The Scriptures Are Profound
Kansas City, Missouri
In a preceding article, this writer called attention to the understandability of the Scriptures. But their understandability does not gainsay their depth.
The Scriptures themselves affirm that parts of them are difficult to be u n d e r- stood. In Paul's epistles 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 Pet. 3:16). Peter does not discredit or disparage Paul's writings (the One who guided Peter and Paul does not oppose Himself--Matt. 12:22-30). Neither does he claim that any of Paul's writings are impossible to be under- stood ("hard" and "impossible" do not mean the same thing). He does claim that some of Paul's writings (though not all) are difficult to be understood. Here is a clear and plain statement of Scripture that some statements of Scripture are not clear and plain!
Some have thought that the expression, "the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3), means that the gospel of Christ has been presented "simply," or with such clarity that it can be learned without effort. That parts of the gospel are easily understood is evident. But this is a misuse of the word "simplicity" as here employed. The expression refers to proper disposition of Christians toward Christ ( "in" is translation of the same word that is translated "for" and "unto" in Acts 2:38; also note context), not to a characteristic of the gospel itself. It relates to purity, or singleness of devotion toward Christ, not to plainness of presentation. Paul wrote with both lucidity and profundity. There are parts of the Bible that are "hard to be understood." And this truth challenges the mind of man to greater effort.
Man is the most intelligent of all creatures, and is to use such intelligence strenuously. He often does this in economic, political and scientific fields. Let him do it in his study of the Scriptures. By their very construction, the Scriptures encourage man to study them intensely. From one's earliest experiences in acquiring knowledge of God's word, mental effort has been called for. Some that are considered by the student as elementary were once looked upon as most complex and bewildering. But as these things become clear by diligent study other things remained to be learned. Every milestone reached points to expanses yet to be traveled. Every new lesson learned points to lessons yet to be learned. The Bible is inexhaustible. There will always be plenty of passages to tax the mental capacities of man, however learned he might be. And those mental capacities need to be taxed. The Scriptures discourage mental indolence. They encourage mental endeavor--endeavor in studying the Scriptures!
Philosophical "intellectualism" is not the same as Scriptural studiousness. Careful study of the Scriptures does not encourage one to launch out into seas of speculation Rather, it discourages such. When one's inquisitiveness is directed to Scriptural statements, he is discouraged from engaging in speculative theories.
Attempts to establish philosophical 'intellectualism" as of value in learning Bible truth are to be opposed (this was dealt with in the preceding article). But diligent, careful and thorough Bible study is to be encouraged. The plain passages of Scripture that have been learned are to be reread and cherished (Heb. 5:12, 2 Pet. 1:12). But the hitherto unlearned things of Scripture are to be learned also. We are to continue to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3: 18). One can become so engrossed in abstruse matters as to despise plain parts of the Bible. And one can become so concerned with clear and plain passages as to despise or ignore those that are difficult. These "hard to be understood" things are to be studied as well as those that are clear and plain.
Sometimes gospel preachers are criticized for being "too deep." If this is a candid complaint it is not necessarily a just one. It is possible for one to deal with clearly taught truth in such way as to confuse. But it is just as possible for the hearer to refuse to think thoroughly on issues on which he has not thought before. If one presents a lesson on suffering as contained in the book of Job, some might complain of the "depth" of the lesson--when the lesson was no "deeper" than the book of Job itself. Such criticism is really directed against the Lord! In such case, it is not that the lesson should be presented with more "shallowness," but that the audience should hear with more concentration.
It is not unusual for certain books of the Bible to be considered as "off limit" for group study. When the book of Revelation is ignored because of its "symbolism, or Romans because of its "depth," a premium is placed on "plainness." And this is tragic.
The teacher of truth should resist the temptation to surrender to demands of either the "super-scholarly" or the "surface" minds of his hearers. He should reflect, in his teaching, both the plain and the profound--qualities that characterize the Bible itself. The Scriptures are profound. Let them be diligently studied!
Truth Magazine IX, 4: pp. 20-21