Regardless of whether you’ve been a Christian for multiple decades or are a new Christian, you maybe be struggling with how to understand the Bible. The Bible is a long book full of different types of literature across 66 books. It includes narrative, poetry, wisdom, prophecy, personal accounts, and more. If you open the Bible up and read it like would any other book, you won’t be able to fully understand what you are reading.
Pray before you read
Before you start to read the Bible, take a few moments, and ask God to open your eyes and your heart to the truth in His Word. The Bible is unlike any other book that has ever been written. The God of the universe inspired the writings in the Bible, so it’s not like reading the latest Stephen King book.
Seek Context Before Application
When reading the Bible, people often say things like, “This is what that verse means to me.” Unfortunately, that is an incorrect way to read it. Bible verses have different applications, but the meaning is always the same, and it is always related to the verse’s context. If you take a verse outside of the context of the rest of the verses in that book along without understanding how it might apply today, you can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say. Here’s an example in Haggai:
“3 The word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 ”Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house[b] lies in ruins?”
In 2020, wood paneling isn’t seen as a good thing when it comes to home decor. In that context, it was, though. A modern application might be that the church is falling apart while the homes of its members are massive mansions.
How do you discover information like this? Using Biblical commentaries is a useful way to learn more about the period at which the Bible was written and how it might be explained in modern terms. If you need help understanding the Bible, here is a link to an excellent commentary set.
Applications always line up with the Bible
When people say things like, “This verse means this to me,” they want the Bible to justify what they already believe. Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2.
9 Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, ten but with good works, as is proper for women who profess to worship God.
Gold pearls in that period were much more of an uncommon thing. In 2020, fake gold pearls can be bought from any costume store. What the verse means is that you shouldn’t draw attention to yourself. Does the verse say anything about enormous diamond rings? No, but an application might be to avoid wearing a large piece of jewelry for the sole purpose of drawing attention to yourself.
The application is never going to go against scripture. If someone says, “this verse’s application told me to steal some bread,” it would be incorrect because that would go against what the Bible teaches in other places about stealing. Understanding the Bible takes a bit of work, but it can be done if you take the time to understand the differences between context and application.
Wrap Up on How to Understand the Bible
Understanding the Bible starts with asking God to prepare your heart. You then must ask the question: What did this verse mean when it was written (the context). You will then need to ponder: what is my application today. Be sure to check out our previous article on the benefits of journaling through scripture.