How to Understand the Bible – 5 Helpful Tips

You may already have a routine and know how to read the Bible daily. Maybe you’ve gone through some guided Bible studies with groups at your church. That’s awesome!  However, an important component of our spiritual growth is knowing how to understand the Bible for ourselves

Some of my favorite moments with the Lord are during my own personal Bible study time when the Lord gives me a deeper understanding of His Word. Just Him and I.

I love using the inductive method of Bible study. It consists of a 3-step process of Observation, Interpretation, and Application. 

The second step (interpretation) is all about gaining an accurate understanding of the Biblical passage you are studying.

Think of it as being on an airplane. If you were to look out the window while the plane was still at a high elevation, everything below looks small. It may be hard to determine the landscape and the structures. As the plane begins its descent you begin to see more clearly. Then, as it descends even further and you are able to see even more details. 

This is how the first two steps of the Inductive Bible Study process work. Reading and observing the text helps us to see the big picture. Then, we can begin to dive deeper into the passage we are studying as we discover its meaning and gain more understanding. 

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Why You Need to Know How to Understand the Bible

We must know how to accurately interpret and understand the Bible so we can apply it appropriately. If we do not have a right understanding of God’s truth we cannot correctly order our lives according to it. 

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” Psalm 86:11

5 Tips to Help You Understand God’s Word

There are a few tips that can help you understand the scriptures as you study them.

1. Look for the Original Meaning

There is one original meaning that the author had in mind as they were writing the book. This is the interpretation we are looking for. Sometimes, the meaning is clear. Other times it is not. When it’s not, don’t try to force an interpretation just for the sake of understanding. 

I have found that God’s revelation of His word is sometimes progressive. What doesn’t seem clear now may become clear in the future days, weeks, and even years of faithful study. If you don’t understand a concept it’s ok to say, “I don’t know”. 

2. Determine the Type of Literature

It’s important to determine the type of literature you are studying. Different books of the Bible are written in different styles which determines how they should be studied. For example, you will find more metaphors in poetical and prophetic literature than in Historical literature. So make sure you interpret passages of scripture according to its type of literature.

  • Historical – ex: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles
  • Poetic – ex: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes 
  • Prophetic – ex: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Revelation
  • Gospel – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
  • Epistle: – ex: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy

3. Understand the Context of the Bible Passage

In order to interpret scripture correctly, you need to know how to understand the bible in it’s context. Is your interpretation of a particular passage consistent with the theme of the book in which it’s found? Also, is it consistent with the full counsel of God’s Word? If it seems to contradict another passage of scripture in the Bible, that should be a signal to study further. 

This brings us to the next point…

4. Bible Contradictions Do Not Exist

Scripture does not contradict scripture. If there appears to be a contradiction between two passages in the bible, the error is within our understanding of the scriptures. 

2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is God-breathed. Therefore, there cannot be contradictions in the Bible because God does not contradict Himself. Keep studying and asking the Lord for clarity. 

5. Pray for Understanding of the Scriptures

One of the greatest spiritual growth tools we have been given is prayer. Prayer is what connects God’s kingdom resources to our circumstances. If you are having a hard time knowing how to understand specific scriptures, ask God to give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in your knowledge of Him. This is the kind of prayer He loves to answer!

Tools to Help You Understand the Bible

Let’s look at some practical ways you can interpret the bible for yourself. My favorite study tool is Blue Letter Bible, which can be used online or in their app. This tool can be used to for word studies and looking up cross-references. 

Do Word Studies

A biblical word study is simply taking the keywords that you identified in the observation step, and looking at their definition in the original language. You can also look at other passages where the specific word was used.

Cross-Reference Related Passages

When you are seeking to understand a certain passage, it’s always good to consider the full counsel of God’s Word. Cross-reference other verses that relate to that scripture you are studying. This is a great way to help bring more clarity to difficult passages.

Related Video Tutorial: Using Blue Letter Bible for Word Studies and Cross-Referencing

Consult Good Bible Commentaries

Commentaries are a great tool when used at the right time. 

Puh-lease do not go to your commentaries too early! 

There is such an amazing joy that comes when you discover truth for yourself. If you look to outside sources prior to your own diligent study, you rob yourself of this joy.

However, commentaries are great in helping us check our interpretation. If our understanding of a passage deviates substantially from trusted commentaries, it may be appropriate to reconsider our interpretation. 

How to Understand the Bible for Yourself

You Can Know How to Understand the Bible

Knowing how to understand the Bible for ourselves can seem like a daunting task. I get it.

Let me encourage you to apply these principles to your own personal Bible study time. The Lord wants us to search out His truth. He will bless and honor your diligence to know Him more. He has given you the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit is a great teacher and will lead you into Truth!

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2 thoughts on “How to Understand the Bible – 5 Helpful Tips”

  1. Hi Megan~I have been blogging for a little over a year. Your encouragement to study the Word is wonderful! I always pray for discernment and for the Holy Spirit to open up my understanding. Thank you so much. I will look into the blue letter app. Blessings on your ministry!!

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