How to Understand Scripture – Part 1

“Hermeneutics”.  Now there’s a big word with very little appeal!  In today’s day and age, we like to have our learning accomplished by taking in 15 second media bites delivered through our smartphones.  Not only that, we also want those media bites to be easy to understand so we don’t have to spend any more time thinking about them.  We want our information delivered fast, convenient and seasoned just how we like it.  I understand completely, and fall into this modern trap all too often myself.  But when it comes to learning about our Lord we can’t be this way.  The only way to learn of Him is to read Scripture for ourselves, and when reading, be able to understand it.  This study of how to read the text and understand it is called “hermeneutics” and it has become a lost art in today’s modern world.  The reason for this is that not only have we been trained to avoid books and prefer to take in 30 second info-snippets, but we’ve also already been taught how to read and understand Scripture, so we think we’re doing it right already.  The truth of the matter, however, is most of us aren’t doing it right – and that’s a hard sell!  Most folks firmly believe that while others might be reading Scripture wrong, they are doing it right.  You might be thinking this now (Are you? Be honest!)

To kick off the year, I’ll be making a series of posts on how to understand Scripture.  I’ll try to keep them fairly short and to the point although I don’t think they’ll fit into the 15 second range.  I highly encourage you to read them!!!  It’s my opinion that the vast majority of professing believers have been taught to read themselves into Scripture without even realizing they’re doing it.  And while that may be the most prevalent problem, it certainly isn’t the only one! What does it mean to read yourself into Scripture?  Well, I guess you’ll have to read the posts to find out!  If you can’t wait for the series I put the whole teaching below as a PDF file entitled “Compass”.  Feel free to click on it and read it in its’ entirety.  So without further ado, let’s get started…

CompassResetting The Biblical Compass

This post was given its’ name for a reason. Most folks who are Christian were either raised in a Christian environment of some kind or have heard a lot of different teachings about the Bible throughout the years. Because of that, their “compass”, the tool we use to find our way, has had lots of adjustments. If you are like most people, some of those adjustments have been good and some have been bad. To truly follow Jesus we must read what He left us and understand it. After all, if we can’t read the map, how will we get where we want to go? To understand Scripture we need to recalibrate, or reset, our view of it. When we read the Bible the way it’s meant to be read we find ourselves understanding it a LOT better than when we just bumble along.[1]  However, if you have no experience reading the Bible, don’t worry! This chapter will apply to you just as well. The whole idea is to start reading it the way God intends.

That being said, let’s think about our compass analogy for a moment before starting. How familiar are you with what a compass is and what it’s used for? I know these days the GPS has replaced the compass for everyday use, but I think it can still be said that the compass is the most basic and fundamental tool used for navigation. If we were in the wild it’s how we would find our way. Without tools like this, traveling can be frustrating and even intimidating. Likewise, reading the Bible can feel like traveling in the wild or in an unfamiliar land without a GPS or compass. While anyone can pick up a Bible and read it, maybe even learn a bit of truth or an insight, many will often set it back down with the feeling that there are some deeper truths or lofty principles being discussed that just can’t be understood. Have you had this happen?

Have you found that while you can “get to a few places” in your Biblical travels, there is often a sense that you are missing out on an awful lot? But without navigational help, much of the rich countryside and high roads are unreachable. It doesn’t have to be that way – Don’t panic! Help is available!

In this small article, you will find a few simple guidelines or “rules of the road” to keep in mind when reading Scripture. Think of these rules as a compass to give you direction in your travels. Some of these rules used to be commonly known and taught to Christian children in past centuries but in these modern times have fallen by the wayside. Even if you’ve been reading the Bible your whole life, I beg of you to take just a few minutes to review these tips. Keeping them in mind while reading will open your eyes to many incredible truths in Scripture.

The Bible was written by our creator, the One who loved us enough to humble Himself and become human in order to suffer and die on our behalf. Should we not make every effort to understand the Words that He has inscribed for all time? In order to do that, we must read the Bible correctly. I’m convinced that to properly read and understand Scripture, one must possess five things:

1.    A proper understanding of the Law of God

2.     An understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

3.     Awareness that Christ is the focus of both Testaments, New & Old

4.    A heavy respect for the context of every passage

5.    A gritty determination to never break the “choose-lose” rule

Once you understand and adopt these few simple rules, the Bible will become much easier to comprehend and apply. They will also make reading Scripture rewarding and even enjoyable. This is important! When Scripture is vague and confusing, reading it becomes a chore, with guilt often being the motivation for our reading. But when the truths of God’s Word are clearly understood by His children, they are amazing and satisfying to the soul!

I’ve been told that many people do a better job of remembering things if they have an acronym to keep in their minds. I’m not the most clever person out there but here is one that I came up with that represents our rules of the road, I hope it helps:


God’s Law – know it well!

Understand the Gospel

Always look for Christ

Respect the context

Determine now not to choose (or you lose)

Try to keep this little memory tool in mind as you read Scripture and I’m confident it will help you in some of the more confusing places. Properly understanding Scripture is as vital to your soul as oxygen is to your body. Also, understanding how the Bible should be read will greatly sharpen your discernment. Whether listening to a sermon on the radio or reading a Christian book, knowing the essentials of the Biblical compass will help you quickly identify if a teacher is taking a passage and heading off in a wrong or even dangerous direction. Because false teachings bring confusion and pain, learning to identify and avoid them is extremely important! So, are you ready? Do you see why it’s important to have a “compass” to navigate the Scriptures? If so, let’s begin… Watch for the next post in this series!!  🙂

Note: All Scripture quoted in this series will be out of the ESV or NLT translations.

Read the entire teaching as a whole by downloading the PDF HERE

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3 Comments on “How to Understand Scripture – Part 1”

  1. Eliza Says:

    If one does not have the Holy Spirit it will be impossible to understand the Word of God because it is a spiritually discerned book! However, God is good to His own and allows us to believe and understand what He has given to us for our edification and devotion to Him. God bless you:) Thank you for wanting to encourage others in reading and believing the Bible.


  2. Joe D'Angelo Says:

    You cannot “respect” the Word of God until you first belief that the Word of God is the infallible and inspired wirings of God by His Holy Spirit through men.


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