Tips for Understanding the Bible

Read “How to Understand the Bible” for a more detailed explanation of Tip #1. The other two tips will enhance your understanding of the Bible even more.

Tip #1: The Spiritual Truth of the Bible is Understood Only When the Holy Spirit Teaches You

Scripture declares that all spiritual truth is understood only by the illuminating revelation of the Holy Spirit since the human mind is incapable of comprehending God’s unfathomable truths. Whereas you may understand things in the Bible, your mortal mind will never be able to understand the truth of God’s Word apart from the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Just as important, when you rely on the Holy Spirit to teach you, you will also learn to walk in faith.

John 16:13a But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; …

Colossians 1:9b-10a … that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, [10] so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, ….

Important Fact: Unless you give all of your beliefs over to God, He cannot teach you. To illustrate, if you believe that the only issue in salvation is the forgiveness of sins, then you will miss the fact that salvation comes only after God gives you a new heart filled with His Spirit. Your old belief is blocking what God is trying to teach you. Giving up old beliefs is not easy; but when you let them go, you will be teachable and you will be able to “hear” the voice of the Lord as He opens your eyes to His truth.

Tip #2: The New Testament Must be Understood in its Original Context

The Bible was written by Jews; (tradition says that Luke, the author of Luke and Acts, was a Gentile but there is no hard evidence to prove this). The New Testament was written to either Jewish believers exclusively or to a mix of Jewish and Gentile believers. Only a couple of books (for example, 1 Corinthians) do not have strong Jewish themes or strong warnings against the false teachers who were trying to impose the Jewish Law on Gentile believers.

Therefore, the context of the Bible is Jewish. This does not mean that God is excluding the Gentiles from His written word; it is just that God revealed Himself to the world through the children of Israel. It is essential to know that the Gentiles are presently being “grafted” into a Jewish salvation. (Read John 4:22b and Romans 11:17-25 to understand this better.)

For many centuries, people actually lost the understanding that Jesus was a Jew. There was a lot of antisemitism against the Jews and many simply ignored the fact that Jesus, the Prophets and the Apostles were all Jews. As a result, the Gentiles reinterpreted the Bible without understanding its proper 1st century, Jewish context. This changed the message and created unbiblical doctrines that are taught even to this day. Always keep in mind the context of a book or letter; this will help you understand the New Testament properly.

Find a good book that will teach you about the context of each of the books and letters of the New Testament. One suggestion is, “The Untold Story of the New Testament Church” by Frank Viola.

Here is an example about how context will help you understand the Bible. People often use Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:26-29 to erroneously “prove” that believers can lose their salvation. Here is the context: on July 19, 64 AD, Rome burned for 6 days; the fire consumed three quarters of the city. The people of Rome suspected that Nero was to blame. To deflect attention from himself, Nero blamed the Christians and great persecution ensued. Many Jewish believers became so fearful that they returned to Judaism and the Law of Moses because it reduced their risk of being killed.

Hebrews was written in response to those events. Both of these passages are saying that if you return to the Law for your salvation, it will not save you because you are again crucifying “the Son of God and put(ting) Him to open shame” (Hebrews 6:6), and you are regarding “as unclean the blood of the covenant” (Hebrews 10:29). The Law was symbolic ritual that pictured and foreshadowed Jesus Christ; it had to be repeated over and over because it was not the real thing. Jesus died on the Cross once for all time. Going back to the Law was the same as crucifying Christ over and over, thus denying both the Cross (which defeated sin) and the resurrection (which defeated death).

Tip #3: The Law Was an Exclusive Covenant Between God and Israel

The purpose of the Mosaic Law was to [1] live righteously and [2] to be counted as righteous before God. Today, neither believer nor unbeliever is under the Law. This may seem counter-intuitive at first but when you understand the nature of the Law, you will be glad that God did not put you under the Law. The New Testament clearly declares that Christ ended the Law; and, this was prior to God offering salvation to the Gentiles.

Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

One of the primary reasons that Jesus came to this earth was to live under the Law. Before Christ, no one had ever been able to fulfill the Law through their own human strength and effort. But, Jesus fulfilled the Law by His sinless life. Then, He ended the “external” Law and moved the righteousness of the Law into the hearts of those who believe in Him. Today, you are made righteous through Jesus Christ, not through your own attempts to fulfill the Law. And, you are able to live a righteous life by the power of Christ living in you, not because you have any capacity to live righteously by your own human strength.

The Old Covenant Law was replaced by New Covenant grace. Read 2 Corinthians 3 to see why the Law, even though holy, only brought death and condemnation since nobody was ever able to keep the Law.

Hebrews 8:13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

Hebrews 10:9b … He takes away the first (Old Covenant Law) in order to establish the second (New Covenant grace).

There is a second reason that the Gentiles were never under the Hebrew Law: the Law itself was the actual barrier between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14-16). If the Law were in effect today, the Gentiles would still be separated from Christ “having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

So, what is your relationship to the Law today? The spirit of the Law, its representation of God’s holiness, is eternal. But the doing of the Law was replaced by Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. The Law under the Old Covenant was external, powered and accomplished by works (human self-effort). The “laws” under the New Covenant are internal, powered and accomplished by the spiritual power of Jesus Christ in you. The Old was imperfect because of human weakness; the New is perfect because of Jesus Christ.

Here is a way to remember why God never put the Gentiles under the Law:
Old Covenant Law = human self-effort; if you transgressed one part of the Law, it meant that you were guilty of violating the entire Law.
New Covenant Grace = already completed work of God; power of Jesus Christ living in you.

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These verses will be helpful in understanding this blog.
The Holy Spirit Will Teach You: John 14:26; John 16:13-14; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 4:17-18,23; Colossians 1:9-10; 1 John 2:27.
Gentiles Never Under Law of Moses: John 1:17; Romans 2:12, 14a; Romans 3:20a; Romans 9:4; Romans 10:4; 1 Corinthians 9:20b; Galatians 3:12; Hebrews 8:6-10,13; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 10:1,9b.

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