Topical Study Method
In this method of study, we are going to look a topic to study. A topic is a theme, a subject, a single focus, or an area of study. This differs from a word study in that we are looking a topic and all related areas. For example, we did a study on "fool" in Proverbs. A topical study would involve using the word study as well as additional stories and scriptures relating to this topic. Once again, the key is choosing a topic and allowing that topic to guide your study. Some topics might include the following: marriage, money, honesty, teach, family, discipline, praying, or parables.
Select a topic that you want to know more about. For this study, we are going to look at prayer.
Make a list of words associated with the topic. In this case, we are going to look at pray, prayer, praying, and prayerful. We will also look at cry, seek, and hear because these words can also be used to seek God.
Next, make a list of questions about your topic. These questions will serve as a guide to this type of study and will help us determine what we have learned. In other words, we need a focus and a reason for doing this study. Some questions for this study on prayer might include the following: What is prayer? How are we to pray? What are some qualities of a "good" prayer? What are we not to do when praying? How do we know when God answers our prayers? How often are we to pray? What does it mean to pray continually? What are the "parts" to a prayer? How is the Lordís Prayer a model for prayer? What can hinder our prayers?
Be careful about asking too many questions. If this happens, you may want to break down your topic and do several studies.
The questions should spark the learning process already. Record any insights that you have at this time. It is good to know where we started in this type of study.
Use your concordance to do a study of the words listed in step 2. You will use the skills we learned in our previous studies. From time to time, record your observations.
Now, we will use a new resource: the topical Bible. Most Bibles will have a concordance in the back as well as a topical list of words. This topical list will give you verses that deal with your topic. A topical Bible is an excellent resource. Naveís Topical Bible and Thompsonís Chain Reference Bible are two such resources.
Using the topical list of references, we now begin reading these verses looking for insights and revelation. As you do, pay very close attention to the list of questions, otherwise our study might wander all over.
From time to time, record your observations and answers. Look for patterns and recurring ideas.
Categorize your observations based upon your questions. This will serve as a type of outline. Under "What is prayer?" we would list all that prayer is. Again, your list of insights might be different from mine.
Finally, based upon your summary, what are you going to do with this new understanding? How are you going to make this word a part of your life (like "obedience"), or how are you going to avoid it (like "anger")?
Word Study Method
The first time I used this method, my pastor told me to do a study over the word "fool". As a new Christian, he thought this study would help me. At first, I wondered if he was calling me a fool. However, as I studied the word, I realized that my view of a fool was not the same as Godís. This study truly opened my eyes, so we will use the same word as our practice word. Also, for this study, we are going to look mainly in Proverbs
Strongís definition for "fool" = foolish, a stupid person, a dullard, an arrogant person, one who despises wisdom
I have listed a couple of verses and my observations.
Proverbs 7:21 - 23 (NIV) 21 With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. 22 All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer£ stepping into a noose£ 23 till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.
a. Fool is led away with persuasive words
b. Either canít see the truth or chooses to ignore it
c. A fool listens when he should not
d. He is led away and is not able to see the trap being set before him
e. Fool knows God, but he listens to other people
Proverbs 10:18 - 19 (NIV) 18 He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. 19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
f. Proverbs 10:8 showed a contrast. It contrasted a wise man and a foolish man.
g. This verse uses a comparison. It shows two people who are alike.
h. He who conceals hatred is a liar.
i. Why? Because God knows what is in our hearts. We canít cover it up
j. In the same way, someone who spreads slander is a fool.
k. Why? Because God knows what we say and it will be found out.
l. Slander and lying hurt people in many ways.
m. A fool does not see that or does not care.
n. A fool believes he can say what he wants and nothing will happen to him
o. Verse 19 again tells us that a wise person holds his tongue while a fool lets it run loose.
Proverbs 10:23 (KJV) 23It is as sportH7814H7814 to a foolH3684H3684 to doH6213H6213 mischiefH2154H2154: but a manH376H376 of understandingH8394H8394 hath wisdomH2451H2451.
p. Sport = laughter (in meriment or defiance):óderision, laughter (-ed to scorn, -ing), mocked, sport.
q. Fool = properly fat, that is, (figuratively) stupid or silly:ófool (-ish).
r. Mischief = a plan, especially a bad one:óheinous crime, lewd (-ly, -ness), mischief, purpose, thought, wicked (device, mind, -ness).
s. In other words, a fool is a stupid person who finds delight and enjoyment in bad, wicked plans
t. A fool thinks stealing a car and joyriding around is fun
u. A fool has no understanding in that he canít see anything wrong with enjoying other peopleís misery
v. i.e. Saddam Hussein, Hitler