How does a new Christian interpret the Bible? This is a question that is on the mind of every new convert. There is such a volume of doctrine in the Bible, so many denominations, sects, eschatology’s it is mind boggling. What or who do we believe? How do we approach the Bible so we can benefit most and not be misled or sent down a rabbit trail that ends in a circle?
In general, there are two ways a Christian is introduced to Bible study. The first, and I think the most common is, the new convert reads their Bible, and is filled with an overwhelming amount of questions, and goes to church and listens to the Pastor or Priest; then they may join a Bible study or have a more mature Christian help you interpret passages; and people will typically give you an inspiring book to help learn and understand.
In general that is what I see as the normal and usual introduction to Christian thought.
Now, the second approach to learning Biblical truth is done by mentoring the new convert with a ‘hands on’ approach. The young Christian is brought into the church, hears the Pastor or Priest, reads their Bible and is asked to join in a local ministry with a mentor or other members. It may be they join others doing community service, be it city clean up, feeding the homeless, reading to the blind, helping an elder with house work or yard clean up, or some other way of donating time and talents in the service of their fellow man. These times of Christian application can often be done with the family, or two by two.
Now as the new convert reads and interprets their Bible within the context of service, the simple foundations of Christianity become clear and knowledge added on this foundation bears much fruit. As the serving Christian becomes established in the truth as it is in Jesus, the natural flow, as Biblical learning increases, is to engage in sharing this living faith and bringing others into family of faith and love.
In the first example I gave, there is a danger that the Pharisees were ensnared with -- the joy of learning, the self congratulation that comes with knowledge, the thrill of growing intellectually, the gratification of position when leading a younger Christian into truth you have already learned. Christianity may become more about words and theology.
To understand the mysteries of the Bible takes an entire lifetime and it is a noble goal, but one that can potentially lead to “ever learning without coming to the knowledge of the truth”. Because, search the scriptures as you will, they are they which testify of Christ, and Christ’s school is learned in the market place of humanity, be it in our immediate family, work, school, or community.
Here is where we learn to apply the Biblical teachings and so learn the spirit and not the letter.
It is here where we learn our individual spiritual gifts.
This is the safest way I know to learn how – “To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Which is what God has showed you in the life of Christ, and the foundation made of the most enduring rock.
Just one man’s opinion and I hope it is an encouragement.
Top photo by Monique Jansen, and bottom painting by Carl Bloch.