You’ve figured out the Bible?


Can I answer for all of us?

No, none of us have it all figured out. And we’re driving the rest of the world crazy with our arrogance when we say we do.

Honestly, who among us can thoroughly explain any book? Can we take even one short poem written in our native language and say we understand every word, every nuance, every intention, every motive behind every word choice?

How much less should we say we fully understand the Bible, with its Spirit-inspired authors? Who can dare claim comprehension of each of God’s words, nuances, intentions, and motives?

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
Romans 11:33-34

While God’s knowledge has no end, ours does. We’re constrained by our intellect, by our experiences, by our environment, by our humanity. We cannot figure God out. Not now. Not ever. We’re not smart enough.

So does that mean we can’t understand the Bible at all? Should we quit studying altogether? Of course not. There are many things we can know.

  • We can know God is love.
  • We can know he is for us.
  • We can know he wants us to love him and love each other.

But we can stop thinking we understand it all. We don’t.

Even among the smartest, humblest, and sincerest Bible scholars today, there is major disagreement on interpretations.

If you’ve ever changed your mind on what you believed about a biblical text, you’ve proven there’s room for growth. (And if you’ve never changed an opinion? Challenge yourself to learn something new.)


  • 1. Apologize

Practice saying, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” If even other Christians don’t want to hear our arguments, we’re probably better known for our arrogance than our love. As much as the Lord hates haughtiness, so does everyone else. We need to ask forgiveness for our pridefulness, our claims to have all the answers.

  • 2. Keep studying

Don’t stop learning. It takes me 2-3 year cycles to read through the Bible. Yet no matter how many times I’ve read through the Bible in my adult life, each time I learn something new. I see where I’ve been wrong in the past, and I leave space open for what I’m missing now (because I know it’s something; I’m just too blind to see it yet).

  • 3. Ask questions

Ask God. Ask fellow believers. Ask those who believe differently than you. Questions help us grow closer to the truth. The more we learn about God, the more we see there’s more to know.

  • 4. Make peace with uncertainty

Let go of your love affair with certainty. It’s okay that we can’t know it all. It’s not our knowledge that saves us; it’s Jesus. Substitute an “I think” instead of always “I know.” Try “as I understand it now” instead of “this is the way it is.” We misquote God too often (and misrepresent him even more).

  • 5. Depend more on Jesus

When we release our know-it-all attitude, we have extra capacity for dependence. Let’s trade in our “rightness” for Jesus’ righteousness. We can place all our certainty on him. Throw yourself fully on grace; it’s big enough to cover even our ignorance.

Live your faith with love.

In the end, the family who needs me to buy their lunch doesn’t really care how I interpret 1 Corinthians 15:29. The homeless man asking for a blanket isn’t interested in my eschatological opinion. The young mama who is entrusting me with her child for the night doesn’t first require my credentials for scriptural exegesis.

They want to know if I’ll be kind to them. If I’ll help them. If I’ll show them dignity and compassion and grace.

  • They’re not interested in my opinions about a Bible passage; they want to know am I living it?
  • They don’t want to hear my theological dissertations about God; they want to see am I acting like him?
  • They don’t care to debate over doctrine; they want to know can I love?

That’s what matters most. That’s what I learn from God in the Bible and in real life. Not to argue, but to love.

Because we won’t always be right. Actually, rarely so.

But we will always be loved.

That’s what I care about most.

* * *

What do you think? I’d love to hear in the comments.


  • When we eat our own
    Let’s quit thinking we’re the only ones who know enough or care enough to love God. Others may be equally sincere and smart. And saved.
  • What are you known for?
    Are we a “people of the book”, or “people of God”? I’d rather be known for who I worship than for what I know.
  • When you’re not sure
    We can’t always wait for 100% clarity. Including on matters of faith. Let’s stop being scared of being wrong.
  • I thought I understood
    Why I thought we were right and everyone else was wrong
  • When you think you’re better
    Thinking we are better than others only makes us worse. Knowing Jesus is better brings out the best in all.
  • Stupid or smart?
    But now I know being stupid is overlooking grace. And being smart is trusting God.

29 thoughts on “You’ve figured out the Bible?

  1. melody

    I do think you’re right about the the Christian community being rightly accused of arrogance so many times. Your post reminds me of a verse in Proverbs 18 – “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” Even airing truth can become a haughty downfall because if all we do is defend and quote scripture then we’re a sounding gong that annoys everyone around us. Love attached to our understanding of the Word will propel us to action and caring for the marginalized. May God help us in these things he has called us to that only can come through His strength and love through us.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for highlighting Prov 18, Melody. That’s very appropriate here. It also makes me think of 1 Cor 8:1 “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Knowledge is definitely a great and needed thing, but as you said so well, we need to use it to care for others, not annoy them with it.

  2. Jerralea

    “They’re not interested in my opinions about a Bible passage; they want to know am I living it?”

    I am a big believer in being a student of the Word, but even more importantly, applying what has been revealed to us in every day life. I’m in 100% agreement with your statement.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s the page I’m on too, Jerralea. I’ve studied the Bible my entire life, and don’t plan on stopping now, but it’s meant to move me to action–which is usually the harder part for me….

  3. Michele Morin

    I’m reading an Elisabeth Elliot devotional book right now, and her words are ringing in my ears as I read your post because her emphasis on obeying what we know is so strong: “To listen to one word and go out and obey it is better than having the most exalted ‘religious experience,’ for it puts us in touch with God Himself — it is a willed response.”
    This is my hope when it comes to “figuring out the Bible.” The pattern is hear – do – know. We know it best by doing what it says.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes. If what we read doesn’t change what we do, we’re probably not reading it well (or letting it read us, perhaps?). Thanks for sharing that quote here, Michele. This is a valid pattern: Hear–do–know.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Me, too, Linda. I hope that means we are getting more wise, not less. 😉 I often go back to “Jesus loves me, this I know.” It’s as simple as it gets, but also as profound.

  4. Trudy

    Hi Lisa. This makes me think of something I heard once. I think Billy Graham? Something like “If we understood God, He wouldn’t be a very big God, would He?” I love how you stress “living” out what God teaches us with love and compassion rather than what we think we know about the Bible. God bless you!

  5. Dianna

    These words, “WHAT MATTERS MOST Live your faith with love.” they are so right on, Lisa. The more I study the more I realize how little I know…none of us knows it all. How we set ourselves up for a fall when we go about as though we do know it all…and how much we hurt others in the process. Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, yes, Dianna. I appreciate your comments; I totally agree with all you say. We only hurt ourselves and others when we think we’ve arrived. God always has so much more he wants to teach us if we’re open to learn!

  6. Ashley Davis

    This post reminded me of the Casting Crowns song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners”, and the line that says “nobody knows what we’re for, only what we’re against when we judge the wounded. What if we put down our signs, crossed over the lines, and loved like you did”.
    And point number 4 really got me. I like being certain about things, but I like your suggestions, and it leads back to point number 5; just trust and depend more on Jesus.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s funny how some people love Bible study and others struggle with it. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Thankful that God gives all of us the capacity to grow in many different directions! Thanks for sharing, Kim.

  7. Sarah Donegan

    Why do we feel such pressure to know it all? You are so right about questions bringing us closer to the truth! The less we think we know, the more space there would be for actual knowledge, change and growth.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I don’t know why we think we have to know it all! It’s definitely to our detriment. 🙁 Just ask my husband. ha. He has to put up with me wanting all the right answers, and it’s impossible. Saying “I don’t know” should be a regular phrase in our vocabulary, because I’m convinced we don’t know near as much as we think we do. Thanks for sharing here, Sarah.

  8. Tiffany

    Such truth here, Lisa. Focusing on living out His word rather than holding ourselves to a biblical scholar standard – and being willing to humbly speak what we do know and admit what we don’t . Very wise and practical advise here. I’m a huge proponent of giving woman a piece of my heart rather than just a scripture address. Of course God’s word is powerful, but paired with our voice – unstoppable! So blessed to be stopping by from #tellhisstory.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, I love this Tiffany: “giving a piece of my heart rather than a scripture address.” Thanks for dropping this gold nugget here. May I pay attention and do just that.

  9. Jean Wise

    What? make peace with uncertainty????? are you crazy. ha. I used to think something was so wrong with me since that tension kept reoccurring until I realized that uncertainty, mistakes and that endless seeking balance would continue all my life. Peace? probably not more of a tense truce. I do love that the Bible is a living word. Amazing isn’t it to read a verse you know you have read in the past but it comes alive in new ways for you. Happy Valentines day!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Making peace with uncertainty is something I strive to do, but oh boy, is it hard! I like to know. And know now. 🙂 But I continue to discover that becoming content with the not knowing is part of the peace that the world can’t give, only Christ.

      Yes, it is amazing to read verses fresh–that’s one thing I love about your lectio posts, Jean. Fresh readings every time.

  10. David

    Dear Lisa

    For some reason I get a bit emotional reading this post.

    I keep meaning to write about the kinds of Christian I follow (in the blog/twitter-osphere) and why (as I feel slightly defensive about it). Certainly those who are “laying down the law” are not attractive — especially as this time my feelings of guilt and anxiety are stronger. I know what it is I shouldn’t be doing!

    I think one question driving me is “What is it like to be a Christian?” Some kind of sensibility or vibration that might wake some resonance inside me.

    Next door has a brave new kitten that once chased a buzzard out of our garden. You can be as friendly to it as you like, it will stay well away. Get on with your own things — hang out laundry, dig, chop wood — it will come closer and closer and sit by you as you work.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you didn’t know my practice of Christianity a few decades ago. I probably would have been one of those you couldn’t stand. My views have softened and hopefully become more Christ-centered through the years as I see it’s more about his love than rules. I’m curious about your question “What is it like to be a Christian?” since it assumes you don’t think of yourself as one?

      I love your story of the kitten and buzzard. A lot to consider in that…. I always appreciate the things you share and your perspective on them.

      1. David

        I’m curious about your question “What is it like to be a Christian?” since it assumes you don’t think of yourself as one?

        Oh yes. I think I have crossed the line by now. I do think of myself as a Christian deep down (revealed here for the first time!). It’s still very new to me though. I’ve spent a long time in the borderlands. I don’t know quite when I crossed over.


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