Philip asked [the Ethiopian eunuch]… ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’
And he said, ‘How can I unless someone guides me?’ (Acts 8:30-31)
Every Christian I know finds it challenging to read the Bible at times. One of the biggest challenges for many Christians is simply not understanding what the passage of Scripture they’re reading is about and how it relates to them. Now, God knows we won’t be able to read the Bible on our own, and he’s never intended us to try; that’s why he’s given us two guides to help us read our Bibles:
- The first guide is the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). Jesus promises that “the Spirit of truth… will guide you into all the truth”. The Holy Spirit is essential for reading our Bibles properly. Without him we will get hopelessly lost, trying to understand Scripture. That’s why it’s so important to pray as we read our Bibles; we need the Holy Spirit to inwardly reveal its meaning to us.
- The second guide God gives is teachers, like Philip in Acts 8:31 or the “shepherds and teachers” in Eph 4:11. The Spirit guides us inwardly; these teachers guide us outwardly. Like the Holy Spirit, they are very important for reading our Bibles properly. These two guides work together. The Spirit doesn’t guide us to a different meaning to that of the teachers. God doesn’t intend us to just pick one of them as guides; but to use them both.
One very practical way to access the guidance of teachers is to pick up a commentary. These are books written by teachers explaining the meaning of the Bible. There are many commentaries to choose from on both the whole Bible, and individual books. Some are very technical and quote Hebrew and Greek, some are much simpler. Here are some I would recommend which aren’t too difficult.
– Here is a one commentary for each book of the Bible
– the Banner of Truth Let’s Study series
– Welwyn Commentary Series:
Commentaries on the whole Bible:
– Matthew Henry’s Commentary. This is an old one; you can find it online. It’s not so strong at explaining the meaning of the passage, but is very good with application.
I haven’t read each commentary listed, so I can’t guarantee it will be really helpful, but they’re all written by people who take the Bible seriously. I’d particularly recommend commentaries by Derek Thomas, Sinclair Ferguson, Dale Ralph Davis, John Stott, and Dick Lucas.
Why not buy one to help you read your Bible?