The Bible is full of stories of men and women and their responses to God's revelation to them. Much can be gleaned from studying their lives, both positive and negative. We can learn what to do and what pleases God by looking at certain people, but God also included the accounts of others in order that we might derive words of warning. Both are helpful to study if one wants to attain godly wisdom.

Character study

Tools you’ll need

  • Study Bible

  • Concordance

  • Bible encyclopedia


Suggestions for a good character study

  • Know specifically which character you’re studying. There are 30 different men named Zechariah in the Bible and 7 women named Mary. Other common names include John (5), James (5), Nathan (20), Judas (8), and Jonathan (15). The context of the verse usually reveals which person is its subject.

  • Along the same lines, note various names for the same person. The apostle Peter is also known as Simon, Simeon, and Cephas. Jacob is frequently called Israel in both the Old Testament and New Testament. Many characters went through name changes, and the Bible was written in several different languages, so be careful to find all the names used for the person you are studying.


The Method


Step One: Select a person

  • Choose a person whose life will give you insights into how you can become more like Jesus Christ.

  • Begin small. It would take a lifetime to study someone like Jesus, and one could devote years to studying Abraham, Moses, or Paul. Step Four of this study in particular will prove extremely difficult to complete if the subject is written about extensively in Scripture. Begin with minor (not in importance, but in the space devoted to them in the Bible) characters like Barnabas, the woman at the well, Cain, or Rahab.


Step Two: Research

  • Using your concordance, find all the Scripture passages about your subject. Study them and note details like birth, death, accomplishments, and what others said about him or her. Using your encyclopedia, find out as much as you can about the subject’s background or the time they lived.


Step Three: First Impressions

  • After gathering all the information you can on your subject, list any problems, questions, or difficulties you encounter.


Step Four: Outline

  • Reread the passages, looking for major divisions, progressions, or changes in attitude in the subject’s life as time goes by. For example, a well-known division in Moses’ life is

40 years in Pharoah’s court – learning to be a somebody

40 years in the Midian desert – learning to be a nobody

40 years in the Sinai desert – learning God is Somebody

  • This step is key to studying biblical characters. Much can be learned from noticing how God changed or slowly molded people or how Satan brought them down.

  • Three divisions would be ideal. More than five, and the exercise becomes cumbersome.


Step Five: Meditate

  • Reread the references, looking for answers to your questions or answers to some of the questions listed below. Do not try to find the answer to every question.

    • What did God say about this person?

    • Why did God include this information about this person in His Word?

    • What motivated him to do what he did?

    • How did he respond to adversity/success/failure?

    • How quickly did he obey or praise God or submit to Him?

    • Was there a great crisis? How did he handle it?

    • What crucial decisions did he have to make, and how did he handle them?

    • Why was he successful/a failure?

    • How did he treat others? Did he use them, or serve them?

    • What were his friends/enemies like?

    • Did he spend time discipling someone else?

    • How did he influence others by his life?

    • What were outstanding strengths in his character?

    • How did he grow or develop?

    • What were his faults and weaknesses?

    • What steps led to his sins?

    • What area of his life revealed his greatest battle?

    • Was he in any way a type (shadow) of Christ?

    • What encounters did he have with God?

    • Why do you think God dealt with him the way He did?

    • What was his attitude toward God and His Word?

    • What kind of prayer life did he have?

    • Was he a courageous witness?

    • What were his spiritual gifts? How did he use them?

    • What did he believe about God?

    • What was his purpose in life?

    • How did he show/not show faith in God? How did God respond?


Step Six: Character qualities

  • As you review the references again, note each quality, good or bad, that shows up in the person’s life. Give a verse reference for each quality.

Step Seven: Lesson(s)

  • In a few sentences, write out what you think is the main lesson taught by this person’s life. It could be one word or outstanding characteristic, an overarching principle, a promise, or a proverb illustrated by this person.

Step Eight: Application

Suggested character studies