Last time I began a series of articles commending Christian books. This week I want to demonstrate that we need help reading the Bible because it is such a difficult book.

We usually recognise we need help reading the Bible simply because it is such a large book. In fact the Bible is a library within itself containing 66 books; some short, some long. In the New International Version there are 1,189 chapters, 31,086 verses and 726,628 words. Simply put, any human mind boggles at the thought of trying to understand such a long book!

Another reason people recognise they need help reading the Bible is because of its content. Some parts of it are easy to read, some parts are extremely hard to read. Even the authors of the Bible admit difficulty in reading other parts of the Bible: ‘Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction’ (2 Peter 3:15-16). If Peter finds Paul hard, it is not surprising that we find the Bible intimidating because of its difficult content.

Also, and this is the biggest reason, we need help reading the Bible because it is difficult for our sinful minds to understand. The Bible tells us that non-Christians will find it impossible to understand, but even Christians find the Bible difficult to understand because of their sinfulness. The author of Hebrews says this when he writes to his Christian audience: ‘We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!’ (Hebrews 5:11-12). Let’s face it, Christians are slow learners – we need teachers.

So we must recognise we need help if we are to understand the Bible. Next week, I will talk about some of the ways that God helps you understand the Bible, including through Christian books. But this week, I want to ask whether you recognise you need help understanding the Bible? Or are you too arrogant to acknowledge your helplessness?

Joel Radford.