All Christians want to understand the Bible.
But why is it so hard to find substantial meaning when we study it?
More to the point: How can we get the words to pop off the paper? The pages to zing by? The stories to carry us up, up and away like Love in the Time of Cholera did?
[Okay, maybe I’m the only one who got carried away by this novel.]
Because its hard. Very hard.
It often requires us to significantly humble ourselves and think in a new way. It’s almost like becoming a student again.
Luckily, we have teachers available to teach us. Teachers who want to help you and I down the hard path of biblical enlightenment.
Who are those three teachers?
Our three teachers are the Holy Spirit, ourselves and the church. These are the three instructors who teach us what the Bible means.
The Holy Spirit and the Four People Who Can Learn from Him
Our foremost teacher is the Holy Spirit who works in two stages.
Revelation is the objective stage where he uncovers the truth in Scripture. The second stage is illumination where he simply helps us understand the new truths see in Scripture.
But not everyone can learn from the Holy Spirit. Who are the people who can learn from the Holy Spirit? There are four people:
1. The Born Again. John 3:3 says “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” To the unregenerate, the Bible is a lifeless book they hate. After conversion, however, the Bible bursts into life.
2. The Humble. Pride hinders understanding. Humility and simplicity clears the way. You need to be open, receptive and unprejudiced, like a child, to learn from the Holy Spirit.
3. The Obedient. The Bible’s purpose isn’t simply to instruct–but to make you wise unto salvation. Your response to what you read is paramount to expanding what you already know.
4. The Teacher. Enlightenment isn’t meant just for our private enjoyment. It’s meant for public joy. The wisdom of the Bible is opened to those who teach the words of God.
The Disciplined Study of the Christian
Now, when studying the Bible, you can’t sit idly by and expect the Holy Spirit to teach you everything. Fact is, the more we engage the Scripture, the more we get out of it.
The Bible itself lays great stress on the meticulous Christian and the use of his mind. Psalm 32:9 warns against being like the horse and the mule, who have no understanding.
In the New Testament, Jesus encouraged others to “judge for yourselves” what is right. He rebuked his apostles for their lack of understanding. And scolded them for their failure to use their common sense.
It’s a mark of Christian maturity to have our minds trained “by constant use…to distinguish good from evil.” Besides, God will reward diligent study of the Word.
The Teaching of the Church
Just because we’ve been burned in the past, we shouldn’t despise the tradition of the church…nor ignore the pastors of the present.
We should be willing to listen to each other and learn from each other. Colossians 3:16 says “Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another.”
In Acts Luke gives a striking example of a teacher explaining the Scriptures to someone when he tells the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian.
God has appointed teachers in the church–past and present. So its our duty to listen and learn in humility and respect–whether it’s the Holy Spirit, our reason or our pastor who is speaking.
What Do You Think?
I know I’ve asked this question before, but what do your Bible study habits look like?
Are you memorizing Scripture?
Cracking open biblical commentaries, dictionaries and encyclopedias?
Share your thoughts. Brutal and all.