How to Study the Bible, by Watchman Nee


A. The Impression from the Facts

When reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit next requires that we capture an impression from the facts. The Bible is not all teachings. A great part of it is facts, history, and stories. The Holy Spirit desires that the facts, history, and stories produce a certain impression within us. Once we have an impression of these facts from the Holy Spirit, it will be easy for Him to convey God’s word to us. If these facts do not produce an impression in us, God’s word will not take hold in us and will not produce the proper effect in us.

The impression that we are speaking of here does not refer to a general familiarity with the stories. It refers to a view concerning certain characteristic points that make a lasting impression in our mind. In the Bible every incident has its characteristics. Without understanding these characteristics, we cannot understand God’s word. In reading a contract, it is not enough to check whether or not there is a signature on it; we must check whose signature is on it. The impression that we are speaking of here is not a general impression but an impression of its special character. Once we discover the special character, we can learn what God wants to say through them. It is possible that a person can remember and even relate a biblical incident to others but not be able to point out its special character. This means that he does not understand God’s word. The New Testament contains the four Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation. For the Epistles, we have to get into the thought of the Holy Spirit. For the four Gospels and Acts, however, our heart has to be open to God’s Spirit, and we have to allow Him to impress us with the facts. We have to realize the difference between these facts and other facts, and we have to sense the special characteristics that lie behind these facts.

An impression works like a photograph. The film in a camera is a slide of glass or a thin piece of plastic coated with a chemical—silver bromide. Decades ago, one square inch of film could only hold tens of thousands of silver bromide particles. This is the reason the photographs produced at that time were not very sharp; they were granular in appearance. Later, film improved, and the granular look disappeared. The image is now much clearer because each square inch of film holds millions of silver bromide particles. In the same way, the finer our inner constitution is, the more impression we will retain. The coarser we are, the less impression we will retain. If our heart and spirit are open to God, and if our feelings are refined, the flashing of the facts of the Holy Spirit before us will generate a strong impression within us. If we are fine and tender, we will see two things. First, we will locate the emphasis in God’s Word and the focus of His revelation. Second, we will know what God wants to say behind the facts, and we will be able to tell the difference between these facts and other facts.

A coarse person will never see the fine points in the Bible. A man must be tender, and his feelings must be very sensitive before God’s word can stamp a clear image within him. He will not only catch a glimpse of the general contour, but he will have an accurate impression of the fine points and lines. He will be clear about every delicate and intricate point behind the facts.

B. Tender Feelings

Many people seek to know the fine and tender aspects of the Bible. Yet without fine and tender feelings, they cannot grasp these tender points. Consider the four Gospels and Acts. All five books are records of Jesus. More facts are revealed about the Lord Jesus through these five books than through all the Epistles. We need to have fine and tender impressions of these facts related to the Lord Jesus. Let us consider some examples.

(How to Study the Bible, Chapter 2, by Watchman Nee)