by George M. Bowman
This article is an excerpt from the author's forthcoming book, "Ten Keys to Help You Interpret the Bible"

THE FIRST KEY FOR INTERPRETING and understanding the Bible is the supernatural key. You use this key when you approach the Bible by sincerely believing that it was supernaturally produced and preserved. It was inspired or breathed out by God who used holy men of old to record his words. While these men used their own languages and were influenced by their own cultures, the end product was the eternal, infallible, inerrant, and authoritative Word of the Almighty and all-wise God who created the universe in which we live. Without this recognition of the Bible as a supernatural book one could never learn to rightly interpret what God has said in it.

The human writers of the Bible never wrote as though they were the authors of its 66 books. In every case the author identified God as the divine source of what he was writing. For example, Moses said that his words were "the words that the Lord commanded him" (Exod. 19:7). The author of the books of Kings said that "the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah by the prophets" (II Kings 17:13). The psalmist said that God showed his word to the nation of Israel (147:19). The prophets repeatedly prefaced their remarks by "Thus saith the Lord."

Jesus and the Scriptures

The evidence is overwhelming that the Lord Jesus Christ never questioned the authenticity of the Old Testament as the Word of God. He used the Old Testament as the written authority for his response to Satan's attempts to tempt him. "It is written," he said, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God" (Matt. 4:7).

In the synagogues he visited he read from the scriptures (Luke 4:16).
When confronted by the jealous and hypocritical Pharisees he pointed them to the Old Testament saying, "Have ye not read?" and "Have ye never read?" and "Did ye never read in the scriptures?" (Matt. 19:4; 21:16,42). Referring to the Old Testament in a discussion about the resurrection of the dead, he said, "Have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God" (Matt. 22:31)?

He also encouraged others to read the Scriptures for themselves. "Search the scriptures," he said; "for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39).

The apostles and the Bible

The apostolic writers of the New Testament believed the Old Testament was God's Word and also believed that they themselves were writing words received from God. In the first chapter of his Gospel Luke said that God spoke "by the mouth of his holy prophets which have been since the world began" (1:70). He also said that the things he wrote about "were most surely believed among us"; that he "had perfect understanding of all things from the very first"; and "the certainty of those things"(Luke 1:1-4).

In his rebuke to the disorderly Christians at Corinth the Apostle Paul made this statement: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (I Cor. 14:37).

The Apostle Peter placed the writings of Paul on the same level as the supernaturally inspired and supernaturally preserved Old Testament. He also said that Paul wrote "according to the wisdom given unto him" (II Peter 3:15-16).

Throughout the Bible the human writers described the Bible in words like these: book of the Lord; holy scriptures; the law of the Lord; the oracles of God; scriptures of truth; the sword of the Spirit; the word of God; the word of Christ; the word of life; and word of truth. And these are only a glance at all the internal evidence of the supernatural nature of the Bible. Paul summed up the supernatural inspiration of the Bible when he wrote these words:
"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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:16-17).

Supernatural preservation

The Bible was not only supernaturally produced by the inspiration of God, but it was also supernaturally preserved. Jesus certainly hinted at this when he said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35). He also told his disciples to teach new Christians "to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). He warned people of the onsequential dangers of being ashamed of him and his words (Mark 8:38).

The Apostle spoke of the Bible's supernatural preservation when he spoke of "being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." Then, after saying that all flesh has an ending, he said, "But the word of the Lord endureth forever" (I Peter 1:23-25).

Knowing that the Lord himself guaranteed the supernatural preservation of his word, we can be certain that today we have an almost perfect translation of the original in the Authorized Version of the English Bible. Without doubt it was translated from the original languages of Hebrew and Greek by scholars well known for their godliness and high-level knowledge of those languages.

It would be a futile exercise to attempt an understanding of the Bible without the supernatural key. Unless you truly believe that God supernaturally inspired its writings and supernaturally preserved those writings, you will never be able to rightly interpret or understand God's Word. This is proved over and over by those who say the Bible is difficult to read and understand in spite of the many easy-to-understand passages in the Bible. It is a good idea to know who they are who say the Bible is difficult to read and understand. It could be a big help to you when you run into your own difficulties. Here, then, are the three kinds of people who find great difficulty in reading and understanding the Bible and what causes their problem.

Disinterested unbelievers

The Bible describes the unbeliever and explains why he doesn't understand the Scriptures when it says, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14). It is the supernatural nature of God's Word that prevents the disinterested unbeliever from understanding it.

This simply says that one must be a Christian or spiritual person to understand spiritual truth. Unless one has been supernaturally born again and has been given the ability, desire and will to honestly believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour, he cannot receive or understand the supernatural things of the Spirit of God written in the Bible. Having no spiritual life from God, he perceives the Bible to be nonsense so far as he is concerned. As an unregenerate person he lacks spiritual discernment. Speaking of unbelievers Paul said, "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:11).

And it does not matter how well educated one is: without that supernatural new birth and the gifts of faith and repentance, he will be unable to understand the truths of the Bible. Some years ago I received a vivid example of this principle. Visiting an executive for a large mining company I tried to explain the gospel of Jesus Christ to him. His response proved the Bible to be true when it said that spiritual truth is foolishness or nonsense to unbelievers.

"Utter nonsense!" he said. "What you believe is nothing but utter nonsense!"

Though we talked about the Bible for more than an hour and he admitted he did not know much about the Bible, he persisted in calling the gospel utter nonsense.

It is just as impossible to develop a profitable interest in the Word of God without faith in Christ as it is for an unbeliever to please God. "Without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6).

Disobedient believers

I once saw these words of John Bunyan written in the front of a Bible: "Sin will keep you from this book, or this book will keep you from sin." A believer who persists in living in disobedience to his Lord usually has no interest in opening his Bible. He seldom if ever reads it because he knows that it condemns his way of life. The Christian who wants to go back to the world to enjoy its sinful pleasures, must keep his Bible closed, avoid spiritual conversations with other believers, and never pray. As prayer is essential to profitable Bible study it is no surprise that the disobedient believer says, "The Bible is difficult to read and understand."

Disobedient Christians usually have been deceived or have deceived themselves by the no- Lordship gospel which is not the gospel. They believe they can have Christ as Saviour without acknowledging him as the Lord of their lives. They refuse to believe that God does not justify a sinner without doing a work of sanctification in him. Holiness of life is just as big a part in God's plan to redeem sinners as is the sinner's faith in Christ for salvation. Paul wrote, that God "hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Eph. 1:4).

God's plan of salvation is like a beautiful piece of fabric containing several cross stitched scenes. Those scenes would include the following:
God choosing those he intends to save; the symbolic revelation of that plan in the nation of Israel, its tabernacle, priesthood, animal sacrifices and prophets; the life and death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit calling and regenerating elect sinners making them citizens of the kingdom of God; their response in the gifts of faith and repentance; God freely justifying them on the ground of Christ's sacrifice giving them a title deed to a home in heaven; God legally adopting them into his royal family; the Holy Spirit sanctifying them by setting them apart for holy use and then progressively assisting them to live in holiness to fit them for heaven; and the final picture of the elect at home in heaven with Christ. It is obvious that Christian discipleship is more than professing faith in Christ and listening to sermons each Sunday. "Be ye doers of the Word," says the Bible, "and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22).

The big danger for the professing Christian who fails to see the unity in God's plan of redemption and who habitually disobeys the Lord's commandment to be holy is that he may not be saved at all! Those are sobering words in Hebrews 12:14 where the writer says, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."

Lazy believers

The Apostle Paul commanded the Christians in the city of Thessalonica "that if any would not work, neither should he eat." (II Thess. 3:10). In other words, "Don't feed the lazy!" He obviously thought that the phrase "lazy Christians" was an oxymoron because genuine faith in Christ and laziness simply do not go together. Open the door of your life to deliberate laziness and your faith will go flying out the window. There is no room in the same mind for Christian faith and worldly laziness.

Lazy believers manifest their laziness mostly in spiritual matters.

They will not study the Bible "because it is too difficult to understand," they say. Those who do read the Bible often read it with no plan for studying its contents. In fact, some read it as an uninteresting duty that must be gotten out of the way. The Apostle Peter said Christians should exercise all diligence to add character-building traits to their faith in order to make their calling and election sure. And one of those traits is knowledge of the Scriptures. The others are virtue, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. "He that lacketh these things," said Peter, "is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins" (II Peter 1:5-10).

There is no more pitiful sight than a deliberately lazy Christian who will not avail himself of the spiritual riches in the Word of God. His laziness brings forth blind ignorance of the great truths of Scripture. He is no longer in touch with the glorious prospects of the Christian life such as going to heaven when he dies and he no longer thinks about what Jesus Christ suffered to redeem him from his sins.

"No verse of Scripture," said Bible teacher and author Arthur W. Pink, "yields its meaning to lazy people."

Bible study should be a daily activity that the believer enjoys for his whole life. It is a tried and proved fact that the more one believes and obeys Christ and studies the Bible the more understanding of the Bible he will attain. Paul knew what he was talking about when he said, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing [or explaining] the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15).

Did you know that, if you are an average reader, you can read the whole Bible in a little over 60 hours? To read it once through in a year you need only read about 10 or 15 minutes a day! Spend 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night reading God's Word and you will go through it twice a year! But do not be satisfied with merely reading the Bible. Become a diligent student of the Word by learning how interpret it.

These, then, are the three kinds of people who say it is difficult to read and understand the Bible: The unbeliever cannot understand it because of his unbelief and lack of interest. The disobedient Christian will not understand it because of his disobedience to Christ. The lazy Christian refuses to understand it because of his deliberate laziness.

The supernatural key to interpret and understand the Bible, then, is a sincere belief in the supernatural inspiration and preservation of God's Word and the fact that it cannot be rightly understood by those who have never been supernaturally born again, by Christians living in deliberate disobedience, and by Christians who are too lazy to study the Bible. May our gracious God give you the great joy that comes from using the supernatural key to open his Word and from being familiar with the Bible's doctrines of sovereign grace.


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