This new series by Bible Gateway and Mel Lawrenz is called “How to Understand the Bible.” Over 30 weeks we will cover questions about the content of the Bible and interpreting and applying the Bible. We’ll look at the way we should read everything from historical stories to Psalms to prophecy to Gospels to Revelation. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along, encourage them to learn more and sign up to receive the series via email.
But why should we bother reading Scripture or trying to understand it? We should know why.
It is fair to ask the question: “How will my life be better if I understand the Bible better?” because it certainly is possible to own a Bible, carry a Bible, read the Bible, listen to Bible teachings and sermons, and neglect working to understand what the Bible actually means. It is worth everything to understand the Bible better.
First, understanding the Bible leads to a fruitful life. The very first words of the very first Psalm say this:
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. (Ps. 1:1-3)
We need to be intentional about what kind of people we are. Do we want to be “planted” in a place of health and fruitfulness, or to wander in sin and even wickedness?
One day Jesus taught that understanding and applying his words leads to a stable life.
“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24-25)
Jesus’ words are at the core of the word of God, but they must be understood and lived. Building your house on the sand of human opinion, popular sentiment, or arbitrary expertise leads to one outcome only… to be washed away.
The apostle Paul explains how the word of God leads to a quality life.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
What an enormous blessing it is to have Holy Scripture, breathed out by God, which does these four things: (1) teaching (that is, telling us the truth), (2) rebuking (that is, telling us when we’re off track in our lives), 3) correcting (that is, getting us back on track), and (4) training in righteousness (that is, helping us stay on track). This is quality control for our lives. It is God speaking to us in all candor, honesty, support, and confrontation. It is the firm hand of discipline with the gentle touch of love.
Love is really why we have Scripture—why God breaks the silence and silences the noise. The writer of Hebrews put it best:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Heb. 1:1-3)
The major turning points in the Bible are not merely history. They are acts of love—God building God’s own story exactly how he wanted it. The law of the Old Testament is God patiently teaching human beings about holiness. The prophets screamed their warnings and proclaimed great promise—both acts of love. And then came God’s speech through his Son. In Jesus we get truth, which is greater than just “truths.” The Son is radiance, glory, purification, authority. Those red letters we read in the Gospels are not moralistic maxims. They are piercing beams of light.
How will our lives be better if we understand the Bible better?
When I was a teenager and a brand-new believer, I was in a Christian coffeehouse where someone taught a while, and then someone sang for a bit, and all of us sat around rustic round tables talking about life. A young man at my table who was a few years older than me had with him an enormous Bible, almost the size of what you see on altars in churches, with wooden covers and gilded edges. I will never forget him looking me dead in the eye and saying, “Whatever else you do—pay attention to the words of this book. It has everything you need.” I will never forget that huge Bible, the intense look of conviction in the eyes of that young man, and his simple, focused admonition. From that moment on, I read Scripture differently, with eyes of faith. I felt like the Bible was reading me, rather than me reading the Bible, which exposed me to a power—benevolent, consistent, and constructive—I had never known before.
Next time: “What is the big picture of the Bible?”
Care to offer feedback this week?
Not yet signed up to receive “How to Understand the Bible” via email? You can follow along here at the blog, but we recommend signing up for email updates here. “How to Understand the Bible” is available as a print book at WordWay.org.
Mel Lawrenz is Director of The Brook Network and creator of The Influence Project. He’s the author of thirteen books, most recently Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership.