How to Study the Bible

By S.C. Shaw

I have been preaching, teaching and coaching people in the area of God’s Word (the Bible) for many years. One of the most consistent questions or problems people have with coming to the Bible is the complexity or difficulty of understanding it. Which of course results in not reading it at all. I know this to be true because I struggled for most of my life to read through the whole Bible or even read it on a consistent basis which lead to a very shallow and weak spiritual walk for many years in my life. But when I did read the whole Bible and now read it regularly, it changed me from the inside out. 

However, this blog isn’t about reading through the entire Bible. I think most of us need to start way slower. Why? Because the Word of God is inexhaustible and only gets deeper the more you study and understand it. I am not contradicting myself here. I want to encourage you to slow down when coming to the Bible because I want every person who wants to read the Bible to be excited and encouraged to read. This is the only Word from the very real and living God. The only God. There will be no greater life changing gift than coming to Gods Word and leaving with glimpses of Gods glory more each time. Understanding our Creator more will only help with every other aspect of our life. What am I talking about? I am simply saying, read less and understand more. At least at the beginning. I am going to show you an example on how to do this. Namely, ask more questions, research the answers and grow in wisdom and not just information. This will inevitably lead to the desire and excitement for reading through the whole Bible and actually understating more of it. 

Example. 2 Corinthians 7:1 is a very powerful verse that can be studied to understand the entire Gospel story and knowing God better. Let’s get started.

Always start with context of what you are reading. Even just a verse needs to be unpacked in this way. Without context we will wrongfully take verses and start with applying them to our lives, believing it to mean whatever we want it to mean. This is the most dangerous thing you can do. We don’t change the Gospel to fit us we change ourselves (God does this work in us when we are obedient) to fit the Gospel. We need to first understand who it was written to and how they would have understood it before we can draw any life application from it. 

Therefore, 2 Corinthians is the second letter from Paul the apostle written to the church in Corinth. This church was having some big struggles. There was divisions and quarrels among them. Paul is also defending himself as there were false rumors going around about his moral character and apostleship. Paul is calling this church back to Christ. Explaining their need to repent and get back to spreading the good news of Christ. That is a quick sum up.

That leads us to,

Corinthians 7:1

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

This might sound confusing already, but that’s the point. Read a verse like this and then stop and start asking questions. 

Some translations start this verse with “Therefore, since”. But either way when we come to a passage that starts like this, we need to ask ourselves, “What’s that therefore there for?” Or “Since what?” You know something was just said in the previous passage. Back up and get some context. 

In chapter 6 we read in verses 17 & 18, the end of chapter 6. 

2 Corinthians 6:17-18

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people. Therefore, go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Paul here is reminding the church (from the Old Testament) to not be in wrongful fellowship with non-believers. We aren’t to avoid the non-believer, but the relationship we have with them should be very different than the relationships we have with our local church. The church was allowing sin into their church and false doctrines to be preached. We are to minister and tell the world the truth, but we are not to allow anything aside from Christ crucified to be preached in our churches. Paul is reminding them of this. 

Now we can ask the questions from 2 Corinthians 7:1

-Since we have these promises, beloved, 

1. What promises? And why is Paul calling them beloved?

Now we can answer the first question in light of what was just explained in chapter 6. Paul’s commission to turn back to Christ because of what God has promised us since the Old Testament that was written about 1000 years before this letter. God is foreshadowing Christ in this text from Ezekiel. God promised a Savior that would take away the sins of the world. Yeshua (Jesus), God, coming in human flesh to live the perfect life, die the only substitutionary death that He could die, be raised again and now is praying for His children in heaven until He returns for us. With these promises we get an eternity of heaven and everlasting life. And Paul usually addresses the church in this way because he loves them! He planted these churches and he knows these people they are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The very same people we will be with for eternity in heaven. This is the affection we should have for our church. So then, 

let us cleanse ourselves 

2. What is it to be clean?

In its most simple forms, to be clean is to not be dirty. What is dirty? Anything that is unclean. If we wash our hands and then rub them in the mud, they become dirty. I know, I know, this is too simple. But, 

from every defilement 

3. What is defilement?

Defilement is extreme dirty. It’s like I didn’t just rub my hands in mud, I picked up sewage. Defilement is harmful. It is deadly. And even though God is the One who ultimately cleanses us, we still have action to take. We have a part in responding to Him. Example, the Bible is not going to read itself. We need to pick it up and grow in our faith and maturity through His Word. 

-of body and spirit,

4. Why body and spirit?

So, we understand cleansing ourselves and the depth of defilement but now we must be clean in both body and spirit? Why does our physical cleanliness matter? It’s more than just being clean, again, cleansed from defilement. What does the Word of God say is defiling? Sexual immorality. Our bodies were made to glorify God in everything. Mainly because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The very Spirit of God is in each believer.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” 1 Corinthians 6:18

We aren’t to just be holy and pure in our minds or hearts but with our entire being. 

bringing holiness to completion

5. Completion? We can be perfect in this life?

How can we be made perfect in this life? We can’t. But God is continually making us more like Christ. It’s called sanctification. Our holiness will be made complete when Christ comes back and gives us new bodies. You see what Paul is saying here? He’s simply reminding us of Christ’s promise that nothing can or will snatch His children out of His hand (John 10:28-30). It is God who gives the gift of belief and it is God who sustains our belief until the end. This is how and why we will be “bringing holiness to completion”. By the power of Him who has called us. 

in the fear of God.

6. We are to fear God? Why? How?

The last part of this verse almost seems random. We just had all these sweet and loving reminders and now we must fear God? The Bible tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, (Proverbs 9:10). If we don’t have a healthy fear of God, then we do not understand Him enough. He is a big, awesome and powerful God. To stand in His presence is death unless you are a heavenly being. Just the sight of Him causes angels to praise and bow in adoration. Any time we see God reveal Himself in smaller ways in Scripture, it always results in people falling to their face in fear for their lives. His presence is too much for us. But this is the same God that makes a way for us to be reconciled back to Him. He has made us and loves us. But with a healthy fear is when we begin to see ourselves in proper context of who He is and who we are under Him. That is when we know He is the One we should follow and obey. 

You see how this is starting to work? This was a quick and simple breakdown of this verse. I could preach a sermon or write a book from the truths found here. But now that we understand this verse a little better, lets read it again and feel what you gain from slowing down to understand it more. 

Corinthians 7:1

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Every time we come to a verse or passage that we have done this kind of breakdown with, we can stop and remember all that we have learned and be able to teach ourselves/remind ourselves of the goodness of God and find comfort in His promises. As well as be able to explain in a deeper way, the truths of God. 

The other side of this is simply reading even when we don’t feel like it or understand it. Why? Because Christians have the Spirit of God living within them. That means we are reading what He wrote. And it is food for Him. Even when we don’t understand we are being blessed and strengthened. Plus, God is looking on with delight that we are being obedient to His command to grow in wisdom and maturing in the faith. 

This kind of practice will inevitably lead to a desire to read the whole Bible. Approaching Gods Word with the proper excitement and reverence. Then we will get much more from our devotion time with our Lord. 


Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!


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One thought on “How to Study the Bible

  1. Pingback: “God is Love” Means What? | by S.C. Shaw

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