First Bible Reading: Acts 8.26-39 April 10, 2016
Second Bible Readings: Luke 24.44-49; John 14.16-18 & 16.12-15
Who Will Help Me Understand the Bible?
Introduction: Have you ever read a mystery story and wanted to ask the author how and why he or she made up the story? Or have you read a book that you didn’t understand, and wanted to ask the author to explain it to you? That happened to me when we read to our boys the Narnia Chronicles, by C.S. Lewis. The stories were filled with strange talking animals, and most of them we could not figure out, like Reepicheep the little belligerent mouse, always swinging his sword ready to defend his friends against their enemies. We, of course, knew who was Aslan, the powerful Lion, a representative of the Lion of Judah, Jesus, but who was Reepicheep, that feisty little mouse? I wanted to talk to C.S. Lewis about it, but alas, I could not. C.S. Lewis was not available to me.
Now, some of us have the same problem with the Bible. There are a lot of things we don’t understand, and we need somebody to explain it to us to help us understand the Bible. Who can help us? There are three basic sources from which we can get help in understanding the Bible.
- The most obvious source is the Author, Himself. God Himself is the Author of His Word.
After all, the Bible is called the Word of God, and He through the Holy Spirit is the Author as II Peter 1.20-21 tells us, (Read). The Spirit of the LORD “moved” or “carried along” the prophets in what they proclaimed and wrote, without violating their personalities and experiences.
- God, Himself is the Author of Scripture, which we appropriately call “The Word of God”. And, in the N.T., although God Himself is invisible, we are not left without witness to Him, as John 1.18 says, (Read). The next step is found in Matt. 11.27, (Read). So Jesus is the key to understanding God, the Author of this Book!
- Now, let us look at an occasion when Jesus did this very thing, he opened the Scriptures to the disciples and explained it to them, in Luke 24.31-32 & 44-49 (already read). Here were the disciples, totally dumbfounded and amazed by what they saw, a dead man with mortal wounds in his hands and side, eating fish with them and talking to them in their midst. All they could think was, “We need an explanation for all this!” And, there was Jesus, opening the Scripture and explaining it to them.
C Now, at the end of Luke 24.49, there is a promise to the disciples that after Jesus leaves them, he will send another Counselor, or helper, the Holy Spirit, who will help them as Jesus did in the days of his flesh. That is our problem today, in Murphy, NC, in the 21st Century. Jesus is no longer with us physically to open the Scripture and help us understand. In John 14.16-18 & 16.12-15 (already read), Jesus tells us how the Holy Spirit helps us understand all that went on between Him and his disciples. How do you think that the Gospel writers could recall everythingl they wrote in the four Gospels? They depended on the Holy Spirit to “…bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16.15). So, when you read the Bible, begin by asking the Holy Spirit in prayer to help you understand it.
- That is how God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit will help you and me to understand our Bibles! Now, what is our part? We have to help ourselves. We have to avail ourselves to the Holy Spirit, or in computer language, we have to know how to “log on” to the influence of the Holy Spirit.
- The very first step of coming under the influence of the Holy Spirit is found in Ephesians 1.13: (Read). Once you surrender your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, and follow Him in faith, you are sealed in and by the Holy Spirit. The next step is to recognize that you have been transformed inwardly and spiritually, in the words of I Cor. 2.10-14, (Read) so that what Jesus said in John 14.17 becomes a reality in your life. Once you are a yielded follower of Jesus, there is a spiritual continental divide between you and the non-believing world! You can not only “log on” to the influence of the Holy Spirit, but you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to discern the very Word of God. So, again, every time you open your Bible to read it, ask God’s Spirit to help you understand it.
- Secondly, do not be intimidated by not being a so-called “intellectual”. Remember what Jesus said in Matt. 11.25-26? “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” And this is what Paul said about the church in Corinth, a very sophisticated city, “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…He chose the lowly things of this world, the despised things …..so that no one could boast.” (I Cor. 1.26-29). We all know people who have very little beyond basic education who are wise spiritually.
- Finally, we do have to work hard on our own to study, examine and honor the Scripture with our own commitment to obey them. Our study of the Bible must be matched with the will to do what the Scripture instructs us to do. Jesus said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or (as The Message says), or whether I am making it up.” Matthew reports Jesus as saying that a lack of understanding the Word of God is not a problem of the eyes or the ears, but a problem of the heart (Matt. 13.15). You cannot “speed-read” the Bible. You have to spend time with it, struggle with it; immerse yourself in it. And your heart has to be ready to obey it!
- Now, the third source of help in understanding the Bible is simply other believers. One of the classic examples of this in the Bible is the story in Acts 8, of the Ethiopian treasury official of Ethiopian Queen Candice, who was returning to Africa from Jerusalem. He was reading his Bible in Isaiah 53, and needed help in understanding it. It just so happened that the evangelist Philip was nearby and the official asked him for help. Philip guided him into a clear idea of what Isaiah had written so that the official was convinced that Jesus was the key figure in Isaiah 53 and was baptized right then and there alongside that desert road!
That is exactly how it should be. We have brothers and sisters who have longer years and wider experience in the faith than we do, and who can help us understand the Bible as well as other spiritual needs that we may have. As believers (and Protestants), we are heirs to that great Reformation and Biblical (see I Peter 2.9) teaching of the “Priesthood of All Believers”. That means that every one of us has a responsibility to help one another. That means that John Sandage prays for Fern Jennings, and Fern prays for Janet Drew, Janet prays for Audrie Tittle, Audrie prays for Frances Wildsmith, Francis prays for Doug Drew, Doug prays for Peg Russell, Peg prays for Ted Thistle, Ted prays for Susie Evans, Susie prays for Linda Sandage, Linda prays for Bill Jennings, Bill prays for Keith Ledford, Keith prays for Bob McArthur, Bob prays for David Carrol, David prays for Jill Thistle and Jill prays for Patricia Sellers, and on and on the chain of intercession and mutual support proceeds.
And, brothers and sisters, that is to say nothing about the availability of our two adult Sunday School classes, both Alan’s and mine. Actually, they don’t belong to either Alan or to me; they belong to the Lord, and the doors to those classes are always open.
Let us pray.