"Says What It Means"
Phil T. Arnold
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Have you ever had the occasion to witness an individual called upon to comment upon a particular passage and react something like this? He ponders momentarily, skims a little, and then confidently responds by saying, "Well, it just says what it means and means what it ways." Such allows a class to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time but perhaps with less benefit than desired. It may be that such a response is evidence of a lack of knowledge of the text or a failure to prepare for our studies, or, more likely, both. Yet, this answer is still far better than many offer when commenting upon particular Bible subjects and texts. Because of a lack of love for the truth, "pet" doctrines and practices, and prejudices, individuals offer some pretty strange interpretations"(?) of simple passages and simply cannot (?) understand what certain passages have to say. In an effort to cling to the Bible and claim continued allegiance without changing their doctrine or lives, they invent fanciful and imaginative exegesis that make void the word of God. They conclude that while "that may be what the Bible says, but surely that isn't what it means."
What Does The Bible Say About Creation?
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). The Bible plainly and firmly declared that "the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible" (Heb. 11:3b). This creation is revealed to have been accomplished in six days with the work of creation being mature and full-grown. Yet, many attempt to hold to the Bible and deny these simple and unalterable truths about the origin and development of life and this world. The theistic evolutionists, therefore, often conclude that while the Bible makes such statements this is not really what it means.
I recall being in a discussion with an anthropology professor who attempted to allegorize everything pertaining to man's origin and early existence in order to bring the Bible record into harmony with his false theory about early man. Thus, to him the story of Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden of Eden was not a literal story but simply God's way of figuratively describing the time that man's early ancestors left the trees and began walking upon the grasslands of ancient Africa. Such an "interpretation" (?) of the first three chapters of Genesis takes a prejudiced heart, a fertile imagination, and a lack of love for the truth. Yes, the Bible says what it means and means what it ways. God created the world and all therein exactly as the Bible relates and not in harmony with science falsely so-called.
What Does The Bible Say About The Number Going To Heaven
I realize that some have placed an exact number upon the inhabitants of that glorious eternal home, but it is not to this that we have reference. Rather, we inquire as to whether or not heaven will be the abode of the majority of mankind. What does the Bible say? "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matt. 7:13, 14). But the world ponders as to whether or not Jesus meant "few" when He said "few." You see, man through his intellect cannot conceive of a God who would allow the majority of mankind to be lost eternally and to experience the horror of hell. In fact, man is not so sure that God meant "hell," an everlasting place of torment, when He said "hell. " This too does not harmonize with the God of love (?) of their imagination. Yet, heaven and hell are both mentioned with frequency and in terms to suggest without doubt that hell is a literal place of punishment and terror, time without end.
The Bible also gives us examples of God's judgment and the "few" who escaped the wrath of God. There were but eight souls who entered the ark and were delivered from the flood. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, entered the promised land in contrast to the multitudes that left Egypt and perished in the wilderness. Yes, the Bible says what it means and means what it says and it takes a prejudiced heart, a fertile imagination and a lack of love for the truth to arrive at the interpretation that most people will go to heaven and all others will simply cease to be, for there is no hell. The Bible says what it means and means what it says. Many will go unto destruction and few will enter into life eternal.
What Does The Bible Say About Man's Salvation?
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, he became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Heb. 5:8, 9). Yet, man has with great persistence proclaimed that salvation is "wholly of grace" and by "faith alone." God's word says, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (Jas. 2:24). Man denies that this is what James meant (the necessity of obedience), continued to profess allegiance to the Bible, and preaches his own doctrine of salvation apart from and without obedience. The objection in this matter is most often made to baptism as being involved with the salvation of man. This in spite of what God's word has to say. The words of Jesus declare, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk. 16:16).
I remember discussing this passage with a denominational preacher who simply could not understand this statement of Jesus in light of his own concept of salvation. In an effort to understand the passage as his doctrine demanded and convince me of my error, he pulled a commentary from his shelf and read aloud the comments of one he held in high esteem. He was surprised to find the following comment: "This passage appears to teach the necessity of baptism in salvation, but we know this cannot be so." In other words, "That's what the Bible says, but that's not what it means." Sadly, his surprise and inability to understand Mark 16:16, as well as many other passages in God's word, did not alter his firmly held belief. His lack of love for the truth, prejudiced heart, and fertile imagination had given him an alternative to what the Bible actually said. My friend, the Bible says what it means and mean what it says. We best believe and obey it, if we would be saved.
Unfortunately, those who wear the name "church of Christ" are not immune to a hardened heart that blinds our eyes and will not allow us to see the truth. For years, numbers within the church have had difficulty in understanding (?) what the Bible teaches about divorce and remarriage for any reason. Their strange interpretation of repentance allows for a continued living in a sinful relationship. As such problems (divorce and remarriage other than for fornication) increase in the church, I fear that more and more brethren will have trouble believing that the Bible means what it ways and says what it means about this subject.
Even now we also witness new (?) teaching of a strange sound concerning other areas which we once understood differently. The grace of God is now allowing our fellowship to be broadened beyond those who walk according to His commandments and "sin" no longer is that which necessarily and always separates us from God. Such is but a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah anew, which says: "Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the heart of this people has grown dull. Their hears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should hear with their ears, lest they should understand with the hearts and turn, so that I should heal them" (Mt. 13:14,15).
Yes, The Bible Says What It Means And Means What It Says
The Bible says what it means and means what it says even when it talks about failing to love the truth, believing that which is false, and standing condemned. Therefore, let each of us guard his heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Let us maintain a love for the truth, study it diligently, apply it uniformly, and live it faithfully. "And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 12, pp. 374-375