Q. Should we study the Bible using proof texts for a particular doctrine of belief, or should we read each book in a more systematic fashion taking into account the literal, historical, and spiritual contexts of each passage?
A. The problem with this question is that it divides the two methods of study into an either/or position. The real answer to this question is that we should do BOTH.
It is helpful to understand the big picture of the Holy Scriptures and to study the spiritual themes that are found in the Bible. It is also helpful to analyze each book as a self-contained unit of thought written to a particular audience. The key is that both methods of study should lead us to the overall truth of God’s word–Jesus Christ.
The major principle of Bible study is that God’s word does not contradict itself, and therefore the detailed interpretations need to fit in with the larger truths of what we know about God and His plan of salvation. It is amazing how perfectly all the individual pieces fit together to tell the larger story about “the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”