Progressive Bible Study

As a general observation, it seems that Christians progress in Bible studies along a type of path. This is not always the case for all, but I see it most often. The progression seems to be:

1. Study of the Bible stories (especially kids and teens in a Sunday School setting).

2. Study of Bible themes or word studies (Grace, Faith, Covenant…). As we become more familiar with the stories, we encounter things in those stories we are not familiar with in our modern culture (as the stories are from centuries ago). The things that intrigue us, drive us to dig deeper.

3. Biblical Theology – or reading the Bible cover to cover (also called progressive revelation or historical/chronological reading). This may seem strange to place this as #3, but it’s just an observation that not everyone jumps in to read the entire Bible from day one.

4. Systematic Theology – or reading the Bible in harmony as connecting all the dots you formed in 1-3. Like a puzzle, all the pieces of the stories, themes, types, shadows, and so on, start to form your personal doctrinal standards. In other words, you’ve moved from having pools of Bible verses in separate “buckets” to seeing just how they link up and influence one another. Example: How your understanding of sin impacts your understanding of grace, faith….

5. Covenant Theology – like a completed puzzle (having your systematics worked out) you now see and study the “big picture” of all that God has done in totality to bring about His will. It’s His Story of redemption that covers all ages.

6. Theology (proper) and doxology – the study and praise of God Himself. This occurs throughout the process of Christian growth, but the “path” seems to always lead to this. As we progress through 1-5 we attain to a greater sense and more personal understanding (more than just “information” or doctrinal) of who God is, and an appreciation for what all He has done.

All of these may occur at different stages of growth and changes sometimes occur as we get exposed to new studies. Some may start at number 5 or even 6, but even these will grow in this order as they learn more of 1-4. As we delve into the smaller pieces it should always work to develop a greater love and gratitude for God.

Just an observation of mine that I’d thought I’d share. Where ever you are it’s where God wants you. Thrive where you are, but be motivated in His Spirit to keep pressing on. Pray, read, study, and discuss with other Christians to sharpen one another, as it’s a group or family effort. Ask of God who gives liberally.

6 Comments

Filed under Theology

6 responses to “Progressive Bible Study

  1. Good piece and thought provoking. 🙏🏾

  2. preacherwin

    As always, I appreciate your thoughts. I wonder, though, what your thoughts are as to where study turns into practice on this grid.

    • Deep question there my friend – but highly practical. The danger in Bible study is that it cam become a means unto itself – like school we study to have answers and knowledge for the test, but struggle with what practical application it all has in the real world.

      As Christians we are not just called to know/believe something, but to BE something more than what we were prior to salvation. We have moved from being God’s enemy to a child of God, bride of Christ, and saints. These imply a change in character towards God and mankind. There is a great error in thinking God saved me as I am, so I can remain as I am. This heretically divides sanctification from justification. To be sanctified is to be separate, called out, different from the world. As “children of God”, we see that scripture treats us as such referring some things to be milk, necessary to build up to meatier teachings.

      All that being said, in #1 The stories should provoke us to conform to the image of Jesus in examples or morals presented. These should be clearly understood as not being meritorious, but the humble responses of a grateful heart. David saw the morals/laws as his counselors, directing his daily steps. He humbly called on God, when not seeing a human way out of things. He knew the stories well enough to take personal encouragement in the God of whom they were about. #2 These studies can practically unify what we found in #1, seeing the same examples (of a theme) throughout various places in scripture. We can see how a theme/doctrine was taught, and should bring out any imperatives for actions, we find accompanying the teaching (“therefore do…”) .

      #3 through #5 should always funnel up to #6 and increase both our faith and repentance, and a more worshipfully reliance/love of God, as we see and hopefully understand more and more details of His care and love for us. We should in turn be wanting and working to show that love for God to others.

      In everyday life, we should have God at the forefront of our thoughts, words, and deeds as much as possible. I recall the illustration of a plumber. As there is not a “Christian” way to do plumbing, the plumber can be charitable, fair, respectful, honest….. These things are not the gospel, but are said to adorn the gospel.

      Short answer is that all the Bible should regularly stir us to be the children we are called/proclaimed to be, via the Word, sacraments, and prayer. As the bride of Christ, we should be putting effort into knowing and being a good spouse.

  3. This tracks pretty closely with my life. I started teaching children at age 13, then youth at 18. At 18 I was probably between stages 2&3. The last stages exploded quickly by about 21, but again without any maturity. Here is my question: do you think we should keep young men to more humble things until they at least get to the “big picture” stage and even then with some super strong restraints (because who wants a cage stager running the youth ministry)? Or would you take a different approach?

    • Thanks for the comment and question! I think everyone is different so not sure I’d impose restrictions for service. I think “cage stage” is a significant part of growth, as clearly the big picture has come together in their mind and they have internalized doctrine to the point that it’s very “personal”. I think such energy is useful to the church, but would wish that elders would mentor such men and women to better channel and focus that energy.
      Teaching in general always fosters a sense of taking what you know and making it yours to the point you can explain something, so young men wanting to teach should be encouraged to do so, but I’d recommend with some support and supervision.

      Hope that helps. I’m going to note this, ponder and pray over it a bit, and maybe expound on this more at a later date.

  4. Pingback: Progressive Bible Study — humble Theology | Study Scripture Online

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