Reading the Bible with God’s Spirit
Jesus is described as the Word of life who came to earth in human form to reveal God’s glory and truth. How we approach the Word will also affect our relationship with God. When we read the Bible with the expectation to have an encounter with God, we will. When we carry doubt, disbelief, and intellectualism in our hearts, we erect an invisible wall that blocks what He wants to show us.
John 1:1-5,14 ESV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus said that we are truly His disciples when we uphold and follow what is written in the Bible. We can’t truly follow Jesus if we fail to study His Word.
John 8:31-32 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
First, we need the Holy Spirit to open our minds
Like a good Father, God loves to read His Word with His children. He will personally open our minds and eyes to His spiritual truths when we invite Him to. When Jesus was on earth, He opened the minds of His disciples to understand God’s written word in the Scriptures.
Psalm 119:18 ESV Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Luke 24:36,45 ESV As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”… Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
In fact, it is only through God’s Spirit that we can hope to “understand the things freely given us” in the Bible. Human wisdom can only reveal what our limited minds can perceive, God’s Spirit will reveal His mind to us. The Holy Spirit is the Helper who will teach us God’s truths.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14,16 ESV Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned… “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:10 ESV these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
John 14:26 ESV But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
The Bible is the Holy Spirit’s Sword
The Bible is a powerful weapon against lies, sin and destructive thinking patterns. It is described as a Sword that the Holy Spirit uses to set us free to live the abundant life that God has prepared for us.
Ephesians 6:11,17 ESV Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…. and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
Hebrews 4:12 ESV For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
John 6:63 ESV It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
What God’s Word does in us
|1. Shows us how to thrive||Joshua 1:8 ESV This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.|
|2. Helps us to resist sin||
Psalm 119:10-11 ESV With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
|3. Heals us||Proverbs 4:20-22 ESV My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.|
|4, Equips us to do good||2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.|
The next time we pick up a Bible to read, we need to remember it is His Sword in our hands.
Reading the Bible with the Holy Spirit
It is thrilling to read the Bible with the Holy Spirit. He will not only reveal spiritual truths to us individually, but also show us how to follow God’s Word.
The best way to read or listen to the Bible is to first pray and invite God’s Spirit to open our minds. Here is how we can pray as we read God’s Word with the Holy Spirit:
- Please open my mind to understand Your Word.
- Help me receive Your Word with an honest and good heart.
- I repent of any unbelief or idol that blocks my understanding.
- Please explain today’s teaching to me.
- Why have You put this in Your written Word? What is Your intention?
- What are You trying to show me through this passage?
- What should I do with what You have shown me?
- Please help me to remember what You have taught me. Thank you, Jesus.
Luke 8:15 ESV As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
1. Devotionals cannot take the place of God’s Word
Food is the freshest and tastes the best when eaten closest to its source. By the time it passes through several hands, it may get somewhat contaminated.
In a similar way, our spiritual food is best consumed at its source; the Bible itself. While devotionals and bible teachings can be helpful, they are ultimately simply “processed food”. There is little way to test if other ingredients, good or bad, may have been introduced. To become strong and healthy believers, we need to wean ourselves off “baby food” and consume the Bible itself.
Hebrews 5:12 ESV For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
2. We need to “chew” and meditate on God’s Word
God’s Word is our spiritual food and nourishment. Anyone who wants to follow Jesus in spirit and in truth needs to learn how to not simply read His Word, but think about how it applies to us personally. The Bible includes God’s personal instructions for each one of us.
Jeremiah 15:16 NIV When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.
Joshua 1:8 ESV This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
3. We have to read the Bible in its entirety
The Bible is rich in its spiritual nutrition, like a five-course meal. Many things in the old Testament build up to the “main course”, which is the arrival of Jesus Christ. Many books in the New Testament reference the Old Testament.
The Bible’s full meaning and beauty are best appreciated when we have read it in its entirety.
4. Turn to the Holy Spirit to test all teachings
God calls us to turn to Him as our only Teacher in life. It is dangerous to only rely on human teachers for His Truth. All human beings are limited by their own experiences, understanding, and agendas. Ultimately, only God holds the truth in its entirety.
Matthew 23:10 ESV Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.
In any Bible study or biblical research, only the Holy Spirit can lead us to the truth. This is especially critical, with the proliferated of false teachings and fake news on the Internet, which has been become the main source of information for many people. There are many false teaching floating around. Let us not fall in the trap of believing them.
1 John 4:1 ESV Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
John 16:13 ESV When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
Author’s note: You are encouraged to also test everything on this website with the Holy Spirit.
5. Treasure the principles taught
Sometimes, we can get caught up in the details mentioned in the Bible. Many of the Jewish customs and traditions will seem foreign to many readers. This, however, need not distract us from the principles behind the teachings. Greeting each other with a holy kiss, for instance, may not be acceptable in some cultures but that doesn’t negate the principle of honouring and loving one another with a reverence for God.
2 Corinthians 13:12 ESV Greet one another with a holy kiss.
6. We are all called to teach others God’s Word
We are all called to bring God’s truths to other people. Hence, we need to also handle His Word correctly. It is not just the job of pastors to teach others God’s Word, it is also ours.
2 Timothy 2:15-16 ESV Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,
Colossians 3:16 ESV Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…
7. It’s dangerous to use verses out of context
Human beings have a tendency to look for shortcuts. Unfortunately, there are no short-cuts when it comes to studying God’s Word.
One outcome of this attitude is the adoption of one-line verses as our “truth” without realising that these can be used out of context and result in incorrect teachings. The verse Jeremiah 29:11 is one example. Many Christians reference this verse and declare that God will always bless us with a good future and hope. While this is true, God also told His people in that context that they would first have to endure exile and rulership by a foreign country for 70 years. The true meaning of this entire chapter and verse is to endure disgrace, difficulty, and hardship and trust God Almighty because He has a good plan that is not immediately evidence. Sadly, there are many other examples of such misunderstandings.
Jeremiah 29:10-11 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
8. We are only blessed if we follow
Studying God’s Word will be meaningless if we don’t follow what we are taught. We are called to be “doers” of the Word as we are led by God’s Holy Spirit.
James 1:22,25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves… But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
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