The following question submitted to Ask Pierre:
“I find the Bible to be difficult reading. I’ve heard this from other people also. For me it is hard to comprehend what is being said. Any suggestions?”
If I had a dollar for every person who told me they had a hard time understanding the Bible, I would probably be a hundredaire by now!
Here are seven easy tips to help you understand the Bible:
- Use a Modern Translation
The Bible was not written in English, but primarily in Hebrew and Greek with some Aramaic. So when you read the Bible in English you are reading either a translation (or transliteration) of the original text. Some of these translations are easier to read than others. Using a version with a more modern translation can be a game changer in your Bible understanding.
Here are a few versions to consider using:
New International Version – an easy to read translation of the Bible
The New Living Translation – a contemporary translation of the Bible.
The Message – This is not actually a translation or transliteration of the Bible, but one pastor’s attempt to make the Bible more understandable. I would not recommend this as your sole source, but it may be a good starting place to help you understand the message of God’s Word. You can also buy a parallel Bible that will have this version in one column and another version next to it.
(Side Note: In your journey, you may come across people who insist that their version of the Bible is the only valid one. They may even condemn the use of other versions, like the ones mentioned above. Here’s my advice if you come across those people. 1. Love them – they need it. 2. Don’t argue – it is useless. 3. Remember that no English Bible supersedes the original text or manuscripts.)
- Start with an Easier Passage
The Bible is not just one book written by one human author. It is a compilation of writings from many different authors over an extended period of time. While all the authors were inspired by God to write, (2 Timothy 3:16), their writings are not all equal in their readability or ease of understanding.
I would suggest starting to read in one of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. These books are the accounts of Jesus’ life. If you are looking for wisdom, try out the book of Proverbs. If you are looking to better understand salvation, read through the book of Romans. You may also choose to read a 365 day or 2 year Bible. That is how I started reading the Bible. Even though I did not understand everything I read, it kept me consistent and helped me work through the entire Bible.
- Pray Before You Read
The Bible is a spiritual book. In order to understand spiritual matters, we need God’s assistance. The Holy Spirit wants to help you understand God’s Word when you read it. So before beginning to read a passage, pray. Ask God to make your heart ready to receive what He might say. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you through His Word and give you understanding.
The Psalmist gives us a great example of how to pray before we read God’s Word, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” (Psalm 119:18) Similarly, you might pray something like this, “God open my eyes, mind and heart to understand what I am about to read in Your Word.”
- Use a Bible Study Guide
When I first became a Christian I had a strong desire to not only learn the Bible, but to teach others. I began a workplace Bible study that grew steadily over the years. How did a guy who knew nothing of the Bible and had no formal education teach others the Bible himself? Simple, I used the Bible study guide to provide all the background, insight and even questions needed to facilitate the study. At the time I found some great resources that were produced by InterVarsity Press. Here is one sample of their study on the book of Ephesians. I have not used them before, but I would think the Bible study guides produced by Kay Arthur are also worth investigating.How did a guy who knew nothing of the #Bible and had no formal #education #teach others the Bible… Click To Tweet
- Attend a Bible Study
One of the quickest ways to learn the Bible is to be around other people who know the Bible. I know that this may feel intimidating if you have never done it before. Hopefully, the group you attend would be warm, welcoming and excited to have a person who is new to the Bible and wanting to learn more.
Most Bible believing churches have such groups during the week. They may be called “small groups, cell groups or Bible study groups”. Try out one of these groups and come with your Bible and some tool for taking notes.
- Attend a Bible Teaching Church
I grew up going to church almost every Sunday. I was taught a lot about God, but I was never taught how to study the Bible for myself. So when I became a Christian, I had some familiarity with certain passages, but was clueless when it came to studying the Bible.
If you are not already involved in a good church, try to find one that emphasizes the teaching of God’s Word. Here is a hint on a good Bible believing church: if the people in the congregation never crack open the Bible (or open the app) while they are in service, it is likely because they have grow accustomed to not needing to do so. On the other hand, if you find a church where people have the Bible (or app) open as the pastor is teaching the Word, it is a good indicator that you have found a great place to learn God’s Word.
- Facilitate a Bible study yourself!
Now you might be thinking this is downright crazy advice (!), but let me explain. A few years after reading the Bible for myself, I began leading and facilitating studies for others. I was no Bible scholar (still wouldn’t call myself that today!), but I was willing and God used me. In the process, I grew exponentially!I was #willing and #God used me!...in the process, I grew exponentially! Click To Tweet
Soon after a co-worker of mine came to me with the same questions you asked about understanding the Bible. I advised her to find a modern translation of a 365 day Bible. She took my advice, read through the Bible on several occasions and is now a Bible study leader herself!
God is at Work
It’s not uncommon to find people like yourself, who have a hunger to better understand the Bible end up leading Bible studies and teaching others. How does that work? Well, often, the desire to learn, understand and study the Bible is not just something they have thought about themselves, but it is God working in them the desire to learn His Word. You may start by leading your family in devotionals to help them learn the Bible with you.
I hope these seven tips will encourage you in your Bible study. Remember this one final truth: God is the one who will ultimately teach, lead and guide you as you begin to study and read His Word. Trust Him and keep asking for revelation. (Matthew 7:7) He wants to teach us His Word even more than we want to learn!
Friends, any other advice on understanding the Bible? Which of these 7 is most helpful to you?