How to Read the Bible
My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path. NKJV
We’re going to have a Bible Study on “How To Have A Bible Study”. In otherwords: “How To Study The Bible”. So often we are told to study the Bible and read the Bible for Christian growth and yet so many don’t know how. Therefore, when they try to read the Bible, they don’t get a lot out of it. For some, the Bible is very confusing. It seems to contradict itself at times. For others, it’s dull and un-interesting. They don’t get a lot of it. Here, we are going to cover some things so you can receive more from the Word of God.
Proverbs 2:1-4 are the conditions and Proverbs 2:5-9 are the promises. Especially in reading Proverbs 2:9. Proverbs 2:1-4 reads, “My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; NKJV These are the conditions. In other words, the desire needs to be there to want to read the Word of God, the Bible. Before I came to Saved By Grace Church back in July 1977, I had never read the Bible. So when I came to that first service and received Jesus as my Savior, I had no knowledge of the Bible. I started to come to Church and I’d hear, “turn in your Bible to Matthew 1:1 and I didn’t know where to look in the Bible. I wanted to ask the Preacher who was Pastor Joe, “what page is it on?” I didn’t know what chapters and verses were. The only thing I knew was that the chapter numbers were the big numbers and the verse numbers were the little numbers. It was then that I started to read the Bible like so many Christian read it, which is called, “spiritual jumping fog”. I would read a couple of verses in Genesis and then hop over to the Book of Judges. I’d read a couple there and then I’d hop over to the New Testament and read a couple of verses in the Book of John. I’d be hoping all over the Bible and then ending up in the Book of Ephesians for a few more verses. By that time, I’d have spiritual indigestion. I combined so many scriptures from so many books that I went away thinking: “I get more from reading the newspaper” (back then computer were just coming in).
But the same way we are told to eat a balance meal, you are to read the Bible. You have to learn how to read and understand what you’re reading. That’s why the course “Evelyn Woods Speed (Spit) Reading” can’t help you. Back in the year of 1980, I wanted so much to read through the Bible but I just didn’t make time. A brother that was going to Saved By Grace Church with his family would read the Bible together every night. He told me, “myself and my family just got through reading the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation”. I’ll be truthful, when he said that I became jealous. I always wanted to do that. But then he said: “we read the whole Bible but we didn’t understand too much of it”. We need to understand as we read so that we can apply it to our lives. Because the Bible is not a novel like “Gone With The Wind”, where you say, “Oh, I like this part and that part”. But the Bible is a book that you read and then re-read time after time and get even more out of it each time you read it.
So condition number one is found in Proverbs 2:1, “if you receive my words,” NKJV. It’s talking about having a receptive heart. Jesus said to the multitudes in Matthew 13:9, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" NKJV Because many times, people don’t come with a receptive heart to really hear the Word of God. But rather, people come with their own ideas and want God to go along with their thinking. And if the Bible goes along with what they are thinking, they think that’s wonderful. But if the Bible doesn’t go along with their thinking, then they stop reading it. But we need to come to God’s Word with the attitude to change if the Word says so. Hebrews 4:2 tells us, “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” NKJV Man is three in one which means that he is body, soul and spirit. Now the body and the spirit are very different. You can discern between the body and the spirit. But the soul and spirit are as close as joint and marrow (that’s as close as you can get). Sometimes we may think that what we are doing is God’s will but it isn’t. Single couple of a man and women fall in love with each other, thinking that this must be God’s will. But it’s hard to know between the soul and spirit. So how do I do it? How do I know if this is God’s will or not? And the answer is: Let God’s Word do it for you. Just come with an open mind and heart saying: “Ok God, what does Your Word say”.
Hebrews 4:12 reads, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” NKJV Where we read in this verse, “intents of the heart”, it means that the Word of God discerns or judges what really is going on inside of me. So as I come into God’s presence and read His Word, it sets me straight on why I am really wanting this or that. That’s why it’s important that I come with an open heart.
2 Timothy 2:15 declares, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” KJV The word “study” means to apply yourself, else you are not going to receive anything. Where it says “rightly dividing” or translated “correctly handles”, it means to cut straight (let God’s Word direct you, be open to it). In Acts 17:10-11, we read: “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. NKJV Here it’s talking about coming to Church and hearing the message. It’s saying to open your heart to receive from the Lord. You have to be a person that’s willing to receive and hear from God’s Word when to start reading it and hearing it.
The second condition is also found in Proverbs 2:1, “And treasure my commands within you,” NKJV which means to lay God’s commandment to heart. And one way to do this is to memorize scripture. David tells us in Psalms 119:11, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” NKJV As you read God’s Word over and over, you plant it in your mind. In Ephesians 6, we are given the spiritual weapons that give us protection from the enemy (Satan). It starts off with defensive weapons but then we are given an offensive weapon in Ephesians 6:17, “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;” NKJV When you are tempted by Satan, you are to use the Word of God, the scriptures. Often when we are tempted, we start saying: “Lord, help, I’m being tempted”. The Lord here in Ephesians 6 is telling you: “Quit your crying and pull out your sword!” Read the Word of God! It’s your offensive weapon! Jesus when tempted by the devil in Luke 4 used the Word of God against the temptations of Satan. In Acts 8, we see the Ethiopian man that was not understanding Isaiah 53 ask Philip to explain those scriptures to him. Philip knew the Word of God by simply quoting it. Peter in the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 as the Spirit was poured out, stood up and sounded like a Bible concordance. Why? Because he knew what the Word of God said and the Spirit brought it to mind at the right time.
So step one is a person’s willingness to receive the Word. Step two is a person’s desire to lay God’s Word in his heart. And step three is found in Proverbs 2:3, “Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;” KJV We should pray for understanding. To unlock the scriptures, we need to pray. Psalms 119:18 tells us, “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.” NKJV For example, if you read a book written by someone and you didn’t understand a part of that book, wouldn’t you like to ask the source or author of that book to help you understand it? And if you knew that the author of that book was going to be in a particular bookstore on a certain day answering questions about the book, you’d go and ask him about that particular section of the book. Well, we know who the author of the Bible is. It’s not Paul or any single person but it’s God who inspired Paul, Peter, Isaiah, etc. We need to pray for understanding from the author of the Bible who is God. In John 16:13, Jesus said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” NKJV The Holy Spirit opens your mind when you read the Bible and ask Him to. Jesus said in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” NKJV
The last condition on how to study the Bible is found in Proverbs 2:4, “If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures;” NKJV We must see the Bible as a gold mine and God has given us the pick and shovel. It’s interesting that you can read a verse that you’ve read several times before but this time it just all of a sudden jumps up at you. And you tell another Christian, “Oh my God, this verse in the Bible is incredible!” And they respond, “Oh, I knew that already.” In Psalms 19:7-11, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they then gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.” NKJV Sometimes, we have to search for the treasures. These are all ways of understanding the Word of God better. Number one, you must have a willingness to receive. Number two, you must lay God’s commandments to heart. Number three, you must pray for understanding. And last, you must search for the treasures of truth.
Here’s a couple of other things that can also help you. Knowing about the culture of that day will help you understand some words and verses in scripture. Example: Jesus in Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” NKJV In those times, eating together meant having a close fellowship with one another. That’s why in the New Testament, Paul speaks of if you know someone that’s a verbal foul mouth cantankerous (hard to talk to) person, you should not eat with them because it meant that you were keeping close fellowship with them. Sort of not hanging around with a bad testimony because it would hinder you from reaching others for Christ. Of course, Paul speaks also about praying for them so that God would loosen Satan’s band over their eyes and then they would be able to hear the Word of Truth, the Gospel and trust in Christ. Another Example: In John 4:9, where Jesus is in a conversation with a woman from Samaria, it reads: “Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” NKJV In that culture, Samaritans and Jews hated each other. That’s why she was surprised that Jesus being a Jew was speaking to her. Another Example: In Matthew 22:11-12 it declares: "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. NKJV In that culture, you were to put on a wedding garment and if you didn’t have one, they were issued at the door. And if you weren’t wearing a wedding garment in attending the wedding, it was considered an insult. Another Example: In 1 Corinthians 11:6, it reads, “For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.” NKJV In that culture, there were women prostitutes who directed worship in the heathen temples and wore their hair long so as to advertising for their prostitute business. Paul was saying: “now as Christian women put your hair up or cover it up. Don’t let anyone associate you with those pagan harlots and in so doing you can win people for Christ.” So know the culture and what their customs were when studying the Bible.
Again, don’t take scripture out of content when studying the Bible. Jehovah Witnesses do that in taking scripture out of content. They quote to you this verse and that verse, they are masters at getting scripture out of context. You can prove anything from the Bible when you take scripture out of context. Ezekiel 16:8 speaks about God, “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine," says the Lord God. NKJV You can tell people that God is a big bird according to this scripture. Satan takes scripture out of content all the time. He tried to do it to Jesus in Luke 4 while trying to tempt Jesus. A famous comedian was reading the Bible. Someone then ask him, “W.C.Fields, you’re reading the Bible?” He responded, “Looking for loopholes”. Someone might say, “The Bible says in Palms 14:1, "There is no God." But they’ve only read a part of the verse. Psalms 14:1 fully reads, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God." NKJV So never take the scripture out of content. Let the Bible itself be its own commentary.
Also be sure and read the theme or what the main thought is that is being relayed. In the Sermon of the Mount, Matthew 5:29, Jesus said: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. NKJV Someone might think, “What! Pluck out my eye. What! Cut off my arm.” But the theme of the Sermon on the Mount is the attitude of your heart. Reading Matthew 5:21-22 and 5:27-28, you’ll find that it’s speaking about attitude. In Luke 11:5-8, we read: “And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” NKJV Someone might read this and think that God is telling him not to bother God. But that’s not it at all. Because if you continue reading Luke 11:9-13, it’s gives you the main theme and it’s speaking about persistent prayer. Be sure and read before and after the verses that you are trying to understand. Again, the best commentary is the Bible itself. When reading the Parables of Jesus, be sure to read all the way to the end of the story so you can get the main point of the story. That’s what’s important.
There are three main points for doing things in Church such as scriptural Church functions. First, is it in the Gospels? Is it mentioned there? Second, is it mentioned in the Book of Acts? And third, is it taught in the Epistles. Examples: Baptism is in the Gospels, in the Book of Acts and taught in the Epistles. The Lord’s Supper is in the Gospels, in the Book of Acts and taught in the Epistles. Foot Washing is in the Gospels but not in the Book of Acts and not taught in the Epistles.
One more thing, we that come here to Church are very responsible. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:
and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." NKJV We are to be doers and not just hearers of the Word of God. It is our road map to the Christian life. If we went on a trip and didn’t know the way to get to our destination (and we didn’t have a cell phone handy), yet having the road map handy, we never read it for direction, we’d be lost most of the time. Let’s read the Word of God and then apply it to our lives so that God will bless us in all our choices.