Since we have discussed at some length the analytical method of Bible study, let us focus our attention upon other profitable methods, some simple and others complex.
Much help is to be gained by the tracing of a specific theme throughout the Scriptures. This form of study demands some mental as well as spiritual preparation. As an example, let us study the interesting topic of prayer. Before we commence we must decide which aspect of prayer we wish to examine, individual prayer or collective prayer, pastoral prayer or assembly prayer, personal prayer or objective prayer, the inward consequence or the outward results of prayer.
A very interesting digression into the method of word study could also be enjoyed using this theme, for it would be enlightening to investigate the different words used in this connection throughout the Scriptures, at least five expressions are found: prayer, supplication, intercession, petition, and request. Prayer, a general term, asks that God, who is supreme, through His power and wealth grant that which will meet human need. Supplication is a term indicative of the suppliant’s attitude of humility and earnestness before God. Intercession suggests an entreaty on behalf of another. Petitions solicit specific wishes, and the word, request, denotes the spirit of submission and reverence, rather than earnestness, that should characterize man in God’s presence.
Topical studies become very fascinating because topics frequently appear as links in chains. Let us again take the theme of prayer. As we investigate its signification in Holy Writ, we discover that it is linked with thanksgiving, and that thanksgiving suggests praise, and that praise expresses itself in worship.
Besides prayer the following topics are worthy of earnest reflection: faith, hope, love, the believer’s walk, the Christian’s home, Christian fellowship, spiritual guidance, etc. There is another method akin to this:
The Doctrinal Method:
Generally speaking a doctrine is more specifically an element of the Christian faith, it embraces the whole teaching of the Bible upon such subjects as God, His personality, trinity, Eternity, manifestation, etc.; the Lord Jesus, His Deity, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, second advent, and kingdom; the Holy Spirit, His Deity, personality, and work; man, his creation, ruin, redemption, final glorification or judgment; the Church, her origin, function, and destiny.
It is impossible to expend too much time in the careful study of Christian doctrine. To be well grounded in the faith, it is necessary to be acquainted with the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures. Every Christian for his own spiritual pleasure and preservation should understand, in a measure, the meaning of salvation, redemption, reconciliation, atonement, sanctification, election, predestination, glorification, etc.
These are delightful. Select some Bible character, either in the Old Testament or in the New, and search out every detail of his life, his ancestry, his birth, his home, his character, his accomplishments, his death. Some Old Testament characters are types of Christ, while others are types of the Christian. Of the former, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Jonah, David, or Solomon, are examples. Men like Abraham, Jacob, Samson, Nehemiah, etc., are excellent illustrations of what a Christian should be. The time spent in Biblical research will be amply rewarded, and the student’s personal life greatly enriched.
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This is a more profound method of Bible scrutiny, and demands maturity of thought, and quite an extensive knowledge of the Word of God. Other methods are recommended for young believers, and this only for those who have already acquired some experience in other fields of Biblical research. The study of types will take the student into such subjects as: the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, the Law of the Offerings, the Feasts of Jehovah, Israel’s march from Egypt to Canaan.
There are types to be found among Old Testament characters, events, and ceremonies. This method is a most fruitful field, and yet a word of caution must be given; the student ever should be on his guard against a fertile imagination, and spurn every temptation to indulge in speculative interpretations. We now notice the difference existing among the following: types, symbols, similes, metaphors, and illustrations. Briefly, a type is prefigurative, that is, it is a pattern given long ago of something we have today. A symbol is a visible sign of what already exists. A simile resembles certain qualities or features, a metaphor is a figure of speech which transfers the properties of one object to another. The illustration is the helpful example that by a picture makes clear the hidden meaning.