“For it is necessary that temptation comes”
— Jesus (Matthew 18:7)

Some verses are tricky.

Some are difficult on their face (like the one above), while others seem straightforward until we really begin to think about them.

While discernment as a gift is something the spirit gives. Discernment as a process is something we all do. Here are five exercises to discern what a verse or passage means.

Commentaries (including the notes in your Study Bible)

When you get to a difficult verse, read others’ opinions. They may be right, or they may be wrong. But commentaries can help you expand your view.

Reference verses

This is that little column of verses on the page in your Bible. Not every Bible has this, but most do. It’s showing you other verses that say something similar. You can use this to see how other parts of Scripture talk about this issue.


Prayer is something we do throughout this process. But specifically here, understanding a difficult passage might be a simple as asking God directly and listening for an answer.

Thinking to the end

When you come across something that doesn’t make sense, run out the logic to its natural end. Is it consistent with what you already know from Scripture? If it is, then maybe you’re learning something new about God. And if it’s not, then keep thinking about it.


Ask a friends who seem knowledgeable. A friend might see a different side of the passage, or they may see it in clearer light.

However you go about it, doing the hard work to understand always yields fruit. It is, in essence, how we grow.

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