WHY CAN I NOT GET ANYTHING OUT OF THE BIBLE WHEN I READ IT?
by Shawn Brasseaux
I try to read the Bible, but I get little to nothing out of what I read. What is the problem?
My heart truly goes out to people who are confused and burdened regarding Bible study. Friend, you are not alone—millions upon millions upon millions of people have experienced what you are undergoing, and millions upon millions upon millions are still experiencing it. I have been there, I know your distress, I have found the answers that you seek, and I would enjoy providing you with the three keys to Bible clarity. Dear reader, there is certainly hope for you and everyone else confused regarding the Holy Scriptures. We want to help you understand and enjoy the Holy Bible; in this study, we will discuss the three top reasons why people do not understand the Bible. This is a rather extensive and intensive study, but well worth considering.
1. DO YOU HAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT?
We read in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God….”
The Bible says in 2 Peter 1:19-21: “ We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:  Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
God the Holy Ghost wrote the Holy Scriptures. If we are to understand the Book that the Holy Ghost wrote, it is only logical that we must have the indwelling Holy Ghost. Many people who attempt to study the Bible are lost, they are not saved unto eternal life and they do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thus, the Bible is “foolishness” to them; God’s Word never makes sense without the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is why easier-to-read translations are so popular; they are an attempt to bypass the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry. We need more than the spirit of man if we are to understand the Bible. To understand Scripture, we need more than scientific investigation, we need more than religious tradition, and we need more than human intuition.
Consider 1 Corinthians 2:9-14: “ But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
How do we get the indwelling Holy Spirit? Ephesians 1:12-13 tells us: “ That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise….” We must trust Jesus Christ—rely exclusively on His death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins. This is the Gospel of the Grace of God, Paul’s Gospel, of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “ For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
If you have just trusted Jesus Christ alone as your personal Saviour, or you have trusted Him sometime in the past, you are indeed saved unto eternal life, and thus you may proceed to our second section.
2. DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT BIBLE?
Just as every book in the world is not the Book that God has written, every “Bible” is not the book that God has written; in this day and age, the average church member—or even average priest or pastor—cannot identify what is the Bible and what is not. The aforementioned people who did not have the Holy Spirit, they produced perverted Bible manuscripts, translated them, and produced even more corrupt translations (albeit operating under the impression that those manuscripts were more reliable and their translations were easier-to-read and therefore trustworthy). Even in Bible days, there were people counterfeiting the Word of God. Satan is the master counterfeiter, so may we always be on guard against counterfeit Bible versions—even more so 20 centuries later!
The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:17: “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” We find in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 a reference to a counterfeit Bible manuscript, one that appeared to be from the Apostle Paul and his ministry coworkers. This false manuscript with false doctrine had troubled the minds of the Christians in Thessalonica: “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” The Apostle Peter warned that some individuals were “unlearned and unstable” and that they would “wrest… the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). They would not only twist Paul’s epistles, but all of God’s Word, and distort the verses to make them say what they wanted them to say. (Does that sound familiar or what?)
Even in the Prophet Jeremiah’s day, some 600 years before Christ, we read about false prophets twisting God’s Word, preaching lies in JEHOVAH’S name to Israel: “And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man’s word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God” (Jeremiah 23:36). This entire chapter is an eye-opening warning about counterfeit “Bible prophets” and “ministers.”
The Apostle Peter summarized a warning that is true regardless of the dispensational setting. Just as there are people from the Lord Jesus Christ spreading His Word, there are counterfeit Christians spreading a damnable message: “[1:19] We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: [1:20] Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. [1:21] For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. [2:1] But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. [2:2] And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. [2:3] And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Peter 1:19–2:3).
As an English-speaking person, God’s preserved Word for you is the Authorized Version King James Bible. Use it, and use it alone, in your personal Bible study. The 400-year-old King James Bible—not the New King James Version—proves itself to be authoritative and trustworthy. The modern versions, however, demonstrate themselves to be unreliable; we should not use any book we cannot trust. They have varying degrees of interpretation built right into the translated text, and hundreds if not thousands of cross-references have been lost because of such shoddy Bible-handling. They have been produced by ecumenical bodies, groups of scholars from various denominations, scholars who are still cooperating to advance denominational doctrine instead of the unadulterated Word. In this day and age of itching ears and much false doctrine, we would be insane to believe that the new “bible” versions are dependable!
If you are using a King James Bible at this point, then a faulty Bible translation is not your problem. Please proceed to our third section.
3. DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT STUDY SYSTEM?
A. LITERAL (UNLESS CONTEXT INDICATES OTHERWISE)
Concerning Bible study, the following makes sense: “When the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense.” You should let the Bible text tell you whether a passage/verse/word is literal or figurative. If the context says that it is a parable, then it is a parable. If the context says that it is an allegory, then it is an allegory. Some Bible verses contain sarcasm. Some verses contain figures of speech. These non-literal exceptions are most often apparent. Even when the Bible uses symbolic language—metaphor, simile, allegory, parable, et cetera—there is a literal truth associated with it. Nothing in the Bible is there to take up space; every word is important (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4). The normal sense of the Bible is literal. To spiritualize a passage is to tell spiritual lies because you do not have spiritual eyes; the Bible says what it means and it means what it says. The Bible is not hard to understand; it is hard to believe!
The Lord Jesus Christ believed the Bible literally. He taught a literal, physical, visible Adam and Eve who were literally, physically, and visibly created and married by God (Mark 10:6-8; cf. Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:18,21-25). Jesus literally believed He was a descendant of King David, implying David was a real man who had an actual bloodline (Matthew 22:41-46). The Lord believed in a literal interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy (Matthew 24:15ff.; Mark 13:14ff.; Daniel 9:26-27; Daniel 11:31). The Lord Jesus believed in a literal Great Flood of Noah’s day (Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-27; cf. Genesis chapters 6–8). The Lord Jesus believed in a literal man named Lot, Lot’s literal wife, and God’s literal destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with literal fire and brimstone (Luke 17:28-29,32; cf. Genesis 19:24-25). Jesus believed there was a literal man named David who ate the shewbread with his men (Matthew 12:3-4; Luke 6:3-4; cf. 1 Samuel 21:1-6). Jesus believed in literal, physical, visible men such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 22:32)—He believed God literally appeared to Moses in the burning bush too (Exodus 3:6). He believed there was a real man named Abel who was actually killed by his evil, unbelieving brother Cain (Matthew 23:35; Genesis 4:8,11). He believed that there was a literal man, “Zacharias son of Barachias,” who was actually murdered in the Temple complex as the Old Testament teaches (Matthew 23:35; cf. 2 Chronicles 24:21). Jesus cried, “I thirst,” so He could literally fulfill Psalm 69:21 (John 19:28). He affirmed that Satan literally fell from heaven (Luke 10:18), exactly what Isaiah 14:12-17 and Ezekiel 28:11-19 teach. Jesus said He came to literally fulfill Isaiah 61:1-2 (cf. Luke 4:16-21). The Lord Jesus really believed that actual bread fell from heaven for Israel to physically eat under Moses’ leadership (John 6:49; cf. Exodus 16:14-36).
The Apostle Paul believed the Bible literally. He understood a literal, physical, visible Adam and Eve were married by God (Ephesians 5:29-33; cf. Genesis 2:18,21-25). He believed in a literal woman named Eve who Satan actually deceived, and a physical man (Adam) whom Satan did not deceive (2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; cf. Genesis 3:1-24). Paul believed there was a literal curse placed on creation in response to man’s fall into sin (Romans 5:12; Romans 8:18-25; Genesis 3:16-19). The Apostle believed that Adam was literally created from the dust of the earth (1 Corinthians 15:47; cf. Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:19). Paul believed in a literal man named Moses whom God used to ordain a most strict religious system using tables of physical stone (2 Corinthians 3:7-14; cf. Exodus chapters 32-34). He believed that there was a literal Adam (“one blood”) from whom all nations of people descended (Acts 17:26), exactly what Genesis 1:28 said when God commanded Adam and Eve to literally reproduce. Paul believed that God allotted the literal, real-estate boundaries of nations (Acts 17:26), implying a literal interpretation of Genesis chapters 10 and 11 when God scattered the idolaters from the Tower of Babel. Paul believed in a literal, physical, visible Ishmael persecuting a literal, physical, visible Isaac (Genesis 21:9), pointing out that literal, physical, visible unbelievers attack literal, physical, visible believers today (Galatians 4:29). Paul believed in literal, physical people such as Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Esau whose descendants are the Jews (Romans 9:7-13)—these individuals are referenced throughout the book of Genesis. Paul believed in a literal Pharaoh who literally held Israel captive as slaves in literal Egypt (Romans 9:17; cf. Exodus 9:16). Paul interpreted Israel’s future restoration as literal (Romans 11:26-27; cf. Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-34). Paul understood everyone standing before God in judgment (Isaiah 45:23) is a literal fact to be accomplished one day (Romans 14:11-12).
The Apostle Peter believed the Bible literally. He referred to the Great Flood of Noah’s day as though it were a literal, historical fact (1 Peter 3:19-21; 2 Peter 2:5; 2 Peter 3:3-6; cf. Genesis chapters 6-8)—Peter argued that similar judgment from God (although fire) will come on the world in the future. Peter believed in an historical man named Lot, a man who literally escaped God’s literal wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Peter 2:6-9). Peter believed the Word of God would literally exist forever (1 Peter 1:25; cf. Isaiah 40:6-8). The Apostle believed Sodom and Gomorrah were literally overthrown with fire and brimstone as recorded in Genesis chapter 19 (2 Peter 2:6). Peter referred to Abraham and Sarah as literal, physical people who were husband and wife (1 Peter 3:5-6; cf. Genesis 18:12). The Apostle believed “Balaam the son of Bosor” was a literal, physical person (2 Peter 2:15; cf. Numbers chapters 22-24).
The Apostle John believed the Bible literally. While he does not refer to but one historical Old Testament account in his writings, he does admit that he believed there were literal figures Cain and Abel, Cain physically and visibly killing his brother Abel, just as Moses recorded in Genesis (1 John 3:12-13; cf. Genesis 4:8-11). John argued that unbelievers would kill believers because of the never-ending conflict between God’s people and Satan’s people.
The Apostle James believed the Bible literally. He believed the book of Genesis literally when it says that Abraham offered Isaac his son on the altar (James 2:21-23; cf. Genesis chapter 22). James indicated that Rahab the harlot was an historical character, who actually hid the Jewish spies in Jericho, just as the book of Joshua depicts (James 2:25; cf. Joshua chapter 2). He referenced Job as though he were an historical character (James 5:11), whose literal sufferings portray Israel’s future dire physical circumstances. James believed that the Prophet Elias (Elijah) prayed to JEHOVAH and literally caused rain to cease in Israel for three-and-one-half years, just as 1 Kings says (James 5:17; 1 Kings 17:1-2).
The writer of the book of Hebrews believed the Bible literally. It is unknown whom God used to pen the book of Hebrews. Regardless, this individual believed the Old Testament characters were literal, physical, visible, historical individuals—not mere characters in nonfiction works, fairytales, or the like. Hebrews chapter 11 makes references to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sara, Joseph, Moses, Israelites who left Egypt, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel, the prophets, and others. These were all historical people who endured physical persecution for believing and following the God of the Bible, the God of Israel, the God of creation.
There are many methods and systems of Bible interpretation (also known as, “Bible hermeneutics”). For example, systematic theology studies Bible topics in a topical fashion: theology (the study of God), angelology (the study of angels), eschatology (the study of the end times / prophecy), ecclesiology (the study of the church), anthropology (the study of man), soteriology (the study of salvation), et cetera. This is all well and good, but this is not how the Bible presents these doctrines (the contexts of these verses are ignored, and they are all blended).
Rather than following the system of Dr. Strong, Dr. Scofield, Dr. Ryrie, or any other theologian, seminary professor, or Bible “scholar,” we simply allow the Holy Spirit—the Author of the Bible—to show us how He has designed it. When we stand before God in judgment one day, He will use His standard of Bible interpretation; in Heaven, God Almighty will not refer to man-made religious systems and theological books in order to gauge what teaching is right and what teaching is wrong. Confusion arises when we pick and choose a man-made system to follow, for every man-made system of Bible study is different from every other. However, much of the confusion will disappear if we simply use the method of Bible study that God Himself has ordained and laid out in His Word. We would all be using one and the same system for Bible study, and this would avoid the formation of factions, denominations, schisms, cults, et cetera.
The only verse in the Bible that tells us to “study” the Bible also tells us how to study it. We read in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” We are seeking God’s approval—not a church’s approval, a seminarian’s approval, a minister’s approval, a family member’s approval, a friend’s approval, or anyone else’s approval. If our Christian lives are to be pleasing in God’s sight, we must “study… rightly dividing the word of truth.” But, what exactly does this mean? We need to search Paul’s epistles to discover the answer.
Ephesians 2:11-13 sheds light on 2 Timothy 2:15: “ Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:  But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”
We see two references to time in the above passage: “time past” and “but now.” At one time, we Gentiles were “without Christ,” we were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,” we were “strangers from the covenants of promise,” we had “no hope,” and we were “without God in the world.” God dealt with the nation Israel, and if a non-Jew (Gentile) ancestor of ours wanted a relationship with the God of the Bible, the God of Israel, that Gentile had to approach God through Israel. Jesus Christ’s ministry was confined to the nation Israel (Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 15:24; John 4:22; Acts 2:22; Romans 15:8)—this is why Scripture says we Gentiles were “without Christ” (Ephesians 2:12; cf. Romans 9:4-5).
Ephesians 2:13 is a contrary thought, the opposite of what we read in the previous two verses. “In Christ Jesus,” we who were (past tense) “far off” from God are now (present tense) made near to Him “by the blood of Christ.” What a complete change in the way God deals with mankind, and we have to want to miss it not to see that dispensational change! As God Himself declared first by and through the Apostle Paul, through Jesus Christ’s shed blood (His finished crosswork at Calvary), we Gentiles can now approach God the Father, without the nation Israel. In fact, Israel is fallen, and without Israel and her earthly kingdom, God is reaching and saving Gentiles.
The Holy Spirit tells us in Romans 11:11-13: “ I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?  For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.”
Why God wanted to save Gentiles through Israel and her program, and why God is now saving Gentiles without Israel and her program, is a fascinating story we must take time here to briefly summarize for you.
The first verse in the Bible is very clear that God deals with creation on the basis of two realms: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Notice how the Holy Spirit was very specific in the wording. Rather than saying, “God created the universe,” the Scriptures say, “God created the heaven and the earth.” The two-fold division in God’s Word is already apparent… we learn about right division in the very first verse of the Bible!
Regarding God’s original purpose in the creation of the heaven and the earth, we learn in Ephesians 1:9-10: “ [God the Father] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”
Before creation ever was, God the Father wanted to unite all of the governmental offices of heaven and earth (see Colossians 1:16-20) under the headship, the leadership, of His Son Jesus Christ. Even today, God the Father wants all of creation to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. To bring about this purpose, Father God has one program—one system of operation—for heaven, and another completely different program—another system of operation—for earth. Both programs operate in their respective realms to accomplish the overall goal: make Jesus Christ head of all of the governments in heaven and earth, to give Him preeminence in both realms of creation. But, these two programs must be rightly divided if they are to make sense (to combine God’s purpose and plan for heaven and His purpose and plan for earth, is to bring unanswerable confusion, is to bring about the sad state of affairs in Christendom today).
PROPHECY. The program that God uses to magnify His Son in the earth is called the prophetic program, for it contains information/doctrine that was prophesied, or spoken about, since He placed man (Adam) on earth. Notice what the Apostle Peter preached: “[Jesus Christ] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). From the beginning of creation, God revealed to mankind a plan to have Jesus Christ reign on planet earth. This information is found in the Bible books of Genesis through Malachi, Matthew through John, Acts chapters 1-8, and Hebrews through Revelation. The agency (group of believers) whom God will use to magnify His Son forever in the earth is the nation Israel (Exodus 19:5-6; Psalm 37:11; Matthew 5:5; Luke 22:29-30; Revelation 5:10). Law is the operating system for the prophetic program (Matthew 5:17-19). The Apostle Peter and the other 11 apostles of Israel are the divinely-ordained human leaders in this program (Matthew 16:16-19; Matthew 19:27-28; Luke 22:30; Galatians 2:7,9).
MYSTERY. The program that God uses to magnify His Son in the heavens is called the mystery program, for it contains information/doctrine that was kept secret, or not spoken about, since He placed man (Adam) on earth. Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote: “Now to him [God the Father] that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,  But now is made manifest…” (Romans 16:25-26). From the beginning of creation, God kept secret (kept it a mystery) a plan to have Jesus Christ reign in the heavenly places. This information is found in the Bible books known as “Paul’s epistles,” Romans through Philemon. The agency (group of believers) whom God will use to magnify His Son forever in the heavens is the Church the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6-7; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 4:18). Grace is the operating system for the mystery program (Romans 6:14-15). The Apostle Paul is the divinely-ordained human leader in this program (Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; Galatians 2:7,9; 1 Timothy 1:15-16).
In conclusion, we allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to teach us His Word. We read verses in the King James Bible and compare them with other verses in the King James Bible, and the verses will interpret one another. Unless the context says otherwise, the verse/passage is literal. We use the Bible dispensationally, understanding that God says different things to different people in His Word at different time periods. Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, describe what God is doing today, so this is God’s Word to and about you. Study all of the Bible, Genesis through Revelation, for it is all for your learning (Romans 15:4), but remember that not all of the Bible is to or about you.
When studying a particular Bible passage, you first need to establish the following, in this order:
- who is writing/speaking,
- to whom are they writing, and
- what are they writing.
Oftentimes, people ignore #1 and #2 and just focus on #3. We cannot grab just any Bible verse and apply it to us. Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, are written to us Gentiles and about us Gentiles. If you follow these simple keys to Bible understanding, you will understand the Bible.
Just as the Lord Jesus Christ “opened… their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45), and “expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (verse 27), so He will explain the Scriptures to you if you allow Him. If you have the indwelling Holy Spirit, if you have the King James Bible, and you use dispensational Bible study, the Bible will literally become an “open book.” You will enjoy it, cherish it, esteem it, love it, more and more each day. To the believer, Paul wrote the following:
Ephesians 3:4: “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)”
Ephesians 3:16: “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;”
2 Timothy 2:7: “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.”
When we Christians read God’s Word (King James Bible), and pay particular attention to what God says through Paul (Ephesians 3:4; 2 Timothy 2:7), God the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16) will strengthen us inside, in our soul and spirit. He will then use that doctrine that we believe to work in us: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
“So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8).
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