The Bible is much more than a book of morals and interesting stories. As God’s own speaking to mankind, it stands alone as the highest, most profound book. This Book of books brings us the divine revelation of God, His plan for man, and His eternal purpose.
But the Bible isn’t always easy to understand.
Reading for basic knowledge
It might come as a surprise to see that the first step to understanding the Bible is simply to read the text to become familiar with what it says. If we don’t acquire the “ABCs” of God’s word, that is, a good familiarity with what’s contained in the text, we won’t be able to apprehend the Bible’s more profound meaning. A basic knowledge of God’s Word comes before anything else.
Once we have the basic knowledge of God’s Word, we need to go below the surface and receive revelation from God to see what He truly desires us to see in His Word.
What’s needed to gain a deeper understanding of God’s Word
At least two things are needed for us to get into the meaning of the Bible.
1. We need to pray
In Ephesians 1:17 Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus:
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him.”
For the believers to have the full knowledge of Christ, the apostle Paul didn’t pray for them to have a clever mind. He prayed they would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation. We need to pray for this, especially when we come to the Bible: “Lord, grant me a spirit of wisdom and revelation so I may see You and know You fully in Your Word. I turn my heart to You so you can reveal Yourself to me.” Surely the Lord would be happy to answer such a prayer.
2. We need guidance and help
We can also receive much help from others who’ve seen more than we have in God’s Word. An example of this is the case of the Ethiopian man in Acts 8.
If you’re not familiar with that story, we’ll recount it here. An Ethiopian man was traveling home after visiting Jerusalem. At one point, he sat in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah. Philip, the evangelist, was led by the Spirit to join the man. As Philip ran up to him, he heard what the man was reading, and asked, “Do you really know the things that you are reading?” The man replied, “How could I unless someone guides me?” and invited Philip to join him in the chariot.
This was the passage he had been reading in Isaiah:
“As a sheep He was led to slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he does not open his mouth. In His humiliation His judgment was taken away. Who shall declare His generation? For His life is taken away from the earth.”
The man asked Philip, “Concerning whom does the prophet say this? Concerning himself or concerning someone else?” Philip explained to him that these verses were about Christ and used this portion of the Word to announce the gospel of Jesus to the man, telling him, “If you believe from all your heart, you will be saved.” The man responded, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” He was saved, and as they had come upon some water, he was also baptized then and there.
The Ethiopian man had the text of the Bible in front of him, he was able to read it, but he needed someone to unlock the meaning of what he was reading.
Getting help from the Recovery Version
We also, like the Ethiopian man, often need guidance and help to understand the Word of God.
We might read a section of the Bible over and over and still feel we’re missing its point. Or, we might speed read through, or even skip a section altogether. For instance, we might skip the first part of Matthew 1, which includes a long list of who begot whom among Jesus’ ancestors, to get to the more understandable parts of the chapter. We may not realize that in this section of Christ’s genealogy lies a rich revelation of Jesus Christ.
For instance, did you know Adam’s genealogy in Genesis 5 doesn’t mention any women but Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1 specifically mentions five? And of these five, only Mary was a chaste virgin. Why are the names of these women here? Note 2 on Matthew 1:3 in the Recovery Version helps us see the significance of these names:
“In the genealogy of Adam no woman is recorded (Gen. 5:1-32), but in this genealogy of Christ five women are mentioned. Only one of these five was a chaste virgin—Mary, a descendant of the chosen race. Of her, Christ was directly born (v. 16). Among the rest—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth (v. 5), and Bathsheba, who had been the wife of Uriah (v. 6)—some were Gentiles, some were remarried, and three were even sinful—Tamar committed incest, Rahab was a prostitute, and Bathsheba committed adultery. This indicates that Christ is related not only to the Jews but also to the Gentiles, even to the sinful people, and is the kingly Savior of typical sinners.”
Isn’t it incredible to learn that in the mentioning of these five women is a wonderful revelation of Christ? How wonderful to see that Jesus is the Savior of sinful people, typical sinners like us! And these names also show us God can use all of us to manifest Christ today, despite our background or sinful past, through our being redeemed and allowing Christ to live in us day by day. What an astounding fact that we can be used by God to bring forth Christ for His testimony and expression! This is an encouraging, precious revelation of Christ that most of us would have missed without the help of this note.
The help in the Recovery Version of the Bible
We needn’t be ashamed or embarrassed about needing help to understand the Bible. If the Ethiopian man had been too embarrassed, he would have missed out on seeing Jesus Christ the Savior. Instead, his attitude was, “How could I understand the Bible unless someone guides me?” As a result, he was wonderfully saved and baptized.
Here at Bibles for America, we’ve experienced firsthand how the Recovery Version of the Bible with notes like the one above in Matthew 1 has helped us to know Christ and understand the Bible as we never had before. That’s why we’re so happy to give it away so more people can benefit from it.
We still need to consistently read the Bible to become thoroughly familiar with God’s Word and acquire the necessary basic knowledge. And we also need to daily spend time with the Lord to pray with the Word for our spiritual nourishment. At the same time, the invaluable notes, cross-references, and outlines in the Recovery Version can guide us into understanding the meaning of God’s Word.
We encourage you to order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version to get help in understanding God’s Word.