VIII. Inductive Bible Study
The word ‘induction’ means, the drawing of a general conclusion from a number of known facts.
Man does not have definite spiritual facts and he can only know it if it is made known to him. In His word we have an objective body of literature and God has spoken this to man.
We need to listen to the scripture instead of speaking to it. A subjective approach to the Bible is very dangerous. Traditions and experience should not be forced into the scripture and subjective deductions made from it. The correct approach to studying the scripture is first to examine the particulars and to then base any conclusion on it. In inductive Bible study we observe, interpret and apply scripture to our life. Therefore we would look at the three skills needed for this method of Bible study.
Observation: Many see but do not observe. Observation is taking notice of the scripture as they really are impartially and intensely. This is to enable one to be saturated with the particulars of a passage. Observation supplies the raw materials to interpret. ‘Discoveries are missed each day, By men who turn too soon away”. Interpretation without observations colors our understanding by our presuppositions. We need to come to the Bible with an open mind.
What to observe? Observe the terms, forms and the atmosphere. A word may have different meaning in different contexts. But a given word can be used only with one meaning in a given context. In the sentence “I carried my trunk to the Railway Station”, the ‘trunk’ could only mean a box to carry clothes etc. and not the main stem of a tree, or the proboscis of an elephant.
In observation we need to ask the six questions: Who? What?, Where?, Why?, And How? For example, let us look at Acts 1.8. But, you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
When we observe the above text, we may ask such questions, such as: What contrast does the word, ‘but’ suggest? Who is speaking? Who will receive power? What is power? Why is power needed? What is power meant for here? Who is Holy Spirit? Why should you be witnesses? What is the subject of this verse? What were they pre-occupied with? When will the Holy Spirit come? When did this happen? Where did this happen? Will this happen again? How did the disciples react to this? How should I react to this? What is the meaning of this verse to me?
When we ask questions to the scripture, the scripture itself will give us the answer. But let the questions be pertinent. When you observe, mark the key word, or key phrase(s), When you remove a key word from a sentence, the sentence itself will become meaningless. Look for words used repeatedly. Is there any comparisons or contrast to be noted?
Interpretation: In observation we see what the scripture says, and in interpretation we discover what it means?
Holy Spirit Himself is the author of the Scriptures; and He does not lie, but is the Spirit of Truth. Therefore we conclude that scripture does not contradict scripture. But scripture interprets scripture. You can take an isolated verse from the Bible, and make the Bible say what you want to say. This is wrong. Never interpret the scripture out of its context. Sometimes the meaning is obvious in the verse itself; or you may have to study the whole paragraph or the whole chapter to understand it; or it is even possible that you need to study the whole book before you can come to any definite conclusion. Seek the full counsel of the word of God.
In interpreting scripture care should be taken to see that no obscure portion is used on which to base your convictions. A clear passage or passages often throw light on an unclear passage.
Whenever possible interpret scripture literally. Scripture contains simile, metaphors, poems, prophecies, history, and biographies but don’t look to any hidden meaning first, but to the literal meaning.
See what the author had in mind when he wrote and also how the recipient understood it. You can twist any portion out of context. But don’t do this.
Application: Here we ask the question: What does it means to me? When we stop with interpretation we may gain knowledge but the Word of God will never benefit us. The Bible is given not to increase our knowledge but to change our life. I should not only be a hearer but a doer of the Word.
Earlier we saw from 2 Timothy 3.16 that the Bible is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. In applying scripture to our personal life we are concerned with the above four aspects.
What doctrine is it teaching? Am I following it? If not why I did not? Does this rebuke me? Am I taking the rebuke? Am I willing to correct myself? What should I avoid/ What should I follow? Is there an example for me here? What sin do I need to confess? Do I need to get right with my brother? What commands do I need to obey? What promises can I appropriate? What warnings should I take heed of in future? Is there a prayer I need to pray? Is there a challenge to face?
In learning the Bible we may be given answers to one or more of these questions.