NextLevel Online: How to Read the Bible

Session 8: Live what you learn.

You have not finished studying well until what you have studied determines how you live. Spiritual maturity is never measured by how much you know, but by how well you live


Classroom Instructions

Materials: Lesson Outline
  • Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (James 1.22-24)

  • You have not finished studying well until what you have studied determines how you live.

  • Spiritual maturity is never measured by how much you know, but by how well you live – - The goal is always to “hear” the Word of God…

    • Deuteronomy 6.4: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD alone…”

    • (See also Deuteronomy 30.11-20; Matthew 7.24-27; John 14.15, 21; 1 John 5.3)

  • The Basic Process:

    • How did the text apply to the original audience?

    • How is their world different from ours?

    • How might the text apply to us today?

  • Here are some application questions to ask to guide your reflections:

    • What is God telling me to start, stop, or continue?

    • How does this text speak into different parts of my life?

  • Lastly, distinguish between “degrees of certainty” in application.

    • What is this text definitely demanding of me?

    • What is this text probably asking of me?

    • What is this text possibly asking of me?

APPENDIX 1: Commentaries

A “commentary” is simply a book written by a scholar that walks through the text commenting on each section or verse or word. Commentators are usually professionals trained in what I’m teaching you to do, and they bring a wealth of knowledge and skill to the task of interpretation.

Let me briefly unpack why to consult commentaries, when to consult them, and which ones to look for.


At the end of the day, humility leads us to consult commentaries because we know we’ll never see everything on our own. But more specifically, we’re looking for four things:

  • Confirm, deepen, or correct our own interpretation.

  • Discover new insights we didn’t see on our own.


My opinion on when to read a commentary is betrayed by what I just said – I think you should do it after you have done some study work on your own. You will always get more out of reading a commentary if you’ve already studied the text yourself. Otherwise you won’t have much of a context for what it’s saying, and it’ll go right over your head. (Or just as bad, you’ll just accept someone else’s reading as perfect without discovering the Bible for yourself.) When you’re extra busy or if you’re brand new to serious study of Scripture, it is perfectly okay to read the text a couple times, get a general sense of what it’s about, and then bring in a commentary right away to guide your thinking.


Generally speaking, commentaries can be divided into a few levels of length and intensity:

  • Baby Bear – For Everyone series by N. T. (Tom) Wright and John Goldingay; the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture
  • Momma Bear – NIV Application Commentary series; Paideia series; Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series
  • Papa Bear – Pillar New Testament Commentary series; New International Commentary on the New Testament series; The New Interpreter’s Bible commentaries

Hundreds of scholars write commentaries and many of them are quite good, but some trusted names to look for include Peter O’Brien, N. T. Wright, F. F. Bruce, John Stott, Ben Witherington, D. A. Carson, Craig Keener, Charles Talbert, and Richard Hays.

The rabbit hole goes much further, but this is plenty to get started!

APPENDIX 2: Bible Study Websites


About NextLevel Online

The vision of Ozark Christian College is to glorify God by evangelizing the lost and edifying Christians worldwide. The mission of Ozark Christian College is to train men and women for Christian service as a degree-granting institution of biblical higher education.