Can We Understand the Bible?
Many think of the Bible as a mystical book of dark sayings, which cannot be understood by the common people. The most simple passage becomes a deep mystery to some for various reasons. If a Bible passage contradicts a much-loved false doctrine of man its advocates may dismiss the passage by saying, "We cannot understand it," or by other illogical statements. For example, when Acts 2:38 is quoted or read without comment to prove that baptism if for the remission of sins, some say "I do not see it that way" or "that is only your interpretation." Such statements have led many to believe that the Bible cannot be understood because men differ religiously.
It is erroneous to think that men cannot understand the Bible because some do not understand it. Furthermore, it is absurd to say we cannot understand any of it because we do not perfectly understand all of it. I admit there are some things hard to understand. "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation, even as our be, loved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you: as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as -they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:15-16.) Notice that some things, not all, are hard to understand, but not impossible. These hard things simply require more study and effort to understand.
Sometimes Roman Catholics and Protestants assert that ordinary men of average learning are not capable of understanding the Bible, and consequently a specially trained priest or preacher is essential to explain what God said. The idea that we cannot understand what God, Christ and the Spirit-guided apostles said in the Bible but can understand an uninspired man's explanation of what they said is utterly ridiculous. Are these educated preachers and priests more intelligent, more capable of speaking clear understandable statements than God, Christ and the Spirit-guided apostles? To assert such is to elevate man above God. It is true that we can assist each other in study by pointing- out what the Bible says and discussing it, but I deny that is necessary to have man's explanation.
God promised the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into all truth, speaking to and through them, revealing the will of God to man. (John 16:13.) These men spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4.) They did not choose and use words of man's wisdom, but words that the Spirit taught. (1 Cor. 2:13.) Thousands understood these words without having an intermediate interpreter to explain the apostles' preaching and letters. We now have those same words from the same apostles in the Bible, and we can understand now what thousands understood then.
The apostle Paul wrote, "If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." (Eph. 3:2-5.) To say one cannot understand what was written is to deny this passage and charge God with inability to give the word an understandable message.
God's commands have - always been and still are simple and easy to be understood. I challenge anyone to name one command of God that men cannot easily understand. Every command necessary for one to become and remain a faithful Christian in order to be saved in heaven is so clear that no honest soul can possibly misunderstand who seeks the truth. Read the following list of God's requirements to become a Christian and observe the-simplicity of the gospel.
One must believe in God (Heb. 11:6), believe in Christ (John 8:24), repent of sins (Luke' 13:3), confess Christ (Matt. 10:32, 33, Rom. 10:10), and be buried in baptism for the remission of sins. (Rom. 6:4; Acts 2:38.) The many-recorded cases of conversions in the Bible prove that God's plan was clearly understood by the multitudes. It is still being understood and obeyed by multitudes.
Man's failure to obey God is not caused by the impossibility of understanding the Bible, but by a failure to read and believe it. Many are willingly ignorant of God's truth because their way of life, fulfilling the Just of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, demands freedom from God's restraining and condemning laws. They want to practice sin without a painful conscience, so they quit reading rather than cease sinning.
This reminds me of the smoker who became greatly disturbed in reading about the relation of smoking to cancer. He quit -- reading!
Dear reader, be not deceived. You can clearly understand what you must do to be saved and keep saved, for God's commandments are not mysteries. I earnestly urge you to study, believe and obey the Bible, for the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32.)
Truth Magazine VI: 8, pp. 15-16