Understanding The Bible
Why We Don’t Understand The Bible Alike
The book of Isaiah opens with a glorious invitation from Jehovah: “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord” (Isa. 1:18). God clearly intends for people to use their reason (common sense) in understanding His will (cf. 1 Thess. 5:21), and yet a Baptist sees the Bible differently than a Methodist. A Presbyterian will preach a much different message than a member of the church of Christ. Why is this the case? Why don’t we all understand the Bible alike?
When Isaiah was commanded to preach, God told him that the people would not understand his messages: “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed” (Isa. 6:10). Why would God say such a thing? Was He intentionally misleading people? In reality, Isaiah preached to people who were not at all interested in truth (cf. Isa. 30:8-11). Because of this, God is telling Isaiah that his preaching will dull hearts, burden ears, and shut eyes. Can circumstances be much different today? Again, why don’t we understand the Bible alike?
Laziness — “The Jews in Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Many people do not understand God’s will because their Bibles lie dusty and forgotten on their bookshelves. Could it really hurt us to study God’s word daily? The Bible calls the Bereans “noble” because they did!
Emotional Bias — “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43). If we let emotions be our sole guide, they may well keep us from heaven! How many people allow their feelings to influence their judgment rather than letting God’s word influence their thinking?
Accepting Human Tradition as Authority — “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:6-7). “That’s what we’ve always taught,” and, “That’s the way we’ve always done it” are not sufficient reasons to keep on doing a thing! Tradition can be good, but only so far as there is authority for it in God’s word. If the Bible doesn’t authorize it, we had better be willing to re-evaluate our practices!
Personal Prejudice — “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their own power, and My people love to have it so” (Jer. 5:31). Religiously speaking, you can always find someone that will tell you what you want to hear. The Bible stresses our need to change, to be transformed (cf. Rom 12:1-2), but sadly, people often find it easier to change churches than to change their lives.
Dishonesty With Facts and Evidence — “There was much complaining among the people concerning Him — Some said, ‘He is good’; others said, ‘No, on the contrary, He deceives the people’” (John 7:12). How could anyone honestly be seeking the truth and come to the conclusion that Jesus was a deceiver? Likewise, many today fail to be honest concerning clear Bible teachings.
It’s not that difficult to understand the Bible. Having the will to do what it says is another matter. May God help us all to do what He commands. — John Baker