Grasping God’s Word

At Johannesburg Bible College we have been working on our course ‘Grasping God’s Word’ it is a basic Bible handling course for the full range of people (right down to those who never finished school). We tried to come up with some questions you could use for any passage. Next term (Monday) we role out the final part which is application. So we’ve got a full set of questions. Having test run them for almost a year now we have got some idea of things that need to be changed but I thought I would put them out to a wider audience (my blog ha ha) to see what you thought:


The process of Getting It Right begins with working out what the passage is saying.

What does it mean? What is the message of these verses? Why has the author written them?

This can be hard work and will take time, but if we try to answer the following questions then we will make progress in grasping what the passage is saying to us.

A. Key Questions:What is the passage saying?How is the passage saying it?

The questions below will help you answer the key questions. These questions build on each other and may overlap. Sometimes a question may not be relevant to one passage, but will be to another. Work your way through them and jot down your answers.

  • Who wrote this passage? Who did they write it to? Who are the characters in the story?
  • List the author and the people who received it
  • List the characters in the story
  • What are the key ideas or events in the passage?
    • List the key ideas or events in the passage
  • What is said about each of these key ideas or events?
    • For each key idea or event write a sentence explaining what the passage says about it
  • How would you explain each of these key ideas or events?
    • For each key idea or event explain its meaning (seek help if necessary)
  • What are the linking words or actions in the passage?
    • E.g. ‘if’, ‘then’, ‘because’, ‘therefore’ …
  • How do these linking words or actions connect each of the key ideas or events?
    • You might find it helpful to draw a diagram showing the different connections
  • Summarize what you think the passage is saying in your own words
    • You can change this later, but it will help you summarize the progress you have made

B. Key Questions:Why is the passage saying what it is saying?Why is the passage saying it here in the chapter or book?

These two key questions focus on the reason why the author wrote this passage and on its context (the verses that surround it in the chapter and the other chapters in the book). Again, these questions help us to focus on the message of the passage.

The questions below will help you answer these two key questions.

  • What goes before the passage? What comes after it?
    • Work out the main idea of the verses before and after the passage


  • How does the passage fit with what has gone before and after?
    • Are there any linking words, events or ideas that connect what has gone before and after?
  • What are the main themes of the book?
    • Read through the book or section and list the main themes (seek help if necessary)
  • How does the passage fit with the main themes? Which main themes does it fit with?
    • Which main theme of the book does the passage pick up on?
    • What does the passage say about it?


  • Does the author explain why he wrote the book? If so, how does the passage fit with it?


  • Go back to your sentence summarizing what you think the passage is saying. What changes do you need to make to it in the light of your work on the purpose and context?

C. Summary Sentence

Complete the summary sentence: These verses were written to …

D. Application: What does the passage mean today?


We have worked hard at thinking about what the original text means for the original hearers. But we believe that the Bible still speaks today. So to fully understand a passage we need to ask what does a passage say today?

As with the other parts we have some questions to help us to answer this question:

  • Who does this passage address today?
    • The individual Christian
    • The Church Community
    • The non-believer
  • What does this passage tell them to do?
    • Things the passage says to start thinking or doing.
    • Things the passage says to stop thinking or doing.
  • Why does it tell them to do it?
    • What are the reasons given in the passage or in the context?
    • What is the motivation given for this action?
  • What will it look like for them do it?
    • Real life examples from their context
      • People (e.g. youth, elderly, parents …)
      • Place (e.g. work, college/school, home…)

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