Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15
John Wesley believed we experience God’s grace through the study of the Holy Scriptures. He also knew that understanding what you read is not always easy. Wesley had rules about how to read scripture that I have incorporated into the suggestions listed below.
When reading scripture for understanding try the following:
Read the passage silently
Have you heard this passage taught or preached before?
What have you been taught that it means?
Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help you hear a word that you need today.
Read the passage again out loud
Read the notes in your bible
Look at the chapters before and after the passage. Where does this story fit in the overall story or message?
Read the story one more time.
What word or phrase stands out for you?
How does it speak to you today at this point in your faith journey?
What does this passage say about who God is?
What does the passage say about God’s relationship to humanity and our relationship to each other?
What problems do you have with the texts?
How does the text compare to who Jesus was and what he taught?
Do you think the passage is descriptive of what was or prescriptive for others (“go and do likewise.”)
If prescriptive, was it meant for a particular people in a particular situation and time or is it meant to be universal.
One of the best ways to truly understand scripture and to apply it to your life is to read it in the company of other people, particularly people who have different life experiences than you. John Wesley said, “Although every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true (for to believe any opinion is not true, is the same thing as not to hold it); yet can no man be assured that all his own opinions, taken together, are true.”
Exploring scripture with others can open up its meaning in new ways. Every time I have led a bible study, I have learned something from listening to the opinions of those who hear the stories in ways that I have never considered. Sometimes I hear their ideas and find that I just can’t understand the story the way that they do. Other times I have changed my mind and accepted new interpretations. Always my understanding is richer for the experience.