How to Study the Bible

Introduction - Lesson #03
Key Verses - Spiritual Glasses


      The concept of key verses, or spiritual glasses, should be easy to understand for anyone who wears glasses.  I personally have poor vision.  While I can stumble around in the dark and find a few things that are always kept in the same place, most of the time I need to turn the light on and put my glasses on to find anything important.  And Bible study is a search process.  We are looking for information from God, and if we do not know what we are looking for, or what God is trying to provide to us, we will have a hard time finding it.  Just as physical glasses allow us to see farther, and keep things in focus, knowing the main point of God's message allows us to see his word.

      There are two methods often used to study the Bible.  One way is to go to the Bible to prove what you have already decided is true.  This method is useless, because our search process will ignore any teaching which does not fit with what be believe.  When this type of study is done, we believe the same as we did when we started, and usually we have learned nothing.  A better way is to read the Bible to discover what God is trying to say to us.  If that is our goal, verses that explain a part of God's message, or why God does something, or shows us the big picture of what everything is about, become very important.  These verses are scattered randomly through the Bible, and finding them are like finding gems.  The above examples show how to understand the following concepts:

      The purpose of a Book:   Job is a hard book to read.  After a couple of simple chapters it bogs down in an endless debate between several friends that are getting increasingly angry with each other.  It is a good book to illustrate how quickly we often loose our compassion for people who are suffering.  And the book of Job does not seem to show God caring much about Job.  But James throws a different light on it.  James is talking to people who are suffering, and he points them to Job as an example of someone who could not see why God was not showing his love.  But Job endured, and God blessed him afterward.  James says that during the suffering we have no way to understand the heart of God.  We have to trust God to bless us when the situation is finished, as he did with Job.

      The purpose of punishment:  Our society does not like to admit to being wrong, nor are we willing to accept the consequences of our mistakes.  Therefore some people simply believe that a "good" God would never punish man, or if they see God bringing punishment upon a nation they believe that he is cruel.  But the end of Chronicles, which concludes several hundred years of Jewish history, the author addresses this issue.  He said that God wanted a relationship with his people, and that he repeatedly tried everything in his power to get his people to be reasonable.  But God has a limit to his patience, and wrong will not go unpunished.  We see here a God who is both merciful and just.

      Central message of the Bible:   When Jesus makes a comment that a way of acting toward each other is a summary of what the law and prophets were teaching, or when he says that our love for God and man is like a nail in a wall that gives the law and the prophets something to hang on, we should sit up and take notice.  God is trying to tell us, "This is what I have been trying to tell you all along."  Both verses stress the concept that religion, in God's view, is primarily focused in relationships.  That shouldn't surprise us.  The ten commandments, which form the core of the Jewish law, focused on how we are to act toward God and each other.  Most of the Jewish law itemized for various situations what was the right way to act toward others, and how to correct the situation when people did not act that way.  All of the attitudes that God asks us to develop within ourselves, and the way he commands us to act toward each other, are designed to build or heal relationships.  God is interested in teaching us how to have relationships that will last for the eternity that we will exist.  Paul echos this, in 1 Corinthians 13.  He examines all of the things that people normally expect from religion:  a dynamic preacher, a wise prophet, a person of unshakable faith, the willingness to give our wealth away or to be a martyr.  All have no value without love.  Paul's description of love is a handbook for building relationships.  He says that much of what we think to be important in religion will pass away, but three will remain.  And Love is placed at the top of these three.  We should constantly be looking the Bible to see what does or does not work with relationships, and also seeing how God defines himself.


  1. Bible study is discovering what God has to say to us, not proving what we already believe.
  2. God provides us clues to help us understand the main point.
  3. One of the most important reasons that the Bible exists is to help us with relationships
  4. Our understanding of a section of scripture should be consistant with the purpose of the author, and with what God says is the main point of the entire Bible.

Last Update:    10/28/2002
Copyright (c) 1998, 2002 by Bruce J. Butterfield. All Rights Reserved.