What Is Inductive Bible Study?

Precept Ministries establishes people in God’s Word using Inductive Bible Study. “Inductive” means we use the Bible as the primary source of study to learn about God and what the Bible teaches. Precept™ studies and training workshops are designed to equip you with inductive study tools so you can discover truth for yourself.


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The Method

Individual study is the first step. Group discussion based observations and insights from personal study are encouraged. It is in the discussion, for many students, that the lesson begins to “gel”. The discussion confirms, clarifies, and corrects as each student seeks to discover truth for themselves. Discussion of the Bible's truths helps to seal them in our minds and sharing application encourages individuals to live out what they are learning. In this approach, spending time to know what the Bible says, understanding what it means, and living it out in our daily life, results in a life that honors God.

The Inductive Study Method is an investigative approach to the Bible using three basic components:


Observation: discover what it says
Observation teaches you to see exactly what the passage says. It is the basis for accurate interpretation and correct application. Observation answers the question what does the passage say?
Begin with Prayer Prayer is often the missing element in Bible study. You are about to learn the most effective method of Bible study there is. Yet apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, that's all it will be—a method.
Ask the "5 W's and an H" As you study any passage of Scripture, train yourself to constantly ask: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? These questions are the building blocks of precise observation, which is essential for accurate interpretation.
Mark key words and phrases (view figure)A key word is one that is essential to the text. Key words and phrases are repeated in order to convey the author's point or purpose for writing. For example, notice that some form of the word suffering is used three times in 1 Peter 5. Key words can be marked using symbols, colors, or a combination of the two.
Make lists Making lists can be one of the most enlightening things you do as you study. Lists reveal truths and highlight important concepts. 1 Peter 5:2-3, for example, contains a simple list regarding the role of the elder, shown by numbering the items in the text. It is also helpful to make a list of what you learn about each key word or person you mark.
Watch for contrasts and comparisons Contrasts and comparisons paint word pictures to make it easier to remember what you've learned. For example, Peter compares the devil to a roaring lion in verse 8. Peter also contrasts God's attitude toward the proud and the humble.
Note expressions of time The relationship of events in time often shed light on the true meaning of the text. Marking "time" will help you see the sequence or timing of events and lead accurate interpretation of Scriptures.
Geographic Locations Often it is helpful to mark geographical locations which tell you where an event takes place.
Mark terms of conclusion Words such as therefore,thus and for this reason indicate that a conclusion or summary is being made. You may want to underline them in the text.
Interpretation: discover what it means
While observation leads to an accurate understanding of what the Word of God says, interpretation goes a step further and helps you understand what it means. As you seek to interpret the Bible accurately, the following guidelines will be helpful:
Remember that context rules. The word "context" means that which goes with the text. If you lay the solid foundation of observation, you will be prepared to consider each verse in the light of the surrounding verses, the book in which it is found, and the entire Word of God. As you study, ask yourself: Is my interpretation of this passage of Scripture consistent with the theme, purpose, and structure of the book in which it is found? Is it consistent with other Scripture about the same subject? Am I considering the historic and cultural context? Never take a Scripture out of its context to make it say what you want it to say. Discover what the author is saying; don't add to his meaning.
Always seek the full counsel of the Word of God. When you know God's Word thoroughly, you will not accept a teaching simply because someone has used one or two isolated verses to support it. Those verses may have been taken out of context or other scriptures overlooked or ignored that would have led to a different understanding. As you read the Bible more extensively, you will be able to discern whether a teaching is biblical or not. Saturate yourself in the Word of God; it is your safeguard against wrong doctrine.
Remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture. The best interpretation of Scripture is Scripture. Remember, all Scripture is inspired by God. It is God breathed. Therefore, Scripture will never contradict itself. Sometimes, however, you may find it difficult to reconcile two seemingly contradictory truths taught in Scripture, such as the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Don't take a teaching to an extreme that God doesn't. Simply humble your heart in faith and believe what God says, even if you can't fully understand or reconcile it at the moment.
Don't base your convictions on an obscure passage of scripture. An obscure passage is one in which the meaning is not easily understood. Because they are difficult to understand they should not be used as a basis for establishing doctrine.
Interpret Scripture literally The Bible is not a book of mysticism. God spoke to us that we might know truth. Therefore, take away the Word of God at face value - in it's natural, normal sense. Look first for the clear teaching of Scripture, not a hidden meaning.
Look for the single meaning of the passage. Always try to understand what the author had in mind when you interpret a portion of the Bible. Don't twist verses to support a meaning that is not clearly taught. Unless the author indicates that there is another meaning to what he says, let the passage speak for itself.
Application: discover what it means practically
The first step in application is to find out what the Word of God says on any particular subject through accurate observation and correct interpretation of the text. Once you understand what the Word of God teaches, you are then obligated before God to accept that truth and to live by it.

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