I have had some people in the past tell me that the Bible is hard to understand. It can be hard to understand, but there are some things that will really help. There are two basic ways to study the Bible, topical and expository.
Most preachers that I have listened to in the past liked to preach mostly topical. Topical study is not for new believers. To do a topical study, a person really needs a concordance to help them find the different locations where the Bible teaches on the topic of study. Topical study can also be a little confusing because when jumping into the middle of a passage, the context of what is being said could easily be misunderstood and, therefore, misinterpreted.
However, there are great advantages to doing a topical study. For example, suppose someone wanted to know what the Bible said about the topic of divorce. It would take a very long time to read through the whole Bible before covering all of the passages in the Bible dealing with divorce. Additionally, each passage dealing with divorce would not give the whole picture of what the Bible teaches about divorce.
In Deuteronomy, which is the fifth book of the Bible, it seems that divorce is okay.
1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.
Moses, who wrote Deuteronomy, leaves us ignorant of something else the Bible teaches. Look at what Jesus says in the New Testament.
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
This topic is not discussed again until Matthew chapter 19, fourteen chapters later.
3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
This example shows us that we could not possibly learn everything about divorce from Deuteronomy or from Matthew 5. There are over 30 books of the Bible between Deuteronomy and Matthew. Therefore, a topical study is necessary to understand what God says about divorce.
To do this type of study, a concordance is needed to look up the words “divorce” and “divorcement”. The concordance gives the names of the books, chapters, and verses where these two words are found. I use a computer program called E-sword to do a lot of my personal Bible study. This program has a concordance and different translations of the Bible along with several popular commentaries. It also allows you to post your own notes and highlight different passages of scripture. You can download E-sword for free (although donation is appreciated) at www.e-sword.net.
Doing a topical Bible study, however, should be a secondary form of Bible study, especially for those who have recently converted to Christianity. The best way to study the Bible is simple. It is to read a book of the Bible like reading any other book. A new Christian should pick a book of the Bible and start reading at chapter 1. Read that book straight through. Obviously, the book must be read carefully to ensure that it is understood correctly, but if it is understood correctly then the reader will easily learn more than he would learn in church on a Sunday. If you try this, and you do not understand what the book is teaching, then don’t give up, pick a different book. There are 66 books in the Bible; some are easy to follow and some are difficult to follow. This kind of Bible study is called expository study. By studying the Bible this way, everything is kept in context making it much less likely for you to misinterpret what is being said.
Over the past several weeks, I have encouraged several people to study the Bible in this manner. In each case, the person came back to me joyful at what they were learning from the Bible. They asked me questions about parts they did not understand. Each person learned more than they had probably ever learned in a single church service.
It is one thing to read or listen to a commentary on a piece of literature, but one will never fully appreciate the literary work until he reads it for himself. Why not read the Bible for yourself?
There are many words in the Bible that are not used in our everyday speech. Some of these words are good vocabulary words, and some of these are good literary words. Let’s look at some examples.
Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Notice the word “mammon”. This is not a common word, but it is a good vocabulary word. The word “mammon” means riches. You cannot serve God and “riches.” I encourage you to have a good Heritage or Websters Dictionary on hand to look up difficult words when you study the Bible.
John 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
Many folks have told me that they do not understand the “thou’s” and “thee’s” in the Bible. These are good literary words and pretty simple to understand. If you remember your high school English, you will understand these words easily. “Thou”, “thee”, and “ye” are all different forms of the word “you”. That is it. That should be enough to help you understand it.
For a more technical understanding. “Thou” and “thee” are always singular, and “you” and “ye” are always plural. “Thou” and “ye” are always subjective case, (used for the subject of the sentence.) “Thee” and “You” are always objective case, (used for the objective cases in the sentence.) If this does not make sense then just stick to the previous simple explanation and do not worry about it.
Back to the verse, John 3:7, Jesus was talking only to Nicodemus when he said “unto thee.” “Thee” is singular and refers to Nicodemus. When Jesus said “Ye must be born again,” He was talking to everyone in the world because “Ye” is plural.
I hope you will take time everyday to study the Bible. Whether you do a topical study or an expository study, if you really desire to understand it God will help you through his Holy Spirit.
1 John 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
God tells us not to just read the Bible, but to meditate on it. This means to think about it and to dwell on it. How often should someone read the Bible? They should read it every day and every night!
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditate day and night.