Why is the Bible the most misunderstood book in all history? The most twisted, distorted, maligned, misrepresented and lied-about book there is? Because people refuse to believe it means exactly what it says! Apply these simple basic rules and you will begin to really understand the plain truth of God's Word! WHAT are we? Were we put on earth for a PURPOSE? And WHAT is that purpose? WHY are human lives empty, discontented, unhappy? How may human life become HAPPY, FILLED with interest, ABUNDANT, successful, prosperous? WHAT is the real cause of wars, and THE WAY to world peace?
WHAT lies on after death — what is THE WAY to a happy, abundant, ETERNAL life? No book ever written, except the Holy Bible, REVEALS THE ANSWERS to these fundamental questions of life!
Yet, why do we find such confusion — such disagreement as to what it says? WHY don't the hundreds of differing church denominations and sects AGREE on what their acknowledged textbook SAYS? WHY do so many individuals, capable of understanding almost any OTHER book, say: "I just CAN'T understand the BIBLE"?
Study for Yourself You yourself need to understand HOW to get the most out of God's Word.
You need to KNOW that GOD DOES EXIST — and you need to KNOW that THE BIBLE IS GOD'S INSPIRED WORD! If you are in any doubt about these two basic points, write immediately for our free booklets, "Does God Exist?" and "Proof of The Bible." Before even beginning to seriously STUDY the Bible, you must realize that your Creator is the Divine author of it!
In Bible study, as well as with anything else, there is a RIGHT and a WRONG WAY to accomplish. There are certain rules which, if followed, will give you a more thorough understanding of God's Word — leave you with fewer questions, begin to help you think and act as God does because you understand what He says in His Word.
The following rules are not necessarily in order — they are certainly not ALL the rules of Bible study — but they are BASIC and IMPORTANT and will help you gain the Truth from God's Word.
Pray for Guidance FIRST, before you even open the Bible, you must ask God in PRAYER to open your mind to His Word in the study that you intend to make. David was a man after God's own heart — he studied that portion of God's Word which was available to him in his day. He meditated, thought about and considered God's laws and His ways. He was close to God in every way and yet many times throughout the Psalms we read how David ASKED God to GUIDE him in his study, to OPEN his mind, to REVEAL His Truth.
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; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. MAKE ME TO GO in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. INCLINE MY HEART unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness... STABLISH THY WORD unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear... Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: QUICKEN ME in thy righteousness" (Ps. 119:33-40).
Without sincerely and believingly asking GOD'S DIRECTION in your Bible study — without seeking GOD'S Kingdom and His righteousness first (Matt. 6:33) — Bible study of itself would be futile. Just as you can worship God in vain (Mark 7:7), so you can study His Word in vain! Many wise and intelligent men have made a life study of God's Word in its original languages, and profited nothing from it!
Men like Moffatt, who TRANSLATED THE ENTIRE BIBLE from Genesis to Revelation — certainly HE studied God's Word, but he did not get the Message, he did not understand the Gospel — even in the introduction to his translation he explains how he feels the Old Testament is a compilation of Jewish literature! Adam Clarke wrote six volumes of commentary on NEARLY EVERY VERSE IN THE BIBLE — yet not by any stretch of the imagination could he be construed to have understood God's Plan.
The study and work that men of this intelligence have contributed CAN be HELPFUL TO US. But not because of any special intelligence that we may have — only because we have asked God to open our minds and give us HIS understanding of His Word.
Formal Education Not Necessary Don't use the excuse that you have not had enough education, or that you are NOT INTELLIGENT ENOUGH to really study God's Word. God tells us plainly that it is not the wise, the mighty or the noble that He is calling to an understanding of His word now — read I Corinthians 1:25-27.
Take for granted that you do not know OF YOURSELF how to understand the Plan of God — that's why you must ASK Him to make it plain!
If all that was needed to understand God's Word were BRAINS, then a vast number of the people of the world would have a thorough understanding of God's Word! God says, "... they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge" (Jer. 4:22). As long as you know HOW TO READ, you get down on your knees and sincerely ask God to guide you in a study of His Word. He will open your mind to understand things that the most intelligent minds of mankind have not been able to understand. PRAYER will open to you an understanding of God's Word that Einstein did not have. PRAYER will open your mind to understand God's Word in a way that the graduates of Harvard and Yale, Oxford and Cambridge, the great universities of Europe and Asia, are not able to understand.
PRAYER — your contact with God — is important in the beginning of your study of His Word. Without this contact with God, you may spend endless hours of studying His Word like a Pharisee. The time spent in memorization of how many verses there are in the Bible will be of NO AVAIL at the return of Jesus Christ! ONLY THAT PART OF HIS WORD WHICH YOU HAVE MADE A PART OF YOUR VERY CHARACTER WILL BE OF ANY ACCOUNT TO YOU!
HEART-FELT PRAYER for God's guidance in your own personal Bible study will insure success!
Attitude Must Be for Self-Correction This SECOND rule really goes hand-in-hand with the first. Before you rise from your knees in prayer, you should fully recognize in your own mind and heart that your PURPOSE for this Bible study is not just to gain academic knowledge, not only to prove or disprove a certain doctrine or fact — but to get you closer to the stature of the fullness of the very character of Jesus Christ. The only way this can be done is for the CARNAL YOU TO BE CORRECTED!
God's Word is written directly to each of us as an individual — it is personal, direct — and as far as our achieving salvation is concerned has nothing to do with anybody else on the face of the earth!
Therefore your attitude should be the same as Jeremiah's. In fact, since you're going to be STUDYING the Bible, turn to Jeremiah 10:23 and read two verses there meaningfully and as part of your prayer! "O Lord, I know that the way of man is NOT IN HIMSELF: it is NOT IN MAN that walketh to direct his steps. O Lord, CORRECT ME, but with JUDGMENT; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing."
Don't just go through this mechanically, really mean it! Don't just do this because this article SAYS to do it, but because YOU WANT CORRECTION FROM YOUR CREATOR!
In order for your attitude to be proper in your approach to God's Word, turning to one other scripture would clearly aid you in understanding what your approach should be — in educating your attitude to be right before you begin. "Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but TO THIS MAN WILL I LOOK, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and TREMBLETH AT MY WORD... Hear the word of the Lord, YE THAT TREMBLE AT HIS WORD!" (Isa. 66:1-2, 5.)
This Bible that you are studying is the very MIND AND THOUGHTS OF YOUR CREATOR-GOD! It is not to be argued about. It is not meant to be a club to chastise OTHER people with! In other words, if you are a husband, DO NOT use Ephesians 5:22 as a weapon against your wife — or, if you are a wife, DO NOT use Ephesians 5:25 as a weapon against your husband! But each of you as husband or wife apply that scripture which refers to YOU TO yourself and YOURSELF ONLY!
Prove All Things This THIRD rule is in a way an extension of the proper attitude of rule number two. Your approach to God's Word should be COMPLETELY POSITIVE! The example given by the Bereans in Acts 17:11 — "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, whether those things WERE SO" — this was a POSITIVE attitude! The Bereans were not searching the Scriptures to prove Paul was WRONG! They were NOT negative, angry, bitter.
So if you have heard something about the Bible that you do not fully understand, your approach in your own personal Bible study should be to prove that it IS so.
The common misunderstanding of I Thessalonians 5:21 which says, "Prove all things," is that this PROOF must entail a deep research into the Hebrew or Greek backgrounds, and into encyclopedias and historical references, lexicons and musty historical records. This is erroneous. If your research takes you into references of this sort, and you are endeavoring to PROVE POSITIVELY God's Truth, this is perfectly all right — but it is NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY.
This word "PROVE," is POSITIVE. That is the one main point of this particular law of Bible study. But the word itself means, TO PUT TO THE TEST. There are PROVING grounds on which the modern automobiles manufactured in Detroit are TESTED. In the parable Jesus Christ uses regarding the wedding supper, there is a reference to a man who had just bought five yoke of oxen. The excuse he gave for not coming to the supper was that he wanted to PROVE these oxen (Luke 14:19). This is the SAME GREEK WORD as used in I Thessalonians 5:21. Yet this man did not mean that he was going to go to his local library and look up in some dictionary a description of oxen to find out for sure WHETHER THEY WERE OXEN — it meant he wanted to be excused from the wedding supper so that he might take the oxen out to the field, yoke them up, hook a plow behind them and find out whether they would be able to do what oxen are supposed to be able to do! This is basically what God means in I Thessalonians 5:21.
For example, God commands us in the book of Malachi to prove Him in tithing. What He wants us to DO is not to technically search lexicons to find out Greek and Hebrew derivations, but — just as the principle is throughout the entire Bible — to DO WHAT HE SAYS TO DO. "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and PROVE ME (TEST ME) now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Mal. 3:10). This is a POSITIVE GOING FORWARD, a finding out of what God DOES say, not a search for ERROR or disproof.
Bible Never Contradicts Itself If you have difficulty in understanding any particular scripture — if it SEEMS to say something different from another scripture, you may just need to study further. Always remember beyond any shadow of a doubt the principle of rule FOUR: that GOD NEVER CONTRADICTS HIMSELF. Therefore, either your understanding of the particular scripture or the translation that you are reading is incorrect or misunderstood.
Malachi 3:6 — "For I am the Lord, I CHANGE NOT; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" — MEANS what it says. Hebrews 13:8 — "Jesus Christ THE SAME yesterday, and to day, and for ever" — MEANS what it says.
The very SOURCE of truth is God's Word (John 17:17) — and unless your approach to it, your study of it is from this point of view you will never gain any understanding from it.
Let's notice an APPARENT contradiction appearing in Proverbs 26:4, 5 — verse four reads "ANSWER NOT a fool ACCORDING to his folly." Yet, the very next verse tells us, "ANSWER a fool ACCORDING to his folly."
Actually, these two verses are not contradictory — BUT COMPLEMENTARY! The use of either verse — that is, its principle applied to a particular use — depends on the SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES. Both these verses contain gems of wisdom that each one of us needs to learn to properly apply in answering other people's questions.
The LAST PART OF EACH VERSE holds the KEY which unlocks the meaning of these verses — and shows them to be PRACTICAL, USABLE and wise PRINCIPLES.
Verse four reads, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, LEST THOU ALSO BE LIKE UNTO HIM." The last part of the verse holds the KEY: don't degrade yourself by descending to HIS LEVEL in an ARGUMENT! Don't harangue — don't bite back — don't try to "ARGUE BACK" with someone who is obviously trying to stir contention.
The perfect example of this is found in Luke 20:1-8. Here Christ was teaching in the temple. The Pharisees came to Him with these words: "Tell us, BY WHAT AUTHORITY doest thou these things? or WHO is he that gave thee this authority?"
Quite obviously, they weren't interested in learning anything — they weren't coming as humble individuals hungering after new knowledge. THEY WERE THERE TO ARGUE WITH CHRIST!
Notice, how Christ handled the situation.
"And he answered and said unto them, I will also ASK YOU ONE thing; AND ANSWER ME: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?
"And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not?
"But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet.
"And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.
"And Jesus said unto them, NEITHER TELL I YOU by what authority I do these things" (Luke 20:3-8).
Christ answered their question with a QUESTION! To answer their question directly would have only resulted in a verbal battle. An argument would have ensued. Christ avoided strife by NOT ANSWERING THEM ACCORDING TO THEIR FOLLY.
Now, understand verse five in Proverbs 26. Again, the last part of the verse holds the KEY: "Answer a fool according to his folly, LEST HE BE WISE IN HIS OWN CONCEIT."
In this case — if you don't answer his question — if you don't accept his challenge — he is going to THINK HIMSELF to be wise!
The Apostle Paul had this problem. FALSE APOSTLES in Corinth were claiming THEY WERE the TRUE APOSTLES of Christ. The CONGREGATION was being LED ASTRAY!
Now was not the time for silence — or clever questions! Now was the time to SMASH the contentions — to ANSWER these false apostles!
Notice II Corinthians 11:23 — and how he answered these FOOLISH men.
"Are they ministers of Christ? (I SPEAK AS A FOOL) I am more; in labours MORE ABUNDANT, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
"Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one... In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."
Paul showed the people HE was their true minister! He ANSWERED and DEBUNKED the claims of these other men.
There is no contradiction! But rather much wisdom in these two verses. Wisdom we need to APPLY IN OUR DAILY LIVES!
What DOES the Bible Say? This FIFTH rule of Bible study often solves many problems. Many times our misunderstanding comes from the CONFUSION THAT THIS WORLD CAUSES — from a misinterpretation, a direct TWISTING of a scripture to conform to the doctrines of demons promulgated by Satan's ministers.
"Woe unto them that CALL evil good, and good evil; that PUT darkness for light, and light for darkness; that PUT bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are WISE IN THEIR OWN EYES, and prudent in THEIR OWN sight"! (Isa. 5:20-23.) Many who CLAIM to be representatives of God, the INTERPRETERS of His Word, TWIST and WREST that Word to their own destruction and the destruction of their hearers.
So always remember to ask yourself — AND, ANSWER — the question: "What DOES the BIBLE say?"
John 3:6 is a good example of this. "That which is born of the flesh IS flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit IS spirit." This is a very clear scripture, explaining that flesh is flesh and Spirit is spirit! That's what the Bible says! But that's not what PEOPLE SAY the Bible says!
Sometimes you may have to refer to a reference work (which we will cover under a separate rule) for scriptures such as I John 5:7.
Or perhaps a note in the MARGIN of your Bible will help you understand a scripture that SEEMS to contradict what you know to be the truth. Take the example of Luke 17:20-21 — "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU." Here, the Bible DOES say, "The kingdom of God is WITHIN you." But here it is only the King James TRANSLATION which says this — not necessarily God's exact Word. So, since it is not clear in the KING JAMES Translation, other aids are necessary to find out what it does say.
This leads automatically to the next rule of Bible study, rule number SIX.
Check the Context Context means, con — WITH, text — TEXT. In order to check the context you merely read the TEXTS WHICH COME WITH the text that is in question. You read the texts BEFORE and the TEXTS AFTER. In this example of Luke 17:21, you need to also ask yourself a number of questions regarding the context. The text that is with (CON) Luke 17:21, is Luke 17:20! This verse JUST BEFORE answers the question regarding Verse 21, but in order to ANSWER that question you must ASK yourself the question, "WHO?"
In other words you must ask yourself, if "the Kingdom of God is WITHIN you" — WHO is the YOU that the Bible is referring to? In this case verse 20 explains that it is the PHARISEES! Now you KNOW that certainly Jesus Christ wasn't saying that the Kingdom of God is inside of PHARISEES! Therefore, the con (WITH) text helps you to see that there must be a MISTRANSLATION in this particular verse.
And sure enough, when you check the margin of your Bible you will find that the word "within" should be translated "among" — referring to Jesus Himself as a Representative of God's Kingdom who was at that time "among" the Pharisees!
In order to understand any scripture thoroughly, in its context, you need to ask yourself — and answer for yourself — all the following questions: WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? WHY? WHO? HOW? When you have answered these questions regarding any particular text, and you have read all of the accompanying texts, WITH the text in question, YOU WILL HAVE GOD'S ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM.
Many people misunderstand Mark 7:19 — thinking that in this place unclean meats were cleansed by Christ — simply because they do not read the context. In this case the context is the ENTIRE CHAPTER. You must go back from verse 19, until you begin to find the subject about which verse 19 is talking. That subject has to do with whether or not to wash your hands ceremonially before you eat, and has nothing to do with whether the food you eat is clean or unclean according to the laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
There are even LIES written in the Bible and you have to be careful that you ask yourself EXACTLY what the Bible says in the ENTIRETY of the context of any one statement. THE BIBLE SAYS, "Ye shall NOT surely die" (Gen. 3:4). This is a BIBLICAL statement! But in order to find out whether it's true or not you have to find out WHO said it. In this particular case the same verse explains that Satan the Devil said it, but in order to find out whether it is true or not (because sometimes even Satan tells the truth) you have to go back in the CONTEXT until you come to Genesis 2:17 where the Creator-God is quoted as saying, "THOU SHALT SURELY DIE!" — then you know what the BIBLE, IN ITS ENTIRETY AND IN ITS TRUTH, DOES SAY!
This brings us to rule number seven.
(To be continued)