HOW SHOULD I READ THE BIBLE?
When people read any article, or magazine, or book, they use their own previous experiences, knowledge, beliefs, preconceived ideas, and perspectives to interpret what they read. This is why people tend to have different interpretations of whatever they read.
Therefore when we read the Bible, we should be careful in how we interpret it. It is not like any other book. It is the Word of God, and God knows far more than any human being knows. God also thinks differently from human beings. God also is all powerful, and there is nothing impossible for Him to do. God also is the Highest Authority—whatever He says should be obeyed, even if we at first do not agree with Him. There are seven steps to keep in mind whenever you read the Bible.
The first step to keep in mind whenever you read the Bible, is to read it with faith. Heb.11:6 reads: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Faith means that if there is anything in the Bible which I do not presently understand, I should have confidence in God that He knows everything, that He always speaks the truth, and that therefore I do not need to doubt what God has revealed in the Bible. Faith means that God can do what no human being can do.
The second step to keep in mind is that before you read the Bible, you need to pray for God’s Wisdom. Ps.119:18 reads: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” The Bible is God’s Book. It is not a human book. It has God’s Words and God’s Thoughts. It has God’s Wisdom. Ordinarily, if we misunderstand books written by uninspired authors, how much more likely are we to misunderstand the Book which has God as its Author! Therefore it is important to get His guidance to understand what He has revealed, before we begin to read the Bible each time!
The third step to keep in mind whenever you read the Bible, is to read it with a meek or humble attitude to learn from God and to obey Him. Ps.25:9 reads: “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” A person who thinks that he knows more than God, will not be open and receptive to learn from God; but a person who understands that God knows more than any human being knows, will be willing to listen to God, set aside any previous views that conflict with what God teaches, give up any attitude and behaviour that goes against what God wants, and be obedient to God. Such persons will learn from God, for He will help them to understand the Bible.
The fourth step to keep in mind whenever you read the Bible, is to read it with great respect. Ps.25:14 reads: “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.” When you read the Bible with respect for God as its Author, and with the fear that holds you back from wanting to disobey what He commands you to do in the Bible, God will cause you to see in the Bible what others will not see because they do not respect God nor intend to do what God requires of them!
The fifth step to keep in mind whenever you read the Bible, is to not to put your own meaning into the Bible, but to get what God means from what He has spoken in the Bible. 2nd Pet.1:20-21 read: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” “Private interpretation” means “one’s own explanation” of what the reader thinks the scripture means”. If different readers put their own, individual, personal explanation into the words that came from God’s Spirit, instead of getting what God meant when He spoke those words, there will be many different explanations of what the scripture means, and they will not be what God meant. Since the scripture did not come from the human mind, nor from the human reasoning, nor from the human feeling, but it came from God’s Spirit, and since God thinks and acts differently from human beings, we need to lay aside our own private interpretations and find out what God means by what He has said. How may this be done? This may be done when we through prayer and a patient and careful search of the whole Bible, let one scripture explain another scripture. This may be done when we allow God’s Holy Spirit to show us the meaning of what God intended by helping us to see how all the scriptures on a topic fit together. This may be done when we are honestly searching the Bible for the truth. The Holy Spirit will shine in the darkness of our minds and let us see what has been staring us in the face all the time. For example, I used to think that not everything in the Bible was inspired, since it has words in it that were spoken by people who believed in and worshipped false gods, or words spoken against Jesus Christ by His enemies, but the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of my understanding to see that God revealed to the writers of the Bible what these idolaters were saying, and what the enemies of Jesus Christ were saying against Him, and then showed the differences between what they said and what He says. Since God was the One who reported what these persons with their false views were saying, it is true to say that every word in the Bible came from God. What is keeping back most people from understanding the Bible, is that they put their own interpretations into the Bible, rather than get from God what He means by what He has said.
The sixth step to keep in mind whenever you read the Bible, is that the Bible was written to give you the knowledge of how to receive God’s forgiveness and friendship so that you may have everlasting life. Jer.36:2-3 reads: “Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” 2nd Tim.3:15 reads: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Through the Bible you will learn that we have all offended God by not doing what He wants us to do. However, He does not want to punish us for our offensive attitudes and behaviour. This is why He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to take the blame and the punishment of our disobedience to God. This is why Jesus was nailed to the cross and suffered and died. On the third day after Jesus Christ’s death, God raised Him from the dead, and He is offering forgiveness of offences and everlasting life in His Kingdom, to all who will believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, turn away from their sins and return to God, confess Jesus as Lord, be baptized into Jesus Christ, and live the rest of one’s life to do what God wants. If you read the Bible, but never accept God’s offer of forgiveness and everlasting life, you have missed the main point why the Bible was written and that is to give you the knowledge of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The seventh step to keep in mind whenever you read the Bible, is that the Bible was written that you may be obedient to God. James 1:22-25 reads: “…be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” The Bible is like a mirror, which shows us how God sees us. Whatever fault the Bible shows us that we have, we should try to correct that fault as soon as possible, so that we may improve in our attitudes and behaviour in God’s sight.
So then, there are seven steps to keep in mind whenever you read the Bible:
(1) Read the Bible with faith. ( Heb.11:6 )
(2) Pray for God’s Wisdom before you read the Bible. ( Ps.119:18 )
(3) Read the Bible with a meek and humble attitude to learn from God and to obey Him. ( Ps.25:9 )
(4) Read the Bible with great respect. ( Ps.25:14 )
(5) Get what God means from what He has spoken in the Bible. ( 2nd Pet.1:20-21 )
(6) The Bible was written to give you the knowledge of how to be saved through Jesus Christ. ( 2nd Tim.3:15 )
(7) The Bible was written so that you may be obedient to God. ( James 1:22-25 )