Bible Answer

How can I help students understand scripture?

I lead a small bible study group, and I noticed some students struggle to understanding Scripture. Is there anything I can do to help them understand more easily?

Teaching the Bible is honorable and challenging work, and we commend you for your dedication to this important ministry. Obviously, it's difficult for us to address exactly what may be holding some of your students back in their understanding of scripture, but before you blame yourself for their difficulty, remember not all students learn at the same rate for a variety of reasons.

Additionally, here are some questions to consider in evaluating your situation:

1. Are all participants believers? Do you know that each person in your group has, in fact, come to faith in the Gospel? As you mentioned, the Holy Spirit is our Teacher, therefore only believers are capable of understanding scripture, since only believers have the Holy Spirit working in their hearts.  Paul taught this when he said:

1Cor. 2:12 Now we  have received, not the spirit of  the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
1Cor. 2:13 which things we also speak,  not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
1Cor. 2:14  But a natural man  does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are  foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually  appraised.
1Cor. 2:15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.
1Cor. 2:16 For  WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But  we have the mind of Christ.

If someone is struggling to understand scripture, it may be a sign that this person has attached himself to the church as a club or social event, but he has never personally come to faith in Jesus as his Savior. You can rule out this cause through some simple questions or by asking the individual to give their testimony, and then listen carefully to hear what they say. If they don't have a testimony of faith in Christ, then you should work to explain the truth of Jesus to them and then encourage them to be baptized (by immersion, as a response to their faith).

2. In many places today, the Church has abandoned the practice of teaching the BIble systematically, so many Christians are weak in their scholarship of scripture and their Biblical knowledge. As a result, many find it difficult to understand basic Bible concepts. The writer of Hebrews warns that this weakening is a result of failing to pursue Biblical maturity:

Heb. 5:11  Concerning  him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
Heb. 5:12 For though  by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the  oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
Heb. 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an  infant.
Heb. 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses  trained to  discern good and evil.
Heb. 6:1  Therefore  leaving  the  elementary teaching about the  Christ, let us press on to   maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from  dead works and of faith toward God,
Heb. 6:2 of  instruction about washings and  laying on of hands, and the  resurrection of the dead and  eternal judgment.
Heb. 6:3 And this we will do, if God permits.

If you believe your students' difficulty is due to lack of experience, then you should focus on teaching "milk," which are the basic principles of scripture outlined in vs.1-2.  Once these principles have been addressed, then the student will be in a better position to learn the more difficult concepts.

3. Timing is everything. Not everything we study will be made clear to us in the first reading. The Spirit won't necessarily reveal the same thing to each student in your class, so your students should be told that it's OK to remain unclear on something, despite your best efforts to communicate the text's meaning. We all must be content to wait on the Spirit and allow Him to reveal what He chooses.