How can you study the Bible on your own?
By thinking through what a portion of Scripture says, what it means, and how it applies to your life.
This is often referred to as OIA.
OIA stands for Observation, Interpretation, and Application.
How do you do OIA?
After praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, read a portion of Scripture straight through to get the big picture. How much is “a portion”? It depends. It could be a chapter or a paragraph. Read until there is a natural break in thought.
You could do bigger sections, but it may make the task overwhelming. You can do smaller sections, too, like a couple of verses or a verse at a time, but I find that you need to read what’s around it anyway to figure out the context, so you might as well include the surrounding verses in your study.
Write down what you notice in the passage. Stick to the basic facts. Who is the writer? Who is the first audience? What is God doing in the passage? Is there a word that is repeated a couple times?
You will also want to note in your observations the literary genre of the Bible book. Hallie, a Bible study blogger at Halliewrites.com, guest posted about her Bible study tips on Living Free Indeed. Hallie also created a printable chart that shows the different genres of biblical literature and observation questions to ask related to each genre.
Find out what the passage means. Sometimes this will be obvious. Other times you will have no idea! Use other parts of Scripture, reliable commentaries, ask your friends who know the Bible well if you get stuck.
How can the Scripture be applied? Sometimes the application of the passage is for people in general and doesn’t feel particularly personal. Other times the application feels like it was made for you and your immediate situation. Still other times the application you unearth will apply to you later. If you didn’t have a spine-tingling, heart-warming moment, you didn’t do anything wrong. The goal of Bible study isn’t to find “all the feels.” The goal is to unearth what God says and who He is. The Holy Spirit will use the truth that you’ve found at just the right time for you.
What OIA Really Looks Like
I really admire the Pinterest-worthy Christians who can study the Bible and neatly organize all their thoughts into a beautiful notebook. But that is just not reality for me. Most of the time my OIA is scribbled in a 25 cent notebook in one long list of jumbled observations, interpretations, and applications. Occasionally there are other times when I get stuck or I am working on a devotional writing assignment and I need to consciously work through OIA step by step.
Cindy at Go Gather Grow is much more organized than I am! She gives a fantastic overview of OIA by explaining the inductive bible study method. I love that she includes tons of observation questions to ask. You may want to print out her explanation and keep it near your Bible so that you can have it handy. While you are over at Go Gather Grow, check out some of what Cindy shares from her own Inductive Bible Studies. She even includes the hard parts! Check out what she shares from Ezekiel !
Other Bible Study Ideas
Try a Topical Bible Study
Topical studies can be helpful when you come across a theme or idea and you want to know what the whole Bible has to say about it. If you struggle with gossip, you could do a study on it. Maybe you want to know what God says about how to treat immigrants. You can do a topical study to find out. Jenni Mullinex breaks down a topical Bible study into simple steps.
Creative Bible Study Methods
For all the creatives and artsy folk out there, Lil from Embracing the Lovely has some journaling and other Bible study ideas that lets you use that pile of colored pencils for more than just hand-lettering or coloring. Her creative tips enhance the study itself.
Word studies are similar to a topical study, but they focus on studying the instances of the original Hebrew or Greek word rather than instances of the English translation. Kelli LaFram,a blogger and devotional Bible study writer, shares more about word studies on kellyrbaker.com. She also explains her double-entry journal method for organizing her thoughts while studying God’s word.
What tips or suggestions have helped you study the Bible on your own? Please comment below!