What is an inductive Bible study? Is this something that could give us a better understanding of the scriptures?
The order to study
Paul told Timothy, whom he mentored, to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not have to be ashamed, correctly handling the word of truth(2nd Tim 2:15). We know that the apostles taught from the Old Testament and they used the scriptures for this. Paul said to Timothy:dedicate yourselves to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching“(1st Tim 4:13) although Paul told Timothy that he knew”how from childhood you knew the Holy Scriptures, which can make you wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ(2nd Tim 3:15). Even so, Timothy had to “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correcting, reprimanding and encouraging – with lots of patience and careful instruction(2Ti 4:2). To Titus Paul wrote “So these are the things you should teach. Encourage and reprimand with all authority. Don’t let anyone despise you(Titus 2:15). Scripture is clear; we must study so that we can”grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ(2 Pet 3:18) and what better way to do that than to have an inductive Bible study, but what does that mean?
What does “inductive” mean?
Before we dive into the subject of what an inductive Bible study is, I think we need to know what the word inductive means. Deductive study or deductive reasoning involves the process of reasoning from one or more statements (premises) to reach a logically certain conclusion such as “all men are mortal, I am a man, therefore I am mortal”. It is a top-down study of logic or reason. On the other hand, an inductive study seeks to provide strong evidence for the veracity of the conclusion as 100% of the biological life forms we know depend on liquid water to exist. We can look for strong evidence for this premise by studying all the life forms we know of and depriving them of water to see if they can continue to live without it. We cannot reach absolute and conclusive proof because we cannot study all life on this planet, but we can know, we have reasonable certainty, that life needs water to survive; at least as far as we can find out. I know that’s a very simple definition, but it’s a starting point for finding out what an inductive Bible study is.
An inductive Bible study
An inductive Bible study involves deductive reasoning (see paragraph above) and generally takes three steps in the process. Here is typically what is involved.
We can start with one or more Bible verse and read it and come up with a hypothesis and if we are wrong about this or these verse(s), we can move on to another possible hypothesis. We might discover that this is absolutely not what this passage or these passages say and that our hypothesis is not true. If we use as an example the verse that the love of money is the root of evil (1st Tim 6:10) but we study the best translations that say the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils, we have just deduced that it is not money which is bad in itself… it is the love of money which is at the origin of all kinds of evil.
Second, we can better understand the passage(s) by reading the context in which the verse(s) are given or any verse reference to this passage that is found elsewhere in Scripture and in the case of 1 Timothy 6:10a the context of this chapter speaks of being content with what we have (1st Tim 6:6) and that it is those who have a passionate desire to be rich that “to fall into temptation, into a trap, into many senseless and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1st Tim 6:9) and “It is because of this thirst that some have strayed from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1st Tim 6:10b) this is why Paul told Timothy to “run away from these things” and “Pursue Justice” (1 Tim 6:11).
The third and final step is “what does this passage or passages mean to me?” What are the practical implications of this verse and what is the application to my life as a believer in Jesus Christ. It seems that we must first seek justice and the kingdom first, and then God will add all the things we will need (Matthew 6:33). I have to wonder; “Am I ready to obey this? How can I apply this to my Christian walk with Christ? Where do I go from here? I must implement these truths in my life by applying them in a practical way…that is, I must put them into practice once I have learned them. The truth is useless if it is not obeyed.
So my conclusion is that it is the pursuit of money that produces all kinds of evil in me. This is what the context of 1st Timothy chapter six is talking about. I must follow the directions of Paul’s warning to Timothy and “run away from these things” and “seek justice” (1 Tim 6:11) seeking first the kingdom and that means seeking first the King of the kingdom (Matt 6:33).
We know we need to study the Bible and then learn the meaning for us and then live that meaning in a practical way that allows us to grow in the grace and knowledge of God. This is an imperative command given throughout the scriptures and an inductive Bible study will help us achieve such a good and godly goal.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is pastor of Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Editor of What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage and energize Christians and answer questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.