Helpful Guidelines for Understanding the Bible
Let me suggest some guidelines that will help you immensely in correctly understanding the bible. These guidelines deal with our basic approach to the study of the bible. In other words, they have to do with our “attitude” towards bible study.
#1. Always approach any study of the bible, with the proper respect and reverence for the word of God. Without having proper reverence for God and for His word, we’ll never come to understand His will for us. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
#2. Have a “love” for the truth. We must have the burning sincere desire, to know the truth of God’s word. God’s word IS truth! John 17:17. We must have the sincere longing in our hearts to KNOW what that truth is; The truth that God reveals to us in his word. As a matter of fact, God has assured us that if we do NOT have a love for the truth, we will end up believing lies! “..For this reason God will send upon us a deluding influence, that we might believe a lie!” 2 Thessalonians 1:11
#3. Approach the study of God’s word with the intention of “learning”. Never study the bible simply to try to prove to yourself, that what you already believe, is in fact correct. We all have some kind of understanding of some things in the bible. Even a person who’s never actually read the bible for themselves, has some preconceived notion about the bible, as the result of things they’ve heard, things they’ve been told. NO ONE will ever know all there is to know about the word, and the will of God. That’s why EVERY time we look into God’s word, it must be with the intent and expectation of LEARNING more perfectly, what God wants us to know. No one is too old to learn, and no one knows enough right now. “For whatever was written in earlier times, was written for our learning, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the scriptures, we might have hope.” Romans 15:4 “I shall give thanks to Thee with uprightness of heart, when I learn Thy righteous judgments.” Psalm 119:7
#4. No matter what subject you are studying, make the determination from the start, that you are going to study it completely! Don’t have the intention of just “skimming the surface”, or of thinking that a given subject doesn’t warrant research and deep study. ALL of God’s word, is worthy of all the time, and all the effort that’s required, to come to a knowledge of all the facts concerning any given subject or topic. The apostle Paul said in Acts 20, verse 7; “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” It takes everything that God has said; It takes it all! Man lives by “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”. Mathew 4:4. And so when we study, we need to know the whole word, on every subject. Otherwise we’re just cheating ourselves.
#5. We must use our God-given ability to reason, and to assimilate all those facts, and come to a proper understanding of God’s will on the subject. Isaiah 1, verse 18 says; “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD..” But, to reason with the Lord, is to reason using the Lord’s word. And let me give you an example of that, from this same verse. The rest of Isaiah 1:18 says; “..Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.”
But if we try to simply use our own reasoning, it might not sound so “reasonable” that if our sins “are as scarlet”, that there’s any way they should suddenly become “white as snow.” But if we use the knowledge of God’s word, as the foundation for our reasoning, then we learn about Jesus Christ. Then we learn about “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. (John 1;29) Then it all begins to make sense; Then it becomes perfectly reasonable. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD..”
To sum up the proper way to approach bible study; We must have respect and reverence for both God and His word. We must have a sincere love of truth, and the desire to know the truth. We must enter into each and every study session with the intent of learning, not with the intent of “proving” a preconceived belief. We must be determined to study as completely and as deeply as necessary to learn ALL that the bible has to say. You can’t know the whole will of God, by knowing only half the facts. And finally, we must use that “whole knowledge” of God’s word, and of God’s will, so that it all makes sense. So that it becomes as reasonable as one plus one equals two.
Let me give you an example of learning ALL the facts. Many people believe that all you need to do to be saved, is to believe in Jesus, and as they say, “Accept Him into your heart”. But that’s not what the bible says. As a matter of fact, the bible never tell us to “accept Jesus into our heart”! Here is what the bible does say about how we are saved..
#1. “We are saved by HIS LIFE.” Rom 5:10
#2. “By GRACE you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:8
#3. “According to His MERCY He saved us.” Titus 3:5
#4. “Receive the WORD implanted, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21
#5. “Now I make known to you the GOSPEL.. by which you are also saved.” 1 Cor 15:2
#6. “Your FAITH has saved you.” Luke 7:50
#7. “BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..” Acts 16:31
#8. “Unless you REPENT, you shall all likewise perish!” Luke 13:3
#9. “If you CONFESS with your mouth, Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
#10. “He who believes and is BAPTIZED shall be saved.” Mark 16:16
#11. “In HOPE we have been saved.” Romans 8:24
#12. “It is the one who has ENDURED to the end who will be saved.” Mat 10:22
So, after listening to these twelve “ways to be saved”, is it rational to conclude that salvation is by simply believing in Jesus? Or is it rational to believe that maybe salvation is a “multiple choice”? Is God giving us our choice as to how we want to be saved? No, according to God’s word, it’s not rational to think that salvation is by grace alone, or by faith alone, or that it’s a “multiple choice”.
In reality, wouldn’t it be much more “rational” and “reasonable”, and wouldn’t it make a lot more sense, to conclude that ALL of these twelve things, must come together, to bring about our salvation?
We’re saved by His life, we’re saved by the word implanted, and by the gospel, (And of course the gospel and the word are really the same thing) And by His mercy, and by His grace. And we’re saved by believing, and by repenting, and by confessing, and by being baptized, , and by enduring to the end, and in hope. There you have twelve things, and the only reasonable and sensible and rational conclusion, is that they All must be accomplished before you can be saved!
Now some of those things have already BEEN accomplished for us. For instance, His LIFE (The life of Jesus, including His death and His resurrection), have all been accomplished for us. And His MERCY, and His GRACE, and His WORD, which is the GOSPEL; It’s all been accomplished, and given to us by God. God has already done those things, through Jesus Christ, and through His word.
And all those things that God has already accomplished for us, are really summed up in just one verse of scripture. And that one verse is.. John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.” The life of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s word, it’s all the result of God’s love.
And maybe that’s why the greatest commandment, that’s ever been given to us, is to “love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” That’s how God has loved us isn’t it?
But that still leaves seven things remaining, that save us And those seven things, are the things that WE must do, in response to what God has already done. And God has commanded that we do these things. Once again, here they are.. We must acquire FAITH by hearing the word (Rom 10:17) and we must BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. (John 8:24) We must REPENT of our sins. (Luke 13:3, and Acts 17:30) We must CONFESS our faith. “Confess with the mouth that Jesus is Lord.. and you shall be saved”. (Rom 10:9, also Mat 10:32-33) We must be BAPTIZED for the forgiveness of our sins. “He that believes AND is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16) And we must keep our HOPE alive, (Rom 8:24) by continue faithfully, and remain faithful until death. “It is the one who ENDURES to the end who will be saved.” (Mathew 24:13, Rev 2:10)
The scriptures also speak of the purpose for Jesus coming to earth. And it’s phrased in several different ways. Just like how we are saved is phrased in several different ways. Here’s actually fifteen ways that the purpose for Jesus is stated in the bible.