How to acquire spiritual understanding and how to help others have spiritual understanding.
The format of this paper is designed so that it can be used for Bible Study by individuals, families or groups. You can copy it and put it into your own word processor program and use it with the e-Sword Bible study we describe, or print it out and study it verse by verse. What is included here is not exhaustive, there is still a lot of gold nuggets for you to find about spiritual understanding.
Spiritual understanding is such a vitally important subject for us as Christians to understand. As you go through this paper you will see how the church has made assumptions about how people acquire spiritual understanding and how to help others to have spiritual understanding that is wrong.
The #1 Key to acquiring Spiritual understanding is not seminary education but asking God for Understanding before you read or study the Bible.
1 Kings 3:9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
Psalms 119:34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Psalms 119:73 Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.
Psalms 119:125 I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.
- God is the source of understanding. We need to remove the wrong philosophy from our minds that other people are the source of understanding. Too often we automatically look to other people – the pastor, Sunday school teacher, seminary professor or other educated person or book to give us understanding. God can use other people in giving us understanding, but He is the source.
- Understanding is a gift from God. It is not something that we conjure within ourselves.
- Understanding of the Bible does not require an education or Bible instruction, or even a Bible teacher. The ability to understand the Bible is something that God gives to us.
- To receive understanding we need to recognize our position as Christ’s servant who needs understanding. Those who feel they already know because of their education will not view themselves as servants and will likely miss looking to God to give them understanding in a crucial moment.
- In order to properly understand and draw insights from stories in the Bible, we need God’s understanding. THIS shows why the traditional Bible story diet has failed in Sunday Schools: it attempts to enable the student to understand through human understanding rather than God’s understanding.
Psalms 119:144 The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live.
- Because the accuracy of God’s Word is everlasting and is not an opinion, we need to ask God for understanding.
- To experience the fullness of life that God has to offer us, and to experience the fullness of a spiritual life with Christ we need to have spiritual understanding of what is God’s way and what is God’s best. Sin and the resulting wrong philosophies and opinions of the world and of people in the church who lack understanding makes it easy for us to have the wrong understanding. Therefore it is important for us, over and over throughout our life span, to ask God for understanding.
- We need to understand the examples of right and wrong actions that God gives to us in the Bible so that we can learn from them. We get experience one of two ways – 1) by observing the lives of others: their mistakes and failures. 2) The hard way by the school of hard knocks in our own life. If we ask God for understanding, we can gain experience the easy way through the testimonies of the Bible.
- Since true understanding is a gift from God, when we try to use our human understanding to understand His word, we will get far enough ahead to get proud of ourselves, and have others admiring our understanding. Then, at some critical time, our “natural” understanding will fail us, and we will fall flat on our nose.
Psalms 119:169 Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD: give me understanding according to thy word.
- It’s important that we cry out to God for understanding.
- We do not derive understanding from our inner selves, but only from God.
- Spiritual understanding comes from God and His Word and not from other people.
- We can tell what true understanding is, because it will line up with God’s Word.
- We need to focus on “leading people to the pasture” rather than on feeding them. What we need to do is give them the commands and give them the resources to understand the commands, such as cross-references, but not do all their thinking for them.
- We need to teach people to call out to God for spiritual understanding.
Exodus 31:3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
- Understanding is a gift from God
- It is the Holy Spirit that gives us understanding.
Deuteronomy 4:5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. 6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
- Psalms 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth forever.
- Understanding comes after we obey God, not before.
- We need to keep God’s commands in order that other people can see the wisdom of His commands and understand their importance.
- This explains why, when someone intentionally disobeys God’s commands, they can’t understand when others try to correct them. Because they have disobeyed God, He takes away their understanding. Obeying God is crucial to getting understanding!
Deuteronomy 32:28 For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. 29 O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
- Understanding requires counsel. Wise counsel gives a bigger perspective than what one has by themselves. We all have blind spots and others can point out those things that we can’t see. What results in a serious lack of understanding is when we have a major blind spot and we have no one to point it out to us.
- Children need parents to help them see their latter end and steer them in the right direction.
- Solomon asked God for understanding. In 2 Chronicles it says he asked for wisdom.
1 Chronicles 22:12 Only the LORD give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the LORD thy God.
- Wisdom and understanding go hand in hand. It appears that one can not have one without the other.
Job 12:12 With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. 13 With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.
- Understanding often increases as a person gets older.
- God is the source of understanding.
Job 17:4 For thou hast hid their heart from understanding: therefore shalt thou not exalt them.
- God takes away understanding from people.
- When God takes away a person’s ability to understand, it is not possible for us to give them understanding or to explain things to them. No amount of simplifying, proofs, reasoning, explanations, teaching, preaching, rebukes, etc., will help them to understand until God opens their understanding. It is important that we recognize this and discern if a person has understanding or if God has taken it away before we spend time trying to explain a particular truth to them.
Job 28:28 And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.
- Understanding – to depart from evil.
- A person that is not ready to depart from what he is doing wrong, even when it is pointed out to him is a person who does not have understanding and is not able to understand. We will not be able to help him understand the word of God until he is ready to depart from all evil in his life.
Psalms 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth forever.
- Doing, literally carrying out, God’s commands is necessary for a person to get understanding.
- We need to obey even though we don’t fully understand.
- The more of God’s commands we do, the greater understanding of the things of God and His Word.
- When a person chooses to not do one of God’s commands, God takes away some of that person’s understanding. That loss of understanding often results in the person not doing another command. Thus begins a downward spiritual decline of disobedience and less and less understanding.
Psalms 119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
- Understanding is greatly increased by studying and meditating on the testimonies/stories in the Bible.
- We gain understanding by meditating on the successes and failures that God tells us in the Bible. God has chosen the details of the accounts to share with us; so that we gain the understanding He wants us to have.
- Teachers have a limited role in giving another spiritual understanding.
- Our goal must not be to teach others, but to show them how to meditate on God’s Word for themselves to get understanding.
Psalms 119:104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
- Understanding is gained from God’s commands.
Psalms 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
- The Bible is the best place to turn for understanding, and the only place to get true understanding.
- Reading the Bible and meditating on it (allowing the words to enter into our heart) gives us understanding.
- Even a simple person who does not have understanding, can receive understanding if they allow God’s Words to enter into their heart. A person needs to have a desire to know what God says and not reject it.
Proverbs 1:1-2 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; 2. To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;
- Proverbs is a good book of the Bible to study to gain understanding.
- Reading Proverbs will give us guidance as to who has understanding and who does not. Over and over, Proverbs contrasts wise men and the “man devoid of understanding.”
Proverbs 1:5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:
- It is important that we hear and listen to counsel that others give. Sometimes it is the poor counsel that others have followed or the mistakes that others have made that give us direction by knowing what not to do, and therefore we know what to do.
Proverbs 2:1-6 Pro 2:1 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; 2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
- We need to receive God’s Words and memorize His commands. That will enable us to have an interest in wisdom and to have a desire for understanding.
- Many people like to look for hidden treasure. They search and dig, throw the junk, and finally find treasure. We are to put the same energy into searching for understanding.
- The Bible gives us understanding. However, we have to first ask God to give us understanding and then study the Bible diligently to find the understanding that God has for us to know.
Proverbs 3:3-5 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: 4 So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
- In order to have good understanding, we must have both mercy and truth. Overemphasizing either one will skew our understanding.
- It is important that we memorize truth if we want to have understanding. If we can not remember what is truth or what is fact, how can we understand what is true or the best course to take. For that reason God commands us to bind truth about our neck (reminders) and memorize it.
- Understanding is directly linked to the memorizing of God’s commands.
- Understanding is directly linked to us having mercy and kindness.
- College and seminary education can often be detrimental to a person having understanding because it encourages them to lean on their own understanding.
- We need to trust God with all our heart in order to have understanding.
Proverbs 4:1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.
- We have to apply ourselves to get understanding. It is not something we are born with like intelligence.
- It’s important for children to listen to their father’s instruction if they are to get understanding.
- The father needs to help his children get understanding.
- A rebellious or independent spirit, which is reflected in a person who does not listen to his parent’s instructions, prevents him from having understanding. A rebellious or independent spirit is the opposite of the spirit of one who has understanding.
- The first step in getting understanding is for a small child to learn to listen to his parent’s instructions.
- The best time to get understanding is when we are young. Then it will benefit us for the rest of our lives.
- Pro 22:17 “Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.” When a child learns to hear intelligently the instruction of his parents, he is learning a pattern for his life of listening to those who have more experience than he does. We need to learn to listen in order to get understanding.
Proverbs 4:5 Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
- Understanding is not something we get once and then have for the rest of our life. We need to actively retain it.
- Getting wisdom and understanding is our responsibility. It is also our responsibility not to forget wisdom and understanding or to neglect them.
- Fathers need to help their children get wisdom and understanding and help them remember it. The father has great bearing on whether or not his children get wisdom and understanding.
- We need to be reminded over and over to get wisdom and understanding.
- The father needs to command his children to get wisdom and understanding and to not forget them.
Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
- Fathers need to tell their children to get wisdom and understanding.
Proverbs 5:1 My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding:
- Wisdom and understanding are not something you can buy. A child needs to listen to his Godly father and mother to know what wisdom and understanding are.
- A son needs to be taught by his father to listen to his father’s instruction and understanding.
- Too often parents assume that a child knows that they should listen to the parent’s wisdom and understanding. But how is a child or young person going to know that is best if they are not plainly told that over and over? How will they learn to listen to God’s wisdom and understanding if they are not told that over and over? What they hear their parents repeat over and over is what they understand to be important.
Proverbs 7:4 Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: 5 That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.
- Understanding needs to be reviewed with respect. It must be protected. You should hold it as something dear to you.
Proverbs 7:7 And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding,
- Young people need to get understanding at a young age before they start reaping the consequences that affect them the rest of their life from not having understanding.
- Children need to be taught to depart from evil. When they are placed in groups with peers their age such as in graded school classes, or Sunday School or church youth groups, they tend to learn to follow their peers. They do not learn to depart from evil as they should and the result is that they lack understanding. They need to learn to depart from evil and not go near it in order to get more understanding. Job 28:28 ” And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.
Proverbs 8:1 Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?
- Wisdom and understanding are there for the taking, and all we have to do is ask for them.
- Wisdom and understanding do not hide themselves. They are available to anyone who wants them including the simple and the fool. What is necessary is that one be ready to hear and not reject wisdom and understanding. Proverbs 8:6 “Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.”
- Wisdom and understanding are a gift from God. We only have to ask Him for it. He never runs out of it.
- Words of wisdom and understanding are not plain to those who do not have a desire to get understanding and wisdom Proverbs 8:9 “They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.” It is not plain to those who are searching for wealth rather than wisdom and understanding. Words of wisdom and understanding are plain to one who has understanding and knowledge. This is why it can be frustrating at times in sharing things with other people who do not have understanding. Regardless of how clear you try to make what you are saying, the other person does not understand what you are saying and reacts to you as if you were foolish. In reality it is the other way around.
Proverbs 8:5 O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. 6 Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.
- One of the first requirements for learning is a desire to gain wisdom and understanding. Then even the simple and fools will learn truth.
- Listening intelligently to one who has wisdom and understanding is one of the most important things in getting understanding.
- People need to be commanded to get wisdom and understanding, especially foolish and simple people. Children fall into the category of being more simple and foolish. Therefore it is important to command them to get wisdom and understanding. If they are not told to get wisdom and understanding, how can we expect that they will have a desire to get it? What is viewed as important by a child is reflected by what they have been told is important.
Proverbs 8:14 Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.
- One way of obtaining understanding is by following wise counsel.
- Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of understanding, according to verse 13, we need to hate evil: pride, arrogance, the evil way and a wicked mouth.
Proverbs 9:4 Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, 5 Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. 6 Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.
- To get understanding, we must forsake the foolish (v. 6)
- Just because someone is foolish doesn’t mean they need to stay that way. We need to call them to the way of wisdom.
Proverbs 9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
- We need to know who God is and what is righteousness, and holiness in order to gain understanding.
- The righteous who fear the Lord are the ones with wisdom and understanding. They can increase in more wisdom and understanding, but there has to be the fear of the Lord first.
- Helping others to fear the Lord is the most important thing in helping them to understand the Bible and what it means to live the Christian life. Without fear of the Lord and fear of disobeying Him and going to hell, a person will not have a desire to keep His commands.
- Teaching the fear of the Lord is much more important than teaching Christ’s commands!!!!!!!
- We need to teach the rewards of fearing the Lord. Rewards of fearing God: abundant life, understanding, wisdom
Proverbs 10:13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.
- A child that does not have understanding and disobeys needs to have a spanking. Words alone will not give a child understanding. They have to feel immediately the painful consequences of their wrong actions.
- “He that can learn, and will not learn, should be made to learn. The rod is a most powerful instrument of knowledge. Judiciously applied, there is a lesson of profound wisdom in every twig.” Clarke
- A spanking given in love with instruction given of why the offence was wrong and what is the correct action will give a child understanding.
- Spanking is not child abuse. It is a God-endorsed and commanded method of teaching understanding. That is why Satan is so against parents spanking their children and has persuaded the ungodly that spanking is wrong.
- A person has to have understanding before they can give wise counsel or a wise response. If you go to a person for counsel and perceive that they do not fully understand what you are saying, do not put much weight on their advice.
Proverbs 15:21 Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.
- When a person finds pleasure in foolishness, do not look to that person for wise counsel.
- It is not enough to tell children what is right and wrong. They need to understand why something is wrong and what the present and eternal consequences of doing it are. Then they will have understanding and will choose much more readily to do what is right.
Proverbs 15:32 He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.
- In order to get understanding when others correct us, we need to listen intelligently to them, and not just pass up what they have to say as being inapplicable to us.
- A child that intelligently listens to his parent’s rebukes will get understanding. Therefore it is important for a parent to help their children to learn to intelligently listen to a rebuke. This does not mean that a person should take every rebuke seriously and follow it. There will be many times in life where people will misjudge and foolishly give a rebuke. But even then it is important to listen intelligently to the rebuke to discern whether it is a wise rebuke or a foolish one. In either case the rebuke can help you to get greater understanding.
Proverbs 16:16 How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
- Many parents and church leaders lack understanding of how to relate to the younger generation because their focus in life has been on being successful in a career and making money. They have not put the necessary amount of time in relating to the younger generation and in developing a deep, understanding relationship with them. The result is a lack of understanding of the younger generation that results in offenses, hurts, and grief and shame.
Proverbs 16:22 Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.
- It is foolish to try to teach someone who is unwilling to learn.
- One of the reasons that graded or peer education has not been successful is that it attempts to instruct fools along with those who have understanding. The attempt to instruct fools is folly, and the attempt to instruct fools in peer groups along with those who have understanding is folly.
Proverbs 17:24 Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.
- Understanding requires alertness to what’s at hand, but a fool’s attention is everywhere except where it should be.
- A fool has a short attention span. Therefore it is important to teach children to pay attention and to keep focused on the subject or job at hand and not get sidetracked with other thoughts.
Proverbs 17:27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. 28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
- Understanding and knowledge need to go together. Then you can have the understanding to know when to speak up and when to be quiet.
- Children need to be taught to be quiet and listen to older people talk and not try to put in their two cents. By listening they are able to learn to listen before talking, and they are able to learn from those who have knowledge.
- If a child is to have understanding when he is a man, he needs to be taught to listen and be quiet when he is a child.
Proverbs 18:2 A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.
- If, when we speak with others, we sense that they have no desire to listen, but only to say what’s on their minds, we may as well be quiet because we are only throwing words to the wind.
- Sports have become a significant part of education in America. However, sports encourages young people to delight in pleasure and exalting themselves, rather than delighting in understanding. Sports actually destroy what educators are trying to accomplish. Sports tend to create fools that delight in pleasure, rather than persons with understanding.
Proverbs 19:8 He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.
- We must keep understanding in order to gain anything from it; not merely hear it, but keep it.
- It is important that we guard and protect the understanding God has given to us so that we don’t lose it and that it is not taken away by those who lack understanding.
Proverbs 19:25 Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.
- Discipline and correction are a necessary part of education. When these are removed or avoided the education does not succeed.
- A person with understanding needs to be reproved when he is wrong so that he will understand what is right. Reproof is an essential part of learning.
- Scorners cannot be corrected by mere rebuke, nor imprisonment. God’s method for correcting scorners is corporal punishment.
Proverbs 20:5 Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.
- “An understanding man will get out useful things from men of knowledge, the most reserved: some men must be pumped, and a good deal of pains must be taken with them, to get out anything of them, as in getting water out of a deep well, and which when got is very good; and so is that wisdom and knowledge which is gotten by an inquisitive man from another of superior knowledge…” Gill
- Wise men tend to be more silent and don’t tend to volunteer all their counsel. If you want to find the answer to your questions you have to ask specific questions, and follow up questions to make sure you get all the details that you need. Otherwise you may think you understand what they are saying only to regretfully find out later that you misunderstood an important step or detail.
- Sometimes it takes quite a bit of digging to draw counsel out of a man. You have to persistently question him on his methods, so that he goes into greater detail and explains it thoroughly. You have to have understanding to know what questions to ask.
Proverbs 21:16 The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.
- A person can lose their understanding. They wander away from it thinking they are getting greater understanding, but they are not.
- “Wandering away from understanding” gives the connotation of slowly and unintentionally getting distracted from understanding. It is not a deliberate decision to leave understanding.
- We must keep our focus on God and His Word and keeping His commands so that we do not get distracted from God’s way of understanding.
Proverbs 23:23 Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
- We may not sell truth at any price through earthly pleasures, sensual sins, worldly gain or anything else. We are to do the same with wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
- We must not sell the truth, wisdom, instruction, or understanding to make merchandise of it as many colleges and seminaries are doing. Many Christian book and music publishers are selling out to secular companies. The result is that truth becomes corrupted.
- When the emphasis is on selling the truth to as many people as possible, God’s truth is often watered down or changed to make it appealing to the most number of people. This is happening with the current church growth emphasis.
- We need to buy truth from God. God is the real source of all truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding. This is an important fact that needs to register in our minds. We must go to God for this not look to other people. Higher education has not resulted in the Church having greater understanding and truth. Instead Christian colleges and seminaries have produced pastors whose churches are more like the world in beliefs than the previous generation.
Proverbs 24:30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. 32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. 33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 34 So shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth; and thy want as an armed man.
- We can receive understanding by observing the mistakes and wrong choices of others.
Proverbs 28:11 The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.
- Understanding means that we need to question people who appear to have wisdom to see if they really are wise before we give value to what they say.
- Be careful about those who act like they know what they are talking about or who point out their own credentials to try to impress you.
- Wealth can be a stumbling block to having understanding. One becomes proud and it prevents him from asking the right questions of others because he thinks he already knows the answers.
Isaiah 11:2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
- Understanding is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
- John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.
Isaiah 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: 14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
- For a Christian to have understanding they need to do more than confess Christ with their mouth. They need to have a heart’s desire to keep Christ’s commands, and have a fear of the Lord. They need to realize that God will judge them if there is any sin in their life.
- The fear of the Lord must be taught based on His Word. When we try to teach it based on our own precepts and doctrines, we will end up giving a fear of the church, rather than a fear of God. The conservative church has doctrines that they hold and command, sometimes even more strictly than God’s commands. As a result, people get a fear of the church’s punishment, rather than a fear that God will punish them for disobedience. When people fear God, it is a much more effective fear, because if you’re headed for Hell, you’d better do something about it.
- It is often assumed that if a person is a Christian that God will give them understanding. This passage tells us that that is not necessarily the case. God judges one’s heart before He gives them understanding. God also takes away one’s understanding if that person’s heart gets attached to someone or something else.
Isaiah 40:13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counselor hath taught him? 14 With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?
- God is the source of understanding. It’s wonderful that we can go to him at any time when we lack understanding and He will give it to us.
- God gently leads us v.11. As Christians we have the ultimate opportunity in life to have God to give us perfect counsel and direction. He has perfect understanding of what is best. He has perfect knowledge of what works and what will have poor results. He is so far superior to everyone else combined that no one has anything, even some small discovery, which they can teach God.
- Why do we think that the educated community’s method, idea, theory, instruction, etc. is better than what God says? Subconsciously the church has fallen into this trap.
Isaiah 40:28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
- God’s understanding is infinite. There is no way we can ever comprehend the vastness of His understanding. Therefore, He is the very best One to go to for understanding.
- We cannot through intellectual reasoning arrive at the same understanding that God has. God gives us understanding when we ask Him for it, but we can not get it on our own or buy it through a college education. Spiritual understanding requires the Holy Spirit not the intellect in order to have it and to understand it.
- Instead of trying to search out God’s understanding and worrying, doubting Him, and fretting, we need to wait upon the Lord and wait patiently for Him to reveal His understanding to us v.31. “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Isaiah 44:13 The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. 14 He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. 15 Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshipeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. 16 He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: 17 And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshipeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. 18 They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. 19 And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree? 20 He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
- When people turn away from God, He takes away their understanding. Then they can really get deceived, because they do not have the understanding to realize that they are deceived, or to get out of their deception.
Jeremiah 3:15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
- Beware of a pastor, who is more interested in increasing the number attending his church than he is in making sure that the young people growing up in the church are becoming men and women after Jesus’ heart.
- A man needs to be a man after God’s heart first before he is able to lead others to gain true understanding.
- Beware of a pastor who is unwilling to change his views, obey God’s commands when they are pointed out to him, or admit that he is wrong. Such a pastor is lacking in understanding.
Jeremiah 4:22 For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.
- Understanding is learning how to do good. It is learning what is right and what is good. The world around us teaches how to do evil, and we need to make a conscious effort to learn what is good and how to do it.
- We need to truly learn to know God, and understand what is important to Him, and learn what His perspective is on the things we do and the things that others do around us.
- Those without understanding will do evil. They need to be taught what is good and how to do good. This they can not learn from the world.
Jeremiah 5:21 Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:
- Without understanding, people will not see and hear intelligently. This is a problem that has existed for thousands of years: People who should know better are not able to understand spiritual things, particularly in certain areas. What is obvious, they are not able to see. It does not make sense to them. They can not understand plain English and take offense at things that are not said and do not hear everything that is said. It is not possible to communicate with people like this. You can’t be sure what they understood and what they didn’t or what they are reacting to. Reasoning with them will go nowhere because they can’t hear, see, or understand. It is particularly frustrating when talking with someone who is like this who has been a Christian for many years. They may be a pastor or a teacher, and yet they can’t understand the Bible in areas that they are not keeping and they don’t want to change.
Daniel 1:17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
- Luke 21:15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
- James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
- God gives a person intellectual ability. It is a gift for His glory, not our own.
- Understanding of visions and dreams is a gift from God.
- Understanding was a gift of the Holy Spirit in the O.T as well as in the New Testament.
Daniel 1:20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
Daniel 2:21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: 22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.
- Wisdom, knowledge and understanding are a gift from God.
- Since it is God that reveals the deep and secret things, it is important that we go to Him with our questions instead of to other people.
- Understanding must come first and then Bible knowledge. This is the opposite of the current spiritual education philosophy in Sunday School, Bible School, Christian college and seminary education. That philosophy assumes that understanding will come after Bible knowledge is given.
Daniel 9:22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.
- An angel gave Daniel understanding so that he could understand the vision.
- God gave Daniel understanding while Daniel was spending time with the Lord in prayer.
Daniel 10:1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision.
- It was while Daniel was praying that God gave him understanding of the vision.
- Sometimes God gives understanding immediately as in this case. Other times understanding is given at a later date as was the case in several other visions that Daniel had. God is not confined to any specific way of doing things. Therefore we should not get discouraged if we do not have understanding right away, but we need to pray and patiently wait for God to give us understanding.
- Daniel was the only one whom God revealed this prophecy to, and he was the only one who had understanding of the vision. Later in this chapter an angel came and gave Daniel further understanding and strength. The thing that God revealed to Daniel required great strength and courage. A man of God who has understanding also needs to have strength and courage. It appears that God does not give the same level of understanding to everyone because they do not have the strength and courage to handle the understanding.
Daniel 11:35 And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.
- v.33 those with understanding are the ones who are able to instruct others in the ways of the Lord.
Mathew 15:15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. 16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? 17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
- When Jesus said “Are you also yet without understanding?” there are several things that he implied: 1) That each individual is responsible for their own understanding. 2) The teacher is not the one with the primary responsibility to make his students understand as we usually think. This sheds new light on how one gets understanding and who is primarily responsible for having understanding. Peter asked for understanding and Jesus proceeded to explain what He meant. However, Jesus said that Peter should have already had understanding and understood it without any further explanation.
- A teacher should help his students get understanding. If he discerns that they don’t understand what he is saying, he should let them know that they lack understanding. However, unless they really want to gain understanding, he should not try to explain it to them. He will only waste his breath. In this passage, even though the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was saying, they were wise enough to ask him for more understanding.
Mark 7:18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
- Jesus expected these uneducated men to have understanding even though the most educated men of that day were not able to understand.
- Education is not what is necessary for understanding. What is necessary is a desire to hear and understand.
- Education hinders understanding. The Pharisees had no clue what Jesus was talking about. It did not line up with what they’d been taught was right.
Luke 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
- A person must have spiritual understanding in order to teach others to stand with conviction. v.4
- “In religion God does not set aside our natural faculties. He calls us to look at evidence; to examine accounts; to make up our own minds. Nor will any man be convinced of the truth of religion who does “not” make investigation and set himself seriously to the task.” Barnes’ Notes
- It is important that we know that our instructor has spiritual understanding so that we can trust his teaching.
Luke 2:47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
- Jesus was home schooled and he had great understanding.
- Even though Jesus was God, he did not teach the doctors outright. He was “both hearing them, and asking them questions” (v.46). When we have understanding, we must not go around flourishing it to everyone who will listen to us for five seconds. We also cannot have the attitude of “I know everything.” A person who truly has understanding will be willing to listen to others, just like Jesus.
Luke 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures,
- A good prayer to pray anytime we read God’s Word – “Lord, come open my understanding, that I might understand the Scriptures.”
- “The design of God’s opening the understanding is that we may be acquainted with the Scriptures. It is not that we may be made wise above what is written, but that we may submit ourselves wholly to the Word of God.” Barnes’ Notes
- Without Jesus giving us understanding, we cannot fully understand the Bible. There are some passages that even a young child can tell you exactly what they mean. There are many others that, unless you have spiritual understanding, you cannot understand. They will seem like foolishness to the natural mind.
- Eph 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
- “Even good men need to have their understandings opened; for though they are not darkness, as they were by nature, yet in many things they are in the dark. David prays, Open mine eyes. Give me understanding. And Paul, who knows so much of Christ, sees his need to learn more.” Matthew Henry
- Understanding of the deeper things of Christ is a gift through the Holy Spirit. It is not the result of education, explanation, or intellect.
- It is only God who can truly open our understanding.
Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
- Being without spiritual understanding is a person’s own fault and wickedness. It is included in the same list as fornication, murder, backbiters, disobedient to parents, and other sins.
- We cannot expect an educational system that has deliberately removed God from having any part in it (“they did not like to retain God in their knowledge”) to have any understanding. These verses describe the public school system. How in the world can Christian parents commit their children to this kind of system?!
- Public schools and secular minded colleges have chosen to not retain God in their knowledge. Therefore God has given them over to a reprobate (worthless) mind. Since this has taken place, the education system has been declining in successfully training children and young people. The government each year increases spending and tries new programs grasping for a solution to their failing system. The answer is simple. Put God and the Bible back in the classroom.
1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
- When we try to explain the gospel with the wisdom of this world, we will make it of none effect.
- This is an important passage that we as Christians need to realize the truth of. Many Christians are valuing the education of the world, and the wisdom of the world. They educate themselves and their children in the wisdom of the world — higher education. Even Christian colleges and seminaries teach the wisdom of the world cloaked in “spiritual” wording. Persons in the broader church with a PhD. are held up on a pedestal as authorities on spiritual and Biblical matters and interpretations. This infatuation by the church with PhD education and the honoring of those who have the world’s PhD label is destroying the church.
- The world cannot understand salvation. It is foolishness to them. Only the Holy Spirit can grant them the understanding of salvation so that they can be saved. Also the more highly educated someone is, the harder it will be for him to understand salvation. What is needed is child-like faith. Mar 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
- Preaching is necessary to give the world understanding of how to be saved.
- The O.T. passage that this verse comes from, Isaiah 29:14, has an interesting precedent. The previous verse reveals that the Israelites were teaching the fear of God through the commands of men, and their hearts were far from God. God said that he would then take away the wisdom they used to teach the fear of their commands. Today, much of the Church, both conservative, liberal, and in between, is using their own doctrines, methods, and wisdom to preach the Gospel and the doctrines of the Bible. For example, because of Calvinistic interpretation and “spiritualizing” away of Scripture, many pastors teach that “once you’re saved, you’re always saved. Just ‘say the words’. Then you’re eternally secure, and you can live the way you like.” This is directly contrary to the Word of God. Such pastors also will use their “cemetery” training to authoritatively tell their “parishioners” that they can just disregard portions of Scripture. Those pastors had better watch out! God says he will take away their understanding and wisdom.
1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
- Speaking in tongues does not help others in the Church to have understanding. It is important that the church service be a time of teaching and encouraging others and helping them to have understanding. When a congregation focuses on things other than the Bible, the result is that the people have spiritual understanding of only children. They are not spiritually mature.
- Mature understanding does not come through tongues. Therefore tongues should not have a prominent place in the congregation. Speaking in tongues can not be used as a test of spiritual understanding and maturity. The exact opposite is true. Speaking in tongues inappropriately is an indication of a lack of spiritual understanding.
Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
- “The eyes of your understanding – It is with these alone that we discern the things of God. Being first opened, and then enlightened – By his Spirit.” Wesley Commentary
- We should pray that not only we, but others, can get understanding, so that we can understand about the mighty power and riches of God. I do not think we fully understand how much God can do.
- “Those who have their eyes opened, and have some understanding in the things of God, have need to be more and more enlightened, and to have their knowledge more clear, and distinct, and experimental. Christians should not think it enough to have warm affections, but they should labor to have clear understandings; they should be ambitious of being knowing Christians, and judicious Christians.” Matthew Henry
Ephesians 4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
- Blindness comes not because of unknown ignorance (lack of knowledge), but because of hardness or callousness to the knowledge God has given. (“But be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. James 1:22)
- 1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
Ephesians 5:17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
- It is important that we understand what the Lord’s will is. It is easy for us to be unwise and do what seems best to us rather than first finding out what the Lord’s will is and doing what He wants us to do.
- Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
- It is each person’s responsibility to find out what the Lord’s will is and do it. Just because a person is a Christian or even a pastor does not mean that he knows what the Lord’s will is. Even if he knows what the Lord’s will is, it does not mean that he is following it. Therefore it is important to go to the Lord to find out what His will is for us rather than go to other people and rely on their opinions.
- Lack of wisdom is defined here as not understanding God’s will. Wisdom is defined as understanding what God’s will is. Therefore, a wise man will try to find out God’s will.
Colossians 1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
- We need to pray for those who are doing well in the Christian life, not only for those who have problems.
- Verses 4, 6, and 8 give the prerequisite for understanding: Faith in Christ Jesus, love for fellow saints, knowing the grace of God (salvation) and “love in the Spirit.” This is the “cause” mentioned in verse 9.
- We need to pray for one another that we may have spiritual understanding and wisdom. Since spiritual understanding comes from God, not education, prayer for others to have understanding is more important than trying to teach them so that they can have understanding.
- We need to pray for one another on a continual basis, not a one time prayer.
Colossians 2:2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
- In Jesus are hidden all the treasures of understanding and wisdom and knowledge. Let’s not let ourselves be persuaded otherwise or fooled by the “experts” or by others who’ve been fooled by the “experts”.
- When a group of believers hearts are knit together in love, they are able to collectively have a greater understanding of spiritual things. They are able to be of one mind, and speak the same thing.
- God has the “library” or “reference resource” in which all wisdom and knowledge is kept. God is the source. He is the one we need to go to, to find answers to our questions. We also need to beware of others who have a “new” understanding but their source is the writings or opinions of other people. Evaluate closely what others are saying or writing. I have found that often when a person is advocating a position that is not scriptural, they may use a few verses of Scripture, but most of their support comes from the writings of other people.
- God holds all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Therefore, when others try to beguile us with enticing words, we need to look to God to find out whether or not something is true, even if it is not a “Bible doctrine.” For example, if someone tells us that it is unhealthy to eat meat, we need to evaluate that based on what God says about eating meat.
- When a preacher is preaching, evaluate where he received the basis of what he is preaching. Is it something that God revealed to him to give to the congregation or did it come from himself or his research of other people’s writings or opinions? It is important that we evaluate this closely, because God warns us in this passage that it is easy for teachers or preachers to lead us astray by convincing words that do not come from God. It is our responsibility to not let others beguile us and deceive us.
1Timothy 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
- We have to be careful when choosing someone to instruct us that they really do know what they’re talking about.
- It is possible for us to deceive ourselves and others, knowing the right religious terms to use, but not having the Holy Spirit guiding our understanding.
- Understanding of God’s Law, His New Testament commands, is vitally important if a person is to be an instructor to others. Too often a person is given a position of teaching in the church because of their ability to teach or because of their academic education. This is probably because those who do the selecting often have the same or less understanding than the highly educated one who is selected. They therefore have no way of evaluating the vain jangling that the highly educated teacher is affirming. It sounds good. It is terms and rhetoric that other educated people are using but which lacks true spiritual understanding.
- Be careful even about people who seem to know what they are saying. Where are they getting their information? Is it sound information? Does it line up with God’s Word? For example, some Christians think that the world should be at peace, and not go to war with each other. They want to apply the Ethic of Love to sinners and Christians alike. However, the Bible specifically, in Romans 13, gives government the right to punish evil-doers and go to war.
2 Timothy 2:7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
- It is God who gives us understanding of spiritual things, not other people, not the church, not Sunday school, and not education.
- “All these things cannot be understood, and much less practiced, unless we ask of God and he gives us understanding.” Geneva Commentary
- We should pray that others can gain understanding.
- We should encourage others to seek for understanding.
- Spiritual truths are much more significant than what they appear to the natural mind. Therefore it is important that we take time to meditate on Scripture and ask God to show us the hidden truths that He wants us to see.
- When we want to evaluate something, we should ask the Lord to help us understand whatever it is that we are evaluating. Unless we can fully understand it, we might disregard it when we should take its message to heart, or we might take something to heart that we should disregard.
- This verse can be spoken as a blessing for God’s understanding.
1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
- Jesus is the One who gives a person spiritual understanding, not education.
- It is only through Jesus opening a person’s understanding that they can truly know Jesus and the Father.
- Notice that Jesus gives us an understanding, not all understanding. We need to keep on getting more, or what we have will be taken away from us. (Luke 18:8)
- Understanding what is truth comes through Jesus opening our understanding so we can understand truth. Christian education tries to do what only Jesus can do. The result is people who think that they have spiritual understanding but they do not. Polls show that among born again believers, for the majority, their beliefs and actions are little different from non-believers.