It’s not popular these days. So many people are counting carbs and dodging gluten. But it’s true: I love bread.

Bread is one of God’s great gifts—a gift so great that even

Nadya Spetnitskaya (2018), public domain

someone with my paltry cooking skills can throw together a passable loaf.

 

While there are thousands of variations, the core bread recipe is remarkably simple: flour, water, yeast, and salt. That’s it.

Experts can punch up the flavor with add-ins and fancy baking techniques, but those four ingredients are essential. Without them, you might whip up something delicious, but you don’t have bread.

It’s the same way with understanding the Bible. There are a few essential elements that must be present if we’re to learn from God’s word.

The Bible

This may be obvious, but it must be said. In order to understand the Bible, we need to actually read the Bible!

We don’t need to be Hebrew or Greek scholars. God has been generous in providing plenty of quality English translations. And for most of us, these translations are easy to access.

But we do need the actual words of the Bible. Not study notes or a friendly devotional or a commentary. Not at first. We need time to read, hear, and meditate on the words of God.

The Bible is meant for Christians to read and understand. God is not trying to hide its meaning from you. You are smart enough to read and study the Bible.

Humility

If we aim to understand the Bible, we must approach it with humility.

What is true in our personal relationships is also true in our approach to the Scriptures—in order to learn, we must be convinced that we have things to learn! When we draw near to the Bible, we are submitting to authority. We approach the bench in handcuffs, we do not bang the gavel. The posture of the Christian disciple must be one of open hands, bowed head, well-worn knees.

As we meet with God in his word, we acknowledge that we are naive and foolish. Ignorant and forgetful. Frail. Incomplete in our understanding.

But God is wise. He is experienced. All-knowing. Never forgetting. Strong. On top of all that, he loves to communicate about himself and his world through his word.

When we call the Bible “God’s word,” this is not just a synonym. This is a reassuring, bulls eye-accurate description. We must come humbly to the Bible because the God of the universe stands behind these words.

The Holy Spirit

Finally, we need help to understand the Bible. This is help that God loves to give, but we cannot understand the Bible on our own.

God helps us grasp the Bible by coming to us himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. We need the Spirit’s work and power to give us both insight and the gift of repentance.

The Holy Spirit is described as our helper and teacher (John 14:26). Paul writes that we have received the Spirit of God “that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12), and that, because of the Spirit, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. Pray and ask for his help as you read the Bible.

Closing

There is more to say about studying the Bible, of course. This website is devoted to saying more about studying the Bible! But this article is about the essentials.

Remember this the next time you seek out God in the Scriptures. Read the Bible. Approach with humility. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. And God will give you hearty, nourishing, sustaining food that will bring deep satisfaction to your soul.

Ryan Higginbottom