How to Understand the Bible

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You have the opportunity to really understand the Bible for the first time in your life.  God has provided a specific way for you to understand His written revelation, and it is the ONLY method that He gives to you. Instead of pursuing understanding through human reasoning and diligent study, the Bible tells you to receive understanding through the teaching of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul tells us that spiritual truth is spiritually understood; our human minds are incapable of comprehending God’s unfathomable truths. This is explained in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; here are some excerpts.

1 Corinthians 2:10, 11b-13a, 14, 16b For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. [11] … Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. [12] Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, [13] which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, … [14] But a natural man* does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (understood) … [16] … But we have the mind of Christ (meaning that born again believers will be able to understand what the Holy Spirit is teaching them).

*In verse 14, a “natural man” is commonly taught to be referring to unbelievers only. It does refer to unbelievers but it also refers to your human body and mind. All people have an inner spirit (heart) living inside a physical body (see 2 Corinthians 4:7 and 2 Corinthians 5:1-4). As a believer, your inner spirit has already been redeemed and saved; this is what makes you a Christian. But your body and human mind awaits a future redemption (Romans 8:23b). If your body and mind were already redeemed, all of your thoughts and actions would be righteous all the time. As it is, your human mind cannot discern the things of God. It is in your inner spirit where God teaches you; following this, your human mind begins to understand. If you are honest with yourself, what you believe right now is what denominations or other people tell you to believe.

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, the Apostle Paul makes 10 statements, directly or indirectly, that your human, mortal mind cannot understand the Bible. He makes another 10 statements that the Holy Spirit can and will cause you to understand the Bible. Read 1 Corinthians 2 and refer to this chart which picks out the specific statements that the Paul makes.

Verse Your Human Mind Cannot Understand Spiritual Truth The Holy Spirit Can and Will Teach Your Born Again Heart
1 I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom
2
3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling
4 my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom
5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men but, (so that your faith would rest) … on the power of God
6 a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away
7 we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages
8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood
9 things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him
10 to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God
11 the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God
12 we have received, not the spirit of the world, but … (we have received) … the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God
13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom (which things we also speak,) … in those taught by the Spirit
14 a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them (the things of the Spirit of God) … they are spiritually appraised (understood)
15 he who is spiritual appraises (understands) all things
16 who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct him we have the mind of Christ

Tips to Enhance Your Understanding of the Bible 

Tip#1: 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. They changed the message to fit their human understanding; this 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. It is excellent and well researched.

Here is an example about how context will help you understand the Bible better. People always 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 damaged or destroyed three quarters of the city. The people of Rome suspected that Nero was to blame. To deflect attention away 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 #2: 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. And, read what these verses say …

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 any 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.

________________________________

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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