Taking “Ownership” When You Study Scripture

When LeRoy and I were first married, we moved into a lovely three bedroom home on 28 acres, about ten minutes from the church where he served as pastor. The home wasn’t ours, we rented it, but it didn’t require any work before we moved in. It wasn’t new, but it was comfortable. As nice as it was, that home never felt like it was ours; we rented it, we didn’t “own” it.

For the next twenty years we either rented homes or lived in parsonages. We had to do some work on a few of those homes before they were livable, but it wasn’t like “building a home” or major remodeling and none of them ever felt like they were “ours.”

Several years ago, some precious friends approached us with the desire to help us build our own home. We prayerfully began that process. It was a learning lesson in patience. We lived in a camper while we built it. It was built mostly with volunteer labor and using a lot of donated or bargain-priced materials. LeRoy spent weeks pulling lumber out of a pile from a chicken house that had been bulldozed and then pulling nails from each piece that would be used to frame our house.

We paid loggers to cut down a stand of cedar that we bought and then hauled from the mill to the building site. We spent weekends picking up (and hauling home) rocks that we’d picked up at LeRoy’s parent’s acreage to use for some of the exterior and fireplace. We made frequent trips to the “dump” at a local Window Mart to buy various windows for $25 apiece, collecting enough to build the house. I took tile classes at Lowe’s to learn how to lay tile. With the exception of the cabinets and the floors, I stained every piece of wood (the ceilings, door frames, and baseboards).

Many people were involved in that intense labor of love. But it was a long process that required patience while living in a camper through some of the worst winters and summers on record! September 9, 2001 we finally moved in. And you know what? We finally “owned” a home! We still don’t have our construction loan completely paid off, but we “own” the home in the sense that we worked on every square inch of that place. It was a long and difficult task, and required hard work and patience, but the pay-off was our home.

Bible study is much like that. True Bible study is a long-term pay-off. We can pick up a quick devotional word that someone has written, we can plug in a teaching video, or listen to a message online, and all of those may offer a bit of encouragement or some solid instruction . . . but to really “own” it, we must dig into the Word for ourselves, push up our sleeves and go to work digging out that buried treasure.

Learning, truly studying Scripture requires work and personal discipline.

Studying with patience requires a long-term view—not just grabbing something quickly that you put little effort into. Not picking up knowledge from someone else’s study, but studying with patience means digging into and uncovering understanding for yourself, so that you “own” that passage.

That is why I’m having us dig into Colossians this summer, and having you do some work for yourselves. I’m not just lecturing you and giving you the message from Colossians, but we are investigating it together. That’s why I’m encouraging you to read and re-read it, to get as familiar with it as you possibly can before you dive into deeper study of the book.

Taking time to read a passage repeatedly, or especially memorizing it, meditating on it, and deeply pondering its implications, will provide you with a deep understanding of the text. The goal is not just gaining “knowledge” but understanding. It is like going deeper and deeper into the interior of unknown territory in slow increments. Walking to town rather than riding a car would give us some intimate knowledge of the road that we never gain as we speed our way there in our vehicle.

Working to Own a Passage:

  1. Pray before you begin and ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight and understanding as you read.
  1. Read through a passage multiple times before every pulling out a commentary or reading your Bible’s study notes.
  1. Memorize portions of the passage. The repetitive focus will help you to gain a deeper understanding of the passage.
  1. Let your study focus be on digging for spiritual understanding rather than digging for knowledge.
  1. Write down repetitive words or phrases.
  1. Write down questions that come to mind as you study.
  1. Expect to read things that may confuse you. Don’t let that shut you down. Write down any passages, verses, or words that are confusing or you have questions about. Don’t immediately rush to a commentary to answer those questions, but first look up any cross references, read the surrounding verses carefully and look for clues in answering the question.
  1. Look for “God in action” in the passage and record what you see Him doing.
  1. Look for characteristics of God and record those.
  1. Record things that you personally appreciate about God because of what you see Him doing in this passage.
  1. Ask Him how He would have you personally apply the truths He is showing you in this passage.
  1. Spend some time praying for others that come to mind as you study the passage. Weave study, reading, and prayer together as the Spirit leads you.

[box]The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.

They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7–11)[/box]

Studying the Word is like digging deep in a mine . . . finding buried treasure. The Word is better than gold! Let’s dig out some gold during this study!

If you didn’t finish your research questions for getting the context of Colossians (yesterday’s post), I encourage you to tackle that today. Read through chapter one again today, using the suggestions above and start a journal, document online, or a notebook to record your answers.

Anything you want to share from your study?


Image courtesy of anankkml/


  • Marybeth

    Thank you so much for these tips on studying. I often don’t even know where to start and these direct questions you asked yesterday and today are very helpful.

  • Vivian Etherington

    I think the theme of Colossians is THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST; the key verse(s) being 1:17-18 “and He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.” After writing that, I pulled out my Precept study on Colossians that I did a few years ago just to see if that was “right”. In that study I came up with COMPLETE IN CHRIST as the theme. The phrase “in Christ” certainly appears many times I this book.
    The fact that we are “in Christ” and what all that means is just amazing and I know we can’t totally wrap our minds around it, but this study will help! I desire that my heart be awed as I study this book again.

  • Barb

    OH!!!! I am loving this so far… Thank you for your guidance. I am ready to dig for buried treasure! 🙂

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Good, Marybeth, I’m so glad you found them helpful. I love how Colossians exalts Christ and I hope you’ll be encouraged as you study. See Vivian’s comment below, she provided some good info. I’ll also be giving more context info in Monday’s post.

    Glad you’re digging into Colossians with us! 🙂

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello, Viv ~

    Yes, I agree with you! I’ll be sharing some answers on Monday, but you’re right on track. I’m so glad you’re digging into this precious book with me, and yes, I hope that we’ll all have hearts in awe of Him as we work our way through these 4 chapters!

  • Jody

    The main theme of Colossians is a clear picture of Jesus Christ as Supreme Lord, head of the Church and the only one through whom forgiveness is possible. 1:14 In addition this book tells us that Jesus Christ is God!! Colossian 1:15-20
    Looking forward to going through this book with you!!

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Yes!! Col 1:13–14 is one of my favorite passages is all of Scripture:

    For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

    And I love how vv. 15–20 exalt Him as superior to all, whether invisible or visible!!

    Glad to have your input, Jody!