Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why Is the Bible Sometimes Hard to Understand?

Why is the Bible sometimes hard to understand when it comes to certain doctrinal matters? Or to put it another way, why do sincere people sometimes disagree about what the Bible says in certain basic doctrines? Why isn't the Bible so plain and clear in everything it teaches that there is no room for misunderstanding or disagreement about what it says?

Different churches and individuals believe different things, yet each claims to follow the Bible. Some Christians observe Sunday, some observe the seventh day of the week as Sabbath, and some observe no day at all. Some think the Ten Commandments are done away and some think they are still in force. Some think it is ok to use images and pictures of God and Christ as an aid to worship and some believe that is wrong. Beliefs about prophecy and the events described in Revelation vary widely. This is one reason there are so many churches. There are many churches because there are many beliefs. Some things are believed by all Christian churches. I am sure every church claiming to be Christian believes, correctly, that Jesus Christ died for our sins. But there are many points of difference in doctrine between Catholics, Baptists, Church of God members, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. - all claiming to be Christian yet interpreting the Bible differently on many subjects.

The force of tradition can be an influence. It is hard for someone to overcome wrong traditions they were raised in when they read the Bible. Yet even among those who are willing to give up their tradition, there is wide disagreement about what the Bible says.

God inspired the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). This can be proven by fulfilled prophecy. God cannot lie, so the Bible is true (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). God's word, the Bible, can be trusted (Psalm 119:160, John 17:17). Yet not everything in the Bible is clear and easy to understand. Some things that Paul wrote, for example, are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:14-16).

Yet this is the way that God inspired the Bible to be written. God did not have to do it that way. He could have inspired Paul to write more clearly. God could have made the Bible so clear, plain, and easy to understand that there would be no room for disagreement. Instead, He allowed much of the Bible relating to doctrine to be hard to understand, and as a result, men are able to twist the scriptures (2 Peter 3:14-16).

Why did God allow the Bible, which is His word, to be written that way? Why did God not make the Bible more clear on every subject?

Since the sin of Adam, the world as a whole has been cut off from a right relationship with God (Genesis chapter 3). During the last 6,000 years, Satan has been the invisible ruler of this world (Luke 4:5-7, John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11, Ephesians 2:2). Satan deceives the whole world, and God allows Satan to do his work of deception at this time (Revelation 12:9). But when Christ returns, Satan will be put away and Christ will rule the earth for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-6). This is part of God's 7,000 year plan. Mankind will be able to compare the result of Satan's way of life for 6,000 years and God's way of life for 1,000 years and will see by the results that God's way is better.

But we are still in the 6,000 year period. Christ has not returned yet, and Satan is still ruling and deceiving this society. Satan is the predominant spiritual influence in this world, this society, this civilization right now, not God. Yet God is calling a few now to come out of this world, to be converted, and to be part of the first resurrection to sit with Christ on His throne when He returns (Matthew 7:13-14, Revelation 20:5-6).

God has the power to prevent Satan from doing his work of deception. God is more powerful than Satan, and Satan can only do what God allows him to do (Job 1:12, 2:6). But it is God's will that Satan be able to deceive mankind at this time. It is God's will that Satan be the ruler of this world, to do his work of deception, so that mankind as a whole follows Satan's way of life for 6,000 years and writes the lesson of suffering and destruction in human history during this age of man. Then mankind will be able to compare the suffering and warfare of this age when men are living Satan's way of life with the happiness and peace that will exist under the rule of Jesus Christ when mankind will live God's way of life.

It has been God's will that the Bible be widely distributed in our time. It is the world's all time best seller and has been translated into just about every language. It is easily available in most large bookstores. This facilitates the calling and instruction of Christians all over the world from every background. Yet, God has not inspired the Bible to be written so that it is so clear and easy to understand that Satan cannot deceive people about it. God does allow Satan to deceive the majority in this world, even in matters of religious doctrine and even in matters of Bible interpretation.

So the Bible is written in such a way that it is easy for people to twist scriptures if they are trying to use the Bible to justify what they want to believe or already believe.

I have heard someone say that you can prove anything with the Bible, and in a sense, there is some truth in that. A person can use the Bible to argue his position, and he can usually find scriptures to support his beliefs, whatever those beliefs are. But not honestly.

I think there is a principle of doctrinal and spiritual perception here. If you are trying to understand truth from the Bible with an open mind, God is likely to help you understand if you have a willingness to accept and obey it. But I think God has structured His word such that if a person is trying to put his own meaning into the text, he will be able to find a way. In other words, if he really wants to believe something, and that is more important than accepting the truth with an open mind, if he is trying to find a way to reconcile what he wants to believe with the Bible, God will allow him to do it. He will find scriptures he can twist to fit what he wants to believe. And he probably won't even realize he is doing this. I think God has structured the Bible that way and has given Satan that kind of deceptive power.

But if God is calling you to His truth, and you earnestly want to understand and believe what God is really saying in the Bible, God can help you to understand what He is saying and will free you from Satan's deceptions, perhaps one point at a time. Then each point of truth becomes a test. If you are willing to believe and strive to obey what God shows you, then God will continue to help you understand more, one point at a time.

God doesn't cram His truth down our throats. We have to want it with a sincere mind and zealously seek it. We have to realize that it is precious, like a rare pearl, and be willing to make sacrifices to obtain it. We have to want to know the truth more than we want to keep our beliefs. We should strive to learn to trust God more than ourselves.

12 comments:

Jack Proffitt said...

Well said and Amen. The topic of choice is often a convesation around the dinner table. My wife was raised a Catholic, myself in the Methodist church. Ironically, my upbringing led me down a path where eventually I simply stated, "There is no God." Years were apparently wasted, but God is good in His mercy and it allowed me the opportunity to approach Scripture from a different perspective when I finally was "born from above."

Ironically, however, even though I was a devout Atheist, I still had preconceived doctrines floating about in my head. Years of listening to wrong teaching had been planted deep inside.

The hardest thing I have had to learn is approaching Scripture from a position of "seeking" rather than "searching" for my answer. In other words, I've had to unlearn before the truth was able to enter. Mind you, I understand I am splicing words, but I find more often than not when searching I am looking for validation. Seeking, on the other hand, reveals my need for understanding along the way when approaching any verse in Scripture.

May God keep us seeking to know the truth more today than yesterday. As a wise fool once said (Yogi Berra), "It ain't over till its over," and we got a long way to go and to grow. Keep up the good words and may God richly bless your efforts.

Your Brother in Christ
Jack

Angela said...

I have one question. Where do you find in the Bible that Satan will rule for 6,000 years before Christ returns?

author@ptgbook.org said...

Hi Angela.

Satan is the ruler of this world at this time, and he was the ruler of this world when Christ was on earth. Notice Luke 4:5: "Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, 'All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.' And Jesus answered and said to him, 'Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve." ' "

Was Satan lying when he claimed authority over all the kingdoms of this world? No, because Jesus comfirmed that Satan was the ruler of this world when he said, "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out" (John 12:31). See also John 14:30 and John 16:10.

How does Satan rule? He rules by deception and by influencing the minds of men (Revelation 12:7-9, Ephesians 2:2). You can see the results of Satan's rule in the kind of world of suffering and violence and injustice that we live in.

Jesus said that the ruler of this world (Satan) would be cast out. He would not continue to be the ruler of this world indefinitely. When will Satan be cast out? The answer is given in Revelation 20:1-3: "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while." This occurs at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ and at the beginning of the 1,000 year period of Christ's reign over the earth with the saints (Revelation 20:4-6), a time yet future.

Are we near the end of the period of time when Satan rules this earth? In other words, are we near the time of the second coming of Christ? There are indications we are. Signs we are near the end include the explosion in knowledge and advances in transportation, which have occurred only recently in human history (Daniel 12:4). This comes at the end of about 6,000 of history according to Bible chronology. The 6,000 years along with the 1,000 year rule of Christ fits the pattern of the 7-day weekly cycle with the seventh day the Sabbath day of rest (2 Peter 3:8).

Matt said...

I have written about this idea that the six days of creation repensent the 6000 years, the seventh day represents the Millenium, and even beyond that. This is all speculation, of course, but it is interesting. Click Read here to read it.

Todd G said...

Good post, and so true. Satan is indeed the author of deception and if we harden our hearts toward God, He'll let us believe a lie. I like how you said "sometimes" hard to understand, because for sure I see that when you really take the time to prayerfully study God's Word, it just makes such clear sense. I just put up a blog dedicated to fundamental Bible studies at 27biblestudies.blogspot.com, check it out if you get some time. As always, I enjoy your posts and your positions. :-) Keep up the good work.

My Backyard Fort said...

Very intriguing post. I have sometimes wondered why the Bible isn't more plain-spoken. I think you've explained this very well.

Thanks for the post.

Hi! I'm Grace said...

This is such a great post. Very informative.
Thanks for the comment on my blog, too.

Daniel-in-the-Den said...

Excellent post. 2 Peter 3:14-16 is so easily overlooked by people and it always seems to shock people when I bring it to their attention.

I have a future post planned on how to study the Bible, some of which you have amply covered.

Thanks for commenting at my blog and please continue following. I am curious as to how you came upon my blog. You can e-mail me @ edanielintheden@gmail.com

Sharon said...

Good post. I followed you over from a comment you made on a blog I'm following. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

Sharon
http://grandmaisawriter.blogspot.com
http://www.tnchristianpublishers.com

Rachel said...

Thank you for stopping by The Trysting Place and commenting. I appreciate your insight.

Rachel

Jesse said...

You remind of something that I had forgotten that Satan really does rule this "age." I had assumed he was lying, but it makes sense because not only is there the 1000 year prison sentance, but in Rev 11:15 the angel after the two witnesses are raptured and Jerusalem converted declare that the kingdoms of Earth are become the kingdoms of the LORD.

I hadn't thought of the obscurity of scripture as being a means for the devil's deception, I may have to consider it. But, is that the nature of the scripture or of ourselves influenced by the enemy? Yeshua said he spoke in parables so that people would not understand, but to those it was "given to know the mysteries." What do you think of the possibility that God leaves some things a "mystery" to some, most or even all of us merely because we are not yet ready to hear the truth? For example, if someone told me years ago some of the things I believe now, I would have said "No way, I couldn't even believe in a God who would do that," but now I have no problem with it.

author@ptgbook.org said...

Hi Jesse,

I think that most scripture is put together so that it will take some work to understand it, but that a sincere person, if Satan were not deceiving this world, could understand it correctly, maybe not all at once, but over time. Some parts are easy to understand and the natural meaning of the rest of it would be understood over time. And perhaps there are some parts that would be mysteries that we could not understand without God's help. But there would not be any major misunderstanding. I suppose I could make an analogy with producing and eating food. God provides farmland, soil, air, water, and sunshine, and seeds, and there is plenty to provide food for us, but we have our part in tilling the soil, planting the seeds, and harvesting the crop. So we have to work to get the food we need, but we can do it, and none of it is poison.

But when you add Satan's deception to the mix, that changes things. Satan can influence men's minds and Satan has led this world into many false traditions that obscure the truth of the Bible. Satan not only uses his influence to hide the meaning but to deceive people into a false interpretation of scripture, twisting scriptures to mean what they do not mean. Satan also deceives by tempting men into sin and leading them into wrong attitudes such as pride, vanity, lust, fear of man, selfishness, etc. All these attitudes can come into play when reading the Bible. Pride and vanity can work to make a man not want to admit he has been wrong in some false tradition. So he interprets the Bible to fit what he is already doing, and he may not even be consciously aware that this is what he is doing (Jeremiah 17:9). He deceives himself even as Satan deceives him. Or someone may turn away from believing what God says out of fear of man, what other people such as his friends, relatives, and coworkers on the job, would think of him if he started obeying God on some point, such as keeping the Sabbath. So his mind looks for ways to get off the hook, to avoid the pain, without acknowledging to himself that he is doing wrong (because his vanity does not permit him to think he is wrong). Satan has put this attitude of fear of what other people think into the man's mind, and when the man is searching for excuses to not believe what God is saying, Satan is right there to help him with thoughts like, "well that is the Old Testament, but the New Testament says that the Old Testament is no longer in force..." or something like that.

So I think God has inspired most of the Bible to be able to be understood correctly, over time and with a little bit of work, but the real obscurity that causes misunderstandings and false interpretations comes from Satan.

God is not trying to convert the whole world at this time during this age of Satan's deception. But after the return of Christ and Satan is bound, God will begin to convert the world.

But during this age, God does call a few to His way of life. These are the first fruits, those who will be in the first resurrection when Christ returns. When God is calling a person, God's Holy Spirit works with that person's mind to help them understand the truth. They do not have to succumb to Satan's deceptions in the reading of the Bible. They are given the opportunity to understand the truth, to repent, and to believe the truth. It is then their choice to respond to God in repentence and faith, and they can be converted. If they believe and obey God, they will live a Christian life in Satan's world now, and when Christ returns they will be resurrected to immortality and will reign with Christ over the nations of the earth (Revelation 20:6).

You are right that some of the parables of Jesus were designed to hide the meaning from the crowds, because it was not yet their time to understand, because God is not trying to convert the whole world at this time. I also think that you are right that God leaves some things a mystery to us until we are ready to accept it. I think He teaches us one point at a time as we are willing to believe Him.

Here are some links to my posts that cover these things in more detail:

A Stumbling Block - The Fate of the Billions Who Never Heard of Christ

God Is Not Trying to Save Everyone in this Age

Why God Is Not Trying to Save Everyone Now