Did you know that the best way to truly become knowledgeable on a certain subject is to examine what the Bible has to say about it?
Psalm 1 speaks about becoming like trees planted by the waters, prospering in whatever we do. The way we do this is by saturating ourselves in the Word of God. In this post, we will discuss some steps you can take to become better acquainted with what the Bible says on any topic of your choice.
But first, what is a topical study?
A topical study is just what you would imagine. It involves searching the Bible for a certain topic and looking up all the scriptures related to that topic. The goal is to learn what God says about any given subject and bring your thinking and actions in line with God’s truth.
Topical studies are one of the most enjoyable ways to engage with Scripture because they allow you to study real life concerns or subjects at the moment you need them. Plus, the possibilities are limitless!
How to Study the Bible by Topic
Let’s start with some general principles for how to do a topical bible study. First,
Start with a Clean Slate
We read the Word of God to discover what it says… not what we think it should say. For example, if you were peering into God’s thoughts on finances, you might be tempted to superimpose the culture’s values onto the Word of God, or you might think you already know what God’s Word might say.
Sometimes, when gathering all the Scriptures on a certain subject, we might be surprised at what angles the Bible covers, thinking certain concepts are modern when they are anything but. Solomon was famous for saying there is nothing new under the sun, and you’ll find that many things we are tempted to do today were also done in ancient times.
When approaching the Bible to study a topic, it’s best if we can free our minds of pre-conceived ideas and assumptions and start with a clean slate.
Rightly Divide the Word of Truth
Put simply, must compare Scripture to Scripture. The Bible is our true source of wisdom, so you’ll want to gather all the verses that pertain to a certain subject and be careful not to leave anything out. You can use online tools like Bible Gateway’s website to key a word into the search bar to locate all mentions of certain terms through the Scriptures. You can also use a concordance, and many Bibles will feature a list of all occurrences of a particular subject.
You can write these down in your journal, along with where they are found in the Bible, and be patient, as it may take time to fully understand their meaning. If you find two verses that seemingly contradict one another, it is wise to prayerfully find other verses that can shed more light on the concept to help you form an accurate conclusion on the issues.
Once you have your list of verses, it is good to read them in a study Bible that has a cross references listed for you. This is helpful, because a passage in Scripture may speak to the subject you’re researching without using the search terms you’ve chosen.
For a step-by-step tutorial on how to do a topical study using all free online tools, check out my Bible Study Methods course, which covers this method as well as six fun other Bible study methods. This course is perfect if you’re looking for fresh bible study ideas!
As you study, jot down the Scriptures that are cross-referenced, and you can build an even stronger collection of verses to teach you God’s thoughts about your topic. You may also find subtopics to research that build and relate to the principles about which you are learning, and you can write these in a separate part of your journal to flesh out at a later time.
Studying the Bible on your own is wonderful and can lead to many great and useful insights. Sometimes, however, a passage’s meaning may not be something we can readily understand. For example, we might not be familiar with prophecy, world history, or what is meant when symbols are being used. There are a variety of tools at our disposal that can help us grasp what is being said.
Websites like Bible Hub offer many translations side by side, so we can examine several different ways in which a concept was rendered, and this same site and Bible Gateway provide commentaries, so we can compare what theologians have said about a given passage. We may also be able to purchase a Bible study book based on the subject we would like to learn more about. Check out these 10 best Bible study tools.
Look for Principles
When reading through your list of Scriptures, take a pen and some paper and ask yourself a few questions such as:
- What is the main point this passage is making?
- What action might a person take if they choose to follow the guiding concepts found in the verse?
- What might a person not do based on this same Scripture?
- What does this verse tell me about God?
It’s amazing what insights you can gain from a passage simply by asking questions! For example, if you were studying the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, you could observe that God is thorough and that He pays attention to detail.
You could write down that He is a God of order and that He requires quality materials but also that He was the One who provided for them. You could also note that God was the one who gave the sculptors and artisans their ability to do the work.
From there, you could think through how the workers trusted God in their daily work and how that affected the quality of their work. Think about what your life would look like if you trusted Him the same way. These insights are priceless!
In this post we’ve talked about keys to approaching Topical Bible study. Now you’re ready to learn exactly how to walk through the process and dive in, so be sure to check out the next steps below:
Be sure also to check out our Bible Study Methods course and join our community below to grab our FREE Bible Study sheets!
If you start with a clean slate, rightly divide the word of truth, look up cross references, use tools, and look for principles in God’s Word, you will be able to thoroughly learn about any topic that you are interested in!