Using the Swedish method to read the Bible
A helpful way to approach God's word.
Do you ever struggle to get stuck into a Bible passage? Do you read the words but just have no idea how to actually figure out what they mean, or how to apply them?
Never fear – the Swedish method is here!
The Swedish method is a way to read the Bible that can be applied to any passage and helps you figure out what a passage means and how to apply it. The Swedish method is helpful for studying the Bible by yourself but it’s also great for studying in groups. Currently, the small group I lead at my church are using the Swedish method to study Isaiah and it’s really helping us feel a lot more confident dealing with complicated passages! Why don’t you try it while reading the Bible with friends?
So how does the Swedish method work? Well, pick a passage and let’s get started! I recommend that you print out a copy of the passage (or write in your Bible if you’re comfortable doing that!) to get the most out of this method.
The first step of the Swedish method is to look for light bulbs – things in the passage that shine or stand out to you! This step is really helpful because it allows you to narrow down on the aspects of the passage that really speak to you, identify particularly encouraging verses, and even notice things in the Bible you’ve never seen before!
Highlight or draw a light bulb next to things that stand out to you.
Every passage you read in the Bible is going to raise questions. So, for this step, identify any questions that are raised! Put a circle around or draw a question mark next to any confusing sections or verses. You may also like to write down questions that arise from your study of the passage overall.
Now, it’s time to try and find answers to your questions! Ask an older or wiser Christian, such as your minister or youth group leader, read some Christian books or think about how other passages in the Bible could help you answer this question. You could also do a Google search for answers but be careful – not everything you’ll find online is biblically accurate!
This step is one of the most exciting ones for my small group, because every week we come up with tons of questions, we answer some together and the rest we take to our minister and bombard him! It’s a really great way to continue engaging with God’s word even after the study is over.
Once you’ve identified shining parts and answered some questions, try and figure out the heart (or hearts) of the passage. These are key elements and messages of the passage. Examples of hearts are… “God is loving and he loves his people”, “The early Christian church had a problem with greed and Paul wants them to know that greed is bad” or “Jesus was born into relative poverty to bring eternal riches to his people”.
Try summing up the hearts of the passage in fun ways, like writing an advertising slogan, drawing a picture or creating a skit with your friends that represents the important truth in the passage.
Arrows are used to indicate application points from the passage. In my small group, we like to draw a heart with an arrow coming out of it to remind ourselves that the application may not be one simple verse, but an overall attitude or message to remember.
When looking for application points, remember that while all of the Bible is God’s word FOR us, some of it is not God’s word directly TO us – big parts of the Old Testament fall into this category! So even if a passage says “don’t eat pork”, that’s not going to be the application for us because we’re under the new covenant and we’re saved through Jesus, not our adherence to the Israelite Law! Instead, an application from a passage that says “don’t eat pork” could be “follow God’s commandments (the ones that still apply to Christians) to show your faithfulness to him and gratitude for your salvation”.
Something else you could add
One thing we’ve found that the Swedish method lacks is a step for considering context. And in the Bible context is SO important! Before you even begin drawing light bulbs, you might like to consider spending some time understanding the textual context (what comes directly before and after this passage) and historical context (when did this happen and what was going on at the time) of the passage. This will inform all the rest of your steps and help you answer questions, uncover the hears, and determine appropriate applications.
If you’d like to try out the Swedish method, try using Matthew 13:1-23 as your passage (The Parable of the Sower). How do you find this method?