part of the what is truth? series

Attempting to understand the Bible can be difficult. For many centuries, the Catholic Church taught that the Bible could only be understood by an ordained priest. In modern times, people like N.T. Wright and other well-credentialed theologians are often held up as having profound (even special or unique) insights into God’s word due to their advanced degrees and learning.

Others contend that in order to understand the Bible you need a working knowledge of the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and/or Greek (New Testament) language. Of late, the need to have an understanding of the culture of the day (1st century) has advanced…to the degree that some disregard portions of Scripture with the charge of “modern-day irrelevance.”

So what exactly is required to understand the Bible? Can any person, without a special degree or a library of “special” books, come to a knowledge of the truth revealed by God through His word?

How Scripture answers "What is required to understand the Bible?"

Understanding the Bible requires nothing more than the Bible itself1,3,6,9 and reading it11 with a diligent, open, seeking heart2,6,8,10. With our prayer to God for understanding4,7, He has promised that we will find (or, know) Him8,9,10. It is, in fact, the only way we can know His will for us1,7,9 and importantly, does not require any special talents or education12. God intended that the gospel message was simple14.

Of course, the word may travel by way of a teacher13 or preacher6 (false teachers beware!!13). There are some portions or topics that are more difficult5 than others, but Scripture’s promise3,10 is that we can grow in the truth9 with careful, diligent reading2,6,11.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

1

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
All Scripture is spoken by God and necessary for teaching, for rebuke, for correction and training in righteousness so that a man of God would be spiritually equipped and ready for any good work.

Paul is writing to the younger Timothy and giving general advice about his work in preaching the Gospel. Paul has repeated contrasted those that are teaching false doctrine and their motives for doing so against how Timothy should conduct himself.

How does it apply here?

Scripture is what is held up as the source for man’s “completeness” and equipping for any “good work”.

2

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

How can a young man keep his conduct pure? By understanding your [God’s] word.  I seek you [God] with an undivided heart; let me not wander from your word!

A great Psalm (119) dedicated to the merit and beauty of God’s word.

How does it apply here?

Coming into an accord (e.g. understanding) of God’s word requires seeking with a whole heart.

3

Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. There is no end to the making of many books, and much study is exhausting to the body. Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion: Fear God and keep his commandments, because this is the whole duty of man.
Be warned, my son, of anything added to them [wise sayings of the Teacher].  There is no end to the making of books, and their study wearies the body.  Having heard everything, I have concluded that it is enough for man to only fear God and keep his commandments.

A book of wisdom from “the Preacher” (many believe to be Solomon). The very wise and wealthy “Preacher”, having done all things “under the sun”, shares his treatise on life and worldly pursuits – it is all vanity.

How does it apply here?

Earthly knowledge (“many books”) is put at odds with God’s word which, it’s concluded, is independently self-sufficient for man’s “whole duty”.

4

Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.

How can a young man keep his conduct pure? By understanding your [God’s] word.  I seek you [God] with an undivided heart; let me not wander from your word!

A great Psalm (119) dedicated to the merit and beauty of God’s word.

How does it apply here?

A prayer to God that He might grant an understanding of His word. (A thought repeated several more times in the 119th Psalm.)

5

And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, speaking of these things in all his letters. Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures.
Consider also the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our brother Paul wrote to you in all his letters based on the wisdom given to him. Some of his writings are hard to understand – the things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own demise – just as they do with rest of all scripture.

Peter’s final exhortation to hold a “firm grasp on the truth” (vs 17) and to “continue to grow in the grace and knowledge” of Christ (vs 18).

How does it apply here?

Peter acknowledges that some of scripture, particularly what Paul wrote, is “hard to understand.” However, the very next verses confirm his audience had a “grasp of the truth” and his encouragement is to continue to grow [in the truth].

6

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. These Jews were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so.

The brethren quickly got Paul and Silas out of town when it was dark, heading to Berea. When they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now the Jewish Bereans were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they eagerly heard the gospel message and examined the scriptures carefully every day to see if what they were taught was from God.

Paul is on his second missionary journey with Silas. They had to flee Thessalonica for fear of being killed by those jealous (vs 5) of them preaching the gospel. These same Jews actually followed them there to disrupt their cause (vs 13).

How does it apply here?

The Bereans were taught the word by the apostle Paul himself, but they still confirmed it with daily, careful examination of the scriptures.

7

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
As a result, from the day we heard, we have continued to pray for you, asking God that you will be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  In order that you might walk in a way that’s worthy of Christ our Lord, fully pleasing him and bearing fruit in every good work while increasing in the knowledge of God.
Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae where he confronts false teaching in the form of “human philosophies and traditions”.  He goes on to reference “the word of the truth, the gospel” which came to them and “indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing” (vs 6).
How does it apply here?

Paul and his companions prayed for Christians to gain understanding of God’s word.

8

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

If sinners draw near to God, He will near to them, and requires cleansing themselves (spiritually) and being single-minded in their focus to serve and obey God.

James practical words to Christians on how to live faithfully.  In chapter four, he focuses on humility and single-mindedness.
How does it apply here?

God will draw near to those who seek him with a desire and single-mindedness of heart.

9

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you dwell/remain in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus is teaching in the temple while being challenged by the Pharisees (vss 13, 19).
How does it apply here?

Jesus promises that true disciples will “know the truth” by remaining or continuing to dwell in the word.

10

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Ask and you’ll receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened for you.  Everyone that asks receives, and he that seeks finds, and to the one that knocks it will be opened.

Jesus sermon on the mount after giving instructions about how to pray to God in heaven (6:1-14) and trusting in God to provide in this life (6:19-34).

How does it apply here?

God promises us understanding if we seek Him.

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