The OIA Bible study method consists of three parts. These three parts are observation, interpretation, and application.
Observation answers the question: What do I see?
This fundamental step must be taken if one desires to accurately interpret and properly apply God's Word. Many times a Bible passage is read only with eyes but not with the mind engaged.
There are several reasons for this:
Either there is a false reliance on thinking God's Word will magically make an impression on in our lives without any effort on our part, or we just don't believe we can understand what we've just read, or we are counting on the pastor to teach on this section of Scripture so we'll know what to believe. A lot of times, however, we forget what we have read simply because we don't know what to look for in the text. Because observation is discovering what the passage is saying, it's going to require time and practice. The more we read and get familiar with a book of the Bible, the more its truths will become apparent to us.
Interpretation answers the question: What does the passage mean?
The basis for accurate interpretation will always be found in a careful and articulate observation. Interpretation is the process of discovering what the passage means. As we carefully observe Scripture, the meaning will usually becomes apparent. But, if we rush through the observation step into interpretation without laying the vital foundation of accurate observation, our understanding will be colored by our presuppositions—what we've learned to think, what we've learned to feel, or what other people have said, rather than what God's Word says.
It is important to note that interpretation flows out of observation.
Interpretation can also involve separate actions or steps that go beyond merely observing the immediate text. One of the best ways is to investigate cross-references. The best interpreter of God's Word will always be God's Word itself.
There are also other helps, such as word studies or the evaluation of resources such as commentaries and Bible dictionaries to check our conclusions or to add to our understanding of the historical or cultural setting of the text. Remember context rules!
Application answers the question: How does the passage apply to me? Usually this what we tend to skip to when we read the Bible, but correct application should begins with belief which then results in being and doing. Once we learn what a passage means, we are not only responsible for putting it into practice in our own life, but accountable if we don't!
Ultimately, then, the goal of personal Bible study is growing in godliness, like 1 Timothy 4:7 states and in this growth we are growing closer to Christ and conforming our life to Christ inwardly and outwardly.
The basis for application is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
When we know what God says, what He means, and how to put His truths into practice, we will be equipped for every circumstance of life. To be equipped for every good work of life—totally prepared to handle every situation in a way that honors God—is not only possible, it is God's will!
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