Have you tried reading the Bible but have given up because you just can’t seem to understand it? Follow along with us as we show you six steps to begin your journey to understanding God’s word.
How to Understand the Bible
One of the things many people find perplexing about “religion” is the amount of differing beliefs that people have on the subject. Many wonder why there are so many different religions if there is only one God. Taking that a step further, many have wondered why all the people that profess to believe the Bible don’t believe the same thing. How come they disagree on so many points if they all believe the same Bible? This important lesson on How to Understand the Bible will help to answer these questions. It will also help you to know how you yourself can better understand the Bible.
1. Believe It
The first key to understanding the Bible is believing it. Your faith in the word of God is what activates it for you. It’s what causes it to work effectually in you. See I Thess. 2:13 for this truth. That same verse says that when the Thessalonians received the word of God, they received it not as the word of men, but as it was in truth, the word of God. When a person rejects the Bible as God’s word, he limits his ability to understand it and to benefit from it. See Heb. 4:2. II Tim. 3:16 tells us that the scriptures are given by inspiration of God. It was God’s intention to communicate to man through His word, and God has commanded that man is to live by His word (Matt. 4:4), and so God has seen to it that man has access to His word (Psalm 12:6-7).
Other religions have their Sacred Books claiming to be God’s word or God’s way for them. Islam has the Koran (Qur’an). The Jews believe the Old Testament Scriptures and the Talmud, but reject the New Testament. The Catholics believe the Bible also includes the apocryphal books. The Mormons believe the Book of Mormon to be of equal authority as the Bible. (The truth is that they believe it more than the Bible. Joseph Smith said, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”) These are just some of the Sacred texts of other religions. It is important to note that they all disagree in their religious doctrine. It is no surprise there are so many different religions, since they all look to different authorities. At this point many throw up their hands and say, “It’s too complicated. There are just too many different ideas about God and truth.” Some, then, quit trying to find God and the truth altogether; and others say, “As long as you are sincere it doesn’t matter what you believe.” Well, the Bible makes it clear it does matter what you believe, belief is the key to salvation (Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9-10).
It is equally important to note that among those professing to believe the Bible, not all believe the same Bible. The Bible we believe and use in these lessons is the King James Bible first published in 1611. It is not The New King James Bible or any other English Bible published after 1611. Others accept other versions as being more accurate or equally accurate. These Bibles differ in their words and teachings in many places and so they that believe them come up with differing doctrines.
One final note on the subject, many accept things other than their sacred writings as authoritative, and so you have another source of their diversity of beliefs.
2. Ye Must Be Born Again
In order to understand the Bible properly an individual must be saved. The old nature doesn’t make sense of spiritual things (I Cor. 2:14). The Holy Ghost compares “spiritual things with spiritual” (I Cor. 2:13). Prior to salvation, a man’s spirit is dead. Upon salvation it is regenerated and given life and in this condition, the individual is equipped to understand and make sense of the Bible.
In Rev. 5:1-5 you find a book sealed with seven seals. Jesus, the Lamb of God, prevails above everyone else as the only one able to open the Book. And so it is that He is the One that opens up the Bible to our understanding. In order to understand it, you need to have Him as your Saviour. When unsaved men handle the word of God, they cannot properly interpret it and so proliferate false teaching and heresy.
3. Be Willing To Do God’s Will
Jesus gave us another important key to understanding the Bible in truth in John 7:17. Here He said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” A willingness to do God’s will allows you to understand proper doctrine. Getting your doctrine right is a matter of your heart being right with God. Some people approach the Bible with a heart unwilling to follow the Lord and so undermine their ability to understand the scriptures. See Is. 29:10-13. If you will not obey what God has already shown you to be true, why should He show you anything else? “…Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you:” (John 12:35).
4. Be Holy
Continuing with the matters of the heart, in order for one to grasp the Bible as well as possible, there must be some degree of holiness in his life. It would stand to reason, the more holiness, the more understanding. The Bible is called “the holy scriptures” (II Tim. 3:15) and cannot be approached or understood like a normal Book. Job 28:28 says, “to depart from evil is understanding.” Sin in the life of the individual clouds his ability to understand the holy scriptures. It’s like trying to look through a very dirty window and get a clear view of what’s on the other side. To get the clearest view, get the window as clean as possible.
It is interesting to note that in Gal. 5:19-20, “heresies” are listed as works of the flesh. See also Titus 3:10-11.
5. Pray For Wisdom
The Bible is God’s Book and who better to make its meaning clear than the Author Himself. Thus, if you would understand the Bible, get to know its Author! One who desires to understand the Bible should pray and ask the Lord for wisdom and understanding. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” In v. 6 James exhorts you to “ask in faith, nothing wavering.” God is certainly able to give us light on the Scriptures so we would be wise to ask Him for it (Ps.119:18). See also Prov. 2:3-5.
6. Study the Scriptures
II Tim. 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” This verse indicates that study is work. Are you willing to work at understanding the Bible, by taking the time to read and study it? When studying the Bible we compare scripture with scripture and run cross-references. In a study Bible you may find these in a center column, at the bottom of a page, or at the end of a verse. These are references that may help to shed light on the verse or passage you have been reading. This is the mode of Bible study outlined by Isaiah in Isaiah 28:9-10 which see.
II Tim. 2:15 also indicates that the Bible has proper divisions to it. One must make a distinction between the Old Testament and New Testament and note that at different times God deals with things a bit differently. For example, in the Old Testament, they were required to bring sacrifices for their sins, while in the New Testament we rely on Jesus Christ, who “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever”.
If you genuinely want to understand the Bible you can. It takes some work. In order to retain what the Lord shows you, it is helpful to mark your Bible (Jer. 23:18) by including your own cross-references and notes, and also by underlining and/or highlighting particular verses or passages that the Lord impresses upon you.
Attend Sunday School, Church and Bible Study; listen carefully & then go home and prayerfully search the scriptures (Acts 17:11).
1. Give at least 4 of the keys (main points) about how to understand the Bible.
2. Jesus said, “If any man will __________,
he shall know of the doctrine…”
3. Job said this is understanding.
4. Memorize Psalm 119:18.
5. Memorize II Timothy 2:15.