The Secret To Reading The Bible

All of life can be simplified (perhaps oversimplified) into two categories: faith and desires. Life is about what/who we believe in and what/who we desire. You will live for what/who you believe is true and what/who you desire as valuable.

So, when the Holy Spirit works on our hearts and minds, he is working to enable faith and new desires. The primary tool by which the Holy Spirit accomplishes this is the Bible. As we read the Bible, the Holy Spirit testifies in our minds, “This Word is true” and in our hearts, “This Word is good.”

Therefore, the way that we position ourselves to be renewed by the Holy Spirit is to carefully and to prayerfully read the Bible. This is the task of the local church: to equip the people in the pews to read, understand, believe, rejoice in, and obey God’s holy Word.

I have witnessed the Holy Spirit supernaturally give faith, joy, and heart-felt obedience to people who did not possess any knowledge or understanding of the Bible. God is not bound nor is he constrained by anything. However, if a fire is started with a single log, that flame will burn hot, but it will eventually burn out unless you throw more logs onto the fire. So it is with faith, joy, and obedience: those traits will grow cold and eventually disappear without the daily reading and understanding of God’s Word.

What, then, is the secret to reading and understanding Scripture? There is no secret! The words, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and books of the biblical text are clear and sufficient. Our task is to carefully and prayerfully read the text in order to gain understanding.

Do not be intimidated by this task. Do not fear as you gaze into the biblical landscape. You do not look into an abyss of nothingness like Nietzsche. You look into the world of our knowable and gracious God. The very existence of the Bible is evidence that God is near to you and that he desires for you to draw near to him. Take him at his Word.

So, for the remainder of this article, I will try to show simple ways to read and draw understanding from the Bible, using the text of Hebrews 7:26-28 as an example. The text reads as follows in the English Standard Version:

“For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.”

Let’s assume that you have been reading the book of Hebrews from 1:1 all the way to 7:25. Now, the word “For” in verse 26 is meant to connect what has already been said to what will be said. The question for the Bible reader is, “How does ‘for’ connect what has been said to what will be said?” What will “for” reveal to us and uncover for us?

Now we see it. The goal of this coordinating conjunction is to show us why all of these things we have seen in the previous unit (Hebrews 6:13-7:25) are fitting or necessary. In order that we are not confused, the remainder of the clause summarizes the point of 6:13-7:25.

So, the goal of “for” is to justify why Jesus is our high priest. In other words, verses 26-28 are meant to show us why it is fitting that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is our truer and better priest unto God.

The second part of verse 26 emphasizes the qualities of Jesus that make it fitting that he is our high priest. Notice the 5 attributes used to describe him:

Each one of these 5 adjectives/qualities can be the source of immense study and prayerful reflection. Jesus’ nature and character is equated in these verses to the very nature of God (Hebrews 1:3). He is fitting as our high priest because he is God. His ministry as our high priest is as much a declaration that he is God as the calming of the storm (Luke 8:25).

Verse 27 offers a second reason why Jesus is fitting as our high priest: Jesus and his ministry is greater than the priests of old and their ministry. Notice that verse 27 does not begin with a conjunction and continues with the same subject: “He.” So, verse 27 builds on the fittingness of Jesus as our high priest.

So, what is being argued here? My attempt in spacing out the verse as shown above and the arrows and dotted lines is to show how this verse contrasts the limited ministry of Levitical priests with the limitless ministry of Jesus.  Notice the parallels and contrasts between Jesus’ priesthood and their priesthood. He has no need, like them. They offered animal sacrifices daily, whereas Jesus offered himself once for all.

When we see the contrast and the supremacy of Jesus’ priesthood, it leads us to leave behind any form of religion that calls us to place our trust in human beings or human traditions. We do not have confidence in earthly priests and earthly ministries. We have confidence in our high priest who has passed through the heavens (Hebrews 4:14-16).

In verse 26 it was argued that Jesus possesses divine qualities. In verse 27 it was argued that Jesus has a superior ministry. Finally, in verse 28, it is argued that his priesthood is fitting because it is secured by a better promise.

Notice again, how verse 28 parallels and contrasts in order to make this point:

Verse 28 is broken into 2 main clauses. Both clauses possess what I am calling a ‘source.’ The first clause identifies the source of the law, that is; the law of Moses. And what does this law do, what is its ‘action?’ The law appoints men. And how does the first clause qualify these men who serve as priests? They are weak. How foolish it is to put our hope and confidence in the weakness of man! Yet, we are tempted to put our hope in the things of man (Revelation 13:18).

Notice the second clause begins with, “But.” This conjunction lets us know that the second clause will contrast with the first clause just like in verse 27. But the word of the oath (Hebrews 7:20-21) is not like the law. The law appoints men in their weakness, but God’s oath/promise appoints a Son, and this Son is anything but weak! He has been made perfect forever – that is, his appointment is forever by the power of an indestructible life (7:16).

These verses contrast the temporary and weak ministry of man with the eternal and powerful ministry of the Son of God. His divine qualities (26), his superior ministry (27) secured by a better promise (28), make Jesus a fitting high priest for God’s people.

This only scratches the surface of what this passage reveals about Jesus, God’s plans and purposes, and the power to follow him in obedience. My point is to show how clear and understandable the text of Scripture is. We will reap in understanding what we sow in careful and prayerful reading.  

So, do not be intimidated to dive into the Bible. Do not fear misinterpreting it. Read it carefully and prayerfully, knowing that the Spirit of God, our great Interpreter, is glad to guide you and lead you into the truth (John 16:13).