Understanding scripture can be difficult but it is entirely necessary for Christian growth and building a relationship with God. The Bible tells us multiple times to gain wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. From scripture, we learn the attributes of God, His commandments for us, history, encouragement, and what to expect in the future. This is why understanding scripture is so vitally important to our faith. Personally, I have a three-step process for understanding scripture. Pray, Research, and Paraphrase.
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”Proverbs 3:13-18
We cannot understand Scripture without help from the Holy Spirit. Before attempting to discern the meaning of a Bible verse, we have to ask for guidance. God tells us in James 1:5 that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” My prayer usually sounds something like this, “God, please give me the wisdom to understand your Word and guide me in the right direction with your scripture.”
After reading the Bible verses in focus, I would then turn to my Study Bible and see what information that has. Usually, it provides historical content that can help me understand the context of the verse. If this doesn’t yield helpful, I ask my pastor for advice. My last resorts are commentaries and the internet; these sources can be useful but you have to know not to believe everything you read.
After I’ve prayed and done my research, it’s time to paraphrase the passage. I rewrite the scripture in my own words to ensure I understand the meaning. Keep in mind that paraphrasing is different than summarizing. You’re not just writing down what happened in the Bible, you’re writing each verse in your own words. As I do this, if I come to a verse that I don’t know how to reword, then I go back and do more research on that verse until I’m positive of its meaning.
“Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”Proverbs 2:2-5