How to Understand the Bible
Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:29-31)
The Holy Spirit directed a servant among the early Christians to leave a successful work in Samaria and go to a desolate wilderness. Once there, Philip saw a chariot carrying an important man – a Jewish man from Ethiopia. This man had an important position in the Queen of Ethiopia’s government and was returning from a visit to Jerusalem.
The Holy Spirit who led Philip to the desert then said to him, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” It took a lot of boldness to do it, but Philip did what the Spirit told him to do. The Ethiopian was a rich man, a man of power, and at least in some way a celebrity. Yet Philip knew he needed Jesus just as much as anyone else.
We often shrink back from speaking boldly about Jesus, and the world lets us know we shouldn’t talk about such things. But the world does not hesitate to preach own message to us. We should be just as bold to the world about Jesus as the world is bold to us about sin.
Coming near, Philip heard him reading because it was common in the ancient world to read aloud. Listening, Philip knew the Ethiopian was reading the prophet Isaiah.
Philip knew God gave him an open door, a prepared heart. Plainly, God had arranged this meeting. Philip was effective as an evangelist because he knew how to flow with what the Holy Spirit wanted to do. He was truly led by the Spirit, not by his own whims and feelings.
Philip then asked an important question: “Do you understand what you are reading?” It was good for the Ethiopian to read the Bible, but unless understanding was brought to him, there was little benefit from his reading. But God had brought someone (Philip) to bring understanding.
The Ethiopian man answered, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” This is the proper question of anyone who wants to understand the Bible. We should never feel bad if we need to be taught before we can understand many things.
Here are two principles to understand your Bible better. First, find good teachers. It is wonderful when we come to understand the great truths of Bible on our own, but this passage shows us that God also has a place and a purpose for teachers among the followers of Jesus.
Second, to get more understanding from our Bibles, we must plunge in. Butterflies wander over the flowers in the garden and accomplish nothing, but bees plunge right down into the flower, and they carry away essential food. We won’t get anything if we just hover over our Bibles; we must dive right in.
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