You Can Understand the Bible has been prepared to encourage people to study and understand the Bible for themselves. Sometimes it’s easy to think that only those who are skilled and well-trained can understand the Bible. But we must never forget that “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21, NKJV). We believe the same Holy Spirit can instruct us in all that we need to know to understand the Bible better.
“Search its pages for yourselves. The knowledge of God is not to be gained without mental effort, without prayer for wisdom.”1
The material in You Can Understand the Bible is not original. Some of it has been gathered over many years from a variety of sources. I am grateful for what others have liberally shared with me, verbally and in writing. I now want to share some of these joys of Bible study with you.
You can understand the Bible
• It was written for the average person. “Every child of God should be intelligent in the Scriptures, and able, by tracing the fulfillment of prophecy, to show our position in this world’s history. The Bible was written for the common people as well as for scholars, and is within the comprehension of all.”2
• It is understood through personal examination. “We have the truth brought out in publications, but it is not enough to rely upon other men’s thoughts. We must examine for ourselves, and learn the reasons of our faith by comparing scripture with scripture. Take the Bible, and on your knees, plead with God to enlighten your mind. If we would study the Bible diligently and prayerfully every day, we should every day see some beautiful truth in a new, clear, and forcible light.”3
• Time and effort are needed to study it effectively. “It is proper and right to read the Bible; but your duty does not end there, for you are to search its pages for yourselves. The knowledge of God is not to be gained without mental effort, without prayer for wisdom in order that you may separate from the pure grain of truth the chaff with which men and Satan have misrepresented the doctrines of truth.”4
“The Bible is its own expositor. Scripture is to be compared with scripture.”5
• View the Bible as a whole. “The student should learn to view the Word as a whole, and see the relation of its parts.”
• Keep in mind its central theme. “He should gain a knowledge of its grand central theme, of God’s original purpose for the world, of the rise of the great controversy, and of the work of redemption.”
• Understand the battle between good and evil. “He should understand the nature of the two principles that are contending for supremacy, and should learn to trace their workings through the records of history and prophecy to the great consummation.”
• Grasp the importance of the Great Controversy and how it impacts the human experience. “He should see how the controversy enters into every phase of human experience: how in every act of life he himself reveals the one or the other of the two antagonistic motives; and how, whether he will or not, he is even now deciding upon which side of the controversy he will be found.”6
A biblical foundation
• “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they that testify of Me” (John 5:39). “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).
• “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your Word. . . . Your Word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11). “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Our prayer should be: “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:9).
• Read to learn something new every day. “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). “Every day you should learn something new from the Scriptures. Search them as for hidden treasures, for they contain the words of eternal life. Pray for wisdom and understanding to comprehend these holy writings. If you would find new glories in the Word of God; you would feel that you had received new and precious light on subjects connected with the truth, and the Scriptures would be constantly receiving a new value in your estimation.”7
• Read each verse for all its worth. “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Isaiah. 28:10). “In daily study the verse-by-verse method is often most helpful. Let the student take one verse, and concentrate the mind on ascertaining the thought that God has put into that verse for him, and then dwell upon the thought until it becomes his own. One passage thus studied until its significance is clear is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view, and no positive instruction gained.”8
• Take your time when you read. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed” (1 Timothy 3:16, 17, Good News). “The prayer of Christ for His disciples was, ‘Sanctify them through my truth: Thy word is truth.’ If we are to be sanctified through a knowledge of the truth found in the Word of God, we must search the Scriptures, not merely rush through a chapter and repeat it, taking no pains to understand it, but we must dig for the jewel of truth which will enrich the mind, and fortify the soul against the wiles of temptations of the archdeceiver.”9
• Cultivate a love for scripture by reading it. “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). “When a real love for the Bible is awakened, and the student begins to see how vast is the field and how precious its treasure, he will desire to seize upon every opportunity for acquainting himself with God’s Word. Its study will be restricted to no special time or place. And this continuous study is one of the best means of cultivating a love for Scripture. Let the student keep his Bible always with him and, as he has opportunity, read a text and meditate upon it. While walking on the streets, waiting at a railway station, waiting to meet an engagement, let him improve the opportunity to gain some precious thoughts from the treasure house of truth.”10
• Remember its central message. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). “But above all else, the Word of God sets forth the plan of salvation, shows how sinful man may be reconciled to God, lays down the great principles of truth and duty which should govern our lives, and promises us divine aid in their observance. It reaches beyond this fleeting life, beyond the brief and troubled history of our race. It opens to our view the long vista of eternal ages—ages undarkened by sin, undimmed by sorrow.”11
• Apply yourself to learn all that the Bible has to offer. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). “The Word of God is to us a tree of life. Every portion of the Scripture has its use. In every part of the Word is some lesson to be learned. Then learn how to study your Bible. This book is not a heap of odds and ends. It is an educator. Your thoughts must be called into exercise before you can be really benefited by Bible study. Spiritual sinew and muscle must be brought to bear upon the words of Christ. He will enlighten the mind and guide the research.”12
• Read it to be challenged and changed. “And they said one to another, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:32). “I would impress upon all the fact that a casual reading of the Scriptures is not enough. We must search, and this means doing all that the word implies.”13
• God promises to help us understand it. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). “The student of the Bible should be taught to approach it in the spirit of a learner. We are to search its pages, not for proof to sustain our opinion, but in order to know what God says. A true knowledge of the Bible can be gained only through the aid of that Spirit by whom the Word was given. And in order to gain this knowledge, we must live by it. All that God’s Word commands, we are to obey. All that is promised, we can claim. The life which it enjoins is the life that, through its power, we are to live. Only as the Bible is thus held can it be studied effectively.”14 “You should strive earnestly in your investigations to aim at nothing less than a thorough knowledge of every point of truth, that you may not be found in the day of God among those who have not lived by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”15
This article is excerpted and adapted from the practical resource, You Can Understand the Bible, by Fernon Retzer & Mike Speegle. The entire book is available for purchase at <www.ministerialassociation.com>
Books by Ellen G. White
1. Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 307.
2. Counsels for Sabbath School Workers, p. 23.
4. Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 307.
5. Education, p. 190.
7. My Life Today, p. 22.
8. Education, p. 188.
9. Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 10.
10. Counsels to Teachers, p. 463.
11. My Life Today, p. 22.
12. The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 989.
13. Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 307.
14. Education, p. 188.
15. Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 32
Fernon Retzer and Mike Speegle