The Difference Between Knowing and Understanding the Bible

By Ryan Stanley, Pastor of Community Life at Veritas Community Church.

Originally posted on Pastor Ryan’s blog –

There are many people out there that know the bible way better than I do. I am often left realizing I need to head back to 1&2 Kings (for instance) to get more specifics on the OT Narrative. But one thing I have noticed is the difference between KNOWING the bible and UNDERSTANDING the bible.


When we simply know the bible, we have the content without knowing what to do with it. Its like having a shop full of tools, but not knowing their specific purpose. You’ll end up using a pipe cutter to pound in a nail. A humorous example but it becomes much more serious when you are attempting to apply the scriptures to others lives.

If you know the content of the bible you can give people instructions of how they ought to live and what they ought to do. The problem may be that the intent of the text is not that. The intent of the text might be to show you that you CAN’T do what it is asking you to do, thus turning you to your need for a savior. This drastically changes how you USE the text to help others.

The intent of the text is always to turn people to Jesus. In our use of scripture our intent is something other than that we have a problem. We will be able to see this by the result of communicating the text. If it makes people feel proud [insert sound of tires screeching] we have a problem. If it makes people feel hopeless, again, thats a problem. If they feel like all they need to do is pick themselves up by the bootstraps, we missed it. If they are convicted, that may be good, as long as they realize the solution is not in themselves.

Its an interpretation issue. Not simply a knowledge issue. If all of the scriptures are pointing us to Jesus, then you know the text you are reading is doing just that. We have to ask the Spirit to show us how (especially when we are in Numbers!) so that we can properly lovingly bring the text to bear on one another’s lives.


1. What was the author’s intent in this text? How does he point us to Jesus?

2. What is the proper response to this text? How is it impossible without Jesus?

3. Does my understanding of this text align with with the words and ways of the ministry of Jesus found in the gospels?