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Someone Cares Series
How to Understand the Bible
Some people think that the Bible is so difficult to understand that they are afraid even to try. Others wonder why, if the Bible really can be understood, there are so many different churches, all claiming to believe the Bible and yet teaching so many different things. The reason for so many different beliefs is that, although many people claim to believe the Bible, they have not studied it in the way that God has told them to. God has told us how to understand the Bible. If we will just follow the method He has outlined we can know exactly what it means. We can know truth! We can have eternal life! In this lesson we will learn how God tells us to study the Bible.
1. What claim does the Bible make about itself?
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (2 Timothy 3:16).
Faith in the Bible as the Inspired Word of God is developed by studying it. Every part of the Bible is given by inspiration of God and is profitable. The Old Testament no less than the New should receive attention. As we study the Old Testament we shall find living springs bubbling up where the careless reader discerns only a desert. When a love for the Bible is awakened and the student begins to realize how vast is the field and how precious its treasure, he will desire to seize upon every opportunity for acquainting himself with God's word. See 2 Peter 1:20, 21.
2. Why were God's people in ancient times destroyed?
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." (Hosea 4:6).
"Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst" (Isaiah 5:13).
In our day, as in times past, the Holy Scriptures are almost unknown, not only by the people but by the teachers and pastors as well. As in the time of Christ the Pharisees kept the truth from the people because it would reveal their sins, so it was through the dark ages and now in our time. As a result His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. It is through lack of knowledge of the Scriptures that people do not know the will of God, nor the plan of salvation, nor of His great love for them.
3. What portion of God's Word is needed for real spiritual life?
"But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).
Like the Saviour, we are to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. As our physical life is sustained by food so our spiritual life is sustained by the Word of God and everyone is to receive life from God's Word for himself. We cannot set aside any portion of Scripture as being unnecessary (Deuteronomy 8:3). We cannot serve God and the world for we are to live by every word which proceeds from God.
4. What did Jesus say was the basic theme of the Scriptures?
"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39).
The only part of the Bible written at the time of Jesus was the Old Testament. In every page, whether history or precept or prophecy, the Old Testament Scriptures are radiant with the glory of the Son of God. It is a compacted prophecy of the Gospel and all its prophets give witness to Christ. From the promise given to Adam, down through the patriarchs and prophets, the footsteps of the Redeemer are made plain.
5. What did Jesus call those who do not believe all that the Bible says?
"Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25).
"Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29).
The great themes of the Old Testament were not understood and Christ's work was to explain the truth to those to whom it was given. The truth is constantly unfolding to minds. After the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ His disciples listened with wonder and amazement to His lessons of truth, for they seemed as new ideas to them, but He told them "These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you. Then He opened their understanding."
6. Why did Paul commend the Bereans?
"And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:10, 11).
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
The minds of the Bereans were not narrowed by prejudice. They were willing to investigate the truthfulness of the doctrines preached by the apostles. They studied the Bible, not from curiosity but in order that they might learn what had been written concerning the promised Messiah. Daily they searched the Scriptures and compared Scripture with Scripture. Wherever the truths of the Gospel are proclaimed those who honestly desire to do right are led to a diligent searching of the Scriptures.
As we have seen, if we are going to understand the Bible, we must recognize that all is important and none is to be neglected. If we study the whole Bible as God directs us, we will find the truth.
SIX PRINCIPLES FOR STUDYING THE BIBLE
7. What is one condition that God sets forth for understanding the Bible?
"At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes" (Matthew 11:25).
"For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21).
The Saviour rejoiced that the plan of salvation is such that those who are wise in their own estimation, who are puffed up by the teachings of vain philosophy, cannot see the beauty, power and hidden mystery of the Gospel. But to all those who are of a humble heart, who have a teachable, honest, childlike desire to know and to do the will of their heavenly Father, His Word is revealed as the power of God unto salvation.
8. What is a second condition that God gives for understanding the Bible?
"Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10).
In order to understand the Bible correctly we must allow the Bible to interpret itself by comparing Scripture with Scripture. We should study all that the Bible says on the subject to make sure we are not misinterpreting a given passage. We cannot teach those who cling to preconceived ideas. It is the submissive, teachable spirit that God wants.
9. What is a third condition for understanding the Bible?
"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:7, 10-14).
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come" (John 16:13).
At all times we must ask the Holy Spirit to guide us. Because of the sinfulness of the lives of the people, they did not have the Holy Spirit's indwelling and as a result Paul realized that he would have to be most careful about what he desired to teach. Paul did not use flattery to teach the people but spoke as the Holy Spirit showed him. So too, we, as we study, need the Holy Spirit to guide us. We cannot discern the truth without the Spirit's help.
10. What is a fourth condition God sets forth for understanding the Bible?
"Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
We must really want to know truth. Some look for excuses not to believe the truth. If they look hard enough God will let them be deceived, but they will still be lost. The Bible and the Bible only should be the standard of all teachings, but sadly there will be those who do not love the truth and will not want to hear it (2 Timothy 4:3). Truth is more precious than all besides and many will love it and take their stand for it.
11. What is a fifth condition God gives for understanding the Bible?
"And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).
We must really search for truth. We must spend sufficient time in study. Even if we have all the principles, we will not find the truth for today without study. We are, as David said, to search for truth as the hart panteth after the water brooks. If we desire truth, we must pray and ask for an understanding just as a thirsty person will really ask for a drink of water.
12. What is a sixth condition for understanding the Bible?
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31, 32).
We must follow and live by what we know to be truth. God will not reveal more truth if we are not obeying what we already know. The means by which we can overcome the wicked one are those by which Christ overcame. The power of the Word of God does not control our minds without our consent, but if we desire to know and to do His will His promises are ours. Through faith in these promises every man may be delivered from the snare of error and the control of sin.
Is it your desire to let Jesus teach you truth through His Word? Will you endeavor to study His word every day in the way God has told us to study it?
Page created: 7/23/98 Updated: 11/14/06
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