6) Desire To Understand God’s Word!
Psalm 119:34 states, “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.” There are two common reasons why man is unwilling to understand the Bible: (1) “self-satisfaction” and (2) “self-conceit.” This is the way a selfish young man often loves a young lady. He loves her for only what pleasure she brings to him – thus really loving himself, not her. We must not allow our determination to seek the truth deteriorate into the plight expressed in the words, “the truth as I see it.” Let us ask ourselves the following questions regarding the truth of God’s word:
- Am I willing to “seek the truth” whether anyone else believes it or not?
- Am I willing to yield to the Bible wherever it leads?
- Am I willing to accept all truth, no matter how uncomfortable? Paul was (Acts 20:26-27).
- Am I willing to “arrive” at the truth, disregarding my own opinions, emotions, desires, or hopes?
- Am I willing to search each new fact without any fear of what I might find?
- Am I willing to see “both sides” of any issue?
- Am I willing to study what I “dislike” as well as what I “like”? If you are unwilling, then your understanding of God’s Word will be greatly impaired, no matter how much you study it.
7) Shun Perversions of God’s Word!
For one to desire truth, he will be “zealous” to shun error. As we stand before God with His Word in our hands, we have everything to learn and nothing to teach. How repugnant, then, when any false doctrine intervenes to “spoil” the truth! It should be identified and avoided or discarded as false! This is what the Scriptures teach over and over again (cf. 2 Timothy 3:7).
Look at God’s warnings in the following passages an observe how some “corrupt the word” (2 Corinthians 2:17), “pervert the gospel” (Gal. 1:6-8), “lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14), “beguile you with enticing words” (Colossians 2:4), “spoil you through philosophy … after the tradition of men” (Colossians 2:8), “consent not to wholesome words … doting about questions and strifes of words” (1 Timothy 6:3-5), strive “about words to no profit” (Titus 1:10-14), “bring in damnable heresies … with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Peter 2:1-3), and who “transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 7-11).
8) Undergird Study With Prayer!
Before ever beginning any Bible study, one should turn and ask the Lord to help him or her understand the Scriptures through prayer. The Lord will teach us much and help us to learn, but we need not expect Him to do for us what we ought to do for ourselves. The prayers of a lazy, halfhearted, grumbling Bible student cannot rise very high. A prayerful attitude is so vital, and God has promised to respond to such pleadings. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Let the spirit of prayer pervade all of our efforts to understand the Bible.
9) Have A Spirit of Expectancy!
The Bible student should have the right to “expect” to understand God’s Word. Many people are amazed, frightened, or overwhelmed by the bigness of the Bible; yet, it can be read completely through in one hundred hours, and a rapid reader might read it in sixty hours. To some it is a big, mysterious, unfathomable something, a complicated collection of deep, religious doctrines. Some consider it to be a strange writing to be worshipped and not used, a mystery to be understood only by a favored few, or a handbook of “proof texts” for sectarian groups.
When we start to study the Bible, we ought to “expect” to understand it. Our understanding of a particular passage might not be perfect, but we must remember that God revealed His will to us in order that we may understand it. It is to “be read unto all the holy brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27), so that when it is read “the Lord give thee understanding in all things” (2 Timothy 2:7). The very purpose is that the reader may “understand” the knowledge of God (Ephesians 3:3-4). The knowledge that makes “thee wise unto salvation” and brings Christian maturity (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Oftentimes you will be tempted to stop trying to understand the Bible, or be disturbed over specific passages that you do not fully understand. Nevertheless, you can and will understand most of it. God promised it; so “expect it”! (Ephesians 5:17).
10) Desire To Be Obedient!
Finally, as your understanding of God’s Word grows and develops, be sure and have a genuine desire to obey the Word. A mere curiosity about the Bible or an academic interest in it is not enough. God’s Word demands a greater desire — a desire to apply the holy truth, to live the way the Creator intended one to live. Let each Bible student say, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law” (Psalm 119:33-34).
Disobedience to the Word of God as it is received will only hinder or stop the progress of further understanding. The Word of God is spiritual food for the soul (1 Peter 2:2). If the simple food (milk) is refused, then the solid food will be withheld because it cannot be assimilated (1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Hebrews 5:12-14). Unless the attitude of the Bible student is right, all of the methods and rules in the world will avail very little. But with the right spirit of mind and heart, one may “grow in the grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
Source: W. Robert Palmer, “How To Understand The Bible” (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 1980), 32-38.