How to Teach a Bible Study [Capernwray Lecture Notes]


“I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.” Acts 20:20 NKJV


[1]. Different Bible Studies for Different Contexts

                [a]. Different Types

  • As a husband or parent.
  • As part of the local Church (men, women, youth, mixed).
  • As outreach.
  • You could be working of pre-set curriculum (commentaries, sermons, videos)
  • I will teach you how I do home group studies.


[b]. Some Presuppositions

  • The bible as originally given is divinely inspired [2 Cor 4:2].
  • There is a law of non-contradiction [2 Tim 3:16].
  • The bible is the word of God and changes lives [John 17:17].
  • The bible cannot be understood apart from the Holy Spirit [1 Cor 2:14].
  • The bible is to applied [James 1:22].


[2]. Pre-Bible Study

Before, I begin I try to do complete four movements, which I call the 4 waves this may also be something which you can get people to do before the study (stick the text in the newsletter, online or give them next week’s text in advance).[1]  The greater their level of participation the more that they will learn from your studies.


[a]. Wave 1 (initial thoughts)

Take the text and write out any initial thoughts.  I highlight the verbs (doing words), make a note of the characters, and write down any ideas,  reoccurring or interesting words, quotes it makes or it reminds me off, pray through the passage and look at possible questions that come to mind.  Something that may help is this poem by Kipling.


“I KEEP six honest serving-men
 (They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
 And How and Where and Who. Kipling (English Poet)


[b]. Wave 2 (other translations)

When preaching or teaching bible study you must be aware that others may have different translations and therefore it is important to see what the differences might be (see Luke 24:24 KJV and in another translation).  As a rule of thumb, I look at my normal translation NKJV, the KJV (classic translation), the NIV (popular evangelical translation) and the ESV (the popular reformed translation).  I may also look at other translations depending on the context ie MSG (as a contemporary paraphrase which I might look at with young adults), the NRSV (in a mainstream or academic setting).[2]

*If speaking in another setting try and always find out what translation they use


[c]. Wave 3 (commentaries, homilies (which is another name for sermons), dictionaries and systematic theologies)

In this wave, you are digging deeper into the text and consulting the ideas of others.  For this reason, I would encourage, at least, a couple of tools.

  • A good study bible (I’d recommend ESV study bible or the NLT Life Application).
  • A whole bible commentary. is available for free and contains audio and video commentaries.
  • A systematic theology in which I would be looking at key concepts contained within the text like the nature of Church or salvation etc (I’d recommend Grudem because he lists other systematic theologies from all of the main theological perspectives).


[d]. Wave 4 (experiential exegesis)

This is the most creative step within the process.  You look at the text through the eyes of the characters involved in the text (and even the author and audience).  Here you are looking at their experience (looking through the 5 senses – what do they see, taste, feel, smell or hear?) and  possibly what this might look like if it was written for today in your own words.  The key here is not to go beyond the text but to make it come to life.  Experiential exegesis will also help you to understand the meaning of scripture.


[3]. The Bible Study Itself

[a]. Ice Breaker and Prayer

Before, beginning it is always good to begin with refreshments and catching up with people.  If someone finds out they are expecting or if there husband has been diagnosed with cancer it will have a huge effect on the rest of the study so it is best to be aware of things before they become an issue.  At the set time, I would begin with a single worship song and by asking an ice-breaker question, ideally related to the text/topic we are about to study and then I would pray.


[b]. I then Set the Context of the Passage

Here I explain the author, the audience, the section which we find ourselves in and what is going to happen.  If the group is more competent I would get them to do this.  The easiest way to do this is to find the section within an outline in a commentary or study bible.


So, if I was teaching on the Ask, Seek and Knock passage (Matthew 7:7-12) I would look at my outline, I have pulled this one randomly off of the web and look at how the book is broken up focusing particularly on the section in which my passage is to be found (The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew ch 5-7 in this particular case).[3]  In my study I would begin by telling them the author, the time of writing, the reason for writing and where my passage was located within it’s context (all of these can be found in a study bible or commentary – the more in-depth you seek to go the more you will have to read).  I would then be keen to show them what came before the passage and what comes after.  Here we have a command not to judge (Matthew 7:1—5) but then we have countless examples of what appears to be value-judgements on true and false believers (Matthew 7:1-6, 7:13-29).  Therefore, in light of the context I would hope that my group would be able to see that Matthew 7:7-12 is teaching us how to judge without being judgmental (Christian discernment).


Matthew 7:1-5 – Hypocrites with planks in their eyes (coveting change in others)

Matthew 7:6 – Casting pearls before swine (using wealth wisely)

Matthew 7:7-11 – Seeking good gifts

Matthew 7:12 – The Golden Rule sums up the Law

Matthew 7:13-7:29 – Advice on choosing well

Matthew 7:13-14 – The narrow and broad ways

Matthew 7:15-20 – How to judge a prophet

Matthew 7:21-23 – Crying ‘Lord, Lord’ is not enough

Matthew 7:24-27 – Building on the right foundation

Matthew 7:28-29 – The crowd’s reaction


[c]. Some One Would Read the Passage

Do not have people read if they feel uncomfortable.  Although, it is the role of the leader to challenge it is also the role of the leader to protect those under his/her care.


[d]. Finally, I Would Walk Through the Text

I would be partly teaching and partly asking open questions always trying to include people and stop others dominating the meeting.  My focus would be around explanation, objections, illustration, application, connection (how does this passage connect to the rest of the bible or the Gospel?) and celebration (what Good News can we take from the passage or can it cause us to praise).


[e]. Close in Prayer

Again, I would try and stay as close to the text as I can in my prayer.



Whilst there are so many different ways to approach the preparation and delivery of bible studies this system has worked faithfully for me for a number of years and well I would not encourage you to follow it exactly it is my hope that some points may be found helpful.


[1] These four waves have been taken from a preaching course conducted by Sherman Hayward Cox II from
[2] For more information on translations see “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth” by Stuart and Fee.  A free PDF should be available online.
At an intermediate level I would consult a number of outlines and at an advanced stage I would write an outline myself (checking it against others only after I was finished).