How to Understand the Bible

How to Understand the Bible

How to Understand the Bible – The Word Made Flesh
Knowing how to understand the Bible can prove to be a challenge for many individuals. None of us likes to appear ignorant by saying, “I don’t get it. What does that mean?” Yet, the Bible assures us that it is possible to discern the meaning of God’s Word with clarity. “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).

Attempting to understand everything that affects our bodies and minds confronts us on a daily basis. For example, do we describe our dining experience as “ingest, chew, and swallow?” While accurate, these words lack enthusiasm, creativity, and uniqueness. The Bible overflows with wondrous words like “everlasting, glorious, radiant, faithful, and merciful”—all providing insight into the nature of God. As a result, we long to satisfy our appetites to know God better—while savoring the experience. So let us learn how to feast upon Scripture so that we may be filled.

In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul presents the challenge to “correctly handle the word of truth.” One way this may be accomplished is by selecting a single word, such as “bread,” to establish a starting point. Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48). The first step in understanding begins with asking some basic questions. Is Jesus’ reference to “bread” applicable today? Why would Jesus refer to Himself as this specific food?

Thousands of years ago, bread was the all-important staple food of the ancient Near East—making it synonymous with life itself. Just as God had provided manna, “bread from heaven,” to satisfy the hunger of the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus would satisfy the people’s deepest hunger—everlasting life for those who believe in Him (John 6:51).

Suppose you were not familiar with the instances of where “bread” played a crucial part in the Scriptures? A concordance is an invaluable tool in providing a deeper understanding of the Bible.1 We would then discover at least five instances in which “bread” played a significant part in understanding the nature of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

  • “...One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). One cannot live without God’s power, protection, and provision.

  • “Taking the five loaves [of bread] and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and blessed them...” (Luke 9:16). In feeding the 5,000, Jesus showed that God not only feeds, but fills every need abundantly, overflowing with a surplus.

  • “Keep giving us every day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). Just as we depended on our parents, our Heavenly Father can be depended upon continually.

  • “...Jesus took a loaf of bread and blessed it...” (Mark 14:22). In obedience to His Father’s will, Jesus’ body became the sacrifice for sin.

  • “The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). Bread itself is lifeless, but Jesus is the living and eternal bread.
From these verses we understand that “bread” was used symbolically—God’s provision from heaven to meet mankind’s never-ending physical as well as spiritual needs through Jesus Christ.

How to Understand the Bible – The Heart of the Matter
A brief portion of Scripture frequently shows us how to understand the Bible as well. Suppose we were to select Psalm 23, a well-known passage. Children recite its verses by memory in Sunday school. The words become a prayer that refreshes the troubled soul. Psalm 23 resonates in the heart because it affirms God’s love, protection, and faithfulness.

Begin by reading slowly through each verse, digesting each heavenly morsel. Now, as you read aloud the psalm again, take note of the phrases that trigger an emotional response or call attention to some personal need, such as:

  • Rest from difficult circumstances?
  • Comfort and companionship?
  • Restoration from a broken spirit?
The Psalmist, David was called “a man after God’s own heart.” The shepherd-boy-turned-king was well acquainted with God’s compassion, justice, and forgiveness. It is not surprising that David’s son, Solomon, advised: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not depend on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Even with his God-given wisdom, King Solomon realized that a humble heart leads to an understanding God’s intentions. God knows each heart and desires to nourish and sustain it with knowledge of Himself. Ask God for understanding as you place your faith in Him. “When you call out to me and come and pray to me, I’ll hear you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

How to Understand the Bible – The Order of Things
Traditionally, there is a pattern that man employs in the learning process. We obtain knowledge, which yields understanding, and ultimately provides wisdom. God’s ways, however, are higher and supernaturally designed for the maximum benefit of His children. As a reminder, “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).

Notice the change in the order from man’s learning process—wisdom, knowledge, then understanding (Proverbs 2:10; Isaiah 11:2). The Bible’s poets and sages associated wisdom with the very nature of God and His powerful, eternal Word. Wisdom was the very companion of God at creation (Job 28:20-27). Meditating on God’s Word provides wisdom, providing a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, resulting in a growing knowledge as we obey His commands (Psalm 119:97-102).

The Psalmist savored the Word of God. “How pleasing is what you have said to me—tasting better than honey” (Psalm 119:103). What benefits will you receive from delighting in the rich food of Scripture? Just as our digestive system distributes nutrients to our bodies, God promises to nourish our mind, heart, and soul. From the beginning, God has always desired that we know Him better. Understanding the Bible reveals who God is, giving us a proper understanding of Him—here on earth and eternally.

Learn More!

1 A concordance is the staple of Bible word studies. They reference each word to the Bible verses in which they appear. This enables you to locate each verse and to understand the context in which it was used. Some Bibles may also contain their own concordance which applies to that particular version. Concordances vary from pocket-sized variety containing the most familiar verses to the larger variety which provides a compilation of Greek and Hebrew origins and translations such as The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Online versions are also available.


WHAT DO YOU THINK? - We have all sinned and deserve God's judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, "Jesus is Lord," you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.

What is your response?

Yes, today I am deciding to follow Jesus

Yes, I am already a follower of Jesus

I still have questions






Facebook   YouTube   Twitter   Google+   RSS Feed


LEARN MORE