Can We Understand the Bible?

Many times in trying to discuss the Bible with someone, the statement will be made, “Well, we just can’t understand the Bible alike.” This statement appears to satisfy many people. It seems to give a plausible reason for all the religious division in the world, and it also seems to give a smug sense of satisfaction that says, “No one really knows, so my interpretation is just as good as anyone else’s.” Well, I would like to suggest to you that the problem with which we are faced is not one of a literary nature – the problem lies in the hearts of men. But let’s back up and examine the original question.

When someone says, “Can we understand the Bible alike?” – the question itself prompts a question. For example, “Can we understand Math alike?” All recognize that if someone understands basic math – he will get the same answers as all others who understand basic math. Thus if someone adds 2 and 3 and gets 6 – and insists that they are correct, they simply do not understand basic math. No one comes along (at least not yet) and insists that they have the right to their own belief about 2 + 3, and if that is how they interpret the equation (i.e. 2+3=6), we should all respect it. Everyone realizes that if basic Math can be understood AT ALL, it can be understood ALIKE.

Thus, all who truly understand basic Math will get the same answers to the same problems. And I will suggest to you that if the Bible can be understood AT ALL – it too can be understood ALIKE. So, to ask if we can understand the Bible alike – is actually to ask if the Bible can be understood at all. But, someone says, we are not talking about something concrete like Math – we are talking about religion. No. We are talking about whether or not something is logical enough and sensible enough to be understood. And if anything can be understood at all, everyone who understands it – will understand it alike. Why is this so difficult to see? It is difficult to see – because people don’t want to see it. Religion is an area that gets to the core of one’s integrity. It deals with what one believes and what one is.

Question Man, Not God’s Word

This is why – instead of questioning the Bible – we should be questioning the motives and the hearts of men. I am not talking about trying to judge other people’s hearts and motives. I am simply saying that instead of blaming God (and His word) for all the religious confusion and division – we need to place the blame where GOD said it belongs. MAN is responsible for religious division and confusion. For example, Jesus said, “the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.” (Matt.13:15) Man’s heart, not God’s word, was the problem in their understanding.

Paul said that the time would come when “some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (ITim.4:1-3)

Does any of this sound familiar? Time and time again, the Bible shows man rejecting God’s ways, refusing to understand God’s ways and causing division – yet people still insist on placing the blame on God by saying we cannot understand the message He has given us. Go figure! Peter showed that it was not the inspired word of God causing these problems, but it was (and continues to be) those who are 1) unlearned and 2) unstable. He spoke of some things that Paul had written in his epistles that were difficult to understand, “which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” (II Peter 3:14-16)

Paul told the elders in Acts 20:30 that, “from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Why? Because men often find money, book royalties, exaltation, praise, fame and power – to be more exciting than humble service to God. The Bible is filled with clear condemnation of many specific sins (Rom.1:26-32; – but you can always find someone with a religious title in front of his/her name (or a few letters behind it) who will say that those things are not really sins at all; they are just a reflection of the culture in which the writer lived. And there are always many religious people who will line up in support of such a person – because, after all, they have a degree from a prestigious seminary.

Jesus spoke about the same kind’s of religious leaders in His day saying, “They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” (Matt.15:14) Jesus said they were Hypocrites because, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt.15:7-9) When some Bishop, “Reverend”, preacher or scholar comes along teaching things that are clearly opposite of what one can read in his Bible – the wise will follow God’s word.

The Bible Can Be Understood Alike

The Bible itself teaches that it can be understood. “when you read you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ…which has now been revealed.” (Eph.3:4-f) Paul also said, “do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph.5:17) Why, what do you mean Paul? Apparently Paul was unfamiliar with today’s popular thinking which says, “We can’t understand what the will of the Lord is – at least we can’t understand it alike. ” To question whether or not the Bible can be understood alike is actually to question the integrity of God.

Could not the God of creation, the author of absolute truth, reveal truth in such a way that it could be understood by man. What kind of divine, all-knowing God would not be able to do this? To blame religious confusion and division on God’s word, is to put man – with his proud, impenitent nature – above God and His ability to reveal truth in an intelligible way. God deserves more credit than that.

Used by permission – Wayne Chamberlain