Thursday, October 26, 2023

4 - Thematic Bible Study Method

Big Idea: Introduction to a Bible study method based on a theme, which is a singular focus on a topic, asking only a limited couple of questions.

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.

I’m sure the answer must be Jesus

Have you heard the joke of a children’s Sunday School teacher who asked her class “What is brown, furry with a bushy tail and likes nuts?”

An enthusiastic child shoved his hand in the air and blurted, “It sounds like a squirrel but I’m sure the answer must be Jesus.”

Narrowing a topic to a theme

It is easy to decide on the topic of “Jesus.” But all the verses and passages would become like a doctoral dissertation!

Many themes are within the broad topic of Jesus. Jesus’ parables about money. Jesus’ teaching on prayer. Jesus’ seven sayings at the cross. This is narrowing the topic.

A thematic Bible study is simpler than a topical Bible study.

Explaining the Theme method

This method approaches a theme in the Bible using less than 5 predetermined questions. You trace them guided by these questions, summarize your conclusions then personally apply it to your life.

Tools needed:

A study Bible    (Scripture Spy blogpost:   Resources in your Study Bible)
An exhaustive concordance     (Scripture Spy blogpost: How to use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)
A topical Bible

Advantages of the Thematic Bible Study

1. You don’t need reference tools.
2. It can be done in a limited time frame.
3. It is a good way to preview a topic.
4. It is easy to present as a Sunday School class or Sermon topic.
5. It is a way to teach a new Christian a simple study.

Tips from Rick Warren

1. Don’t use too many questions.
2. You may be able to use only one question. i.e. What are the things God hates?
3. You may not get all your questions answer in one verse, but it useful to look at multiple verses.
4. If you can’t find the answer in any of your verses, you may need to rephrase the questions.
5. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too massive a project.

Simple Steps on Doing a Thematic Study

1. Choose a theme that interests you.

2. List the verses you intend to study (use the study Bible, exhaustive concordance and topical Bible to find suggested verses on your theme)

3. Decide on the questions you will ask. Gather no more than 5 questions. Consider questions that begin with Who, what when where, or how. Maybe only 1 question is sufficient.

4. Ask you question(s) of each reference. List your answer(s) on a form.

5. Draw some conclusions from your study. Summarize your answers. Consider grouping similar verses.

6. Write out a personal application. Make sure it is practical, possible and measurable.

Form with suggested categories

Find a form for this kind of chart at this webpage

1. Theme
2. List of references
3. Questions to be asked
4. Answer the questions according to what each verse says
5. Conclusions/summaries
6. Application

For starting out, choose a simple theme with only a few verses. As you get better at this method you can make more complex themes.

Examples of themes

1. Knowing God’s will
Words to look up: God’s will, will of God, will of the Lord, Lord’s will
Question possibilities: What specific things are God’s will? Why am I to do God’s will? How am I to do God’s will?

2. Obedience
Words to look up: obey, obedience, keep, commandments, do…
Question possibilities: Why is obedience important? What are the results of obedience? What are the results of disobedience? How am I to obey God?

3. Praising the Lord
Words to look up: praise, adoration, thanksgiving, joy
Question possibilities: Why should I praise the Lord? How can I praise the Lord? When should I praise the Lord? What are some results of praising the Lord?

My heart is moved with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Psalm 45:1 NASB

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word

Previous: Character Quality Bible Study Method
Up next: Biographical Method of Bible Study


1. Are you already thinking of a theme you would like to study in the Bible? What would it be?

2. Does anything scare or trouble you about studying the Bible on your own, instead of using a study guide? What would that be? Pray about it.

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