As Christians, we should always be spending time in the word of God. But what about when you’ve tried to read the Bible in order but it just doesn’t work for you? Maybe you need to do a topical Bible study. let’s talk about how to create a Bible reading plan that works for you.
What is a Topical Bible Study?
A topical Bible study is one that looks at a specific topic in great detail. The Bible scholar chooses one subject and looks at all (or at some of) what the Bible has to say.
Preparing to do a topical Bible study
As with any method of studying the Bible, there are several steps involved. Let’s go through each of them together.
1. Determine why you want to do a topical Bible study.
As with all things, you have to determine your why. Why do you want to read your Bible topically? If you are looking for more reasons to read your Bible, check out this great post on the amazing benefits of reading the Bible.
Understanding your reason for doing a topical Bible study will keep you motivated to read on the days the enemy whispers lies in your ear and you want to quit.
2. Decide what topic you want to study. Choose a topic that you want to know more about.
The Bible is a great authority on a lot of topics. However, when you’re choosing a topic, you should also consider synonyms that could be used instead.
For example, if you wanted to do a topical Bible study on gratitude, you may be somewhat surprised to find that the word gratitude only appears in the more modern translations of the Bible. But the Bible is filled with thanksgiving, thankfulness, and praise.
3. Determine your aim for your topical Bible study.
While your aim may seem similar to your why and what you want to learn, it involves another dimension. How do you want to feel when you’re through?
So in our gratitude example, if you wanted to remember the reasons we have to praise God, you may focus more on passages such as Psalm 103 which gives a list of reasons to be grateful.
But if your aim was to find ways to give thanks, you may read more Scripture like Psalm 100 which encourages us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
How to do a topical Bible study
Now that you’ve decided what you want to study, here’s the step-by-step process to complete a topical Bible study.
As with any attempt to study the Bible, start with prayer. The Holy Spirit is a great teacher and will guard against error. Ask God to give you an open mind to learn what He wants to teach you.
My favorite prayer before I begin any Bible study is “open my eyes, Lord, that I may see wondrous things from Your Word”. This is a prayer God always answers because He wants us to know Him and to have a desire to study His Word. It’s also a reminder that being able to study the Bible is a privilege that some people in the world still don’t have access to.
1. Create or download a topical Bible reading plan.
Use a concordance. You’re looking for the topic you’re studying as well as synonyms and antonyms. Try to find as many related words as you can.
Make a list of verses. At this point, you’re choosing potentials.
Related: Free Topical Bible Reading Plans
2. Read each verse on your list.
Be sure to consider the context. You may want to read or listen to the entire chapter or at least the surrounding verses to get the full story.
Be careful not to take the verses out of their original context. Whatever your aim is for studying a particular topic, you want to be careful not to manipulate God’s word to suit your purposes.
After reading through the verses on your list, you’ll need to determine which ones are completely unrelated so they can be removed from your list. Finalize your list.
4. Go through your final list of verses and begin your study.
Now that you have a plan you may want to go deeper than just reading. Studying the verses on your list will give additional depth to your time in the word and will improve your relationship with God.
When reading through the verses for your topical Bible study you want to ask questions. Start with who, what, where, when, why, and how questions. They may not all apply but will give you a pretty good starting point to begin gathering your data.
Some good Bible study questions are:
- What did the author mean to communicate?
- What would this have meant to the audience at the time?
- What can I learn about God from this text?
- How would this teaching have impacted the people at that time?
- Why did the author choose to address this particular topic?
- When was this written?
- What were the socio-economic conditions during this time?
This isn’t an all-inclusive list but I hope you got an idea of some of the kinds of questions you can ask as part of your topical Bible study.
Make note of everything you learn or observe. Don’t be surprised if your topical study leads you in new directions as you find more questions to ask.
In some cases, you’ll want to save your questions for later as they may distract you from the current study.
5. Take note of cross-references in your Bible.
During this step, you may find that you add new verses to your list. Cross-references are a great way to get additional context or a deeper understanding of the Word.
We want to use the Bible to interpret the Bible and looking at related verses will help you to do so. I’ve had several “aha” moments because I took the time to read the cross-references.
As you make your observations, the interpretation will come clear as you begin to understand what the author had intended to communicate to his audience. You’ll also get an idea of what God wants to communicate to His people.
Check out this post If you want to learn more about how to study the Bible verse by verse.
6. Review and organize your findings.
Chances are, you’re going to see similar or related things being reflected in multiple verses. What new thing did you learn? What became clear to you as you completed your topical study of the Bible?
The Bible is one continuous story that will become evident as you follow one topic throughout your study. You’ll notice that a lot of topics that are dealt with in the New Testament were also covered in the Old Testament. Topical Bible studies are great for showing you the connection between the Old and New Testaments.
7. Make an application.
What actions do you need to take in response to what you learned in your study? Make a note of it and ask the Holy Spirit to begin living out the change in your life.
List of topical Bible studies
Now that you know how to study the Bible topically, here are some lists of topical Bible studies you can try.
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