You Can Understand the Bible Here’s How!
AMBASSADOR CHRISTIAN COLLEGE‐ Dr. Keith Slough
E MAY BE AT THE END TIME OF CIVILIZATION! Nothing is more important than understanding the Word of God and knowing His will for your life! Would you like to be able to truly understand the world's oldest book, the Holy Bible? Now you can! By following the 12 simple rules given in this issue you can truly begin under‐ standing what you read in the Word of God. So many professing Christians and even theologians also profess their inability to understand the Scripture. Some have concluded that God does not intend for us to understand. Actually there is some truth to that. For God does not intend for the wicked (and those not saved) to understand! (See Daniel 12:10). The Bible was written in such a way that its true meaning could be revealed to God's Elect but not to the world ‐ not even the worldly religious people who claim to be Christians but are not truly humble before God desiring to obey Him. To those with the right heart the Bible has been written "precept upon precept ... here a little and there a little" so that the truth can be revealed to them through God's Holy Spirit! (Isaiah 28:9‐11). Yet to those who have no desire to truly hear God's Word (verse 12b) "the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept ... here a little and there a little; that they might go, fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken"! (verse 13). They would only end up in confusion. The Bible is written in such a way as to conceal its true meaning to the world but yet reveal it to those whom God has "called" to His truth. This is why many highly intelligent people cannot understand the Bible. Their hearts must be right to comprehend its meaning! The Bible is written in such a way as to totally CONFUSE the sinner! ‐yet reveal the truth to the righteous called by God! Will you be one who will hear God's Word? Listen to God's own instruction to truly understand the "Word of the Lord": "...But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite [crushed or humble] spirit, and trembleth at My Word. Hear the Word of the Lord, ye that TREMBLE at His Word"! (Isaiah 66:2,5a). Do you truly tremble at God's Word ‐ fearing to add to or take away from His revelation to man? (Revelation 22: 18‐19). Do you read it to learn the truth of God in order to love Him and please Him more by your obedience to His Law? Is your heart and attitude right when you read the Bible? Do you read it for correction and instruction in righteousness? (II Timothy 3:16). If so, then you are a candidate to truly understand the Bible. Now by following these 12 simple rules you can begin to understand the Bible even better than many seminary graduates.
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How to Understand the Bible Now YOU can understand the Word of God! By following these basic foundational rules anyone called of God who has a sincere heart and who consistently applies these rules can truly come to UNDERSTAND the Holy Bible! WOULD YOU TRULY like to understand the Bible, the Holy Word of God? Would you like to really know and understand the very revelation from the Creator God to man? Then I have good news for you. You can understand the Bible! While even most church goers admit that they do not truly understand the Bible, and while even most ordained clergyman freely admit that they do not understand the Word of God, yet you can understand! How can I make this claim? Notice what the Bible says from the very revelation of Jesus Christ to mankind in Revelation 1:1. We read: "The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him, to show unto HIS SERVANTS things which must shortly come to pass"! Notice. This is a revelation from God through Christ and is given only to God's servants – not the general population. It is not revealed to the wise of this world, or the super Intelligent with high I.Q.s! Notice what Jesus said about God's Word ‐ His revelation to mankind in a prayer to God: "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast HID these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight"! You Must be CALLED to Understand the Truth Notice. God has actually hidden His spiritual truths revealed in His Holy Word, the Bible, to the wise and prudent of this world ‐ the college educated and the elite of society. While they can read and understand the words, they simply can't put it all together. They can't "make sense" of it. It takes the Holy Spirit to reveal God's truth to a person ‐not a high intellect. Albert Einstein had a genius I.Q. but he certainly did not understand God or His Word. Einstein died as an agnostic! Who did Jesus call to be the leaders of His Church? Did He call the Sadducees, the
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intellectuals of His day ‐many of whom were priests and supposedly knowledgeable of the Word of God? No. Did He call the scribes and Pharisees or the wealthy of society? No. He called "blue collar workers” ‐ fishermen ‐for the most part, to be the very foundational leaders of His true Church! Jesus said, ''No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me DRAW him" (John 6:44). God the Father personally draws or calls a person to His Son. The Greek word translated "can" above literally means "is able." Jesus said no man is able to come to Him, except the Father personally draws you, or calls you to Salvation. If you have an interest in Christ and desire salvation, if you have an interest in the deeper things of God, if you hunger and thirst after righteousness, then you are not reading this article by accident. The reason you have the interest you do is because God the Father Himself has personally selected you at this time to learn His Truth and to receive Salvation so that you might become a part of the Bride of Christ and be in the First Resurrection, to rule with Him for 1000 years!! And who did God call to be the laity of His Church? Was it the intellectual elite of the world? Notice First Corinthians 1:26‐29 + 31. "For ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble [Greek: of noble birth], are called But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in His presence ... That, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" ! Notice God called the base things of the world, the poor of society, those who were just ordinary men and women to His truth and to Salvation. Very few wealthy have been called. And to the astonishment of the educated elite and Harvard University‐type intellectuals of our world, even those people with less than a high school education can truly UNDERSTAND the Bible, if they are willing to follow some very simple Bible‐based rules to understand its meaning! The Holy Spirit Teaches Us Notice the apostle Paul said that what God has prepared for those who love Him has not even entered the minds or hearts of the people in the world. And then he added, "But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God [the Holy Spirit!] that we might know the things that are freely give to us of God"! (I Corinthians 2:910,12). Notice the Bible, the very Word of Almighty God, teaches us that through the Holy Spirit
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"we might know the things ... of God"! I repeat: It is not high I.Q. that is required to understand the Bible. Rather it is having the Holy Spirit and yielding to the guidance and direction God will give you through His Spirit to understand the deeper things of God that even those theologians, many of whom sadly are unconverted and don't have the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9b), cannot understand! Yet you can understand, if you have God's Spirit dwelling within you and you are being led by His Spirit (Romans 8:14). The natural man without the Holy Spirit of God "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" (I Corinthians 2: 14). No, you cannot understand the Bible without the Holy Spirit guiding and directing you into an understanding of God's Word! Even the Scofield Reference Bible states in this chapter: "The natural man may be learned, gentle, eloquent, fascinating, but the spiritual content of Scripture is absolutely hidden from him; and the fleshly, or carnal, Christian is able to comprehend only its simplest truths, 'milk' (I Cor. 3.2)" (Scofield Reference Edition, original issue, page 1214, emphasis added). Peter revealed that the Holy Spirit inspired the Word of God (II Peter 1:21). It therefore takes the Holy Spirit to comprehend it. 12 Basic Rules to Use in Understanding the Bible
Now then, what are the Bible based rules for understanding the Holy Bible? Realize first and foremost that God did not put His Word here, His revelation to men, and then not intend for men to understand it! But Jesus said God had hidden these spiritual things from the wise and prudent of this world! If you have never understood the Bible, perhaps you need to make sure of your salvation! Remember, Jesus said He was revealing things only to "His servants" (Revelation 1:1). Are you a true servant of Almighty God? Are you truly living for Him? Do you really love Jesus Christ and do you really serve Him as "His servant"? Have you genuinely confessed Him as Lord of your life? If you have not, then you will never understand the Bible. Even these Bible lessons will be little use to you without the precious Holy Spirit in your life, teaching and guiding you, indwelling you, without which no man belongs to Christ - is not a Christian, and therefore is not saved! (See Romans 8:9, last part). If there is any doubt concerning your salvation, go back and reread the lesson entitled, "The Greatest Message Ever Given to Mankind" concerning the Gospel. It makes plain what you should do to be saved (pages 7 and 8). Now then let's look at the basic Bible‐based rules that we need to live by in order to have an understanding of the Bible. These are not necessarily the only rules. But they are the basic foundational rules that every true Bible student must
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Pray for Understanding The first rule we should obey each time before we open our Bible to read or to study is to pray to God for understanding and guidance. It is God who inspired the Scriptures through His Holy Spirit (ll Peter 1:21). You must therefore go to God to ask for under‐ standing which He will give you through His Spirit. A good prayer to pray is found in Psalms 119:33‐40. Open your Bible now and read this prayer of David. Actually it would be good to periodically read the entire 119th Psalm while in prayer and on your knees, if you are really serious about understanding the Bible! Always begin your study of the Word of God with reverence, with prayer, humbly asking God to direct and guide your study of His Word and to give you understanding.
Ask for Correction Second: The Bible says in Psalm 66:18 "If I regard iniquity [sin] in my heart, the Lord will not hear me "! If you are contemplating the commission of sin, that is, if you are actually contemplating or planning to commit a sin in the future, then God will not hear your prayers! This is very serious, as prayer is our contact with God. We must confess and forsake sin the moment we realize we have done something that displeased God (Proverbs 28:13). If we confess our sins and repent, then God is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We are “cleansed” and “washed” through the shed blood of Christ (1 John 1:7 and Revelation 1:5). Our attitude then must be that of Jeremiah, who prayed, “O Lord, CORRECT me”! (Jeremiah 10:24). Do not really want God to correct you when you are wrong? Do you want HIM to correct any false doctrine you may have picked up through the traditions and opinions of men? Do you really want to be shown the Truth of God? Then pray SINCERELY for correction. Ask God to correct you and to help you to overcome sin as well. With that attitude you are well on your way to understanding the Bible.
PROVE All Things Thirdly: We must not take anyone’s opinion on Scripture. That means not even the opinions of those of our own denomination, or the opinions even of parents and family, or of our closest friend. Rather we are commanded in Scripture to “PROVE all things; hold fast to that which is
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GOOD”! (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Have you truly proved each and every doctrine you now believe? This word “prove” means we are to test all things, in this case against the Bible itself. In other words we are to compare our opinion, dogmas, and doctrines with what the Scripture says about those particular subjects. In many cases once a Christian has decided to do this, he learns that the opinion he may have held firmly to all his life is not even found in the Scriptures! In some cases we may learn that the doctrines and ideas we hold to be true are actually contradicting the plain teaching of Scripture which actually teaches the very opposite! Don’t be too surprised when you make that discovery. It may be a complete shock to you when it happens. Notice how the Bereans listened to Paul. This is how we should listen to any and every preacher who comes to us, either in the pulpit, on radio and television, or in literature. When they heard Paul preach the truth of God, "these [Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, WHETHER those things were so" (Acts 17:11)! Notice that they did not listen in order to refute what Paul was teaching or to enter into a debate. Rather they received the Word with all readiness of mind‐ they were OPENMINDED, willing to accept NEW TRUTH if they found it when they searched the Scriptures! And notice God calls such ones “noble” in His sight. Does this attitude describe you? Are you willing to prove all things by the Bible and are you then willing to “receive the Word” once you have proved it from Scripture‐ accept the truth once it is proven to you? Without this attitude you may never really comprehend the truth of God.
The Bible NEVER Contradicts Itself! Fourthly, we must realize God’s Word is Truth (John 17:17). It is inspired by God for our correction and to instruct us in righteousness (2 timothy 3:16). God said in Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I change not”! He does not contradict Himself. Jesus Christ is the same always, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)! The reason so many religious people assume the Bible contradicts itself is because admittedly, they don’t understand it to begin with, and secondly, because it does indeed contradict the traditions and religious doctrines OF MEN, which they have assumed came from the Bible, but in many cases did not! You can hear some really silly examples of how the Bible supposedly contradicts itself by people who obviously have no understanding of what they are reading! For example if you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you will get a different description as to what was written on the cross of Christ. Matthew says, "This is Jesus the King of the Jews." But Mark's account reads simply, "The King of the Jews." Is this a contradiction? But then Luke's account reads similar to Matthew's but still the
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words are different. It simply states, "This is the King of the Jews." But notice John's inspired account also. It differs from any of these three. It reads: "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews." Do these accounts actually contradict each other, as some skeptics who don't believe the Bible is the very Word of the Creator God, would have you to believe? No. In fact each account is an inspired account and is true, but the author abstracted and each only quoted part of the inscription on the cross. By adding what the four authors wrote together, we see no contradiction at all, but rather we see that each one supplemented the other. All four accounts together therefore give us the whole message that was written on the Cross. The whole statement was, "This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews." There are a number of other alleged contradictions in scripture, all which can be accounted for. There are NO contradictions in the sacred, inspired Word of God. In order to fully under‐ stand the Bible, we must know that God cannot contradict Himself; else the Bible cannot be inspired but is riddled with errors and mistakes and therefore cannot be trusted. In a previous lesson you saw undeniable proof that the Holy Bible is indeed a supernaturally inspired book. Therefore it is our lack of proper understanding that allows us to make the mistake of assuming there are contradictions. Careful reading of any text will show there are NO contradictions to be found in the Bible!
Use Proper EXEGESIS and HERMENEUTICS This fifth rule basically says to ask what the text of the Bible under consideration actually says. That is, does it really state what we think it means or are we reading our own inter‐ pretation into the text? "Exegesis" is the scholar’s word for determining that any given text actually is saying before we attempt to determine what it means! This is one of the first steps in a proper understanding of any scriptural passage. So many times we hear an unscholarly person (unfortunately, all too often from the pulpit) say that a text is actually "saying" a particular thing when it really doesn't. Rather the person is interpreting the text rather than allowing the Bible to merely speak for itself. A good example of a misinterpreted text is 1 Thessalonians 4: 13‐17. This text is used over and over to supposedly "prove" a secret "pre‐trib" rapture. Read this passage in the Bible for yourself! Does it actually SAY in so many words that it is either "secret" or prior to the Great Tribulation. No, not at all! Neither does it say that the rapture is in the middle or after the Tribulation. It only states that Jesus will come again and catch away the saints to meet Him at His return in the clouds. It says nothing about the time frame. But many sincere ministers and Bible teachers with good intentions tell their listeners that this passage supposedly supports their personal view of a "pre‐trib" rapture. You will find no mention of the TIMING of this event in this passage. To determine whether this rapture is prior to or after the Great Tribulation we
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must go to other scriptures. It is simply unethical to read INTO the text a meaning that is just not there! Remember Jesus' warning in Revelation 22: 18 about adding to Scripture something that it does not say! This is very serious. And the serious Bible student will be careful to correctly "exegete" the text rather than read his own meaning INTO it! Along with proper exegesis of the scripture comes "hermeneutics." This is the term used to refer to asking what the text meant to the author. Once we determine its meaning in its own historical setting, then we can determine its meaning for us today.
Get the Context Sixth: Sometimes a scripture taken out of context can seem to mean something it really does not. For example there is actually a verse of scripture, when taken out of context that seems to say Christ was not raised from the dead! ‐believe it or not! The apostle Paul wrote, "Then is NOT Christ raised"! Or in modern English, "not even Christ has been raised" from the dead! (1 Corinthians 15:16, NASB). The Amplified Bible simply states: "Christ has not been raised" (same verse)! This is a good example of taking a verse "out of context." This word "context" means "with the text." That is, we are to consider the surrounding verses that go with the verse or passage (the ''text) we are reading. When a statement begins with the word "Therefore" we need to back up to get the context ‐ the verses just before the verse we are studying. For example the Golden rule begins with the word "Therefore" in Matthew 7:12. In this case the Golden Rule can be truly understood in its proper context by reading the five verses just be‐ fore verse 12. Romans 5: 1 begins the chapter with "Therefore." This word basically means, "because of what was just said." So the reader needs to back up a few verses to see what was written before the verse under consideration. In our example where the scripture says Christ was not raised from the dead, reading the immediate context shows that just the opposite meaning is really intended. Therefore, the context of verse First Corinthians 15: 16 verses 12 through 20! Read it yourself and see the true meaning of verse 16. Yet taking a verse OUT of its context is how many false doctrines start!
Get All the Scriptures Seventh: Isaiah 28:13 says that God's Word is written "here a little and there a little." Not everything about a certain doctrine is all written down in one chapter of the Bible. We need to pour over the pages of Scripture to get the whole picture! Remember the example of the message that was inscribed on the cross? Part of it was
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found in all four Gospels. Only by adding all the parts together do we see the whole picture ‐the entire message that was written! The same thing is true with doctrines of the Bible! We must not privately interpret Scripture based on a single verse taken out of the context of the rest of the Scriptures. We need to get all the Scriptures on the particular subject.
The Bible Interprets ITSELF! This eighth rule is one of the most important rules of all! Martin Luther once said, "The Scripture is its own interpreter." He was saying that we do not need a Roman Catholic priesthood to tell us what the Bible means. Today we could add we do not need any Protestant denomination either or their ministers interpreting the Sacred Word of God for us. Rather by taking a verse we do not understand and going to other scriptures we can see how the Bible ITSELF interprets a passage of scripture. The entire Bible is "prophecy" in the sense that it is "inspired utterance" the definition of the Greek work translated "prophecy." Notice what Peter said about the ability to understand the Word of God, which he called "a more sure Word of prophecy" (II Peter 1: 19). "Knowing this first that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private INTERPRETATION" (verse 20). No, the Scripture forbids us to insert our own interpretation into the Bible. An example I have used for many years is Revelation 12:3. We read here about a "great red dragon." Ob‐ viously this is written in symbolism. But what could it mean? How should it be interpreted? Remember Peter wrote that the Scripture is of NO private interpretation. You and I are NOT to attempt to interpret scripture ourselves. The Holy Spirit inspired the Word of God and the Holy Spirit will interpret it for us by using other inspired scriptures to teach us. IF we were to break this rule and come up with our own interpretation, we might assume the Great Red Dragon to be a picture of "Red China" whose symbol is a red dragon. Or someone else may interpret it to mean Communism itself, whose color is red. Or someone may assume it means the New Age Movement, or any number of interpretations could arise. But YOU AND I MUST NOT INTERPRET THE BIBLE!! Rather we must let the Bible interpret itself! Does the Bible tell us in so many words who the Great Red Dragon is? Yes it does! Notice verse 9! Here we read that the red dragon is a symbol for Satan the devil! Now there can be no doubt! Remember, the Bible interprets its own symbols. We must not interject our own "made up" interpretation of Scripture into the text. Unfortunately you and I have even heard pastors and other ministers do this very thing from the pulpit! Anytime you hear a man say, "My interpretation is," just remember he is violating II Peter 1:20 which tells us that we cannot pri‐ vately interpret Scripture. That is a statement you have NEVER heard me say in more than 18
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years (at this writing) of Radio Broadcasting! Who are the seven stars of Revelation 1:16? And who are the seven golden candlesticks mentioned in verse 12? The Bible interprets itself. Read the Bible's own interpretation in verse 20! There is no need to read your own interpretation into the text! That is a very dishonest and unscriptural thing to do! No minister of Jesus Christ should ever attempt to do that!
Never Establish Doctrine on Vague Scriptures Ninth: Too many people take a Scripture whose meaning is not immediately apparent and then read their interpretation into it. When a verse of scripture is none too clear then we must first go to the scriptures that are clear and allow the vague scripture to be understood in the light of the plain and easy to understand passage.
Use Good Reference Works
Tenth: Every Christian student of the Bible should own and use a Strong's Exhaustive Concordance which contains every single word in the King James Bible. This makes it easy to look up a word or verse we assume is in the Bible but may not actually be. If it is in the Bible then we can find it in only a few minutes and study it in the context of our present research. Since the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek it would be helpful to have a Greek lexicon (dictionary) to study the New Testament words and their meanings. You may also wish to purchase a Hebrew lexicon for the Old Testament as well. And I particularly recommend a good Greek Interlinear that has both the Greek words and the English. I would recommend Green's Interlinear that is based on the original Holy Spirit inspired Greek or Byzantine text. Other Bible translations can be helpful at times as well, but remember that most of them are more or less paraphrases and not true word for word translations as is the King James Version. So when you do use modern translations use them basically as a reference to see how a vague verse might be paraphrased in modern English. It can indeed clarify a hard‐to‐be‐understood verse in the KJV. But remember to use the KJV as your primary Study Bible. Even a good Webster's Dictionary can be used for the old English words that the reader may not understand. Commentaries can be useful also. I personally recommend the Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown one volume Commentary on the Whole Bible. It is written in laymen's terms. However we should never take a commentator's word for the meaning of a particular passage, which brings us to the next rule.
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Don't Establish Doctrine with Bible "Helps" Eleventh: A Bible "Help" is for example the center reference margin that every Christian should have in his Study Bible. But sometimes the editors of these Bibles can make mistakes and give a wrong cross reference to which the text is not referring. Most of the time the marginal notes are helpful, but on occasion they can make a mistake. Remember that these marginal notes are put there by the editors and not by the Holy Spirit! A good example is the marginal note beside the term "Lord's Day" in Revelation 1: 10 found in most KJV Bibles. Most margins will have a cross reference to a verse of scripture mentioning ''the first day of the week" when the whole context of the book of Revelation is dealing with the Great and Terrible "DAY of the Lord" as all modern scholars admit, and not any particular day of the week! While the Commentaries can be very helpful when providing historical background to a book in the Bible and the meanings of Hebrew and Greek expressions, be wary of the commentator's own interpretation and never establish a doctrine by their comments alone. We must let the Holy Spirit show us from the Bible itself what doctrines we are to believe and accept. Halley's Pocket Bible Handbook is also a good book for the Bible student to own. So is a good Bible Dictionary such as Unger's. But always remember to let the Bible have the final word and not a Bible "Help" such as a Bible dictionary, commentator, or even the footnotes at the bottom of the page in your own reference Bible. By the same token you must not allow a pastor or church school teacher or any human being to establish doctrines for you. Always ask, “What does the Bible Say?” And accept the Bible as your ONLY Authority!
Mark Your Bible Finally, the twelfth rule is to mark your personal study Bible so you can find things easily. Jeremiah 23:18 asks, "Who hath marked His Word, and heard it?" I have probably every single page marked with cross references of my own in the margins and underlining’s of certain words and phrases that I wish to stand out for easy reading when I come back to these pages. The entire Bible is very interesting and therefore it would be hard to read a single page in my Bible that there is not at least one underlining of a word or a cross reference I have added in many years of my own personal Bible Study. Marking it helps you to remember it rather that trying to "memorize" the verse. Marking a verse causes that verse to sink down deep into your consciousness as well. Let me caution you about using elaborate marking systems where red means one thing to
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you and blue means something else. There will be times when this will become too tedious to continue. Just simply take a pen whose ink does not bleed through the pages and mark your Bible. For many years I have used the medium point Papermate pen with blue ink. I have avoided highlighters which many times will bleed through the page and cause confusion later on. Another caution is that you should never underline too many verses or else nothing stands out on the page. The whole purpose of underlining or putting parentheses around verses is to cause them to stand out on the page! I have seen some Bible Students mistakenly underline every sentence on the page! Therefore nothing stands out! If the entire page is that important, put brackets around the whole page and then as the years go by you may see other things on that page you wish to underline so they will stand out as you grow in your Bible knowledge ‐ in the truth of God. Applying these twelve rules will help you in your study of the Bible to arrive at the correct understanding every time. May God bless you as you grow in grace and knowledge of His Truth.
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