Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Character Quality Method of Bible Study

A year or so back on Maidservants of Christ, Helene and I went through the Fruits of the Spirit.  We found it to be a challenging study in more than one way.  Studying about patience right after you've blown up in anger, for instance, gives not just sore toes, but a sore heart that is ready to repent.  It was also challenging tackling such big topics as "love" or "joy." If I had known about the character quality method of Bible study, that part might have been a little easier.

In this method, we can study specific character traits found in the Bible, both positive and negative, in a systematic way.  This will be the first method that I have reviewed to use tools other than the Bible, and it can take some time and be a little more complex.  However, because it is easy to apply this kind of study to our lives, the results are well worth the efforts.
Step 1: Choose the character quality you want to study and look it up in an English dictionary.  Make note of the definition.

Step 2: Name and define the opposite quality using an English dictionary or thesaurus.

Step 3: Do a simple word study of the character quality

  1. Use a Bible dictionary to define the quality from a Biblical perspective.  If you don't have a hard copy of a Bible dictionary, there are many free ones online.
  2. Use a concordance or online Bible search to find verses that contain the character quality. Note: If this is the only part you do for step 3, you will learn a lot about what the Bible has to say about the trait you have chosen. Stay with me here!  For this step, you can go to and simply put that trait in the search box.  Remember that there may be several English words that fit your trait. For instance, when searching for "joy," you may also want to search for "rejoice" or "glad" and "gladness." Make a note of each verse that applies and what it says. Note what you learn from each verse.
  3. Use a lexicon to look at what the word means in its original language.  I know that sounds like a mouthful, but online resources make it easy.  I'll continue to use some screen shots from to help explain.  After you have found the verses as above, click on one.  Make sure that you are using the KJV or NASB, just for this step.
Next, click on the little settings cogwheel icon to the right above the verse. You'll see the following menu:

Check the "Strongs Numbers" box as above.  After you close the menu, most of the words in your verse should be bold and blue. Click on the character quality word you are studying, and you should get a screen like this:

This will tell you which word in the original language is actually being used, Hebrew for the OT, Greek for the NT. It will also give you a definition, word origin, and a list of other verses that use the same word. You'll need to do this with more than one of your verses, at least one for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament to get both Hebrew and Greek words.  Also, sometimes different Greek words may be translated to the same word in English. At this point, the main goal is to get the definition of the word from the original language. 
Step 4: Remember the cross references from the Chapter Summary Method? We'll use those in this step.  Find some cross references in the verses you are looking at that have your character trait.  Some of them will probably be the same as the verses you have already found.  If you run across a verse that expands your understanding of the character trait, note it here.

Step 5: Do a brief biographical study of at least one Biblical character who exhibits the character quality you chose. Describe how that person shows the character quality, and provide references. These questions will be helpful: 
What shows this quality in this person's life?
How did this quality affect this person's life?
Did this quality help or hinder the person's growth to maturity? How?
What are the results of this quality in this person's life?
Step 6: Memorize at least one verse from the study that has stood out to you.

Step 7: Here is where the application really starts. Choose a situation or a relationship in your life in which you can work on this character quality, either enhancing a good one or minimizing a bad one.  Think broadly here. If you have chosen kindness, for example, maybe you want to be a kinder mother.

Step 8: Get even more practical.  Think of one thing you can do this week to use what you have learned.  With the above example of kindness, think of one practical way you can show kindness to your child this week.

Step 9: Make note of your progress.  Just like in the "assessment" step of the devotional method, come back in a week and see how you have done.

Studying character traits is a wonderful way to learn more about how we can be more like Christ.  If you have a hard time choosing a trait, think back to the fruits of the spirit, the beatitudes, or the "love" chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.  
There are similar lists in the Bible with negative traits, which can be just as useful to study.  While steps 3 and 5 will probably be the most time consuming, steps 7 and 8 are the most important.  Be a doer of the word! Happy Studying!

All methods of Bible study presented in this series come courtesy of Bill and Beverly Watkins, who teach the class at the Nashville School of Preaching and Biblical Studies.  It is shared by their permission with many thanks.


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