In our public Bible studies, we use a method known as the Inductive Method, or a Summary of the Chapter to make sense out of what the Word of God is saying to us. When doing one, you should ask yourself three questions, and in this order:
- What does the chapter say?
This is the part of the study where we “summarize” the chapter by breaking it into “thought units,” also known as paragraphs. We give each paragraph a short title (I find 6 or 7 words sufficient usually) as a summary of the ideas contained in that thought unit. Then we look at ALL of the thought units in the title and see if there is a common theme running through them (and there always is). I personally will then give all of the thought units together a title that describes the common theme and pick a verse from the chapter that reflects that theme and is key to my understanding of the text. All of that together is an outline of the chapter and it summarizes very nicely what the chapter says.
- What does the chapter mean?
Please note, we are NOT asking “what does the chapter mean to me,” because that is irrelevant. What we are interested in here is what God is saying, not what we think. If we don’t understand, a good commentary can be of assistance here, but this section cannot truly be done without the aid of the Holy Spirit to show us what He is saying. That is why we are often also in a kind of prayer while we are studying.
- What application can I draw from the words and their meaning?
This is where we can derive a more personal meaning from the chapter or text (this method can be used to study any size of text) from what the Lord is saying in the text. Sometimes this is a broad picture or principle – that’s good because that is sometimes what the Lord wishes to teach us. Sometimes it is very clear and specific, and that’s okay too, because the Lord can also give specific direction through His word.