How to Study the Bible on Your Own

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.

This method was made popular by Howard Hendricks in Living By the Book and Kay Arthur’s Inductive Bible Study method which she teaches through Precept Ministries. 

picture of Bible pages that are heavily marked up from doing Bible study

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.

Observation

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.

Interpretation

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.

Application

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.

_The goal of Bible study isn't to find 'all the feels.' The goal is to unearth what God says and who He is.

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 Study

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!

Rachel Schmoyer and Read the Hard Parts is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

8 comments

  1. I’m with you on not being able to make my Bible study look pretty! But, boy does it produce beautiful fruit in spite of me! 🙂 This was a great post. I like this simple, straight-forward Bible study method best!

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      • I use The One Year Bible reading plan on a loop always. So reading through the Bible once every year.
        Right now I’m in Leviticus, (on of the “hard parts” in my opinion, but forever special to me because of this: https://hisdearlyloveddaughter.com/2017/05/10/moses-taught-love-rockstar/) Mark, (maybe my favorite Gospel) Psalms (the 30s chapters which are some of my favorites!!) and Proverbs 10.
        I also do a lot of more specific study as I research and write blog posts. A few of the main things I’m looking at right now are: boundaries in the Bible, forgiveness and redemption, the things God has told us to ask for, and the armor of God. (doing Priscilla Shirer’s study)
        I love, love, LOVE the Word of God! It is the air I breathe. So thankful to have such easy access to it and to so many tools to help me study it. What an unbelievable blessing!

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      • Ah, Leviticus! I recently spoke to a kid’s retreat on the day of atonement from Leviticus 16. I don’t think I’ve used the One Year Bible. Is that the one that has you read a little bit from different parts of the Bible each day?

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      • Yes. A little Old Testament, a little New Testament, a Psalm, and a few verses in Proverbs each day. I do it every year. I love it. I’ve done other plans, but not since I found this one. Did I say that I LOVE it! It makes it so much easier to get through the whole thing, in my opinion.
        I especially love spreading Psalms out over the whole year. It becomes so much more meaningful to me that way. Other plans tend to go straight through Psalms and they all start to sound the same and become totally meaningless to me, but one each day just comes alive! Same with Proverbs, but to a lesser degree.
        I do recommend that people read through it chronologically once. Just to get a feel for the timeline of it all. But I think int’s really tough to do that way… so I just did it once.
        What plan do you use, and do you love it too? And it so, why?

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      • I’ve read through chronologically about 5 times in my life I think. One time I read chronologically. One time (when I was a kid) I read sporatically (hmmm…which book do I want to read today…). The other times I just read through in Biblically order. Because I attend Bible Study Fellowship, it’s too much to read through and keep up with the study. But last year I read through the Bible in the summer. I might do that again this year, too.

        Liked by 1 person

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