Inductive Bible Study, Part One

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Inductive Bible Study sounds very impressive but in reality it is how you can learn to hear God’s voice clearly.   Everyday you do some type of inductive study and you aren’t even aware you are doing it.  The four basic principles of IBS is ‘Observaton ~ Tool Box ~ Interpretation ~ Application’ and we use these four catagories all the time.  You observe a fire, you call 911 because you have analyzed and interpreted the situation showing that help is needed so you act.  Observation is just that, to observe.  Tool Box are the tools you would use to analyze the words or situation.  Interpretation is when you put together what you observe with the tools used to analyze the words or situation.  Application is the action you will take when you rely on the first three steps.

We to read God’s Word with the same principles in mind.   God gave us His Word so that we can know how to grow closer to Him, how to know Him.  So why do we expect to do this without reading Scripture without a purpose?

Inductive Bible Study (IBS) is not a method to fill our head with Biblical facts and make us “smarter” but to transformation our lives from glory to glory.  With each new understanding we become more like our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Some questions you may ask yourself are:

  • Do you not know where to begin reading when you open your Bible? 
  • Did you make a new resolution to read through the Bible, only to give up in frustration at some of the more difficult or ‘boring’ passages?
  • Do you read passages of Scripture to find that you can’t remember what you just read?
  • Do you question the different opinions on any given subject and wonder which is true?
  • Do you doubt whether it’s possible to understand God’s Word, since you’re not a pastor, an elder or a degreed theologian?

If any or all of these questions describe you, then take heart, for the journey called “Inductive Bible Study” (IBS) is going to be exciting and fulfilling while radically transforming your life.  IBS will expose you to an approach that can be applied to any Scripture, any time, any place, by any one.  All that is required is God’s Word, the Holy Spirit and a teachable heart.

There are a few rules that you must adhere to before beginning.  First, God’s Word is the only resource you begin with believing it is the inspired Word of God.  God’s Word is truly all you need to grow closer to Him.  Second, you need a listening and teachable heart.  All of us will come with preconceived ideas they have heard from sermons, mentors, family members, friends or whoever, leave those at the foot of Jesus.  Ask Him to give you a teachable heart to hear His voice clearly.  Third, patience.  You must slow down and learn to wait upon God Himself.  He will meet you.    In terms of Bible study methods, you can study someone’s else’s study or you can study the Scripture for yourself.  You will learn skills that will make it possible (even for beginning students) to confidently study the Scriptures and learn.  When you “hear” you will forget 80% by the end of 24 hours.  When you “see” you will remember for days, months, years.  When you “do” you bring what you’ve heard and seen to live within your heat.  So remember:  Hear ~ See ~ Do.

Instead of studying resources, such as sermons or commentaries, about the Bible, the IBS method focuses first or foremost on the Bible. Be willing to lay aside your preconceived notions, pet interpretations, ready references, study notes, sermon tapes, etc, and come to the Scriptures like it’s the first time.  You will ALWAYS want to being with God’s Word, then go to other secondary resources.  The tendency for many Bible students at the beginning of a study is to first go to the secondary resources.  All this does is allow someone else do the “observing” and “interpreting” and God’s voice gets losts.  It’s quick but is it correct?    Below is a chart that gives you a good view of what we need to do to ‘remember’ what we actually believe we’ve learned.  


We remember 10% of what we read

We remember 20% of what we hear

We remember 30% by watching a demostration

We remember 50% by combining what we hear while watching a demonstration

We remember 70% by combining what we hear while watching a demostration and taking notes

We remember 90% of all of the above when action is added

We memorize Scripture, we hear sermons on the Scripture we have memorized, we watch examples of the Scripture, we take notes but until we act that Scripture is not part of who we are.  IBS leads us into hearing God’s voice so clearly that we own the Scripture and will never forget what God taught us.  Until we allow God to be our teacher we will not remember clearly.    

“And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him (in context referring to the Holy Spirit) abides in you, and you have no need to have anyone teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about an things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1Jn 2:27).

As John teaches us the Spirit of God, Who lives in each believer, is our personal, private tutor.  God has given us pastors and teachers for our edification (1Cor 12:28, see notes Ephesians 4:11; 4:12), but edification is NOT a substitute for the teaching that comes from the Spirit of God Himself.

Inductive Bible Study goes directly to the Scriptures. You discover for yourself what God is saying to you in His Word. It does NOT depend on human insights.

Inductive Bible Study = Bible > You
Deductive Bible Study = Bible > Man > You

A “deductive” Bible study begins with a point the teacher is wanting to make, and then uses a number of scripture verses as examples to support his conclusion.  Most sermons and Bible studies are conducted this way and is known as a ‘Topical’ sermon or study.   An “inductive” Bible study, on the other hand begins with God’s Word first, and encourages listeners to read the text and draw conclusions directly from the text itself says.  Questions are used to cause thought and bring learning.  As a student of the Bible I want to be asking questions more and more instead of expecting someone else to explain what is going on, what is being said, what is being said and how does this relate to what God is saying.  

However, as good and as powerful as the inductive approach to learning is, it is weak in imparting knowledge to people.  A “deductive” lecture or exposition can much more quickly provide the general principles as a groundwork for learning.

The inductive method, however, is better than the deductive method in two areas:

  • It helps us apply truths God is teaching us personally.  The IBS method enables you to internalize what you learn.
  • It helps us learn to understand the scriptures.  It teaches us to learn and protects us from becoming prey to the cults who take a smidgen of a scripture here and a pinch of Scripture there to make it say what they want it to say and this is deception — and deadly.  If you learn to read and study the scriptures for yourself “inductively,” your understanding will be based on the teaching of the Scripture itself, not some teacher’s or denomination’s interpretation of that Scripture.

In today’s society we have to relearn how to learn.  We have become lazy thinkers and want to easy answers before the questions come.  We learn what Scriptures to bring up when they say this. . .  What if God wanted you to share something else?

So let’s begin with exact definitions to make sure we are on the same page.  I went an looked up two words — deduction and induction.  I wanted to give you the exact meaning of these words so that you could see the difference.      The deriving of a conclusion by reasoning; specifically: inference in which the conclusion about particulars follows necessarily from general or universal premises.



Inference of a generalized conclusion from particular instances.

Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.


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