I learned a lot about how to study the Bible from teaching literature for years. Essentially, it’s the same approach, but it works even better combined with prayer. People think studying God’s Word is mysterious and that they cannot grasp it. That’s not true. God’s Word is accessible to everyone–especially in this day and age when there are so many different translations. And God will always guide us by His Holy Spirit into His Truth.
Here is another method you can try using the acronym SOAPSTONE.
S – Speaker – Who is speaking? What do you know about the speaker? What details does he reveal about himself? What is his background? How is this important to his message?
O – Occasion – What is the time and place? How does this affect the message? How does it add meaning or understanding?
A – Audience – To whom is the scripture addressed? Is this important? How does this affect the message. For example, each of the four gospels is written to a different audience. This is important to understand when comparing them because each audience has a different background and reference point.
P – Purpose – What is the speaker’s intent? What does he hope to accomplish? Is the he informing, entertaining, inspiring, or persuading? How is the audience responding to the message/purpose?
S – Subject – What is the subject of the message? What is he talking about?
Tone – Tone – What is the tone of the message? What is the attitude toward the subject? What emotions are conveyed? Is it instructive? Authoritative? comforting? Correcting?
What I like about this method of Bible study is it forces you to see the context. And context is important when trying to apply God’s Word to our own lives. Often we see the stories as without meaning to us because the setting is so different; however, we can find parallels in so many ways, if we allow ourselves to be open to the Holy Spirit’s instruction. After you have processed SOAPSTONE, think about how the passage as a whole and the truths it reveals apply to your own life. Write them down so you can come back to them in the future.