Updated: Apr 21
Welcome to today’s edition of the Beginner’s Guide to Bible Study, featuring the Chapter Summary.
(Find last week's edition on the Devotional Method)
Today we are going to dive right in to the chapter summary method of bible study, which I've referenced from “Bible Study Methods” by Rick Warren. (Stick around til the end to check out the worksheets!)
As we open up our Bible today, it’s good to remember that when it was originally written, there were no chapter divisions, verses or headings. These have been added in to help us. It provides us with a way to reference verses to others, and highlight what the passage is speaking about. It’s also good to notice that between different translations of the Bible, there are different headings and different divisions.
Our goal with the chapter summary, is to gain an overall understanding of what the chapter is about, the content of the passage. So let’s walk it through in 10 easy steps.
Read the passage
We start here by reading the chapter through 5 times. Yes, 5 times.
When we study Scripture, we want to become familiar with it, we want the words to become comfortable for our mind, the same way your favorite pair of sweat pants makes you feel at ease. Repetition gives us the familiarity we need to study and understand the passage well.
A few ideas are to help are, to read the chapter in a bible that doesn’t have study notes, read it through without stopping, use a few different translations, (you can use Blue Letter Bible to help you here), listen to it on audio (I’ve used Bible Gateway for this), and read it out loud.
Once you’re comfortable with the passage, give it a short title. Try to use as few words as possible, between 1-5, so that you can remember it easily. A quick example is Matthew 1 "Jesus' Geneology" or Psalm 1 “Blessed.”
What does it say? Here is where you can summarize, paraphrase or outline what the chapter is talking about. Our different personalities will have us preferring one method or another, so choose what’s best for you, and write out what you’ve observed the passage to say. Make notes from how different translations describe things differently, notice questions, the answers, look for cause and effect.
Highlight the important people the chapter is talking about. Who are they, why are they included, and what is important about them? If there are “he, she, they” words, figure out who they are referring to, from the chapter before.
As you’ve read through the chapter, pick one verse that summarizes it, or one that has spoken personally to you.
I’ll be honest, this was always hard for me, I felt like I would pick “the wrong one.” Okay, putting the perfectionism aside, we are studying Scripture to gain a greater knowledge of who God is, who we are, and in light of that, how He wants us to live. There is no perfect way to study the Bible, we just start doing it, even in the potential awkwardness of the process, then over time, we watch our skills get better, and our love for the Lord grow.
Have you noticed any words that are repeated? Are there important words that stand out, or words that you don’t understand. Write them down.
Is there something hard to understand? A statement, a situation, a word, or a theological concept that you don’t get? Write it down. This is an opportunity for you to either do some further research, or an idea for a topical bible study in the future.
You know those little letters in your study bible that list other bible verses, they are cross-references. This gives us a few places to look outside that verse for another place in Scripture that talks about the same thing. They help us interpret the meaning of the verse. Remember those questions you had earlier? Sometimes, they may be answered here, by checking out the cross-references.
The Bible is one book, of God’s work in the world through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Whether it’s a book in the Old Testament, or New, we can always find the ways God is revealing more to us about Himself, as Father, Son and Spirit, His attributes and the gospel.
What is the main thing you learned in this chapter? Why is this passage in Scripture? What does God want to teach you?
How are you going to apply this lesson to your life? How does this chapter apply to me, and what will I do now to respond? There is both beauty and hardship in the process of application. The beauty lies in our obedience to God, and the hardship is the struggle toward disobedience, all the ways we don’t want to apply truth to our life…because it can be hard.
Continue to pray, asking God for the courage to do fulfill what He is teaching you. If/when you miss the mark, hold back on condemning yourself and rest in God’s grace, His wonderful, amazing grace. This journey, growing in our knowledge of God provides us with the opportunity to experience this grace over and over again. We just need to receive it. We need to let go of our works-based mentality and our legalistic tendencies, and humbly acknowledge that His “grace is sufficient for you, for [His] power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Hold onto this wonderful truth today as you dive into His Word!
What chapter are you going to study this week?
*I've created a pdf download for you! It's a free download, just head over to the tab: "Free Stuff" above, to access it!
Happy getting in the Word!