Seven Steps to Greater Bible Understanding
Some claim that the Bible is too old, too long, too boring, or too difficult. Yet amazingly, the United Bible Society distributed 23,200,000 Bibles in 2001 alone — an average of 44 Bibles per minute throughout the year.
It is necessary to do more than just own a copy of the Bible, or engage in some superficial reading. We must learn to understand it and live by it.
Step One — One Theme
The resurrected Christ met some disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were distressed while his identity was hidden from them. It was then the third day, and they had hoped he would redeem Israel. The Lord said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken” (Lk. 24:25; see also vv. 26-27,44-47).
We must familiarize ourselves with the single theme of Scripture — salvation through the suffering of Christ.
Step Two — Two Covenants
Failing to understand the divine purposes of the Old and New Testaments will invariably lead to misunderstanding the Bible. The Old Testament was not given to teach how one becomes a Christian. It is not a guide for Christian worship. A pattern for the church is not given in the Old Testament; that must be read in light of New Testament revelation.
We do study the Old Testament, however, to satisfy life’s basic questions (cf. Gen. 1:1), to perceive that our relationship with God is one of Creator and creature, to understand the nature of sin and its consequences, and to learn the principle that God rewards the obedient and punishes the rebellious.
In the Old Testament, we also see valuable apologetic material in predictive prophecy. As we see God’s design in the Old and New Testaments, we come to understand the Bible better.
Step Three — Three Ages of Time
The point of this step is this: we must familiarize ourselves with the content of the Bible, and we must follow its history from beginning to end. We must actually read the content of Scripture to understand it better. Otherwise, we may pick up facts here and there and fail to have a comprehension of the wonderful unity of Scripture. Its single theme is to be followed through three vast periods of time — the Patriarchal Age, the Mosaic Age, and the Christian Age.
Step Four — Four Gospels
The four gospels, like four witnesses, testify to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Without any appearance of collusion, these independent witnesses provide accounts of the ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Since they contain the foundation for faith (Jn. 20:30-31), the Gospel accounts need to be read and re-read by Christians regularly. Since the one theme of the Bible is the redemptive work of Christ, how valuable it is to rehearse those events that are the focal point of human history.
Step Five — Five Steps to Salvation
Some characterize the idea of “five steps” in the “plan of salvation” as legalism, calling those who preach it “five-steppers.” No matter how many requirements there might be, the truth is that people must hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17). Individuals are required to believe the gospel of Christ (Jn. 8:24). All men are commanded by God to repent (Acts 17:30). They must confess their faith in Christ, that he is Lord and that God raised him from the dead (Rom. 10:9-10; cf 1 Tim. 6:12; Matt. 10:32-33). And the Lord requires penitent believers to be baptized in water for the forgiveness of sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). According to Ms. Hudson, my first grade teacher, that makes five.
There is no need to be ashamed of what the Lord requires, and anyone who criticizes such demonstrates that he has been influenced by the trends of denominationalism.
Step Six — Six Things God Hates
“Yeah seven!” With this numerical proverb, Solomon indicates that his list is by no means exhaustive (Prov. 6:16-19). But this is the point. It does matter how we live. Even after we become Christians, we must continue to take sin seriously and stop doing anything that the Lord hates.
Step Seven — Seven Churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3 Teach Valuable Lessons
These congregations were all held to the same doctrinal standard. They all belonged to Christ, and there were no different religious brands. The Lord knew what was going on, and he commended their efforts or condemned their sins.
There is only one way to right wrongs — repent and do right. Seeing our individual and collective responsibilities, we learn that understanding the Bible translates into lives and congregations that are pleasing to the Lord. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (Jas. 1:22).