The inductive approach to Bible study is to me by far, the most valuable approach since anyone can use this method for their own personal study without any formal training. The method is quite simple: You can ask yourself the questions Who, what, when, where, why, and how ; before beginning your study of any book in the Bible. The “WHO” refers to the author of the book and the audience the author is writing to. Understanding the historical context of the people involved is crucial to the proper interpretation of any book in the Bible. Of course this means reading with OBSERVATION! You can often find the author of a book in the introduction, such as pauls letters to the churches which take up a good portion of the new testament. The audience is sometimes difficult to discern without applying the reading skills of observation, but if you have a short memory use a highliter and highlite repeated words and phrases as you read through a book, then go back and read just the highlited words and you will have discovered the audience, the theme, and the main points intended by the author, etc…
The “WHAT” refers to the subject matter being discussed. There are many people today who think the Bible says you can “BIND” and “LOOSE” anything you want if two or more christians agree together on anything. It could be a new car, boat, healing, etc…But there is a slight problem with their interpretation. The subject matter of Matthew 18:18 has to do with church discipline. If your brother sins against you and you bring the matter before the church (matt. 18:16) “WHATEVER” you shall “BIND” on earth shall be bound in heaven. In other words whatever they agree upon with regards to disciplining the unrepentant person, heaven stands behind their decision. This is why the literary context (the words and paragraphs) connecting to one another are so important to observe carefully.
The “WHEN” refers to the actual time frame, era, or epoch of time. Many things in the old testament, including the ceremonial laws are obsolete today. This does not mean we cannot learn from them, only that we need not follow them today since the old covenant merely pointed to the new covenant. Knowing when something did, should, or will take place is important to know for any reader. This is especially true with eschatalogical portions of the Bible. There have been countless embarassments within the church over many centuries because someone misinterpreted a book of the Bible. Y2K is a classic modern day example of premillenial madness based on pure assumptions that were not built upon proper exegesis of scripture.
The “WHERE” refers to the place or setting of a chapter or book in the Bible. For example Matthew 24:1 “Jesus came out of the Temple”. We can observe the setting of the ensuing conversation by observing the opening words of a particular chapter. Matthew 24 is a classic example where the historical context is perfectly clear, the conversation, subject matter, etc… are all laid out for the observant reader.
The “WHY” refers to why DID or WILL this happen? In some cases, in fact many cases, what you read in the Bible DID happen, It’s history. Have you ever wondered why the books of the Bible are placed in the order that they are? There is a specific reason they are placed in their order: The first five books, Genesis-Deuteronomy are Basic Law/beggining books. The next nine books are Pre-exile books, or books written before Israels exiles. The next three are Post-exile books, after the exiles. The next five books are Pratical-life books. The following five are Pre and post exile prophecy books. The next nine are the minor prophets pre-exile prophecy books. The last three of the old testament, are post-exile prophecy books. You can remember the order of all of the old testament books of the Bible by memorizing a simple phone # 593-5593!
The new testament books are as follows: The first four Matthew – John are about the manifestation of Christ. The next one (acts) is about the proclomation of Christ. The next one (Romans) is about the explanation of Christ. The following twelve books are letters to various churches or people. The next eight are explanation/application books, and the last one is about the expectation of Christ. An easy way to remember the order of the new testament books is to memorize these numbers: 4 1 1-12 8 1 !
The last part of the inductive approach to Bible study is the HOW. This is the hardest part of all because it asks the question how does what I have studied apply to my life. Or to put it another way, how do I apply this knowledge to my own daily practices. This is a basic and easy to use approach to Bible study for the average person with no formal education. I have found that the more I practice it, the better I become as an interpreter, and most importantly for me, a teacher who will be held accountable for what I have taught. There is nothing more rewarding than doing the work yourself and giving what you have learned to others without having to worry about whether or not you were deceiving or being deceived!