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How to understand the Bible

Shortly after his resurrection, Jesus talked with two of his disciples who were unable to understand the meaning of his crucifixion. It is recorded in Luke 24 that he...

"opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day." (Luke 24:45-46).

The apostle Paul spoke of the same matter when he said that the death and resurrection of Christ happened "according to the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). The apostle Peter also remarks that the Old Testament prophets, by the Spirit of God, "testified before hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter 1:10,11). When Paul testified before King Agrippa he told him that his preaching of the gospel was by...

"saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead" (Acts 26:22,23).

It is evident, therefore, that, to understand the death and resurrection of Jesus, it is essential to understand what the Old Testament has to say about them. And, by a careful reading of the New Testament, it will become clear that this is so with very many of the doctrines about which it speaks. Clearly, then, in our attempt to understand Christian teaching we must not discard the Old Testament, but rather use it in conjunction with the New Testament. This will enable us to obtain a true picture of the whole Bible and so be the better equipped to understand it.

The Old and New Testaments in areement

When, in due course, the New Testament was written it was in complete agreement with the Old Testament. Let us take one brief example. We have just drawn attention to the resurrection of Christ and, in Acts 17:31, Paul states that God intends this to be an assurance to all men that...

"He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness" by the resurrected Christ, and that this is the reason why God "now commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:31).

Psalms 96 to 99 refer to "judging the earth in righteousness" and both the Old and New Testaments speak of the Lord Jesus returning to the earth to bring peace. Jeremiah 3:17 and Isaiah 2:1-4 inform us that he will do this by reigning over the nations from Jerusalem. Only those who truly understand these things and worship the God who proclaimed them, will benefit from the blessings that ensue.

God long ago made known His purpose when He declared,

"As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord" (Numbers 14:21).

He reinforced this by saying that He is the only God and that therefore there cannot be any alternative to this divinely attested programme.

"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me, every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear" (Isaiah 45:22-23).

Those "redeemed by the blood of Jesus (ie. those saved by his crucifixion by being obedient to the Word of God) out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation", will then be made "kings and priests" to "reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:9,10). This is why faithful Christians, who understand these things, know what is involved in the Lord's prayer - "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth."

Search the scriptures

These matters being so clearly evident in the writings of both the Old and the New Testaments, how futile it is, to believe, for example, that we go to heaven when we die. Nowhere is this taught in the Bible, and such an idea is totally inconsistent with the Bible message. How vital it is to follow the example of some who, having heard certain things in the name of religion, "searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so", and were prepared to "receive the Word with all readiness of mind" (Acts 17:11). By this kind of application, it will become a fairly simple exercise to understand the Bible and to benefit eternally from its message.

"The entrance of thy words giveth light ; it giveth light to the simple" (Psalm 119:130).


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