Ways to Worship | Topical study

We’ve reached the final week in the Ways to Worship series. I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at different ways to connect with God through the Word.




I’d like to think I know my husband pretty well. I know his favourite foods and those foods that make his stomach turn. I know what makes him light up with joy and what makes his heart heavy. Sometimes that happened just through observing what he said or how he reacted. Other times, though, I found things out by intentionally asking him. The big topics. About God, about his past, about our future. I still don’t know my husband perfectly. I’m still finding things out that surprise me. But as our marriage continues, I hope to know him even more – to know his heart on any topic that comes up.

It’s like that with knowing God too. Sometimes we learn about him by observing truth in the Bible passage we happen to be reading. But sometimes, we want to know what God says about a particular topic. This is when our final Bible study method – topical studycomes in handy. Studying the Bible so we’ll know God’s approach to whatever topic or issue arises in our life.



Topical Bible study shares common elements with systematic theology. In systematic theology, you start with a topic or doctrine – salvation, prayer or whatever it may be – and you see what the Bible says about it. Way back in the 2nd century, Origen wrote On First Principles, presenting a systematic Christian view on a whole range of doctrines and topics. For a modern introduction to systematic theology, have a look at Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.


What do I need?

  • a Bible

  • a concordance

  • a Bible dictionary or systematic theology textbook could also help




How to do it

1. Choose a topic and scope

  • Your topic could be an issue that’s relevant to your life at the moment, or a doctrine you want to learn more about. It’s up to you.

  • It’s also helpful to choose a scope – the limits of your study. Especially if you’re starting off, it might be overwhelming to study what the whole Bible says on a topic. You might like to choose one book of the Bible or one Biblical author and see what they have to say. What does Romans say about grace? What does Luke say about the Holy Spirit?


2. Find the passages

  • Use the concordance to look up Bible passages that refer to your topic. Start gathering a list.

  • Also include synonyms (words with similar meanings) and antonyms (opposites)

  • Sometimes words can mean more than one thing – make sure the word’s being used in the right way. For example, the word ‘flesh’ can refer to our physical bodies but is often used in the Bible to talk about the sinful nature.


3. Summarise the passages

  • Now you’ve got your list of passages, it’s time to revisit each one

  • Summarise what each passage is saying. How does this relate to your topic?

  • If you like, read a Bible dictionary or systematic theology on the topic. Does this add any depth of meaning?


4. Group into themes

  • Looking at all your passages together, are there any themes or ideas that keep coming up?

  • Are there different aspects of your main topic? Group your passages into these themes.

  • For each theme, write a summary statement like you did for the passages in the previous step. How do these statements connect with each other?


5. Pull it together

  • This final stage is about bringing it all together – write one big summary statement incorporating everything you’ve looked at so far

  • How does this summary statement change the way you live?




Potential pitfalls

The danger with relying only on topical study is that you can just focus on the topics you like, without knowing what the Bible says as a whole. You can balance this out with regular inductive study (SOAP is one example). And be brave enough to study the difficult topics too!


Why do this?

A topical Bible study can really help you gain a Biblical perspective on those issues that are relevant to your life at the moment. It’s a great way to understand what the Bible teaches about life, about us and about God himself.


Helpful resources

How to do a Topical Study of Scripture, Mel Lawrenz

How to Study the Bible Using the Topical Study Method, Jenni Mullinix

Topical Method of Study, Global Reach

Thematic or Topical Bible Studies, Rosemary Bardsley


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