5 Tips for Finding Help Understanding the Bible

I need to find help with understanding the Bible, but whom can I trust?

Indeed.

Trust can be a hard thing; especially if we’ve ever been burned.  We may be tempted to just rely on ourselves, but again, that’s not really advisable. The Bible says even our own heart isn’t a reliable guide (Jer. 17:9).

Here’s our dilemma, God wants us to read and understand His word ourselves (check this post) knowing that we will need teachers and guides to aid our understanding.  Yet, we have to be careful because not all teachers are trustworthy.

The Bible’s warning is very clear:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1, ESV).

And that is far from the only such warning.  Some will take Scripture and “twist [it] to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).  Also, some will “tamper with God’s word” (2 Corinthians 4:2).

So, the question is, how does one tell whom they can trust as a teacher or guide for better understanding the Bible?  Here are a few practical guidelines.

1. Don’t go the, “I can just tell” route. No, you can’t.  Remember, our heart is not an adequate guide.

If the Bible is correct (and yes, it is), then listen up when it says you have to be careful here.  The thing about wolves in sheep’s clothing is that they don’t look like wolves – they look like sheep.  Paul says that these people can be disguised as “apostles of Christ” and “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” and his followers as “servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15).   You may think you’re dealing with an apostle or an angel, but you’re not.

If you say, “I cannot be fooled,” then you already have been.

2. Put your ultimate trust and confidence in God’s word, not in any person. Even when you find someone dependable to whom you can turn for help, that doesn’t mean they have somehow become infallible.  Even well-meaning and otherwise reliable people can still make mistakes.  And, if they do, the process of your continued study and reliance on the trustworthiness of God’s word will bear it out.

3. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon. This isn’t a popularity contest.  There may be many reasons that people are turning to this person other than the fact that they are that reliable (see the points below). No, popularity doesn’t mean they’re unreliable, but it is a poor reason, by itself, to jump on the bandwagon.  Sometimes the majority are flat wrong (see Matt. 7:13-14)

4. Don’t seek out the most eloquent or entertaining speaker (or writer). Style certainly has its place, but our concern, as they say, is for substance over style. Heaven knows there are plenty of people who can say nothing and do it very, very well.  Apparently, even the apostle Paul wasn’t much to listen to as a public speaker. He conceded that he was “unskilled in speaking” and his critics claimed his speech was “of no account” (2 Cor. 11:6; 10:10).   Sure, I’d much rather hear a good speaker over a poor one any day.  But that’s a totally separate issue from reliability.  The New Testament’s emphasis is very strong on what someone has to say over how they say it.

5. Don’t be drawn in by the one who says only the things I want to hear. Is it not true that sometimes what we most need to hear is what we least want to hear?  It’s a common pitfall; we naturally latch on to a confirmation of what we already believe and we gravitate toward what is pleasing to hear.

This is exactly what Paul talks about: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

It’s always been that way.  Even longer ago (in Isaiah’s day), people were saying, “You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words” (Isa. 30:10, NASB).

It’s not hard to see why sometimes people end up with a guide or teacher who is not the best.  After all, we’re all attracted to popular, entertaining, and pleasant speakers and teachers.

One critical point remains: a foolproof method to determine whether or not someone is a trustworthy guide or helper.  And, yes, there is one.

Till next time…

God bless,

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