Introduction to the Bible
The Bible is a book, but it is like no other book.
CHRISTIANS CAN UNDERSTAND THE WORD OF GOD
INTRODUCTION | PART ONE
When you become a Christian, you must do your best to learn more about God. You can learn many things from other Christians. God’s people have learned many things about God. They can help you understand many things about God and his ways. But you must also learn to read the scriptures* for yourself.
Some Christians do not try to read the scriptures for themselves. They do not believe that they can understand the scriptures*. They are afraid that they will make mistakes or misunderstand. Yes, some people have made mistakes from time to time. But, if you learn how to read the Bible*, you will be able to read and understand it clearly. Here is a list of rules that will help you. When you read the Bible with these rules in mind, you will be able to understand what you read.
Ask God to help you understand the scriptures.
The first thing to remember is this. You will not be able to understand all that God is saying in the scriptures* without God’s help. The Bible* tells us many things about what God is like and how we can be close to him. It tells us about what God wants of us and how God thinks about the world. The Bible* shows us how we can be close to God and how we can learn to love him now and always. But we can only know these things when God opens our eyes so that we can see and understand them. We need God to help us want to know him and to please and honour him. God helps us to have these desires through his Spirit*. As we read the scriptures*, we must always pray. We must pray that God’s Spirit* will show us what God wants us to see. We must ask God to help us want to do what we come to understand. We must pray that God will help us know his words better so that we can love him more.
Think about who wrote each book.
Every book of Scripture* is written by a human being. Remember this. A person wrote these words to say something to the people he was writing to. When you read the Bible, ask yourself what the writer was saying. Who was he writing to and what did he want them to know? What did he mean to say? Thinking about the scripture* this way will help you see what the scripture* is saying. It will also keep you from seeing things that are not there. The Bible is the word of God. But God used people to write it. What was the writer thinking as he wrote? This is a good way to begin to understand the scriptures*.
God gave us the Bible to tell us about who he is and what he wants us to do. He helped men write the Bible in plain words. They wanted us to understand what they said. This is true even of the books of the prophets*. These men used symbols and word pictures when they wrote. So did John when he wrote the book of Revelation*. These books tell picture stories. Some of the stories are strange. Yes, parts of the Bible are hard to understand. We may not understand every part of a story. But we can understand the main story from the first time we read it.
Think about the time and place where each book was written.
If we know what people were like when the words were written, that also helps us understand the Bible. What were the people’s customs? What was the world like when this part of Scripture* was written? Were the people at peace* or at war? Were they living in good times or bad times? When we think about these questions, the answers will help us know what the writer was saying. The answers will also help us know what the readers may have thought when they read the words.
Think about where the book fits into the Bible story.
Remember that God did not give us all of the scripture* at one time. Each part of the Bible* tells only a part of the story. The story began in Eden. The story goes all the way to the coming of Jesus and beyond. It tells about when Jesus returned to the Father. It tells how God sent his Spirit* to help his church*. The story tells about the work of the apostles* and how they wrote the New Testament*. All of the Bible is one great story of God’s love and grace*. When we read parts of scripture*, we must remember the bigger story. And we must remember where each part fits into the big story.
When we read a section of the Bible, we should ask this question. Where does this part fit in the rest of the Bible?For example, the Psalms* show us a picture of what worship looks like. But the way people pray and praise* God in the Psalms* is not exactly the same way people speak today. They used different words than we use today. They spoke about kings and a kingdom* and of a land that God gave them. But the Psalms* do talk about the same things that we want and need today. They talk about our desire for God’s blessings*. They speak about how to honour God and live a good life. And they show us how to depend on God to show us his ways and to provide what we need. These are the things that we should pray about too. We may not use the same words that the Psalms use. But the Psalms* can teach us to pray and praise* God just like the people who wrote them.
Remember, the clear parts will help you understand the parts that are not so clear.
Remember also that each part of scripture* came from the mind of God. Different people wrote the scriptures* at different times. But the thoughts are God’s thoughts. The words are God’s words. That is why scripture* agrees with scripture*. That means that the best way to understand the Bible is to read the Bible.
The best way to understand one part of the Bible is to find another part that is about the same subject. One scripture* explains another. Some parts of the scripture* are very clear. Other parts are not as clear. The parts of the Bible that are clear help us understand the parts that are not as clear.
Remember, the scriptures* are God’s words to you as well.
Each book of the Bible tells us the truth about God. Each book tells us the truth about all people and ourselves. Each book tells us the truth about how to live in a way that pleases God. Each book tells us how to avoid the ways that do not please him. But these truths are not only for the people who lived during the times when the scriptures* were written. The scriptures* are not just nice stories about other people at other times in other places. The Bible* is God’s word to us at this moment. That is why the person who reads the scripture* must apply the truths they find to their own life.
The Bible* was written to other people at other times and in other places. But God and his truth are also true for us. These words from God are words for us. God in scripture* is speaking to us at this moment. King Josiah knew God was angry with Judah. That was because they had not obeyed God’s laws that were written by Moses 700 years earlier. Jesus spoke to people with words from the very first part of scripture*. When he was tempted by Satan*, he turned him away by using the words that God gave Moses*. When Paul wanted to tell people how to be right with God, he used the scriptures*. He used the book of Genesis and the book of Psalms to help them know what God wanted them to do.
Remember that we must read the scriptures* with care and respect. We must pay attention to the words we read there. Even if the words of scripture surprise us or offend us, we must respect what they say. The Bible comes to us from God. If we want to show respect to God, we must show respect to what he says.
So those are a few rules to get you started. Think about these rules when you read the scriptures*. Pray that God will help you. And when we pray, God will help us. Then, we will become the kind of people whom the apostles* praised. We will become people who ‘correctly handle the word of truth’.