How much would you pay for a pair of spiritual reading glasses that could sync the Bible with your mind and your understanding of it with God’s understanding? Move over Artificial Intelligence . . . introducing Divine Intelligence. Unfortunately, while we can buy many things, including a potato with a picture of our face on it (rated 4.5 stars on one site), we can't buy spiritual glasses. But Christians have something better. Someone better—the Holy Spirit.
He’s the Spirit of truth, and without Him, we can never correctly understand the Bible (John 14:17).
This point is so important, I’ll repeat it: without the Holy Spirit, we can never correctlyunderstand the Bible.
Do You Have Eyes to See?
The Holy Spirit lives in Christians and gives us spiritual eyes to understand and love the Bible. “But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually” (1 Cor. 2:14).
When those without God’s Spirit read the Bible, a veil rests over their understanding (2 Cor. 4:3). They can recognize what the Bible says and may even concede that it contains good morals and teaching. But its message—the cross of Christ and all that the gospel encompasses—is ridiculous to them (1 Cor. 1:18). It doesn’t change them because sin and pride have blinded them.
When the Holy Spirit makes someone spiritually alive, He remains with them. Through His indwelling presence, the mind of Christ is at work in us, giving us spiritual eyes to see truth clearly (1 Cor. 2:12, 16).
If you’re not a Christian, you don’t have eternal life or God’s Spirit (Rom. 8:9, Eph. 1:13–14). I implore you to read the article “What’s the Main Point of the Bible?” and pray. Ask God to reveal Himself and His salvation to you. God answers the prayer of those who confess their need of a Savior—their need for Jesus.
The Holy Spirit Is Better than Spiritual Glasses
Spiritual glasses seem convenient, but the Holy Spirit is infinitely better. For one, as the third member of theTrinity, the Holy Spirit is a person—not an it. He’s not an inanimate object your puppy can chew up, like a brand-new pair of glasses. (Not that this ever happened to me in seventh grade.)
As God, the Holy Spirit has the mind of God. “For who knows a person’s thoughts except his spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). The Holy Spirit breathed out God’s Word to His chosen authors, who wrote His message down. In other words, God conveyed His Word to the writers as the Holy Spirit carried them along, keeping their words on the parchments accurate (2 Pet. 1:21).
This same Spirit implants God’s Word into the hearts of Christians for our instruction, correction, and training in righteousness (James 1:21, 2 Tim. 3:16). He also gives us the desire to obey the Word He’s grafted into our hearts and the power to do what pleases God (Phil. 2:13; Heb. 13:20–21).
Who better to help us understand the Bible than the One who breathed it out to God’s faithful authors, implants it into our hearts, and empowers us to love and obey it?
The Spirit of God Versus Our Sin Nature
With the Holy Spirit living in us, shouldn’t understanding and obeying the Bible be effortless? Oh, how we wish. But sadly, we also have another power at work in us.
Our “fallen human nature” (our sin nature) battles our new nature in Christ. It seeks to squelch any Christlike desires that rise within us. This battle will continue for as long as we live in our mortal bodies. But Christ’s Spirit helps us in our weaknesses (Rom. 8:26). And Jesus promised that if we seek to know and love His Word, we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:31–32).
Our other challenge is that while the Holy Spirit does implant God’s Word into our hearts, we don’t receive an automatic download of it into our minds at salvation. Christ doesn’t give us instant access to all knowledge and insight into God’s Word. It takes time and effort to read and learn it. The Holy Spirit helps in many ways, including by illuminating God’s Word (1 Cor. 2:9–13).
God’s Spirit Illuminates God’s Word
The word illuminate reminds me of lightning bugs on a summer night. If you’ve seen these tiny wonders suddenly sparkle in the night sky, the sight brings gasps of delight. “I see it!” When the Holy Spirit illuminates the meaning of God’s Word, the experience often leads us to exclaim, “I see it!” Like when I was reading John 19:30.
As Jesus hung on the cross, He said, “It is finished.”
His words made me pause. What’s finished?
I read the last part of the verse. “Then bowing his head, he gave up his spirit.”
More clearly than if a display of lightning bugs had written it in the night sky, Christ’s meaning illuminated my understanding. I saw it!
When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant He’d finished the work God sent Him to do. He’d paid sin’s penalty in full. He’d drunk down the last drop of God’s wrath for our sin. There was nothing else to be done. So, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
“It is finished.”
Tears filled my eyes, not just because of this glorious truth, but also because the Holy Spirit had taught simple-minded me through His Word.
Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your Law. (Psalm 119:18 NASB1995)
Two Things the Holy Spirit Doesn’t Do
Before we look at five ways the Holy Spirit helps us understand the Bible, let’s consider two things He doesn’t do today.
1. He doesn’t add or take away from what He’s already revealed in Scripture.
God’s revelation to us is finished, complete, and sufficient within the sixty-six books of the Bible. The eternal Word delivered to us by the apostles and prophets in the Old and New Testament remains as fresh and alive as the day the Holy Spirit breathed it out.
Rather than seeking some new revelation or word from God, Scripture encourages us to “contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all” (Jude 3, emphasis added). To stand firm on His completed Word.
What a great comfort to know that when we hold the Bible, we hold all the truth we need. Understanding it, however, isn’t always easy, which leads to the next thing the Holy Spirit doesn’t do.
2. The Holy Spirit doesn’t negate our need for pastors and teachers.
When Christ established His church, He assigned pastors and teachers with the responsibility to equip the members of the church (the saints) for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11–16). God commands them to be diligent to present themselves “as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
The importance of pastors and teachers can’t be overstated. We need a whole article to discuss their service—and how to know we’ve found one who faithfully handles God’s Word. This isn’t that article. We’ll examine their important role later in thisseries. For now, let’s look at how the Holy Spirit helps us grasp God’s Word.
Five Ways the Holy Spirit Helps Us Properly Understand the Bible
If I tried to cover everything the Holy Spirit does, this article would be a book. He’s God after all. Instead, we’ll limit ourselves to looking only at five ways the Holy Spirit helps us understand the Bible.
1. He Sanctifies Us
When Jesus prayed for His disciples’ spiritual growth, He said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). The Holy Spirit also sanctifies us. In other words, He grows us spiritually every day to make us more like Christ (Rom. 8:39). As we grow more like Jesus, our sensitivity to spiritual truth increases, which helps us understand and obey the Bible.
2. He Teaches Us
Jesus promised His disciples that His Spirit would teach them all things and bring to remembrance all that He said (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit inspired both the Old and New Testament writers. He teaches us how to properly comprehend what they wrote as we read the Bible and seek to live by it. Some Scripture passages take longer to grasp than others, but the Holy Spirit is a faithful and patient teacher.
3. He Interprets Scripture
After Jesus’ resurrection, He walked on the road to Emmaus with two men and opened their eyes to truth. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). He interpreted how the Old and soon-to-be New Testament would both point to Him.
Like Jesus did for His two followers, the Holy Spirit interprets Scripture for us. He also reveals how Scripture interprets itself. He connects the dots for us within God’s Word. Like the sun that rises on the horizon by degrees until the fullness of day, the Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to open our eyes by degrees to the meaning of His Word.
4. He Convicts Us
Our sin nature tempts us to ignore God’s commands and the biblical truth we know. Our pride practically demands we ignore them. The Holy Spirit graciously convicts us whenever we lean away from truth and toward temptation. He pricks our conscience without condemning us (Rom. 8:1).
There’s no condemnation for Christians, but there’s plenty of conviction. The Holy Spirit’s greatest desire is to glorify God and His great name and to protect God’s children from ignoring the truth and giving into temptation—and its destructive consequences.
5. He Empowers Us
No matter how long we walk with Christ or how much of the Bible we know and obey, at times we feel too weak for the tasks we face. In our flesh, we are. But the Holy Spirit is the power of God to trust and obey the truth. He’s our merciful and mighty Helper.
He arms us with the sword of the Spirit—His Word—to stand firm in the truth and not fall for the lies (Eph. 6:17). By His power, His Word is living and active. It pierces deeply into our hearts like a surgeon’s scalpel, exposes the true motivations of our hearts, and makes us willing to be made willing (Heb. 4:12; Phil. 2:13; Psalm 51:12).
The Holy Spirit Makes Us Women of the Word
Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, refers to God’s written Word in almost every one of its 176 verses. The importance of studying and learning God’s Word shines from every page. Bible study isn’t an optional activity like some cruise ship excursion. It’s indispensable.
Without God’s Spirit at work in us, though, our sin-blinded hearts would neglect the Bible and make nonsense out of it. Our sin nature would urge us to put it on the highest shelf and let it grow dust bunnies. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is able to move us to read and love it. All of it.
Forget scrolling the internet for spiritual reading glasses. The Holy Spirit gives us the spiritual sight we need. He's our living hope, the Spirit of truth, and the reason we can become faithfulWomen of the Word.
Just as God uses the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Bible, He uses an important discipline and privilege to prepare our hearts to understand it—the power of prayer. This is the topic of our next article.