Thematic Bible Study Method
So you’ve been digging into God’s Word for some time and you want to try something new. Or, maybe you’re struggling with a particular issue and want to know more about what the Bible has to say about it. In either of these scenarios, you may want to use the thematic Bible study method.
If this is your first time here, you may want to start with the post: Bible Study Tips for Beginners and work your way through the series.
What is the Thematic Bible Study Method?
The books of the Bible are all connected and have similar themes running through them. The thematic Bible study method allows us to seek out these connections to increase our understanding and to show us the continuity of God’s Word.
What is a Theme?
So, before we start using the thematic Bible study method we need to understand what a theme is. The theme is the subject of a passage—the underlying message. It may be plainly stated or implied. When trying to determine the theme of a piece of literature, ask yourself “What’s the big idea or the central message of this passage?” Let’s look at an example.
Hear, my children, the instruction of a father,
And give attention to know understanding;
For I give you good doctrine:
Do not forsake my law.
When I was my father’s son,
Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother,
He also taught me, and said to me:
“Let your heart retain my words;
Keep my commands, and live.
Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.
Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you” (Proverbs 4:1-9 NKJV).
The underlying theme of the passage above is wisdom and the importance of acquiring it. But the theme of wisdom is not limited to the book of Proverbs. It weaves itself throughout the Bible. Here are a few other references:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5 NKJV).
So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12 NKJV).
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything (2 Timothy 2:7 ESV).
For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind (Ecclesiastes 2:26 NKJV).
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24 ESV).
Each of these texts focuses on wisdom, but it’s not always explicitly stated.
If you’ve missed the rest of the series, check out the posts here:
- Bible Study Tips for Beginners
- How to Study the Bible Verse by Verse
- How to Study the Bible Chapter by Chapter
- How to do a Bible Character Study
How to Do a Thematic Bible Study
Start with prayer. We should begin each Bible study session with prayer as we want to invite the Holy Spirit into the process. We want our hearts to be open to the lessons He wants to teach us.
Decide on the theme. Choose a theme or an idea that you’re interested in. What do you want to know more about? Some great themes to study are:
- God’s love for humanity
- The gospel
- Man’s sinful nature and unrighteousness
- The importance of wisdom
Ask some questions. Write a list of questions you want to be answered as it relates to the theme. Think who, what, where, when, how, when and why. Limit your questions to a maximum of five.
Let’s say you wanted to do a study on faith. Some questions you may want to answer are:
- What is faith?
- How is faith developed?
- Are there different types of faith? What are they?
- How do we pray with faith?
Collect your resources. Make a list of verses that reference your theme. Use a concordance to zero in on the word and its usage as it relates to the theme. Be sure to look for synonyms and note those verses as well. If you’re doing a thematic study on a phrase, use an online Bible dictionary to do a search.
Interview your verses. For each verse ask your (five) questions. As a note: not all of the questions will be answered by each verse. Your aim is to find answers to your questions, not to force the text to say something that it does not.
Tired of reading? Watch the video on YouTube.
Make note of your answers. A good way to do this is to write your question as a heading and then note the answers provided by the verses. Alternately, you can use each verse as a header and note what each of them has to say about your theme.
Draw some conclusions from your study. After going through all of your verses, it’s now time to draw your conclusions. Reread what you had written. Summarize the key points. What did the Bible have to say about the theme you’re studying?
A good way to write your summary is to think of your notes as material for a presentation. How would you organize it if you had to present to someone else? What order would you present the information in? What things stood out for you? What would you want to make clear to an audience?
Make an application. Write a personal application. How can you apply the lessons learned? What things do you need to start or stop doing? If necessary, set goals to improve in those areas as revealed by the Holy Spirit. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.
End with prayer. Bible study is our attempt to connect with God and so we should be praying through the process. Thank the Holy Spirit for what He has revealed to you and ask Him to implement the lessons you’ve learned. Ask Him to enable you to share what you learned with someone else so the message doesn’t end with you.
Thematic Bible Reading Plan
Bible Study Tools has a thematic Bible reading plan that gets you through the entire Bible in 365 days. Each day’s reading is based on a particular theme. If you’re looking for a new Bible reading plan the Thematic Plan may be just what you need.
A sample day looks like this:
- Day 1: Psalms 148; Genesis 1-2; Ephesians 1—the theme of these passages is praise.
- Day 247: Job 25-27; Psalms 26; Colossians 3—the theme of the day’s reading is man’s need for God’s vindication.
I hope you’ll try the thematic Bible study method as we continue our journey to becoming women who know God, know ourselves and run our races.
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