Many Christians need help learning how to study the Bible. This is a common question that vexes many of us when we decide to follow Christ. Thankfully, there is a pretty simple way forward. Today, we’ll explain the S.S.O.A.P. Method for Bible study. This is a method for going deeper in meditation and application for what you read each morning in the Bible. You can use this method to study for as little as 15 minutes or as much as 2 hours. I recommend that you use a physical bible and a separate journal in order to use this method.
So how do you study the Bible? Start with these five steps:
Let’s break down each of these parts.
“S” – Summarize.
In this section, you will try to condense what you read that morning into three or four sentences in your journal. Whether you read one chapter or five chapters of a book, try to stick to only three or four sentences for your summary. In your summary, try to capture as much of the big idea of the content which you read as possible.
“S” – Scripture.
In this section, look for one or two verses that particularly stood out to you when you read them. Look for verses that taught you something new, convicted you of sin, corrected your thinking on something, or particularly encouraged you. Go back to that verse(s) and read over it again. Then, write out that verse or those verses, word for word, into your journal. Think about each word as you write it down.
“O” – Observe.
For this part, you will return back to the verse(s) which you just wrote down in the previous section. Read back over that verse, and make observations about it. Write down questions you have about it. (Ex. Why did the author use this word instead of that word?) Look for repeated words or ideas.
Next, consider how this verse fits into your summary from section one. Observe if there are any contrasts. Is the verse a command to obey? A promise to trust? Advice for wise living? A warning to heed? Patiently note down various things you are seeing from the verse. The more you stop and consider the verse, the more you will observe.
“A” – Apply.
At this point, you will consider how you can apply the verse from the previous sections to your life. Here you will want to be very specific. Try to stick with applications that follow the SMART Goals acronym. You want you application to be S – Specific, M – Measurable, A – Achievable, R – Relevant, and T – Time Bound. You want to respond to God’s word by writing down in one or two sentences how you intend to change.
Your application should include specific things you will change that are possible, and helpful. You also want to include a specific time when you will respond. Ex. “In light of God’s command to “bear one another’s burdens”, I will text my Christian friend Sam tonight and ask him to come over, so that I can intentionally ask how he is doing spiritually.” This is a specific application that is achievable and time-bound.
“P” – Pray.
Write down a short prayer in the final section of your journal entry. Talk to God about what you’ve read. Ask for strength for God to transform you and help you to obey his word. When you have finished writing this prayer, feel free to spend more time alone with the Lord in prayer and praise.
A Good Place to Start
If you to start studying your Bible with a daily plan. I really recommend the Navigator’s Discipleship Journal Daily Reading Plan. Each day, you will read one passage from the Gospels, one passage from the New Testament, a Psalm, and a passage from the Old Testament. The great thing about this plan is that it is realistic. The plan accounts for days that will inevitably be missed by only including 25 daily readings per month. If you don’t want to take my word for it, ask Pastor John Piper and find out more about how to study the Bible.
For those who are interested, check out this post on the storyline of the Bible.