This is a guest post by my friend Stephen Manley. You can find out more about Stephen by visiting CrossStyle.org or you can listen to his sermons at CrossStyeChurch.org.
The study of topics is as natural as breathing. In fact, I cannot conceive of a Biblical concept flowing from an exposed passage, which is not a topic. Passages addressing an issue of life will naturally address one topic. Every conversation seems to have a topic or even several. How can anyone write a clarifying passage without its focus being a topic? Will not every sermon contain a topic? Topics are not bad; they are natural.
The difficulty is not in the focus of the subject matter but the methodology of the investigation. Saturation is not about the focus of our material, but about how we achieve that focus. A typical approach to topical study is to select the subject, go to an exhaustive concordance, and search for the various Scriptures related to this subject. Then we can discuss the topic from these various passages. While this may not be evil, is it the best? Does it come the closest to revealing the mind of Christ? Am I simply taking a text and offering conclusions without properly investigating the context and flow of that text? The author who is writing is doing so with great purpose. Am I seeing the topic in the text from the author’s viewpoint? How easy it is to use and abuse the Scriptures!
The selection of the subject or topic is another strong issue. In preaching, this is an important matter. What subject or topic should I address with my people? What is their primary need? Do I simply view their daily lives and allow what I see to guide me in choosing the subjects about which I preach? Do I have the ability to see the deep needs in the lives of others? Saturation in the Scriptures is a different approach. It allows God to reveal systematically through a book the subjects which need to be addressed. He knows much better than I what my congregation needs to consider. An individual in my congregation thinking I am preaching at them is always a danger. They may share an issue in their life with me and it just so happens to be the topic of my sermon for the next Sunday. When they hear the sermon, what else can they think? However, if my sermons come from my saturating with them through a book, how can they not see God’s revealing hand in their lives?
Study time is always an issue for busy people. If a pastor needs two new sermons or topics for each week, he is required to do two separate studies. He does not have enough time to do justice to both studies. Therefore, he may find himself studying superficially, expressing no depth or challenge to his people. He may also resort to the preaching of others to glean sermons already developed. Saturation solves these problems. Saturating in a book provides the foundational basis for dozens of sermons as the passage is exposed. The topics become God directed; the depth of the passages becomes God revealed; and the presence of Truth becomes God inspired. For the busy minister, expositional saturation is an absolute must. But it is not just for preachers. Each person who wants to know the heart of Christ finds his own busy schedule a hindrance. The answer is found not in the study of a topic now and then. The answer is found in saturating moment-by-moment in the Scriptures. Through that, Jesus, the Word, establishes the foundation of life.