This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Color-coded Bible study

A different way to study the Bible

Have you been looking for something different to do for your Bible study?

ONeil_RuthI was. Many of the devotions I was doing were shallow, and I didn’t feel I was learning much or growing spiritually. Then a friend introduced me to a color-coded Bible study.

This kind of studying is good to use by yourself and can be easily adapted for a group.

This study makes you read the Scripture passage several times, each time looking for something else and marking it accordingly. Only in the end do you look at what scholars have to say in commentaries. You will be surprised at how much you can glean from God’s Word when you study this way.

The first thing you need to do is get some colored pencils, a Bible you don’t mind coloring in and a notebook to record all your thoughts. Something else I decided to do along the way was to get a highlighter, particularly one that can be seen through easily, to mark the passages of Scripture I knew as a song. It is interesting to see how many of the songs we sing today come straight from the Bible. Also, a Bible atlas is helpful to use.

When you do this study for the first time it is good to use a smaller book of the Bible. Ecclesiastes or Ephesians are excellent choices. There is so much to be learned in both those books. If it is a short book and if time allows, you can read through all of it each time you are instructed to use a new color. Otherwise, reading one chapter at a time is best for longer books of the Bible.

This study is easily split into sections. Just do as many colors as you have time for or plan on doing one or two colors a day for your personal devotions. Once you get started, though, it is hard to stop reading and coloring.

To begin the study, read through the entire book. Don’t stop to color; don’t stop to look up any references that are mentioned in the sidebars; don’t stop to jot down anything that comes to mind. Just read.

After you have read through the book completely, that is when you pick up your first colored pencil. It is blue. As you read, underline all the names that are mentioned.

These can be proper names such as John and Paul or positional names such as servant, wife and sister. Any noun that can answer the question who should be marked in blue. The exception to this is any reference to God. We’ll mark that later in a different color.

Green is your next color. Reread the chapter, this time underline all the places, for example, Rome, house, garden or heaven. Anything that gives a location should be marked in green.

Read the chapter again and use your yellow pencil to mark all the words or phrases that indicate time. It can be early, now, later, at dawn or at night.

Now, grab the purple pencil and underline all the references to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Trinity, Christ, Savior, shepherd. This color is a little different in that not only will you underline all the names we have for God but also the attributes or character of God.

As you read for the fifth time, outline with a black square all the words or ideas that are repeated throughout the chapter. If there is more than one word or idea that is repeated, lightly fill in the squares of matching words with the same color. For example, if peace is mentioned several times, outline each occurrence of peace with black, then fill in each with orange. Salvation words may be shaded in pink. You may find that one idea is repeated in different ways, such as unity, together, one mind or in one accord.

Read it again and this time use the red-colored pencil to circle words or ideas that show contrast. For example: light/dark or righteous/wicked.

Now, put down the colored pencils but don’t put down the Bible. Read through the chapter as if you are the one who wrote it. Who are you? Where are you? To whom are you writing?

Read it as a participant again, only this time it is as if you are the one receiving the letter. What is the message they wanted to send you?

Now you are allowed to use other passages of Scripture. All those extra references in the margins of your Bible are no longer off-limits. Get out your notebook, look up those references and write down what they add to the chapter you’ve been reading. Have they helped you understand some parts you didn’t understand before? Have they made you think of something you had not thought of before?

Until this part of the study, which has taken up most of our time, we have studied using observation. Now we can look and see what the scholars have had to say regarding this passage of Scripture. Scholars have not only studied the languages of the Bible, but many have also visited a lot of the places mentioned in the Bible. They have learned about the culture and the way people in Bible times lived. They can add a wealth of information and knowledge to your own study of the Scriptures.

A word of warning: Don’t just choose any commentators’ books for study. Use authors you know to be reliable, who believe in the words of God. If you are unsure, your pastor should be able to help you.

Always read the commentaries last. Even though many authors can be reliable, it is just their interpretation. Even though the Word of God is infallible, humans are not. It may be that God is speaking to you through a certain passage. He may have some special message for you. Be open to that calling. If a certain Scripture passage holds a special meaning, you will more likely remember that as opposed to what someone else tells you.

The last thing you need to do is apply it to your life. Knowledge of the Scripture and what God commands us to do will be of no good to us if we don’t use it. Obey God’s commands; hold the promises he gives near your heart. God’s promises are always kept.
Also share what you have learned with someone else. This is where this study is wonderful with a group. Sometimes everyone agrees on what the passage is saying; sometimes the discussion is profound.

I have found this an exceptionally enjoyable way to study the Bible. It hasn’t mattered if it has been in a group of 10 or just myself. Every time God speaks to me, and I have every confidence that he will speak to you, too. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Enjoy.

Ruth O’Neil lives in Lynchburg, Va.

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