Here are 10 ways to help you read your bible with more understanding:
1. Understand Bible Genres– It is important to know the different genres of the bible, there are books that are poetic, like the songs of Solomon. Some of the books were letters written to the early churches. Some contain the law of the Old Testament. Revelation is an apocalyptic book, which has elements of symbolism. Understanding these genre’s will help you to digest what is written in them.
2. Know the Original Audience– Many of the book of the New Testament were letters written to the early churches and understanding some of the struggles they faced at the time will help you to understand why Paul seems to be making a big deal about circumcision (it was point of contention between gentiles and Jews in the early church). Knowing these things will be extremely helpful in deciphering what point the writer is trying to convey.
3. Try Multiple Translations– I use the NKJV mostly, but if I’m wanting to understand more about a particular verse, I always try to look it up in different translations to get a different perspective. I try to stay away from translations like The Message which tend to only take on the ‘feeling’ of the verse and sometimes neglect the actual words of the writer in order to fit today’s culture. But the NIV, KJV, ESV, and many others can be very useful tools. I also like to look up the definition for the original word in Hebrew or Greek (whichever it was originally written in..
4. Mark Up Your Bible– I love to use different colored pens, or highlighters to outline verses that go together, or tie into each other. I write down insights in the margins of my bible, and references to verses that have the same theme. Taking the time to stop and write what you are learning as you are reading is a great way to remember it. The words of the bible are holy, and God wants us to remember them!
5. Question Your Bible– This changes forever the way I study my bible. When I come across something and I think it’s strange, or doesn’t fit with what I’m reading, or think why did God put that there? I know that I am about to find a treasure. Don’t just read on! Stop, ask someone, study it. There is gold there! Not one word of the Bible is in vain, and it is the heart of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of Kings to seek it out.
6. Don’t Believe What People Tell You– I often listen to preachers on the internet, or radio, or when I visit a different church. It’s good to learn from everyone that you can, but it is so important to fact check. If someone tells you something about this book make sure it’s the truth before you bet your eternal destiny on it. You have to read it for yourself, and read it in context (the whole book, or the whole chapter, not just one or a few verses) to be sure that they are right. Don’t ever just believe what I or anyone else tells you is true about God, look it up for yourself!
7. Know the Context– One of the most misused verses in the bible is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” You see it on wristbands at the gym. You hear preachers say it when talking about succeeding. But if you read the verse in context, Paul is talking about suffering for Jesus. He’s talking about being content with his place in life, not breaking down obstacles to lose 20lbs. You have to study the context of a verse before deciding how it applies to our lives. What message is the writer communicating?
8. Try a Study Guide– Study guides are a great tool to help you grasp the scripture, and there a lot out there, including this one that can help you to tie the puzzle pieces together. Ask around and dig deep.
9. Get a Mentor and Bug Them– I love to learn! I love sitting in a group of elders at my church, and just soaking up their wisdom, and if I find someone that seems to always have good insights that I wouldn’t have thought of, I try to create a relationship with them. I have a few wonderful friends that I am constantly texting, or calling when I have questions or want to get a different perspective on what I’m reading. It’s so helpful to have that personalized help.
10. Remember That It’s All About JESUS– The ENTIRE story of the bible, from Genesis to Revelation is leading up to one person. Jesus. As you read, remember that, and think what does this have to do with Jesus. One story that used to confuse me and make me wonder about the character of God was when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. It just didn’t make sense, but then I dug deep. The entire story is about Jesus. There is something called a ‘type’ in the bible. It is kind of like a metaphor or a parable, but it takes one story and models it after another one. Abraham takes Isaac to a mountain, and if you look it up on a map, the mountain where Abraham is speculated to have been, was in the same exact location as Calvary Hill where Christ was crucified! When Isaac asked Abraham where the lamb was for the sacrifice, Abraham told him that “God will provide for Himself the lamb for burnt offering.” Sound familiar? The story of Abraham and Isaac is a type of the crucifixion of Christ and the sacrifice He would one day make for us all! The Old Testament is littered with these little jewels! That’s what I mean when I say to keep digging if something doesn’t sit right with you. God wants you to get to know Him through His word, and He is waiting for you to find His treasures!
So I hope these tools will inspire you to hunger and thirst for the revelations that God has in store for us in His word, but I wanted to leave you with this. Remember to pray, pray, pray in everything and through everything. Prayer will help you to unravel the mysteries of scripture better than anything else, so pray without ceasing!