3 Ways to Uncover Biblical Themes

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The key to understanding a Scripture passage is often to first understand the larger theme of the book it’s in. Commentaries or study Bibles may point out major themes for you, but you can find them yourself if you know where to look. Here are three ways to find a biblical book’s theme:

  1. Read through the opening and closing paragraphs of a book. The writer may leave a clue for you in the opening or closing paragraph of a book. This is especially common in the epistles. If you notice a common theme in both the opening and closing paragraphs, you know you’re on to something. For example, Peter speaks to the process of growing “in the knowledge of God” in the first and last paragraph of 2 Peter. This theme ties together everything in between. Study 2 Peter with that in mind, and many complex passages become easier to unravel.
  2. Look for repeated words, phrases, or ideas. Remember that when the biblical writers penned Scripture, emphasis markings like bold, italics, and underlining were not used because they took up valuable space on the page. Romans 8, a well-known passage, draws special attention to the Holy Spirit, mentioning it 20 times in 38 verses.
  3. Look for a purpose statement. There isn’t a clear statement of purpose in every book, but when a biblical writer spells out his reason for writing a book, or his hope for how it will impact the reader, take special note. Luke provides a clear purpose statement at the beginning of his Gospel (Luke 1:1–4). Any study of Luke will benefit from regular references to this introduction and statement of purpose.

If you’re studying with the Faithlife Study Bible, these markers and much more are explained in its three layers of study notes. Download the Faithlife Study Bible app for free from your app store of choice.

The Creation Story (As Told by the FSB)

Creation begins with the separation of light and darkness. Interestingly, God creates light before he creates any sources of light. Some have speculated that God’s glory served as the initial source of light. The FSB study notes point out that the order of creation is consistent with the ancient perception of the universe. An article by Michael Heiser explains this, and this helpful chart is included to illustrate.

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Six times in the first chapter of Genesis, God affirms his creation as “good” or in a right relationship with him. This changes a few chapters later when, because of sin, God curses the earth and all its inhabitants.

The first day, and all the subsequent days of creation, close with an expression: “evening and morning.” Ken Ham is a staunch literalist, meaning he interprets the seven days of creation as 24-hour periods of time. But there are several different approaches to the creation narrative. For a quick summary of some ways the creation story is perceived by theologians, refer to the table, “Interpretation of Days in Genesis.”

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The FSB study notes point out how Genesis 1 provides a subtle critique of prevailing ancient–Near Eastern beliefs by deliberately avoiding the words for “sun” and “moon” that carried idolatrous undertones. The writer makes it clear that these two bits of creation respectively rule over the daytime and nighttime only at the creator’s divine appointment.

One of the most exciting applications of Genesis 1 for me is the precedent of creativity that God sets for mankind. Trey Boden explains in his devotional article about creativity:

To understand our place in the drama of creation, we should look at how God created us. God made us in His image to give Him glory through service and love to the world. Because we are made in His image, we can assume that we have a likeness of His creative spirit within us. God initiated this sharing in His creative works by giving Adam the tasks of cultivating the garden (Genesis 2:15) and naming the animals (Genesis 2:20). The major difference between God’s creative action and ours, however, is that God has the power to create something from nothing.

The creation story closes in Genesis 1:27′s summary of mankind’s origin:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

The FSB study notes summarize the first chapter of Genesis with this huge infographic (click to enlarge) that depicts the seven days of creation like never you’ve never seen it before.

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To explore the creation narrative and the rest of Scripture in a new way, download the free Faithlife Study Bible on your smartphone or tablet today.

25 Billion Bible Verses and Counting

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What do the top faith-centered blogs and websites—The GospelCoalition.org, TheResurgence.com, SheReadsTruth.com, GotQuestions.org, and more—have in common?

They all use Reftagger.

Reftagger is both powerful and simple. It recognizes Scripture references on your website and tags them automatically; when a visitor hovers over the link, they see the verse text displayed in a subtle popup window. Like this: Ephesians 2:8–9. It’s even smart enough to recognize abbreviations like Eph. 2:8–9.

And you can add it to your website right now—for free!

All told, Reftagger has tagged more than 25 billion Bible verses: that’s more than 16,000 every second since it was launched. But it’s not just Reftagger’s power that’s made it so popular among the internet’s largest and most influential faith-based websites—it’s its simplicity. Reftagger gives your website additional functionality without making your visitors (or you!) work any harder.

We love Reftagger. It not only saves our team tons of time by automatically linking Bible verses, but also gives readers a better experience on our site because they don’t have to leave the article to read the linked verses.
—The Resurgence team

Having experimented with each of the available Bible verse link programs out there, we have found Reftagger to be the most feature rich, stable, and easy to use.
—S. Michael Houdmann, CEO of GotQuestions.org

We were so excited to discover Reftagger! . . . the hover and click functions of this plugin are perfect for our site.
—SheReadsTruth.com

Available in 17 translations and every color of the rainbow, Reftagger integrates perfectly into your site.

Give your visitors a better experience: add Reftagger today for free!

FaithSmiles.com: The Best Faith-Friendly Content, All in One Place

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FaithSmiles.com brings together the best inspiring, humorous content from across the Internet, so you can enjoy it in one place. Subscribe now to get new videos and images delivered straight to your inbox.

The best humor & inspiration from across the Internet

The FaithSmiles team spends hours wading through the internet to find the wonderful videos and images that inspire you and make you laugh. But now all that content is brought together on FaithSmiles.com. New content is being added all the time, so you’re sure to find something awe-inspiring, incredible, hilarious, or moving on each visit.

Lightning-fast, effortless sharing

The only thing better than finding an incredible video is sharing it with others. That’s why we built FaithSmiles.com with sharing options for your favorite social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, to make sharing your favorite things a snap! Here’s how it works:

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Entertainment without temptation or guilt

FaithSmiles.com will never have off-color advertisements or links to disreputable websites. You can browse the website freely without fear of what might appear in the sidebar.

Visit FaithSmiles.com now to find the best faith-friendly content in one place. While you’re there, subscribe to the FaithSmiles email list to have all the new content automatically delivered to your inbox.

The Story of Passion Week (As Told by the FSB)

RisenIndeed The last week of Jesus’ ministry, often called Passion Week, was packed with action—powerful teaching, bold confrontation, intrigue, and prophecy both fulfilled and made anew. Explore it all with the free Faithlife Study Bible app.

Passion Week begins when Jesus rides into the Jerusalem on a donkey to the adulation and cries of, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The account is recorded in several different places in Scripture, but the most detailed is found in Matthew 21:1–11. The study notes accompanying that passage include an detailed and visually interesting infographic:

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In this one event, Jesus fulfilled a number of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, something he did no less than 68 times in his life. This chart details each of them:

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Jesus found many opportunities to preach throughout Passion Week. The Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28–32), Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33–45), Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1–14), The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:34–40), and the Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:1–36). And whenever Jesus taught, the religious leaders were close by to challenge him. One of their Passion Week challenges came in the form of a trick question about taxes, intended to trap Jesus. The Pharisees asked him if it was lawful to pay Roman taxes—a clever question because whether Jesus answered yes or no, the answer could be used against him. Jesus managed to answer without giving them the ammunition they anticipated. The Faithlife Study Bible notes explain: “Jesus both settles the matter and avoids incriminating Himself. The coin had Caesar’s image and title on it, and therefore by extension, belonged to Caesar—it was his currency. However, if Caesar got his due, God should likewise receive His due—the whole earth is His and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). What they were required to give God was of far greater worth than a coin—their entire lives. The currency of the kingdom of God is based on following Christ.” The Faithlife Study Bible also includes this great image so we can visualize the coin in question:

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After this, the religious leaders in Israel began making plans to kill Jesus. Scripture uses a unique word to describe their actions—dolos. It means deceitful, underhanded, or treacherous. The FSB’s study notes point it out and suggest that Matthew used it to contrast Jesus’ innocence and righteousness. I also see a link to A Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament, since I have that book in my Logos library (don’t forget that books you get on Logos.com network automatically with your other resources to make them more powerful). The last night of Jesus’ ministry was spent with his disciples celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover. He instituted our New Testament observance of communion in the midst of the Passover celebration. Afterward, Jesus and his disciples walked from the city to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he would be arrested later that evening. We sent a video-production team to Israel to capture images and video of important locations like this. You can take a virtual stroll through the garden in the study notes on Matthew 26:36:

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Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples, led his enemies to the garden where they could arrest him in secret. Ten of the disciples fled, but Peter jumped to his defense, wounding a servant of the High Priest. Jesus intervened, reminding him that the armies of heaven stood ready to defend them all, but he chose not to call on them. The religious leaders of Israel bribed witnesses to accuse him in a secret trial held in the council chamber. The Faithlife Study Bible includes this image, helping you imagine the setting:

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They found him guilty, but lacked the authority to carry out the death sentence they sought, so they brought Jesus to appear before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect in Jerusalem. For years, Scripture was the only record of Pilate. Many skeptics denied his existence until an inscription was uncovered by Robert Bull in 1982. With this archaeological discovery, the details of the biblical narrative were once again confirmed accurate:

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Though Pilate did not want to order Jesus’ execution at first, eventually he succumbed to the public pressure whipped up by the religious leaders. Jesus was crucified outside the city walls at a place called Golgotha, which means “place of the skull.” Protestant archaeologists in the nineteenth century identified this hill as the most likely spot because its location fits the biblical description and the rock formation does resemble a skull. The Faithlife Study Bible includes this image:

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If the story ended there, we probably would not know it today. But of course, Jesus did not stay dead. Three days after his execution, two women traveled to his tomb to pay their respects and felt an earthquake beneath them. When they arrived at the tomb, they found it empty. An angel told them not to fear, because Jesus had risen from the dead. The account is recorded in Matthew 28, and the Faithlife Study Bible puts it this way:

This chapter contains the most important event in human history: the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah from the dead. In fulfillment of his prediction, He conquers the grave and rises again to life.

So we celebrate, once a week on Sunday and once a year on Easter, the victory that Jesus won over death, hell, and the grave. He is risen. He is risen indeed.

To explore Passion Week and the rest of Scripture in a new way, download the free Faithlife Study Bible on your smartphone or tablet today.

10 Powerful Quotes about Faith

We’ve compiled 10 quotes on faith to give you a quick source of inspiration. Pick your favorites, then share them with your friends and loved ones for a dose of encouragement.

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“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.” —Elisabeth Elliot

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“Worrying is arrogant because God knows what He’s doing.” —Barbara Cameron

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“He said, ‘Love . . . as I have loved you.’ We cannot love too much.” —Amy Carmichael

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“We never grow closer to God when we just live life. It takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness.” —Francis Chan  

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“Always, everywhere God is present, and always He seeks to discover Himself to each one.” —A.W. Tozer

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“Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.” —Charles H. Spurgeon

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“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” —A.W. Tozer

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“God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which he must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.” —A.W. Tozer

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“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realising you were the prisoner!” —Max Lucado

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“God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.” —Francis Chan