How do I Explain the Bible to a New Believer?
An essential part of discipling a new believer is helping them to understand the importance of the Bible and how to make use of it in their walk with Christ. Let’s cover a few basics at a high level. By the end, you will have a map that will help you guide others through their first steps into God’s Word.
Why we need the Bible
Prayer is how we talk to God. The Bible is the primary method in which God speaks to us. A new believer needs to understand that this isn’t something you keep on your shelf at home as a symbol of your Christian faith. Similarly, it’s not a book of virtues, collection of inspirational stories, or general book of sayings. We must share with them that it is the word of God, and we must say about the Bible what it says about itself: “All Scripture is God-breathed 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.” – 2 Timothy 3: 16-17
These verses alone show us why we need the Bible. It is the primary means by which we hear from God to be taught by Him, corrected by Him, trained by Him, made complete by Him, and equipped for every good work by Him. We cannot live a productive, healthy, and thriving Christian life apart from regularly beholding God’s Word.
How the Bible is divided
The Bible is a big book, which can make it intimidating. This, in turn, makes it helpful for the new believer to understand that while it is one comprehensive `story, it is divided into collection of 66 books and letters. Knowing this can make the Bible seem more approachable and less daunting.
The Old Testament is comprised of 37 books. These broken down into helpful categories.
History: Genesis – Esther
Poetry: Job – Song of Solomon
Major Prophets: Isaiah – Ezekiel
Minor Prophets: Daniel – Malachi
The New Testament is comprised of 29 books. These are also broken down into helpful categories.
The Gospels: Matthew – John
Paul’s Letters: Romans – Philemon
Other Letters: Hebrews – Jude
How to meditate upon the Bible
Psalm 1 tells us “blessed is the one … whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” The “law of the Lord” is a reference to the Scriptures. It is interesting that the instruction here, and elsewhere in the Bible, isn’t just to read it – but to meditate upon it. This is an important truth to bring to the attention of a new believer. They must understand that the Bible is not a quick-reference guide to glance at from time to time for on-the-go instruction. The Bible, again as it describes itself in Hebrews 4:12, is “…alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The verses in the living Word of God are meant to be poured over, contemplated, and re-contemplated as we saturate ourselves in its wisdom and truth. This process takes time and requires careful thought and prayer. The new believer should understand studying Scripture is a discipline of the Christian life. It takes time to develop this habit, and it will continue to be developed over a lifetime.
How to read and understand the Bible
Understanding and living according to Scripture is a lifelong process of growth, pruning, and new growth. In this process, Christians seek to observe Scripture studiously, strive to interpret Scripture rightly, and aim to apply Scripture carefully. A lot can be said about these three areas, but the new believer simply needs to understand a few keys to start off.
- Always pray before reading Scripture. Pray for wisdom, understanding, and for God to reveal clear interpretation.
- Always read Scripture in context. This is accomplished by reading several verses above and below the passage being studied. Apologist Greg Koukl famously says, “never read a Bible verse” for this reason. Verses should be read in context to maximize understanding and minimize misinterpretation.
- Always read purposefully. Christians don’t (or shouldn’t) read the Bible by opening it to a random page, reading a random verse, and hoping for the best. The Bible is meant to be studied purposefully. Whether you’re studying a topic, going through a reading plan, or studying book by book, it should always be purposeful.
- Always let the Bible interpret the Bible. As has been famously written by Dr. Gordon Fee, “the Bible can never say what it has never said.” The point is that if a reader is drawing conclusions from Scripture that are refuted by clearer verses on the subject, the reader has made an error. The clearer verses on a subject should always be used to interpret less clear verses on that subject.
- Always ask, “how can I apply this?” Sometimes the answer is simply you know more about God’s character. However, other times the Lord will reveal something that has direct implications on you attitude, Christ-likeness, character, and/or relationships. It is in those times you must take James 1:22 to heart, which states, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Mining the wisdom and truth of Scripture is a lifelong endeavor. It is an essential, ongoing (and I would recommend daily), process of placing the truth of God’s Word into our hearts so that it may spill out into our lives and relationships. As William Blake famously said, “we become what we behold.” We want new believers to behold the Word of God with passion and fervor so that they may become sincere and dedicated followers of Christ.
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