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General Bible Courses > How to Study the Bible

Chapter 5: Individual Book Study


It might seem easier to rely on a few favorite Bible verses to guide and nourish us spiritually. But we need a "full diet" of God's Word in order to grow into the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). We must eat heartily of God's Word day after day in order to reach this goal.

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life ... He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35). As the bread of life, Jesus is our source of life. In order to better understand our life in Christ, we need to study what each book of the Bible says about Him. Our belief increases with our knowledge.

When the people asked Jesus what they could do to please God, His answer was that God wanted everyone to believe in His Son. When we believe in Him, then we can do what God wants us to do (John 6:28, 29).

In this lesson you will study ...
The Benefits of Book Study
The Approach to an Individual Book
The Book of Colossians

This lesson will help you ...
Better understand the purposes of Bible study.
Put into practice what you have learned about Bible study.

The Benefits of Book Study

Objective 1. List personal benefits of individual book studies.

In time your studies of each book of the Bible will provide you with a strong familiarity of God's whole revelation. You will be able to see how the events of the Bible fit together. You will be better informed and spiritually prepared for the fulfillment of prophecy regarding Christ's second coming. You will build a solid foundation for other studies on specific spiritual lessons and truths.

A very important benefit of studying God's Word book by book is being able to see particular teachings in context. Often we can understand the intended meaning of a passage only when we see its context. Thus, familiarity with the whole Bible will help you to recognize and resist false teachings. They are as widespread today as they were in the early church. Many of the Epistles in the New Testament deal directly with false teachings that arose with the rapid spread of the gospel right after Christ's death and resurrection.

The greatest benefit of studying the Bible book by book is that the Bible will become the living Word in you. Any time you have problems in your daily life, you will be able to turn to teaching in the Bible to strengthen your faith and instruct you in what to do.

The Approach to an Individual Book

Objective 2. List the three main steps in book study.

You begin the study of a book by reading it through. When you complete a book you begin to see the whole picture. It would be wise to read Colossians, or any book you are going to study, two or more times (even 10 or 12) before you begin writing down notes or trying to answer too many questions. This will give you a general impression about the main subject of the book. It will let you know how the author feels. The feelings might be of despair, encouragement, worship, hope, joy, concern, sorrow, humility, judgment, or some other human emotion. And your reading will reveal key words and phrases that are repeated throughout the book.

The first step is to read and observe until you see what the author is saying. This step takes time and patience as well as a desire to know what God's Word says.

The second step is to interpret what the author means. Use the three rules of interpretation we described in Lesson 4. Ask questions, pay attention to the context, and read related Scriptures. Also, notice the literary style, the language, and the organization of ideas. Write notes based on what these things show you. Try to sum up the meaning of the book. This means you should pick out the book's main points and show their relationship to each other in a brief written form. Use your own words. Once you have done this, the book becomes alive to you. It can become a part of you, a personal living force.

The third step is to apply this living force to your life. You must allow what you learn about Christ to transform your character and your actions. When this happens, your life will be a "light" to others. You will be able to show them the way to Christ.

The Book of Colossians

Objective 3. Identify main ideas in the book of Colossians.

Before you go any further in this lesson, please stop and read Colossians. You may want to read it several times before trying to interpret it. If you are using the Good News Bible: Today's English Version, be sure to read the "Introduction" and "Outline of Contents" at the beginning of Colossians. This brief description tells that Paul wrote this letter to the church at Colossae to oppose the false teachings there. His main point is that "Jesus Christ is able to give full salvation."

After you have read the book once, continue your study by rereading and making notes on your first impressions of the book. Notice how often these words or ideas are repeated: "faith," "set free," "life in Christ." Notice repeated words as you read. They help you to identify main ideas.

Objective 4. Use some of the rules of interpretation to study selections from Colossians.

Colossians is written in the literary style of the letter. The writer, Paul, is discussing the false teachings about salvation. He uses figures of speech to help the people picture in their minds what union with Christ really means. For example, in verse 2:8, he says, "see to it, then, that no one enslaves you." When we are united with Christ, we are set free from the bonds of man­made rules regarding salvation. Salvation is not imprisonment. We are not slaves.

Paul also uses different ways of organizing his ideas to emphasize his main points. Make notes on what you find and then work the following exercises.


It is helpful to put the teaching of a book into context by comparing it with related teachings in other books. If you check the margins of Colossians you will see several references to Ephesians. One of these references is Ephesians 2:1-10. There again we read about passing from death to life.

Outline Example

All of the thoughts in these verses were not new to you because they relate to what you have already learned from your study of Colossians. It reminds us again that the Bible consists of many books, but it is still one book.

Objective 5. Indicate in what ways you can live a full life with Christ as illustrated in Colossians.

It is only as you prayerfully consider the teachings in God's Word and respond to them that you can really benefit from your study. Knowledge alone is not enough. You must apply what you have learned and allow God to fit your life into His plan.

None of us would say that we have arrived at a point where we could claim living 100% the life described in Colossians. Yet God has helped us, and we claim His promises for continued help.

This completes our lesson on a brief study of Colossians. You will want to study Colossians further when you see how it relates to other books. Also, it holds precious truths to enrich your devotional life. May God bless you as you apply your skills to this book and other books of the Bible.

Take the quiz

Quiz Instructions

Now take this short quiz.

1. What are the benefits of individual book studies? Choose three.

a) Be familiar with the whole Bible

b) recognize and resist false teaching

c) have the living Word in you.

d) takes less time

2. Choose the main steps in your approach to studying a book of the Bible. Choose all that are true.

a) read and observe

b) interpret

c) apply

3. What seems to be Paul's mood or feeling as he writes this letter? See verses 1:2-14; 1:24; and 2:1, 2, 5 for help.

a) Irritation

b) Pity

c) Concern

4. Based upon your reading, which of the following statements give a main idea from the book of Colossians? Read verses 2:10 and 3:11 for help.

a) We receive full life through union with Christ.

b) We will receive full life in heaven.

5. Fill in the spaces with the correct words. Ephesians 2:9, 10 says, "For it is by __________ that you have been __________ through __________

a) God's grace, saved, faith

b) Good works, saved, effort

6. To enter God's presence I must not allow myself to

a) be shaken from the hope I have gained.

b) to visit another church.

7. To preach Christ to others I must use

a) the strength Christ supplies.

b) whatever strength I have in myself.

8. See to it that no one enslaves you by using

a) heavy iron chains.

b) the deceit of human wisdom.

9. Be fair with others, remembering that

a) they might try to get even with you.

b) you too have a Master in heaven.

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