By Grant Phillips
It seems that those who do not spend much time in the Bible want those who do to provide a specific verse that answers their question(s) in black and white and sometimes full color. Often this can be done, but there are other times when it cannot be done. For example: “Is Jesus the only way to God?” The answer is immediately provided in John 14:6 in clear and concise language. But there are other questions that simply cannot be answered in one sentence and/or one Scripture passage.
No one Christian understands everything in the Bible. It is too vast and too deep. That is probably because It is the Word of Almighty God. However, if you are His child and are willing to learn, He will show you what you need to know at the time He is teaching you.
Any child of God who has studied the Bible with the right attitude over a long period of time and is a true student of the Word, will tell you they did not actually start learning much until they realized that this Book, the Bible, far surpasses anything they could understand without the guidance of the Holy Spirit teaching them. Secondly, they will also tell you that many areas in the Bible cannot be comprehended until you are able to see the big picture. Both are critical to understanding the Word of God. However, many Christians, if not most, do not get to the second point.
I’ll try to explain what I mean by the big picture. If there is a very large painting hanging on the wall, let’s say ten feet by twelve feet, and you are viewing it from one inch out, you will only perceive that which is directly in front of you. If you walk away, let’s say twenty feet out, and turn around to view it, you will see the big picture. Let’s say that the painting is of a large town, but you only saw one roof top at one inch out. Now you see the whole town; buildings, streets, signs, etc. When you were one inch out, you did not have the big picture. You did not see how it all fit together to form a painting that made sense. Now you do. Now the painting makes much more sense. You can count the streets and the buildings now, but before you didn’t even know they were there.
When studying the Bible, Scripture must be compared with Scripture. If a meaning is clear in one place, it will not give a contradiction in another place.
There are different methods of Bible study also, many in fact. What works for one, may not work as well for another. My suggestion for a new Christian would be to start by carefully reading the letters written by the Apostle Paul. He wrote to the Gentiles. Someone else may have a different suggestion, and theirs would be fine too. However, I have found that reading Paul’s letters clears up a lot of questions, and advances the young Christian forward in a more sure way.
God’s Word must be studied with an open mind. Far too many Christians simply will not look beyond their nose. Their minds are made up before they even open their Bible. They try to tell God what He means, instead of allowing God to tell them what they need to hear. You will never learn, until you learn to listen.
The Word must be studied prayerfully. Don’t even start until the Holy Spirit gets behind the teacher’s podium. That is what I mean by “prayerfully”. We must have His guidance. He knows the material and will not lead us astray, but our own or others preconceived opinions, will shipwreck us every time.
Another very important point is that there are no shortcuts. Sometimes people want answers to things that they just are not ready to understand. They want to skip all the classes, and go straight to graduation night for the diploma. Well, I’ve got news for you, graduation night is in Heaven, and the only diploma will be stamped with the blood of the Lamb and have His name upon it. We are all, while on earth, just students of His Word, searching the glorious truths of God from page to page, day by day.
I think it is tragic that so many churches do not emphasize Bible study. Oh I can hear the responses now; “We encourage our Christian members to study the Bible!” or “We provide Sunday School classes for everyone who wants to learn!” That simply is not enough. Do you actually, hands on, guide them step by step in “how to study the Bible”? As far as Sunday School teachers go, most I have heard over the years, need to be sitting in the front row of the “how to study the Bible” class. This is why I do not get upset with those who pound me with questions, unless they are those who just want to argue, won’t listen, want to prove a preconceived point of opinion, or won’t do what is suggested.
My wife and I sat in an adult Sunday School class several years ago, taught by one of the deacons of the church. The new quarterly came out (I really don’t have much for quarterlies anyway), and was teaching from one of Paul’s letters. I don’t recall which one. The teacher, a deacon of the church I remind you, stated that he just could not understand Paul’s writings, and really wasn’t qualified to teach the material in hand. Well, at least he was honest about the teaching part, but if he had been really honest, he would have resigned as deacon, since he wasn’t qualified for that either. This is how pathetic our churches have become. He needed to be in a “how to study the Bible class”, not a leader of the church.
Well, let’s go one more. I have heard several thousand sermons over my life time, and have been very blessed by many of them. I pray for those God-fearing pastors and evangelists who have sat at the feet of the Holy Spirit with a hunger in their hearts to learn God’s Word. The result of their time spent with God has been evident in their preaching. However, I am appalled at other pastors and evangelists whose preaching displays nothing but gross, Biblical ignorance. The sad part is that not only is their ignorance on display, but their sheep are not being fed. When Jesus looks out over those congregations, He must see nothing but scrawny, starving sheep. But guess what He sees when He looks out over the congregations of those sheep who are being fed? He sees healthy, well fed sheep.
My best suggestion for understanding the Bible, is to get started. Don’t sit around for days, wasting time, trying to figure out how to start. Just bow your head in prayer, and ask for the Lord’s guidance, and do it.