Tips for reading and understanding the Bible
If you have read any of my past articles and works over the last couple years, I often stress the importance of reading and understanding the WHOLE Word of God and applying it to our life - not just the parts we like. Knowing how to do this, and how to apply it to our life, is extremely important. Understanding the meaning of the Word is one of the most important tasks a Christian must do in their life. In fact, God commands it of us to not only read the Bible, but study it and apply it correctly, as we present ourselves to Him in our life:
2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV): Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Take heed - I know it is not easy. It requires much time and effort and cross matching of Scriptures at times as well, but it is completely worth it. Often, the mistakes I see the most in ideologies that people hold from the Bible are rooted from the fact that they simply gave it a brief scan and look over, maybe read their favorite parts, rather than study it and read it thoroughly. This approach can yield incorrect conclusions. I am guilty of doing this myself early on, and in fact was one of the ways the Lord saved me by showing me the error in my ways. I’ll show you a few ways that you can do this.
#1 - It starts with prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to impart wisdom and understanding on you. That is one of His functions as told to us in John 16:
John 16:13 (NKJV): However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
Similar to how the Holy Spirit guided the apostles in writing the New Testament, He does the same for us in understanding the Word of God and all of it’s Scriptures. Don’t forget that He is the Author - the Bible is God’s book, and we need to ask Him what it means and how it applies to us.
#2 - Study the Bible completely. In plain English literary terms, avoid pulling one or 2 sentences out of a paragraph and trying to make a point with it or understand it. This often leads to bringing those couple of verses into an area completely outside of the context of the Scripture. We should always read the ENTIRE surrounding verses and chapters, and book and the entire Bible for that matter, to completely understand it’s context.
I’ll give you some examples:
Have you ever heard or seen people say that they don’t need to go to church? And even cite Scripture? It is usually this one:
1 John 2:27 (ESV): But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie - just as it has taught you, abide in him.
Some people will use this to support their decision to not attend church. However, they are mistaken, as this verse is actually about the issue of the anti-Christ, and the CONTEXT is clue. John is warning the church to make sure that their doctrine and their belief about Jesus is correct so they won’t be fooled by a new and distorted (New Age?) teaching.
Do you remember Christ Consciousness? I wrote on it in the past and also gave a larger breakdown in my book, Exposing the Doctrine of Demons. Or how about any religious movements similar to preaching a message that tells you that you are essentially equal to Jesus and can be “god” too? Some of these groups began that belief from just this one verse:
Psalm 82:6 (NIV): “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’
To me, it’s easy to understand, and I know that I am not literally a god too. But entire New Age religious movements have started from this one line from the Book of Psalms. In John, Jesus cleared this up very well:
John 10:34-36 (ESV): Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came - and Scripture cannot be broken - do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
I was using the word "gods" as a means to imply the people who have accepted the Word of God. It simply means that you are “gods” if you receive the Word of God. Not literally that you are the Almighty or can somehow become God, but that we have a piece of Him inside of us as we know the Holy Spirit dwells within us and we accept and study the Word of God.
Also, for another reference point, remember that "sons of God", or as written here, "sons of the Most High", was also used to refer to Satan and the fallen angels in Genesis 6, but is also used to refer to us as children of God in general for accepting Him.
Remember, all Scripture comes from God, and God used men to write it down:
2 Peter 1:21 (ESV): For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Often, these men had a motivation in mind according to the Will of God, a purpose for writing, if you will, and a specific issue that they were addressing to a specific group(s) or the embodiment.
When we read the Bible, we need to understand the background of the book we are studying and trying to apply to our life: identify who wrote it, identify to whom it was written, identify when it was written, and then why it was written, and put it all together. Also, take care to let the text speak for itself - avoid thinking or drawing conclusions until you finish all of it. Sometimes we have a habit of assigning our own meanings to words in order to get the interpretation that we want - in other words, we understand it how we think it should be. This goes against the Word and changes it to see it how we want it to be, not what it actually says.
#3 - When studying the Bible, do not think of yourself as totally independent in the analysis of the Scriptures.
Do not be arrogant when you read the Bible and think that you cannot gain understanding from reading the work of others who have studied the Bible as well.
I have seen some that approach the Bible with the thought process that they will depend on the Holy Spirit alone and that they will discover all the hidden truths of God this way and only this way, by themselves. In fact, the second you think this arrogantly, you are already incorrect - the Bible is the Word of God, but it is written by men, so you are already using the writing of other men, from God, and not just God or the Holy Spirit.
However, Jesus, in the giving of the Holy Spirit which can impart spiritual gifts upon people, has given people with spiritual gifts to the body of Christ.
Why is this important to understand? Because one of these gifts is the gift of teaching:
1 Corinthians 12:28 (ESV): And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV): And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
The Lord appointed these teachers to help us correctly understand and obey the Word of God. It is very wise to study the Bible with other Christians and believers, so that we can assist each other in understanding and applying God’s Word to our life and others. This right here is one of the reasons why I enjoy studying the Word and writing so much - connecting with other Christians and learning together and seeing other view-points, as ultimately there is only one Truth, and that is the Bible.
I hope you have a better understanding now that the proper way to study the Bible is to prayerfully and humbly rely on the Holy Spirit to give us understanding - read and study verses in their entire context and don’t cherry pick your favorite lines. Realize that the Bible explains itself, and respect the efforts of other Christians that have also sought to properly study the Bible.
I have stumbled myself here at times as well and am not perfect by any means. It is very tricky business when you point out false prophets to others by name, and I’ve learned it is more beneficial to just study the Word in it’s entirety so that you can teach someone to be able to spot this for themselves. Remember, however, what the Word teaches us:
Romans 16:17-18 (ESV): I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
With that in mind, in a past article I pointed out what I believed to be some very strong flaws in Joyce Meyer’s ministry, and how she once gave a sermon that started with selling products for over an hour, followed up by using a story that she completely made up that was Bible inspired but not actually in the Bible and goes against many teachings and core truths about Jesus (she said Jesus went to Hell and the "demons danced on His back, the Angels were worried and God paced back and forth wondering what to do...NONE of that is Scriptual and puts the power of God in vain).
Was I wrong to point her out individually? Maybe, maybe not. I also haven’t followed her enough since to know if she is still doing this. She does have millions of followers who may not see this error. But I also learned that if I only pointed out one person to someone, then they only know about that person and I have to ensure I capture the whole essence of why a type of ministry can be misleading. You also never know when a person might realize an error in their ways. Maybe she apologized for that and “turned a new leaf”? I don’t know right now, so I learned to avoid this direct approach, and more so focus on the whole, and maybe make references to things, but not directly attacking.
Always remember, God is the author of the Bible, and He wants us to understand it completely and accurately.