I was about 18 years old when I first decided to read the entire Bible from beginning to end. I received a copy of the Bible as a gift, and enthusiastically started with the book of Genesis. I’m not sure exactly how long it took me to read through it, but it could easily have been 5 years. When I finally read the last pages from Revelation and closed my Bible, I was left with a thought that lingered for a long time: I had just finished reading the entire Bible from beginning to end and didn’t have a clue what it actually said.
A year or so later I was introduced to an English translation of the Bible, called the Amplified Bible. I was very impressed and excited at the same time, as I felt this would be the ‘missing link’, so to speak, to understanding the Bible. Again I undertook the journey of reading through the entire Bible, starting in Genesis and ending with Revelation. This time I did so in about 2 years. Reading the Bible for a second time in a more comprehensive version definitely helped as I discovered a few things in the Bible which I didn’t notice the first time around. However, I was still disappointed when I read the last pages and realised that most of it was lost on me.
It was only 5 years later when I attempted to go through the Bible again. The third time, however, I was able to do so in 3 months and twice in that same year. I had the advantage of being on the road a lot, and I was able to listen to an audio version of the Bible while travelling. Obviously the audio version helped me get through the Bible quicker as well, but the difference was not the format. For the first time did I have an intense hunger for the Word, and I drank it like water. What’s more is that the Bible finally made sense to me.
What was different? If we want to understand the Bible, and if we want a clear understanding of the relationship between the Old and the New Testament, we need to get a holistic view of how to approach the Bible. When it comes to understanding the Bible, there are four basic prerequisites in how we approach it:
The surest way to NOT understand the Bible is to read it with a proud heart. This is because God resists the proud but gives grace to those who humble themselves before Him:
“That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it).” – James 4:6
Peter confirmed this in 1 Peter 5:5 when he said, “For God sets Himself against the proud (the insolent, the overbearing, the disdainful, the presumptuous, the boastful)—[and He opposes, frustrates, and defeats them], but gives grace (favor, blessing) to the humble.”
When I read through the Bible the first and second time, I did so with a proud heart. I believe this is why I only understood portions of the Bible, but the whole of it was lost on me. It was only a few years later when I humbled myself before the Lord, that I became born-again. Before my rebirth I was proud and even arrogant before the Lord. I was boasting in my self-righteousness, practicing Christianity like a religion instead from a personal relationship with the Lord.
Because I was not born-again, I was spiritually dead. Because I was spiritually dead I was unable to comprehend the things of the Spirit. I lacked true enlightenment, and had no light to reveal to me the hidden secrets of the Word. When I say ‘hidden secrets of the Word’, I’m not referring to historical content. It is not difficult to remember the story of David and Goliath, nor Noah and the Ark. What I refer to is the far deeper meanings behind those stories, as well as the various spiritual truths it contain.
Too many people resist God with a proud heart, and in return they are resisted by God. To humble ourselves is a prerequisite for receiving truth and understanding. Humility and repentance is also mutually inclusive to receive forgiveness and healing:
“If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
When we attempt to go through the Bible with a proud heart we lack the illuminating power of God’s Holy Spirit, which is a necessity to reveal the godly truth behind the seemingly foolish things contained in its pages. For example, sceptics who try to disprove the Bible will take an event like the flood and Noah’s ark and come up with all sorts of reasons as to why the story is not credible. They will typically say it would have been impossible for Noah to have fit two of every type of animal on the ark. Pride will cause a sceptic to have a narrow minded opinion, leaving the door for logic to leave wide open.
However, when the light of God shines upon the Scriptures and when He opens the eyes of our understanding, we will realise there is enough evidence that supports the recorded event instead. It only takes some insight to grasp that God instructed Noah to take two of every kind on the ark, and not two of every species. The biblical argument against evolution is not one that is against an adaptation within species. The Bible says every creature will produce forth after its own kind, which is very different from an adaption of species within a particular kind. Noah only had to take two dogs, two cats, two horses and so on, with him on the ark. After all the animals were relieved from the ark, the DNA of each kind had all the potential to bring forth a great variety of species within each kind.
Therefore, since God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, we must approach the Bible in true humility if we want to gain insight and understanding that goes beyond just the surface of the pages.
Secondly, if we want to understand the Bible we have to have a certain degree of faith. At a minimum, we have to humble ourselves to the point where we accept the possibility that God might exist. Atheism is the quintessence of pride, and the direct opposite of true humility. The Bible declares those who say there is no God fools, and in Psalm 14:1 we read,
“The [empty-headed] fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable deeds; there is none that does good or right.”
Only the proudest will hold on to their belief that God does not exist. The person who humbles himself will have no choice but to admit, at the very least, that the existence of God is not an impossibility. No one has enough knowledge of everything in the whole universe – including dimensions that might be unknown to us – to be able to say with confidence “God does not exist!” From God’s perspective, every person who chooses to deny His existence is “without excuse”, as He has made Himself known through His creation and through their inner consciousness. Instead, the Bible tells us the real reason why men choose to deny His existence:
“For God’s [holy] wrath and indignation are revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who in their wickedness repress and hinder the truth and make it inoperative. 19For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them. 20For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification], 21Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks…” – Romans 1:18-21
The Bible says God reveals Himself to every man through His creation, as well as an inner consciousness which He imparts to all. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows and proclaims His handiwork.” The reason why we reject the evidence of creation and resist godly knowledge is because of our desire for sin. As long as we convince ourselves God does not exist, we think we can live any way we like without any responsibility or accountability towards our Maker.
If we want to understand the Bible, we need to humble ourselves and approach God on His terms, not ours. One of the requirements is faith, for without faith it is impossible to please God:
“But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].” – Hebrews 11:6
Laying down one’s pride and living by faith go hand in hand. It is impossible to fully live by faith, while holding on to self. Faith requires us to let go of our pride, and embrace the God-given consciousness which He has imparted in us all.
“Look at the proud; his soul is not straight or right within him, but the [rigidly] just and the [uncompromisingly] righteous man shall live by his faith and in his faithfulness.” – Habakkuk 2:4
So what do we do when we lack faith? We spend more time reading the Bible. Herein lies the paradox: without faith it is impossible to please God, yet it is when we humbly study the Word that we get more faith. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
“So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself).” – Romans 10:17
By its very nature, the Bible was designed to challenge you from the first to the very last verse. The reason for this is found in 1 Corinthians 1:27 where Paul wrote, “…for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.”
Pride will cause us to rebel against the truths the Scriptures contain. If we try to understand the Bible with a proud heart, the Bible will seem like foolishness to us. Yet it is in the seemingly foolish things we find life and truth. If we want to understand the Bible, we have to believe God exists. We also have to open our hearts and minds to the possibility that what might seem irrational might not be irrational at all. By no means am I advocating that we should have blind faith. After all, not even the Bible expects us to accept what it says blindly, and to the contrary it tells us to test all things first:
“But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21
When we acknowledge the existence of our Maker, the next natural step would be to ask what He requires of us. Since He is our Maker and Creator of the universe, we must approach Him humbly and with respect. Unless we seek the Lord in humility with a sincere heart to please Him, we will always lack understanding about the Scriptures. Jesus said in John 7:17, “If any man desires to do His will (God’s pleasure), he will know (have the needed illumination to recognize, and can tell for himself) whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking from Myself and of My own accord and on My own authority.”
In the book of Jeremiah God puts it this way, “Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13
When we seek God with a sincere and humble heart, it means we are open for correction and understanding, in spite of any preconceived ideas or beliefs we might have. Think of any doctrine on which you have based your beliefs, and ask yourself if you are willing to allow the Bible to challenge those beliefs. While you do this, ponder the words of Jesus who said in John 8:32, “And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”
We cannot understand the Bible without the help of the Holy Spirit. The good news, however, is that God is eager to give us wisdom if we ask it of Him with a humble heart. When God told King Solomon to ask of Him anything his heart desired, the king replied by asking for wisdom. The Bible teaches us God was greatly pleased with King Solomon’s request. Today, God wants to impart wisdom to us as well. Thus, if we want to have greater understanding when it comes to the Bible, all we need to do is ask Him for wisdom and He will shine His light on His Word for us. James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ put it this way:
“If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5
Jesus said in John 14:26, “But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things…”
The Holy Spirit is available to us today, and is eager to teach us the truth of His Word. Jesus said in John 16:24, “Up to this time you have not asked a [single] thing in My Name [as presenting all that I Am]; but now ask and keep on asking and you will receive, so that your joy (gladness, delight) may be full and complete.”
This is a key verse in understanding the Bible, and we only begin to realise why once we grasp what the Word is, and who Jesus is. If you are not familiar with the Bible the following might not make sense yet, but John 1 describes this as follows:
“In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself.” – John 1:1
So, when Jesus said in John 16:24 we will receive when we ask in His name, presenting all that He is, I believe He was first and foremost referring to a revelation about Himself as well as His Word, which are mutually inclusive.
I therefore encourage you to seek God in humility, sincerity and prayer, believing that He is a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him. When you discover the truth of the Word it will most likely be in an unexpected way, but you will know beyond any shadow of a doubt that He has made Himself known to you.
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search out a thing.