These questions can help you get at the truth in any passage, process it, and learn from it. I use these 7 study questions in my own personal Bible study off and on, or when I am preparing to lead a group study. I highly recommend having a journal or notebook available to write down the answers you find in the text. Writing the answers to these questions can take your study and journaling deeper. I share more about what I do in my personal Bible reading routine over here.
This is my own consolidation of a few different lists of questions to use in Bible study, that I have accumulated over the years. This has become my standard list I teach and use myself. There are other questions you could ask, or get more specific within each question, but this is a fairly all-encompassing list.
7 Bible Study Questions for Any Passage
1. What is the author trying to communicate? (Original meaning and context.)
This first one is where you might want to reach for a study tool like a commentary. Often it is clear in the passage what the author was trying to communicate in the original context of his writing. Or you may simply already know, if you’ve been studying the Bible long enough. There are many times, however, when an outside source would be helpful here.
My suggestion is write down your best answer to this, based on what the text is actually saying, not what you think or feel about it.
Then, visit a source like Blue Letter Bible and search for the passage you are reading. You will find options for definitions, cross references, and even commentaries. See how close you were in your best answer. You must be willing to be corrected in your understanding, though, if your research shows something different.
2. What does this teach about God?
If there is a question on this list that is more important than all the others, it is this one. The Word of God is His specific revelation of Himself to us. When we open and read, we are getting to know Him.
The most common question that I have heard over the course of my life when people read Scripture is “What does this mean to me?” Or when we are answering the question “What does this mean?” they might begin by saying things like “I think” or “I feel.” This is how we talk about Scripture a lot.
However, it doesn’t matter what you think or feel about the Bible. It will always be true no matter what you think or feel, and it will always have the same original meaning, no matter what you think or feel. Also, it is not primarily about us, but about God.
So our approach to Scripture needs to be not what we think, but getting at the original meaning that it has. What is God revealing about Himself in this passage? That’s what really matters. It is what will be true, no matter what you think or feel.
3. Is there a command to obey?
Not every passage will contain answers to all of these questions, but these are a starting place to dig deeper as you read. When you find a passage that contains a command to obey, for example “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), be willing to take it a step further and ask yourself if you have been obeying that command.
If not, confess it to the Lord, repent of disobedience, and ask for wisdom and strength to obey. This is the heart of Bible study: a walk with the Lord. A daily Bible reading routine is not just a ritual. We should come away from a study of God’s truth changed and renewed.
4. Is there an example to follow?
One thing I love about the Bible is all the narratives of those who have gone before. People who followed God, struggled, prayed, believed, obeyed, sinned, and repented. They walked with God, and we can follow their example.
The best example in Scripture is that of Christ. He lived a sinless life so He would be a worthy sacrifice, but also to show us how to do it. We will never attain perfection like Christ, but are able, through Christ in us, to “have this mind in you which was also in Christ” (Philippians 2:5) and to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
5. Is there a promise to claim?
This one is beautiful, and I love finding the promises of Scripture. Often these are tied to God’s character, and teach us how He operates.
It is important to keep in mind that they often go with a command to obey or a principle to follow. When you do that, God promises to do this. Perhaps make note of both together. We cannot expect to claim a promise, if we do not obey the command that goes with it.
Another consideration here is original context. There are, especially in the Old Testament, promises to Israel that were specific to their situation. If you are not sure if a certain promise was meant for you or the audience of the book, look it up on Blue Letter Bible.
6. Is there a sin to avoid?
You’ve probably noticed these questions are all fairly similar, but they approach the passage from slightly different angles. One passage may clearly have a command to obey and a sin to avoid that go hand in hand, or a principle to follow as well as a promise that goes along with it.
As with the command to obey, when you come across a passage with a sin to avoid, ask yourself if you have been following that. Maybe you have something to confess and repent of with the Father. Again, this is the heart of Bible study and growing as a believer. Embrace the truth and the process of growing in godliness.
7. Is there a principle to follow?
The only difference between this question and “Is there a command to obey?” is that this one can include more general ideas. A command to obey might be “Bring all your tithes into the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10). A principle would be more like “The thoughts of the righteous are right, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful” (Proverbs 12:5).
You may not be able to find a specific command in Scripture to apply to every circumstance. However, the principles in God’s Word encompass everything we might possibly need to know.
Notice what was not included on this list: “What do you think about these verses?” or “How do you feel about this?” or “What do you think this means?” Those are not study questions. Those are personal questions about you. We are not studying your feelings and thoughts.
Our views MUST be shaped by what God’s Word actually says, not our preconceived ideas, cultural norms, or even church traditions. And especially not our feelings.
Bible Study Question Bookmarks
I have created bookmarks that have all 7 study questions on them, as an easy way to remember them when you read. As you read your daily chapter (or an even shorter passage with this in-depth method), these questions are right on your bookmark to help you study.
I recommend reading through a whole book of the Bible a chapter a day. Choose a book of the Bible where your bookmark will live. Read more about my bookmark method in this post.
The download includes three different color bookmarks, printed four to a page. I laminate and cut mine apart, share with friends, and also when I lead Bible study groups.