How Is Understanding the Bible Important (or even Possible)?

As you read and study God’s Word, asking lots of questions, you get a much better idea of what any Bible passage says. The exciting news is that God promises to bless the person who reads His Word, looks intently at it, understands it correctly, personalizes it, and then applies it.
David Sanford
How Is Understanding the Bible Important (or even Possible)?

TheBible is truer than any other book ever published. The Bible was written by God, who always tells the truth. It is a book of trustworthy truths about eternal realities.

Jesus and the apostles viewed the Old Testament Scriptures as not only a revelation from God but also a revelation of God. They accepted the factual statements in the Bible and then saw the spiritual implications of its important truths.

In the Bible, you find two kinds of facts: simple truths (easily grasped facts) and complex truths (facts that exceed your grasp). You will never plumb the depths of the Bible’s complex truths because God’s thoughts far exceed the collective brainpower of all humanity (Isaiah 55:8–9).

It’s no wonder that God doesn’t pretend to tell you everything (Deuteronomy 29:29). It’s also ludicrous to think you can contribute one microscopic atom of truth to what God has known before the beginning of time (Romans 11:33). He is God – we are not.

Here’s four reasons it’s important and possible for you to understand the Bible.

1. The Bible applies to all of life.

God’s word is relevant to all people, everywhere, and in every time. According to 2 Timothy 3:16–17, all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful, profitable, beneficial, practical, and full of rewards for the person who studies it.

The Bible contains truths, commands, and examples that speak directly to your heart and life today. It’s full of countless amazing truths about God, your life, and things to come.

Sometimes the trick, however, is trying to understand the Bible when in a particular situation. The problem? You’re often in a hurry to know which way to turn! How much better to slow down and check your God-given map for life. Even better, why not plot your course ahead of time? After all, the road ahead isn’t about to move!

2. Asking questions helps you understand it.

As you read and study the Bible, you want to remember that even the smallest details (say, a person’s name) often have spiritual undertones.

Here’s where you get to turn into a reporter. Pull out your press card and get ready to ask a stream of questions worthy of the best journalist. As you read and study God’s Word, you can repeatedly ask Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?

You probably won’t ask all these questions every time you read a Bible verse. But you can ask the most relevant questions that come to mind after reading it.

By asking lots of Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? questions, you get a much better idea of what any Bible passage says. You also get a good idea of what it doesn’t say and what you’re not yet sure it’s saying.

The exciting news throughout Scripture is that God promises to bless the person who reads His Word, looks intently at it, understands it correctly, personalizes it, and then applies it (Psalm 1:1-2, John 16:13, John 14:26). Be that person!

3. God isn’t trying to trick you.

Thankfully, there’s no secret code or formula for understanding the Bible. The world’s bestseller is written so people reading or listening to it can grasp what God is saying to them. True, it’s possible to misunderstand Scripture—men have done that from day one. Still, the Lord wants you to know what He’s saying!

The “golden rule” of biblical interpretation is that God is not trying to mess with your mind. The same goes for Moses, David, Ezra, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, and all the other biblical writers. They expected listeners and readers to understand the meaning of what they wrote.

True, you may not catch everything the first time through. That’s why you enjoy listening again to a favorite new song, why you’re anxious to watch a sports replay, and why you stop to reread something that’s profound – it’s complex and interesting.

Because God isn’t trying to trick us, when you’re reading Scripture you shouldn’t try to “decode” it. Unless there’s a compelling reason, you should accept the facts the Bible states at face value and embrace the normal meaning of its truths.

4. Every verse has a specific meaning.

Like any great writer, God used metaphor, hyperbole, simile, and other figures of speech throughout the Old and New Testaments. Not surprisingly, during His time on earth, the Lord Jesus repeatedly used figures of speech whenever He spoke to the crowds.

True, figures of speech sometimes confuse listeners and readers. But they’re memorable and often cause readers to stop and wonder, What did Jesus mean by that? Thankfully, His figures of speech almost always have a known meaning.

It’s always important to remember that God had specific truths in mind for every passage in Scripture. The important question isn’t, what does this say to me? Instead, the question you want to ask is, what did God mean?

Take the famous statement by Jesus, “The truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). You could come up with any of a dozen misinterpretations of that verse. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what you want that verse to mean.

If you consider yourself an intellectual, you may want “The truth shall make you free” to mean that the more you know and learn, the better your life will be. If you consider yourself an enlightened hedonist, you may want it to mean that you’re free to do whatever you want whenever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. But these popular misinterpretations are not what Jesus was saying.

Keep Asking God: What Did You Mean Here?

As you read and study the Bible, you want to keep asking, What did God mean by this statement? If you’re not sure, that’s okay!

Studying the Bible isn’t a matter of your interpretation. And, not every statement in Scripture is clear-cut. Some are so poetic that it’s hard to tell what the verse or paragraph means. That said, often it’s as you keep reading and studying Scripture that you realize, There’s the answer to one of my questions!

Do your best to discover what God wants you to know. Most of the answers are right there in His Word.

In the end, however, it’s okay to have a list of unanswered questions. Ask God and will answer you (Jeremiah 33:3). But in some cases, you’ll have to wait until heaven to ask, “What did you mean by this?” or “What did you mean by that?” Imagine how great that will be!

David Sanford coaches leaders passionate about demonstrating the relevance of Jesus Christ in every major sphere of life. His book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, and Amazon. His speaking engagements have ranged everywhere from UC Berkeley (California) to The Billy Graham Center at the Cove (North Carolina). 

Photo Credit: Unsplash


Originally published June 17, 2019.