Week 2: Understanding God’s Word
Large crowds followed Jesus
everywhere he went. With each miracle they saw Jesus performed, the crowds
became more and more impressed. One day, after Jesus fed 5,000 men with only
five barley loaves and 2 small fish, they were ready to “take Him by force to
make Him king” (Jn ). But Jesus left before the crowd had a chance to act
on their desire.
However, some of them did catch up
with him the next day. This time Jesus told them what was on their mind. He
told them that they were only looking for a free lunch. He told them not to
labor for food that perishes, “but for the food which endures to everlasting
life” (Jn 6:27). He told them, “I am the bread of
life” (Jn 6:35).
But when this large group of
people heard this, they were not at all impressed. They were especially
offended that Jesus said he was “the bread which came down from heaven” (Jn 6:41). They were even more offended when Jesus said, “If
anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall
give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of
the world” (Jn 6:51).
The Bible records their reaction.
“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard
saying, who can understand it” (Jn 6:60)? That day,
many of Jesus’ disciples left him. Because they could not understand God’s
Word, they left him almost as easily as they’d followed him. In this lesson, we
shall look at how believers can truly understand God’s words.
Some Basic Principles
The crowds Jesus spoke to were
called the Jews. Many generations ago, their ancestors lived in Egypt
as slaves. They lived there until God sent a man, named Moses, to rescue them
and bring them to the land where the Jews were now living. But the journey took
40 long years through the wilderness. Far away from civilization, these
ancestors only had God to rely on. God spoke to them through Moses. But one day
Moses had to tell them, “Stand still, that I may hear what the Lord will
command concerning you” (Num 9:8). If the Jews had been aware of this
admonishment that day, they would have done well to listen to Jesus speak about
spiritual food for their soul. Instead, they were busy looking for food to fill
Prepare Your Heart.
During Jesus’ public ministry, he
often used parables to teach an absolute truth. In one parable, Jesus told the
story of a farmer who sowed his seed. Some fell on the path, some fell on stony
ground, and some fell among the thorns. None of these grew into healthy plants.
But those that fell on good ground did grow to produce fruit (Lk 8:4-15). Jesus explained that God’s Word must fall on
the good ground of our heart for it to grow and mature. You may have seen
ground that’s hard and dry, with little or no plant life. Even rain runs off
its surface. However, for ground that’s been tilled and conditioned, rain will
seep through and bring a seed to life.
In the parable of the farmer,
Jesus said, “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having
heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with
patience” (Lk 8:15). You may already know that a seed
must stay in the ground for a length of time before you see any growth above
the ground. But that’s only the beginning. If you water and feed the plant and
give it time to grow in a place that gets the proper amount of light, it will
eventually bear fruit. In a sense, you can expect the same of God’s Word. In
the beginning, you may wonder if any good is going to come out of your studies.
Be patient. Don’t give up. Instead, be encouraged that the more you study God’s
Word, the more you will understand why God has chosen to plant his seed in the
good ground of your heart.
Learn to Ask Questions.
When you study a passage, write
down your questions or things you want to learn more about. A basic way to
start is to list the 5w’s and 1h: what, who, where, when, why, how. Just by
answering each of these questions, you can discover things that you may not
have noticed. This exercise also helps you remember what you have read. The
same method also works for topical and character studies, although answering
questions of this nature involves more extensive reading and research because
you often have to study many different passages before you can find the answer.
Asking good questions is the first step that leads to new discoveries.
Interpret Scripture with Scripture.
After you have formulated your
questions, you need to find answers. This is not a matter of guesswork or
personal opinion. The Bible is its best commentary. You want to find out what
God has to say rather than what you or anyone else has to say. Instead of going
straight to commentaries, you need to search the Scriptures. Sometimes you may
find the answer in the passage that you are studying. Other times, you need to
use a concordance to look up related passages by key words and find answers
within those other passages. Yes, all this takes time and effort. But the joy
you experience of discovering and tasting the sweetness of God’s word will far
surpass the hard work you put in.
Pray for Understanding.
In order to understand God’s
Word, we need to have the Holy Spirit reveal his message to us. In a letter to
the believers in Corinth,
Paul explained that “no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God”
(1 Cor ).
When we study God’s Word to understand what he has to tell us, we must
therefore pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (Jn 16:13).
Continue Your Search in Sermons & Bible Study
When you attend Sabbath services
and listen to sermons, be prepared to take mental or written notes. Do the same
when you attend Bible study classes in your local church, ask questions or
share your thoughts.
Support Your Search with Study Aids.
Borrow or purchase a taped
sermon. Get a copy of a publications catalog to see if there are any church
publications that can help you in your studies. Subscribe to church periodicals
such as Manna. And check out the list of “Selected Reference Tools for Bible
Study” (Appendix A).
Take Your Search to the World Wide Web.
Log on to www.tjc.org. Or sign up
for e-mail Bible study by sending your request to email@example.com.
Write down other guidelines that
have worked for you.
Write down new ideas that could
work for you.
Why did the Jews try to take Jesus by force? (Jn 6:15)
Jesus told the Jews not to labor for food that
perishes. Instead, he said they ought to be more concerned about “food which
endures to everlasting life?” If you could hear Jesus now, what do you think he
wants you to do?
List at least 3 principles that may help you to
understand God’s Word.
Why must you keep still when someone is speaking
to you? How can you apply this principle in your spiritual life?
If you live in farming country or have driven through
one on the freeway, you would have seen farmers prepare the ground for
planting. What time of year do farmers prepare the ground, and what equipment
do they use for this purpose? If a person’s heart is like the ground, what can
you do to prepare yours so that God may reap a bountiful harvest?
What does “keep it and bear fruit with patience”
(Lk 8:15) mean to you?
The Bible tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples
left him when they could not understand what he was trying to tell them. These
people did not know it then, but they had everything to lose. What must you do
to remain on track in this journey to the promised land?
Why might studying the Bible with a question in
mind help you understand God’s Word a little better?
It is important that you are in the habit of
studying the Bible with a prayerful heart. This means that you are relying on
Jesus to help you better understand God’s Word. T/F
Look up Luke 24:45 in your Bible. Memorize it
and write it down.
is a newly baptized believer in the True Jesus Church. Soon after Hope was
baptized, she started to read the Bible. She asked Andy, who was baptized a few
years earlier, for his advice on how she should study the Bible. Andy told Hope
that she should only read the Bible and listen to sermons on the Sabbath; he
explicitly mentioned that extra-Biblical reference materials were the “tools of
the devil.” He told her to stay away from any reference materials because they
would corrupt her pure faith. As Hope was reading the Bible one day, she read
about how Jesus went to a place called Capernaum.
Hope wanted to know where Capernaum
was and asked Janice if she knew. Janice, who happened to have a Bible Atlas,
showed Hope where Capernaum
was. Hope was shocked that Janice carried a Bible Atlas since Andy explicitly
told her that any types of books except for the Bible were Satan’s tools. Now
Hope is confused. Because of her confusion, she no longer reads much Bible; she
tells people that she can’t understand what the Bible is all about. She has
decided to just listen to sermons and pray. Is there anything wrong with this
situation? What do you think of what Andy told Hope? Is there anything wrong
with Hope’s resolution to just listen to sermons and pray? What advice, if any,
would you give to both Andy and Hope?
Ben works tirelessly every day because he is the
CEO of a large company. However, when he comes home he is usually very tired.
When he does have spare time, he usually uses it for his family and friends.
After Ben got baptized in church, he realized the importance of Bible reading,
so he tried to find more time to read the Bible. He heard the pastor say, “Read
three chapters a day.” So Ben decides he’ll set aside a time in his schedule,
between 11 to 11:30 P.M., to read the Bible. He always reads three chapters no
matter what because he knows Bible reading is his Christian duty. Before he
goes to bed each night, he would open up the Bible and start reading from the
first chapter his eye lands on. One day the pastor asks Ben how his Bible reading
is going. Ben replies, “Pastor, to tell you the truth, I don’t know what I’m
reading. But I always read 3 chapter a day without
fail. However, recently every time I open up my Bible I keep opening up to the
same page. So I’ve been reading a long list of names for about three days in a
row. I think I need to start opening up the Bible in another place.” Do you see
any problems with Ben’s Bible study? What do you think Ben could improve upon?
all types of extra-Biblical reference materials (including some with Biblical
commentary/interpretation), either from your local church library or from other
brothers and sisters. Familiarize yourself with all the reference materials you
can find, and try to discover at least one thing in the reference materials
(i.e., those with Biblical commentary/interpretation) that the True Jesus
Church (officially or generally speaking) would not agree with (if you have any
problems, ask someone to help you). After you have
done this activity, ask your local ministers (pastors, elders, deacons) what
they think about using these extra-Biblical reference materials. Consider
carefully what they have to say to you.