Read the passage and pray
Praying through what you’ve read will be the most important step. Ask God speak to you through his word and to help you understand the passage.
What is the context to this passage:
- In relationship to text immediately before and after
- In relation to the whole book/letter
- In relation to the entirety of God’s work through scripture
- Does the context (any of a-c) shed any light on what might be important in this passage
This may be the hardest question, as it requires wider Biblical knowledge. If you can’t get far with this then don’t worry, it’s something to consider for future.
Identify key words/phrases and the language used
Are the same/similar words or phrases repeated? Or does the structure lift certain words/phrases to the fore? What do they emphasise? What kind of language is being used: factual narrative, story telling, metaphor? Who is saying these words: God, a narrator, a prophet, etc.
What structure can you see to the passage?
How would you say the passage can be split? Does it flow from one idea to another, or one event to another? This will be your own reading of the passage. There’s no ‘correct’ answer.
Can you summarise the theme/key emphasis of the passage in a sentence?
What could be the main thing the author is trying to make the readers understand?
What applications (or theological principles) can you find? May be split as follows:
- Primary (what you should learn from the passage – probably just one or two)
- Secondary (that can be learnt from the passage, but not the main point)
- Tertiary (applications supported by the passage, but not directly taught)
How would you structure a message on this passage?
Pick a context to imagine you share this passage with someone else. It could be a sermon, children’s talk, one-to-one Bible study, or something else. What structure would you give your study/message? This could be as precise as alliterating sermon headings or a few bullet points of what you’d want to say, depending on the chosen context. Have fun with how to communicate the passage in an interesting way.
Are there any difficulties or problems raised by the passage?
These could be things that you don’t understand, or which are hard to accept in the modern world. Possibly things where the fit with other passages is not obvious.
Download a PDF of these questions to print.