Have you ever become discouraged with your Bible study because you have encountered some confusing passages? You are not alone. Even Peter looked at Paul’s writings and said, “Some things in these letters are hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16).

If you study your Bible long enough you will encounter these passages. Sometimes they are hard because of their wording, and some are so rooted in an ancient culture we find ourselves lost. At other times Scripture is hard to understand because God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Sometimes it is because we don’t like what we are reading–our pride gets in the way, or we have a hard time grasping certain doctrines.

We all have passages of Scripture that trip us up, but I hope that today’s words will be an encouragement to you. Let’s begin with some words of caution.

Be careful of Google.

Google is not necessarily your friend when trying to understand difficult biblical passages. An internet search cannot tell you if an article or website is biblically sound. Search engines bring up what is most popular, and I think we have all learned that not everything that is popular is good. Don’t aimlessly search Google for answers to passages that stump you, especially not without referencing a trusted source afterwards.

Be careful of study Bibles.

I love study Bibles, but keep in mind, the notes we often reference for interpretive help have been written by people and are not inspired by God. There are some great study Bibles out there and some that have a certain theological bent. While they can be an excellent help and resource, the notes or articles included are not God’s Word. Use wisdom when choosing and using a study or devotional Bible.

Those who know me know that I am a Charles Spurgeon fangirl and there is, believe it or not, a Spurgeon Study Bible. Oh yeah! Even though I trust much of his writings, I still want to be careful that what he has written is biblically accurate.

Be careful of human emotion.

Don’t let your emotions or feelings dictate what is true and what is not. Don’t rely on your feelings to tell you what God is like, what is sin, and what isn’t sin. Our feelings are often misleading. Sometimes what is true doesn’t always trigger the most positive feelings. As we seek to be faithful followers of Christ and faithful stewards of the truth of God’s Word, let’s continue to submit our feelings and emotions to God when we encounter something in Scripture that makes us angry, sad, confused, hurt, or frightened.

How To Handle Hard Passages

Use the Bible as your first commentary.

When you encounter a difficult passage, see if there are other passages that could help shed light on what you have been reading. Allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture is what the church has done for centuries. Historically, this has been called the “analogy of faith.” When you encounter a difficult passage, don’t try to make sense of it in a way that contradicts a clear passage. If a passage is confusing or difficult to understand, look at other passages that are clear. Use clear passages to interpret difficult ones.

Here is a more straightforward example:

In John 1:1 it says, ““In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Who or what is this “Word”? In verse 14 we are told “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” As we continue to read in the rest of John 1 we find out that the One who came to dwell among humans was Jesus. Therefore, we can conclude that the Word referenced in verse 1 was Jesus.

Use the test of time.

Use extra-biblical resources that are not brand new. Some of the best sources are commentaries, creeds, or books written centuries ago. They have stood the test of time and were written by people who spent their lives pouring over their Bibles and who were gifted with the ability to understand and articulate the meaning of passages. (John Gill’s commentary on the Bible is a good example of this.)

Talk it out.

Hopefully you are attending a biblically solid church where you can ask your pastor, or other mature Christians, about a passage you may be struggling with. Having a conversation about a passage and hearing another person’s insight can be very helpful. As always, make sure that what you hear from others lines up with Scripture.

Friends, there is no need for us to be afraid of hard passages, or to skip over them. God is knowable and so is His Word. Be willing to do the hard work so you can grow in your knowledge and faith in God. He is worth the hard work.

Looking to Jesus,

Week 4 Challenge: How does the armor of God metaphor in Ephesians describe the Word of God? This week, how can you use God’s Word as a weapon, not to injure other people, but to fight the schemes of the enemy?

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Jen Thorn

Jen Thorn

Jen Thorn grew up in Germany and then spent her teenage years in Africa, where her parents were missionaries. She moved to the United States for college and attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago where she met her husband. They have been married for twenty-two years and have four children. Jen lives in the suburbs of Chicago, where her husband is the pastor of Redeemer Fellowship. Jen is passionate about theology and the connection to daily living.

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