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.