Welcome to Week Eight in How To Study the Bible series! (To begin the series click here.)
As you explore Mark 12, you will…
1) learn how to do a topical Bible study
2) learn how to use topical study Bibles and similar resources
3) grasp the full meaning of Jesus’ command to “love the Lord”
Review of Week Seven: Studying the Bible through Reflective Writing
First, last week you learned how to use reflective writing to delve deeper into Biblical stories. You also learned how to use the resources in Bible handbooks to provide valuable background for your writing.
Second, you learned more about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and how the people completely misunderstood his Kingdom purpose.
How to do a Topical Bible Study
Lord, your Word is alive and abundant in blessings! Guide us today as we seek your insights and mine the depths of scripture. Protect us from our own motivations and our own brokenness as we study your Word. Fill us with your Holy Spirit and grant your understanding and life-giving wisdom! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Steps to doing a topical Bible study:
1) Choose your topic
2) Use a topical bible to explore the full range of meaning for your topic
3) Identify scripture passages that use the topic in similar contexts and grammar
4) Summarize your results into a few sentences or bullets (include promises, conditions, expectations, and new truths revealed)
5) Identify a couple illustrations that portray your topic
6) Determine how to apply your results to your own life (do you need to act, memorize, read, pray, speak to someone, or something else?)
Using a Topical Study Bible
A topical study Bible is simply a concordance with research notes. Several options exist to assist in studying topics and themes in the Scriptures. Most organize topics alphabetically by their English words. Recall that Strong’s concordance and related resources use a numbering system as well as the Hebrew and Greek languages.
One of the most well-known topical resources is Nave’s Topical Bible. Published in 1897, it set the standard for topical studies. Now in the public domain, you can use it online as well as purchase the book. Bible Study Tools also provides an easily navigable edition of Nave’s work.
I recently began using the Dictionary of Bible Themes (DBT) to assist my topical studies as well. DBT created a numeric system under which all themes are grouped. Topics, subtopics, and related terms are nested for quick reference. Excellent! The online version is available at Biblos.com and Bible Gateway.
Topical Study of Love for God
Mark 12 reveals another key moment in Jesus’ ministry. The chapter includes several poignant moments of Jesus’ conversations with religious officials. Then,
the religious leader asks,
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Then…there were no more questions. Period. This response concluded the verbal sparring by the religious leaders. The next question by an official would be after his arrest when Herod asks “Are you the Christ?” (Mark 14:61)
So, let’s study this command that silenced the religious leaders. We are commanded to love the Lord with our entire being. What does this verb in the imperative form mean??
1) Choose a topic: love for God
2) Use topical Bible resources (Nave’s and Dictionary of Biblical Themes) to learn more about “love for God”. Click on “love” in Nave’s Study Bible then scrolled down to “Of Man For God“.
Click on “Topics” in Biblos.com for Mark 12:30 (this is the DBT). Now choose “8297 Love, for God.” HUGE amount of resources: cross-references grouped by the various meanings of our chosen topic. Plus, the “See also” section includes related words.
4) Summarize: Our primary role is to love God with an all-encompassing passion. All else emerges from the totality of this love. Love is a choice not a fleeting or fickle emotion. Jesus’ statement echoes Moses’ decree to the newly-freed nation of Israel as well as Joshua’s final words to the leaders of Israel. The consistent, eternal Word of God speaks into all generations. God receives this love and recognizes all who choose love him.
5) Choose illustrations of topic: DBT lists examples of the expression of love for God including: delighting in worship (Psalm 27:1), love for God’s word (Psalm 119:97), self-sacrifice (Luke 14:33), giving (1 Chronicles 29:3), obeying God (1 John 5:3), loving others (1 John 4:21). The week’s sermon, The Place God Calls You, at our church focused on delighting ourselves in the Lord (Psalm 37:4). And, of course, the greatest expression of love and obedience for God was Jesus Christs’ incarnation and ultimate death on the cross.
6) Apply: To love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength requires an undivided heart and a singular purpose. I will meditate on Psalm 18:1 this week and seek to embrace it in all areas of my life (home, work, family, hopes, and dreams).
“I love you, O Lord, my strength.”
1) Do a topical Bible study on one of the following: heart (Mark 12:30), neighbor (Mark 12:31); or kingdom (Mark 12:34).
2) Share in the comments below how you will apply your study. We would love to learn from your studies!