witnessing.)

  2. Supernatural counter-attack to strengthen sharing.
    • A testimony of life that impacted. vs. 13a
    • A teaching ministry that warned of trial. vs. 14b
    • A tenderness of heart which reflected intercession. vs. 17
    • A trained man that could go and encourage. vs 3:1, 2

Chapter 3 – The Faith For Discipleship 3:1-13
Word “faith” used five times in chapter.

  1. The Concern about faith. vs. 1-4
  2. The Conflict about faith. vs. 5
    (Faith is always tested by Satan). “in vain” means “zero.” Note Paul's analysis of a church, here and in Philippians 2:14-16.
  3. The Culmination of faith. vs. 6-13

Chapter 4 – The Framework For Discipleship 4:1-12

  1. A pure heart is essential. The home is a base for discipleship.
    • Pleasing God is our goal. vs. 1-2
    • Possessing our vessel in honor is His will. vs. 3-5
    • Practicing holiness is our calling. vs. 6-8
  2. A practical love evidences discipleship. vs. 9-12

Chapter 4-5 – The Future and Discipleship 4:13-15; 5:1-11
Other than love for Christ, His imminent return is a mighty motivation for faithful discipleship.

  1. The Assurance of Christ's return vs. 13-18
  2. The Application for living until Christ returns 5:1-11
    • His return will be sudden — be prepared. vs. 5:1-4
      Note: “The Day of the Lord” in O.T. 
      The Day:
      • Its meaning vs. 1-2
      • Its method vs. 3
      • Its message vs. 4-11

    • His return will be sudden — live in the light vs. 5-11
      • Recognize your birthright vs 5b
      • Respond as a soldier vs. 6-8
      • Rejoice and build up one another vs. 9-11

Chapter 5 – The Fundamentals in Discipleship 5:12-28

  1. Respect for authority vs. 12-13
  2. Responsiveness to Others vs. 14-15
  3. Relationship with the Spirit vs. 16-19
  4. Relying on God's faithfulness vs. 20-28
    • To feed you vs. 20
    • To lead you vs. 21-22
    • To preserve you vs. 23-24
    • To produce fruit vs. 25-28