Our next step in the Bible study process will be to determine why the author is writing. We have already done our study of the author; knowing his background can help us to understand where he is coming from and give us some clues to his intent. Now, we will look at two different ways to decide more definitively why a book was written. First, and probably the most obvious, is to look for specific reasons that the author has given. Secondly, we will examine the use of keywords and scriptures and what they can tell us about an author’s intent. It is important when reading to find the purpose of a particular book that you read it in its entirety. If it is possible, it is best if you can read it in one sitting. This will make it much easier for you to see the big picture of the book.


We won’t spend much time on this subject because it is pretty straightforward; however, it is important to understand. Many times, especially in the epistles, an author will actually state in a very clear way why he is writing. When the writer does this, he takes the mystery out of the equation, and because the writers were inspired, we can trust what they say. There may be secondary reasons for writing, which also might be stated or implied.

Let’s dig in and look at some specific examples. First, turn to Luke 1:1-4. Here, Luke specifically says,

“It seemed fitting for me as well…to write it out for you in consecutive order…so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

We know that he is writing this book, so we can see the truth about the account of Jesus’ life and ministry. If stated, the purpose can usually be found in the first few verses of a book.

Occasionally, we will see a stated purpose later in the book. This is one of the reasons why it is good to read through a book as a whole before you begin your verse-by-verse study.

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1.

“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.”

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy recognize that the church in Thessalonica is already walking to please God, and they are writing so that they can “excel still more” in their Christian walk.

An author’s stated purpose can help us to determine more about the audience and what specifically he is trying to address with them. This is an important step in internalizing the word of God. When we know the purpose, we can see how any writing can apply to our lives.


When trying to discover an author’s intended message, an important aspect to pay attention to is the use of keywords. Simply put, a keyword is a word or phrase a writer uses repeatedly for emphasis. We do this in our everyday speech; if there is something we want to be sure our husbands and our children remember, we are sure to repeat it several times. This is also a key element in teaching: repetition, repetition, repetition. The writers of scripture used this tool throughout the Bible.

When searching for keywords, look for words that are repeated throughout a specific passage or an entire book. Pay particular attention to synonyms, too! You can write these words and where they occur on a separate page; however, it helps me tremendously to mark them in my Bible.

It allows me to quickly glance and see important themes, where they occur, and how they relate to each other. I use regular colored pencils to mark these, drawing a box around them and coloring it in. Some prefer highlighters, but make sure to use Bible highlighters that don’t bleed through the page. I prefer colored pencils because there are more colors offered than the 3 or 4 highlighter colors available. If you don’t want to mark in your Bible, but you are a visual person who likes to see your keywords marked instead of in list form, simply print or copy the passage you are studying and mark that up.

For our example, turn to Matthew 13 and read the whole chapter, paying attention to any repeated words or phrases. You will notice that Jesus uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” many times throughout this chapter. If you read the entire book, you will notice that Matthew repeats the words “king,” “kingdom,” and “kingdom of heaven.” Not only does he bring out these keywords, but he focuses on genealogical records similar to that of royalty. When we understand this, we can see that Matthew was trying to emphasize the fact that Jesus was the coming king prophesied about. When we understand this context, we can understand why he would have emphasized certain things that other gospel writers didn’t.

While finding and analyzing keywords can be time-consuming, it is worth the effort. It is also a good idea, once you have discovered a keyword, to look that word up in your Strong’s Concordance to find the meaning in the original language. This sometimes will reveal meanings or synonyms you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.

Identifying the greater purpose of the book will allow you to more easily see how all of the puzzle pieces fit together. As you start going verse-by-verse through the passages, you will be able to see how each idea fits together. This is a major key in the prevention of proof-texting (taking verses out of context to prove a specific point). Understanding the purpose as a whole will also help you understand why the author uses some of the examples he does, and it will help you apply the book much more easily.

Kristy Huntsman
+ posts

Kristy Huntsman is the editor-in-chief for Come Fill Your Cup and the author of three books in the Finer Grounds Bible Study series published by Kaio Publications. She and her husband Lance attend the Stonewall Church of Christ where Lance is the minister. She is a homeschooling mom of two sweet girls, Taylor (14) and Makayla (11). Kristy has a master’s degree in biblical studies from the Bear Valley Bible Institute as well as Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Music Performance. She continues her education by pursuing specialized certifications in biblical languages from the Biblical Mastery Academy.