Just beginning to read the Bible can feel overwhelming for some people. They desire to know what it says, but they find it difficult to understand. Comprehending the 66 books, for them, is like trying to scale Mount Everest. Difficult for a few people, and impossible for most people.
Does this describe you? If so, please know you do not have to feel overwhelmed. God desires for you to know what He says in the Bible. Understanding the Bible takes time, and can be an exciting journey. Here are five tips to help you understand the Bible.
1. GET AN UNDERSTANDABLE TRANSLATION
Walk into a book store and ask for a Bible, and you are soon overwhelmed with choices. The clerk takes you to a section filled with rows of Bibles. How do you know which one to get? Which translation is right for you?
Selecting a Translation
There are numerous translations of the Bible available. Each has its own positives and negatives. Selecting a translation should begin by asking yourself if the translation is understandable. Knowing what is said is the first step in understanding its meaning.
A couple good translations to consider are the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT). Both are written in modern English, so they use words which are familiar. Both translations are easy to read.
Adding a Paraphrase
There are also a number of paraphrases of the Bible available. A paraphrase of the Bible does just what you would think; it paraphrases what is said in Scripture. Many have found these books easier to read and understand. They don’t replace an actual verse by verse copy of the Bible, but make a great addition. A couple paraphrases to consider are The Message and The Story.
2. UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE’S ORGANIZATION
The next key is to become familiar with how the Bible is organized. Begin by understanding the Bible is divided into two sections: the Old and New Testament. The dividing line is the birth of Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament
The Old Testament contains the books of Genesis through Malachi. It can be divided into sections such as books of the law, books of history, books of wisdom, and books of prophecy. Your Bible’s table of contents can provide a more specific breakdown. The Old Testament begins with the creation account and spans a length of time to about 400 years prior to Jesus’ birth.
The New Testament
The New Testament begins with Matthew and goes through Revelation. It too can be divided into sections. Matthew Mark, Luke and John are the Gospels. Acts tells the story of the church’s beginning. Except Revelation, the remaining books are letters which were circulated to believers to help them grow in Christ. Revelation is a prophecy about Christ’s Second Coming. The New Testament starts with the events surrounding Christ’s birth and spans the length of time to Jesus’ Second Coming. This is the era in which we are currently living.
Organized like a Dictionary
It is also helpful to realize the Bible is organized like a dictionary. The first verse on the page will be listed in the upper left corner, and the last verse on the page will be listed in the upper right corner.
3. GET A GOOD STUDY BIBLE
A third key is getting a good study Bible. Study Bibles provide commentary and other resources to help you grasp the meaning and context of the text. They also help apply the text to life in today’s world. A couple to consider is the NIV Study Bible and NIV Life Application Bible.
4. SPEND TIME IN THE BIBLE DAILY
It is important to spend time in the Bible each day. Remember, you are growing in a relationship with the Lord and this is how He speaks to you. There are as many ways to develop a daily devotional time as there are people. Each person has to pick what works for him or her. Here are some suggestions to help you develop this practice.
Find a Daily Time
The time of day does not matter. It can be any time during the day. What matters is that you strive to make it a part of your daily routine.
Find a Reading Plan
There are a number of reading plans to help guide you. Bible Gateway is a good place to find plans. One plan starts at the beginning and takes you to the end. Another plan puts the events of the Bible in chronological order. No one plan is better than another. Each plan guides your reading by highlighting a portion of Scripture to be read each day. Bible Gateway offers daily email reminders for the plan you choose.
Bible Gateway is a good app to consider. It offers the audio Bible in a number of translations. The app makes it easy to listen while you drive. You can select a daily reading plan and view other resources in the app.
There are many aavailable. Devotionals highlight a passage of Scripture accompanied by a thought for the day.
5. ASK QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE
This may be the most important key to understanding the Bible. Asking questions can bring answers and insight not found any where else. The desire of Christians is for others to grow in Christ. Jesus commands us to make disciples. This involves answering questions. Spending time answering questions is not a burden but a privilege. It is exciting to see other Christians growing, and answering questions fosters growth. Do not be afraid to ask questions. A wise man said, “The only dumb question is a question that is not asked.”
Understanding the Bible takes time. It should be an exciting journey filled with anticipation of what you will discover next. It should not feel overwhelming. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help through prayer. The Lord is willing to help us understand Scripture. You can also ask for help from the church. We are all on the same journey and desire for you to join us. Hopefully, these suggestions have helped you get started understanding the Bible, and keep us posted. Tell us what new and exciting discoveries you are making as you grow in your understanding.