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When You Read You Can Understand

In Ephesians 3:2-13, the apostle Paul wrote of his God-given stewardship over the gospel of Christ.  In verse 3, he made reference to a previous letter he had written on the same subject, and then he wrote in verse 4, “By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ.”  Following this, he went on to describe his ministry and the mystery of Christ in greater detail.

Let us give special attention to the phrase “when you read you can understand” in Ephesians 3:4.  In the immediate context, this phrase means that the readers of Paul’s letter can have the same level of understanding of the mystery of Christ as Paul had, even though he had the added benefit of direct revelation from Christ and inspiration by the Holy Spirit.  In the larger context of the whole New Testament and even the whole Bible, this phrase expresses the concept that we can understand the Scriptures when we make the effort to read them.  The message is self-explanatory, but we must be certain to make the correct and complete applications.

For certain, this message emphasizes the importance of reading, but what exactly are we to read?  The correct answer is obvious, but we do not always apply the correct answer.  Many times we spend time reading the writings of men and think that we have been sufficiently edified.  We may find that commentaries can give us some insight into the Bible, but they can also teach error and unfounded speculation, and they are never a substitute for the unfiltered word of God.  Likewise, articles like the one you are reading now can be instructive, but they are merely the work of uninspired men and wholly deficient for full edification.  Many people look to inspirational books, self-help books, and so-called Christian fiction books to increase their faith, but let us beware.  Books such as The Prayer of Jabez, the Left Behind series, and The Shack, and authors such as Joel Osteen and Max Lucado have found a massive market of willing readers, but their messages are often hollow, misleading, or downright wrong.  Some parts of these books may be helpful, but they can also plant false ideas that can actually hinder our understanding of the truth.  Any book authored by men should be read with a great deal of caution and scrutiny.

Of course, the Scriptures commend us to read the Scriptures.  In 2Timothy 3:16-17, Paul extolled the Scriptures as the inspired word of God that is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, and fully equipping the man of God for every good work.  It is only by reading the Scriptures that we can be thus profited, for only they contain the powerful, truthful words that have come from God Himself.  Regarding the word of God, Paul told the evangelist Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2Tim. 2:15).  As we apply this message to ourselves, we see that reading the Scriptures must be more than a casual effort.  We must “be diligent,” meaning that we must exert ourselves in the pursuit of understanding and “accurately handling the word of truth.”  Only by being diligent with the Scriptures can we present ourselves to God as understanding workmen.

When we follow the Scriptures’ advice and diligently read the word of God, we are assured by the Scriptures that we can understand God’s message.  This is a wonderful promise, for it means that we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that (we) may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:18-19).  Reading the complete revelation of God’s word gives us privileged insight, for by reading we may understand “things into which angels long to look” (1Pet. 1:12).  No wonder Paul told the Ephesian elders, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).  No other book in the world can give us understanding that leads to such blessings as the Bible.

Sadly, many people do not understand because they have chosen not to read the Scriptures.  It is not as if there is a shortage of Bibles, for nearly every home in the United States possesses at least one Bible, but rather it is that many people simply do not read them.  May it not be so with us, but rather let us reject the darkness of ignorance in favor of the light of understanding.  “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).  Diligently read your Bible because “when you read you can understand.”  Do not depend on others to lead you to God’s will, but instead find it for yourself.  As you do so, have the full confidence of knowing that you will be successful, for it is God who has promised you understanding from His word.

Stacey E. Durham



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