How to Understand the Bible
How to Understand the Bible
¬ Introduction
¬ Thoughts to Consider About the Bible
¬ First Key: Ask for God's Help With a Proper Attitude
¬ Marking Your Bible
¬ Second Key: Obedience Brings Understanding
¬ Third Key: Accept the Inspiration of All the Bible
¬ Are There Mistakes in the King James Version?
¬ Seven Keys to Understanding the Scriptures
¬ Fourth Key: Consider the Context
¬ Fifth Key: Consider All the Scriptures on the Subject
¬ Comparing Texts: What Was Written on the Cross?
¬ Sixth Key: Use Bible Helps Properly
¬ Computer Bible Helps
¬ Seventh Key: We Need the Guidance of God's Church
From the publisher of The Good News magazine.
How to Understand the Bible
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Third Key: Accept the Inspiration of All the Bible

The third key involves the way we view the Scriptures. To understand them, we must accept the authority over us of all the Bible. All the books of the Bible—in both the Old and New Testaments—are inspired by God.

God assures us that we can absolutely trust the Holy Scriptures. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," wrote Paul, "and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

This is a powerful statement. It means we can confidently accept the Bible, as originally written, as the inspired and infallible Word of God. What we have handed down to us are various versions and differing translations, none of which is free of occasional human error. Therefore, a comparison among the versions is helpful (See "Use Bible Helps Properly").

We can rest assured that the differences are minimal among the major versions that are faithfully based on the Hebrew and Greek texts. Many ancient copies have been used to ferret out almost all mistakes introduced through copying the text over the centuries. Basic truths are faithfully preserved.

What evidence do we have that all the Bible is inspired by God? That is an important question. If the Bible were just another religious book written thousands of years ago, why would we need it? After all, we have plenty of those already available, and new books on religion appear almost every day. What makes the Bible one of a kind is its consistency. Its underlying principles have never changed throughout the 1,500 years of its creation.

Some 40 authors composed the various books of the Bible over the centuries, and only a few of its writers personally knew any of the others. Yet a continual unity of thought is obvious in their writings. The religious writings that form the bases for other religions and philosophies are imperfect. They contain both easily identifiable doctrinal and historical errors and inconsistencies.

Only the Bible has held up under centuries of scrutiny from historians, critics and the archaeologist's spade. Unparalleled in the history of literature, the Bible has proved reliable in ways unmatched by other books.

Gleason Archer, a scholar of biblical studies and languages of recent years, writes about attributes of the Bible: "As I have dealt with one apparent discrepancy after another and have studied the alleged contradictions between the biblical record and the evidence of linguistics, archaeology, or science, my confidence in the trustworthiness of Scripture has been repeatedly verified and strengthened by the discovery that almost every problem in Scripture that has ever been discovered by man, from ancient times until now, has been dealt with in a completely satisfactory manner by the biblical text itself—or else by objective archaeological information" (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1982, p. 12).

Not only is the Bible historically accurate, but its unifying principles are found from the beginning to the end of the Scriptures. Faith, for example, is one of those unifying principles. Back in Genesis 4, at the beginning of human history, we see the faith of Abel, who paid for his faith with his life. Throughout the centuries of the biblical record, this same faith is to be found in the trials of Noah, Abraham, Moses and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself, the apostles and the members of the early Church.

A New Testament chapter, Hebrews 11, shows that for thousands of years a unity of thought was based on the principle of faith. Therefore, when reading the Bible we need to keep in mind the unity of its spiritual principles. Whether we're studying a narrative, a hymn, an apostolic letter or the four Gospels, we find that all are connected to the same underlying principles inspired by God. If left to the devices of fallible men, the contradictions in its principles would long ago have been exposed—as they have been in most of man's writings. Many views and interpretations about what the Bible says are contradictory. But none of these sectarian opinions affects the integrity of the Scriptures themselves.

God's commandments are another example of a unifying principle. His laws form the backbone of Scripture, the basis for God's relationship with mankind. They begin in Genesis, where basic principles are revealed, and are expanded throughout the rest of the Bible. In the last chapter of the final book, Revelation, we read, "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14).

God's commandments do not change from the beginning to the end of the Bible, even though they are amplified in the New Testament. The same author, God, inspired all of the Scriptures.

Jesus Christ mentioned the principle that Scripture is built on the framework of the commandments of God. He explained in Matthew 22:37-40 the two greatest scriptural and spiritual principles. One covers the First through the Fourth Commandments, and the second deals with the Fifth through the Tenth. Jesus quoted: " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." These two great principles, said Jesus, form the foundation of all of God's laws.

Another example of biblical unity of thought is found in the genealogies listed throughout the Bible. Some think they are only a remnant of history and of little worth. Yet these genealogies, in Genesis 5 and 10 and 1 Chronicles 1-9, form the basis for the lineage of New Testament figures, including Jesus Christ in Matthew 1 and Luke 3.

They depict Christ not as a legendary figure, but descended from Old Testament personalities whose existence can be verified. Historical and archaeological evidence has confirmed the existence of many of Jesus' ancestors, giving credence to the prophecies about Jesus' descent from Abraham (Genesis 12:7; Galatians 3:16) and David (Matthew 1:1). Genealogies thus serve as historical guideposts for the existence of Jesus Christ.

Although many Bible writers lived centuries apart and didn't necessarily realize they were writing words that would become part of Scripture, God saw to it that their writings fit with the rest of Scripture, carefully intertwined according to His will and purpose.

Yes, the Bible contains history, genealogies, poetry, letters, prophecies and symbols, but they were all inspired by the same infallible God, and each section is a part of a greater whole. Christ Himself said that "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). God does not contradict Himself.

This is one of the main reasons, in spite of countless attempts to destroy it, that the Bible is still with us after many thousands of years. It will survive as long as mankind is on earth, and it is intended for our reading and understanding. As Paul mentions: "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4). Christ stated that His words in the Bible would be preserved: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away" (Matthew 24:35).

The principle of the inspiration of the Bible means that our beliefs must be brought in line with and conform to Scripture, which consistently conforms to its own principles. God does not make mistakes; He does not contradict Himself. We see in the Bible an intricate interweaving of God's truths and the revelation of His plan from beginning to end.

The apostle Peter said of the inspiration of the Hebrew prophets: "Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you . . . To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:10-12). All Scripture is unified, clearly manifesting divine inspiration.

He explains further, in 2 Peter 1:20-21, that "no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." God's Spirit is the guiding force behind the Scriptures.

As early as Peter's time some were already twisting parts of the Old and New Testament writings to their own folly. "Therefore, beloved," Peter warned, ". . . be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:14-16).

As quoted earlier, Paul instructed fellow minister Timothy that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

At that time, before the books of the New Testament had been canonized or portions of it had even been written, the "Scripture" to which Paul referred was the Hebrew Bible, what we commonly call the Old Testament. For several decades in the early Church, this was the only Bible extant.

Accepting only a part of the Scriptures as a basis for faith has resulted in literally hundreds of denominations with contradictory beliefs. Yet, if we do justice to what the Bible says, all Scripture should be respected and believed, from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus told us to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4). We should rely on Scripture, and not man's ideas, to explain God's truths.

It's one thing to view the Bible as a mere collection of stories. It's quite another to accept it as an inspired body of unifying and related instructions, history and illustrations. The Bible is full of examples of people like us whose lives illustrate their obedience or disobedience to the principles of God.

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