You can’t just read the Bible and understand. Of course, you can comprehend the words that paint a basic picture, but what exactly it stands for is hidden from the world (Mat 11:25).
As soon as [Jesus] was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN.”
Mar 4:10-12 (NASB)
I’ve heard people claim that studying theology for decades can bring you to a deeper insight of who God is. And without knowing Hebrew, Greek, church history, specific Reformed doctrines, they now want to make you believe your pursuit of more closeness with God will be limited… funny isn’t it? And some of us thought the Reformation has stopped with the lie of the Roman Catholic church that only an elite few may actually find God in the Bible. What this new movement has done was to just lower the bar a bit: Indeed (according to some of their “experts”) everyone can read the Bible, but only more human effort (e.g. years of education from tons of extrabiblical material) can help you to unlock the deepest secrets of God’s Word.
It started bothering me probably around the time when I first heard this analogy of a person who was stranded on a deserted island with nothing but the Bible. Now imagine this man gets back into civilization after ten years of reading nothing but the Bible and he meets this popular and very successful theologian (in the likes of a Mr. John MacArthur). Who of the two would have derived more eternal treasures out of the Bible?
The answer is fairly simple: None of them will be able to disclose any of the mysteries of the Bible.
Again, simply reading the Bible or getting information from other sources about the Bible will get us nowhere near to God.
In fact, empty theology or pure knowledge about the Bible will reveal itself in a proud manner. You may recognize this in the lack of brokenness or collective repentance mostly within these “Reformed circles”, especially when they attack and make fun of people with little to no theological education (according to their standards aka doctrines).
“For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
1Co 4:7 (NASB)
Instead, proper Bible reading would manifest itself in humility, gratitude and pure joy (Luk 10:21-24). There would be no space for pride or humiliation of others, because a true disciple of Christ understands that any knowledge of Bible truths she/he receives comes not from intellect, but supernaturally from God (1Co 2:6-16).
Now, that’s the tricky part: How do we get to this place of undeserved grace to be able to read the Bible properly/supernaturally?
In Acts 8, we read a story of an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading Scriptures all by himself. Based on this passage, it’s easy to come to a conclusion that, if we read Scripture, we can only understand, if someone else teaches us. However, that’s not what the word says. The eunuch only assumed that someone had to “guide” him (v.31), but what Philip did was “preaching Jesus to him” (v.35) and eventually leading him to salvation first (v.36-38).
Even after salvation, we need further jolts of divine “revelations” for certain truths as did happen to Peter in a discourse with Jesus:
And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
Mat 16:17 (NASB)
When we read the Bible, we don’t need more studies of God (aka theology) as if He were in some test tube in a lab. We need more people being reborn in the Spirit of God to understand the words coming from the Spirit of God. To have the ability to decypher the Bible, one must be of the same nature as the author of the Bible!
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,”
1Co 2:10-12 (NASB)
If I may suggest, let’s pray humbly and most sincere the following prayer from the Bible for us first and then for others as well:
The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may He grant us a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, by having the eyes of our hearts flooded with light, so that we can know and understand the hope to which He has called us, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones), and [so that we can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength, Which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His [own] right hand in the heavenly [places], Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named [above every title that can be conferred], not only in this age and in this world, but also in the age and the world which are to come.
(derived from Eph 1:17-21 (AMPC))