4 Key Words for Personal Bible Study

Study to shew thyself approved unto God… (2 Timothy 2:15)

2 Timothy 2:15, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Bible Study can be a complicated subject. There are so many different methods that are promoted. Yet, my goal in this post is to keep it simple. So, with that in mind, here are four key words I want you to consider:


Why are you studying the Scriptures? As Paul wrote to Timothy, he gave the most important motive for studying the Word – to show ourselves approved unto God.

Paul gives Timothy a command: Study. Yet, the word includes much more than poring over our mobile devices! The word (σπουδασον) carries the concept of being eager, zealous, hastening to get something accomplished, to have a keen interest, and intense desire.

What helps the believer to present himself as genuine, tested, proven, and approved before God?

While many elements could factor into this answer, the immediate context focuses on one factor: Accurately handling the Scriptures.

Surely, this is a strong motivation for our study.


Understanding that we are not seeking the approval of men, that our motive is to be approved by God, we now get into the actual study of Scripture. We are examining it (and conversely, it is examining us!).

The keys to being able to “rightly divide” includes at least the following:

  1. A dedicated time to study
  2. A dedicated place to study
  3. A trusted method of study
  4. Trusted resources for study

The Bereans searched the Scriptures daily. This concept of “Bible study” is more specific than simply having regular devotions.

In Bible study, we are not looking for a thought for the day. We are attempting to be systematic, to organize the Bible’s teaching into a format we can digest personally.

A suggested approach for tackling a passage would include asking the basic journalist questions.

  • Who is writing the book?
  • To whom was it written?
  • What is the writer speaking about?
  • When was this passage written? Why was it written?
  • Where was it written?
  • Is there a problem or praise in this passage?
  • Is it instruction or is it narrative?
  • Does this writer cover this topic in any of his other writings?
  • Do other Bible writers also cover this topic? If so, are there any differences? The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. Don’t be afraid to compare Scripture with Scripture.

Sometimes I am asked, “Which reference Bible do you recommend?” I have no answer! You need to find the tool that fits your hand best.

“But, should I buy Logos?” Only if you will use it! If not, then start with a trusted Strong’s Concordance, a good Bible dictionary, and a one-volume commentary to get started.


You know why you are doing this – now you are developing the habit. So, how do you retain what you learn? “Think on these things.”

Someone once defined meditation as “reflection upon what has been previously considered.” You cannot meditate on something until you have studied it first.

Meditation is the opportunity to mull over in your mind the truth from the passage from as many different angles as possible. In effect, you are moving what you have uncovered with your Hands from your Head to the Heart.

If you have not read Dr. John Goetsch’s book, Homiletics from the Heart, he has a helpful appendix on meditation. I definitely recommend it!


We’ve looked at motivation, examination, and meditation.

  • Our hands have worked to uncover truth
  • Our head is considering that truth
  • Our heart is being affected by that truth
  • Our hands put that truth into practice

The basic questions to ask in making accurate applications include: How does this truth you’ve found affect you? Why does it affect you? What will you do about what you have learned?

An Example

Matthew 7.1 is the one verse that almost all Americans know! They may not quote it exactly, but they are pretty sure that if you try to call them out on a wrong behavior, this verse is there out – “Doesn’t the Bible say something like, ‘Don’t judge others’?”

Our motivation is not to prove our friend wrong. We have a higher calling than that. So we begin to examine the passage.

We don’t stop reading at verse 1 – we look at the bigger context. In fact, verse 2 gives the reason why there is a caution against judging.

Basically, the way you judge is the way you will be judged (a “you reap what you sow” principle).

As we meditate upon that and consider the implications of this verse, the meaning, in context, becomes clear.

Matthew 7.1 is not against judging – it is against hypocritical judging. This brings a different perspective to the passage.

As we begin to apply this verse, we understand we make judgments every day of our life. The goal is to make sure that what we are saying with our lips mirrors what is said by our life.

If you have not received a copy of Rightly Divided: a beginner’s guide to bible study, feel free to peruse for more thoughts about Bible study.


What’s a tip you have learned that might help others in Bible study?

Share This