How You Can Understand the Bible
3. Accept Help From Others
When explorer Edward John Eyre trekked across the desolate Nullarbor Plain, local Aborigines taught Eyre how to collect water from sand dunes and eucalyptus trees. Accepting help from those who understood the land later saved Eyre’s life.
AS THIS example illustrates, successfully completing a challenging undertaking often requires help from someone more experienced. The same is true when you set out to read the Bible.
Jesus did not expect his followers to understand the Bible without help from others. On one occasion, “he opened up their minds fully to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45) Jesus recognized that Bible readers need help to grasp Scriptural teachings.
Help From Whom?
Jesus commissioned his genuine followers to provide this help. Before his ascension to heaven, Jesus commanded: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Christians’ primary work involves teaching, which includes explaining how Bible principles can be applied in everyday life. True Christians help others to understand the Bible.
Not long after Jesus gave his followers that commission, a fascinating incident occurred. The Bible tells of a royal official from Ethiopia who was reading a portion of Isaiah’s prophecy. He encountered a passage that left him stumped. According to the Bible record, the confusing verses read: “As a sheep he was brought to the slaughter, and as a lamb that is voiceless before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. During his humiliation the judgment was taken away from him. Who will tell the details of his generation? Because his life is taken away from the earth.”—Acts 8:32, 33; Isaiah 53:7, 8.
The official asked Philip, an experienced Christian who was well-versed in the Scriptures: “About whom does the prophet say this? About himself or about some other man?” (Acts 8:34) The sincere Ethiopian had already gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he likely prayed for guidance. Evidently, he was reading with an eager, meek attitude. But the official still could not understand this passage. Humbly, he asked Philip for help. Philip’s explanation so overjoyed the man that he was moved to become a Christian himself.—Acts 8:35-39.
Jehovah’s Witnesses continue the work practiced by Philip and other early Christians. In over 235 lands, the Witnesses voluntarily help others to understand what the Bible really teaches. They do this by means of a topical study of the Scriptures. This progressive method of Bible study involves analyzing what the Bible says about a particular topic, or subject.*—See the box “Satisfying Answers to Bible Questions.”
“All My Questions Were Answered”
Steven, Valvanera, and Jo-Anne, quoted in the opening article, began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It amazed me that by simply comparing a number of Scriptural principles or accounts, often the truth of a matter was right there all the time,” says Steven. “Before my Bible study, no one had shown me how to do that. It was a great relief to know that the Bible did not have to be an endless circle of debates and conflicting opinions.”
Valvanera agrees. “Everything was so coherent and logical,” she says. “Things were true, not just because ‘the Church’ says so, but because there was a reasonable explanation for everything.” Jo-Anne relates: “The fact that all my questions were answered from the Bible filled me with reverence—a great respect for the Author—since he had the foresight to record a suitable response to any human inquiry.”
Do you know one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why not ask him or her to demonstrate how this study program is conducted? If you do not know one of Jehovah’s Witnesses personally, please write to one of the addresses listed on page 4 of this magazine. With God’s holy spirit, an open mind, and personal assistance from a qualified Bible teacher, God’s Word does not have to be a closed book to you. You can understand the Bible!
A book that has helped many in a topical study of the Scriptures is What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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Satisfying Answers to Bible Questions
Some of the topics considered by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their Bible study program:
• What is God’s purpose for the earth?
• Where are the dead?
• Are we living in “the last days”?
• Why does God allow suffering?
• How can I make my family life happy?
[Pictures on page 7]
To understand the Bible . . . pray for God’s spirit, read with an open mind, accept help from others