There is a book with the answers you need for your life. It was written by people who understand your struggles. Despite wars, natural disasters, and uprisings, it has been passed down and preserved as a must-read by countless, vastly different human civilizations. Billions of people believe it was inspired by a divine being who also became human and experienced every temptation we’ve ever known. This book is the Bible, and maybe like me, you’ve started reading it. Maybe like me, you’ve asked yourself, How can I actually understand the Bible?
Nearly everyone, with or without faith, respects Jesus as an incredibly wise and humble teacher, right? My pastor, Craig Groeschel, is preaching from one of the books in the Bible called 1 Peter. Regardless of your standing with Peter’s God, what if you could read the direct words of one of Jesus’ A+ students?
You can. Not only that, you can read Jesus’ words. You can understand the Bible. Let’s talk about how.
First, here are two fancy words you can forget if you just remember their difference: exegesis and eisegesis. Exegesis is about drawing God’s intended truth from Scripture, and eisegesis is about adding your desires into the Scripture you read. Let’s learn how to do the first one. You’ve probably experienced firsthand the harm that can come from the second.
1. Listen in on the whole conversation.
Understanding the Bible starts with listening in on the whole conversation. Remember the last time you were in a conversation where someone else listened in and took one of your phrases out of context? Sometimes we eavesdrop on a verse in the Bible without getting the full context of the entire conversation that’s happening. Context is about who wrote the Scripture, in what language, to whom, when, to where, from where, and what else was happening in history? Overwhelmed? Don’t be. We recommend watching videos like the one above from The Bible Project. Also, start going through BibleX Bible Plans in the Bible App. Want to do your own research? Try a tool like blueletterbible.org.
2. The Bible helps you understand the Bible.
Sometimes you need to reread the same Scripture in another one of the 1000+ versions available for free in the Bible App. Also, read a good chunk of Scripture before and after the verse in question. The Bible itself invites us to meditate on its truth (Joshua 1:8). Also, use a study Bible or cross-reference tool to find and compare other Scripture on the same topic. Finally, you can search keywords in the Bible App like sex, love, marriage, neighbor, and Holy Spirit.
3. Do something about it.
I’m learning from 1 Peter that as a follower of Jesus, I’m called to live differently from people who don’t follow Jesus. I’ve realized a few ways my life looks too similar to people who don’t have the hope of Christ. For instance, I can be really controlling, which makes me look like I don’t trust God. Also, I’m learning I can expect to suffer, but that’s okay. Actually suffering is more than okay—it’s my unique opportunity to experience and display the life-changing power of Jesus. See, the Bible isn’t just a book to be understood. It’s words inspired by your Maker, breathed to guide your actions, inspire your life, and restore your world (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
So, when you start to understand the Bible, talk to a fellow Jesus follower about it to test what you’ve learned. Also, talk to God about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see how to act on what you’ve read. Read a Bible Plan on the topic. Then, make the 18-inch journey from your head to your heart, and put what you’ve learned into action. Lastly, if putting God’s words into action doesn’t make you look more like Jesus, then you may need to read them again.