Can we Understand the Bible Alike?
Almost every time a disagreement over a Bible subject occurs, someone explains this disagreement as occurring because we cannot understand the Bible alike. Is it true that men cannot understand the Bible alike?
If We Understand the Bible, We can Understand it Alike
We need to begin by stating that men cannot arrive at many different conclusions and all of them understand the Bible. The truth with reference to the Bible is just like the truth of mathematics. When two men differ in mathematics, (a) neither may have the right answer, (b) either one of the two may have the right answer and the other has the wrong answer. Sometimes men agree in their answer but their answers are wrong. If everyone understands 2 + 2 = _____, they will agree that it equals 4. Every other answer is wrong. Anyone who understands 2 + 2 to equal anything except 4 does not understand or know the answer.
Similarly, when men understand the Bible, they necessarily understand it alike. The Bible is just as definite in its answers of what is the will of God as is the subject of mathematics. There are not a hundred different answers to the subjects addressed by the Bible any more than there are 100 different answers to the equation 2 + 2 = x. The question is not, "Can men understand the Bible alike?", for if they understand it all, they understand it alike. Rather, the question is, "Can men understand the Bible?"
God Commands Men to Understand the Bible
The Lord not only expects men to understand the Bible, he also commands that it be understood. In Ephesians 5:17, Paul wrote, "Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." Did the Lord command that which is impossible when the commanded that men understand the Bible? To so assert is to impugn that goodness of God!
When one addresses any proposed answers to the question, "Why cant men understand the Bible?" he is faced with answers which assault the nature of God. For example, if man cannot understand the Bible, why cant he? Is it because God is unable to reveal his will to man in an understandable manner? To so affirm is to deny the omnipotent power of God. It is because God chose not to reveal his will in a manner that man could understand it? To so affirm is to attack the goodness of God.
What would we think of a God who promised to punish with hell those who did not understand and obey his will, all the while knowing that men could not understand the Bible? Yet, that is the case if men cannot understand the Bible. Jesus said. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). This verses demonstrates: (a) There is a body of revealed truth; (b) It can be known; (c) Knowing that truth is essential for freedom from the guilt of sin. The Bible clearly affirms that men can understand the revealed will of God.
One of the reasons that men reach the conclusion that men cannot understand the Bible alike is because they do not believe in objective truth. If there is an objective truth, then all men are obligated to conform their lives to that objective truth. By believing in subjective truth, men can affirm that something may be true for one individual, but not true for all men. Subjective truth leads to conclusions such as the following: If a person thinks that homosexuality is wrong, he should not practice it; however, he should not try to bind his moral judgments on all men. Men find subjective truth appealing in areas of doctrinal disagreements on such things as instrumental music in worship, sprinkling for baptism, the purpose of baptism, etc. They agree to have unity-in-diversity because "we can no more expect men to think alike than to look alike." The conclusion to which such arguments lead is that there is no objective truth on any subject.
The only alternative is to understand that men can understand the Bible, as the word so affirms, and that, if men understand the Bible, they necessarily understand it alike.
Furthermore, the Bible asserts that it can be understood, even by the simple. The psalmist wrote, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (Ps. 19:7). A person does not need a doctoral degree from Harvard to understand the Bible. Even the common man can be enlightened by the word of God. Again, the psalmist added, "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Ps. 19:8).
Try to See if Men Can Understand the Bible Alike?
Because most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments, let's use them to see if men can understand the Bible alike.
1. I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any gods before me. Will God accept men worshipping another God besides Jehovah?
2. Thou shalt not make unto me any graven images. Is it sinful to use idols in worship?
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Can men use God's name in cursing and swearing with impunity?
4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Were Israelites expected to observe the Sabbath day? How often?
5. Honor thy Father and thy Mother. Were children commanded to show respect to their parents, not to curse them, and to support them in their old age?
6. Thou shalt not kill. Does the Bible condemn murder?
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery? Is adultery sinful?
8. Thou shalt not steal. Is it wrong to steal?
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Is it sinful to bear false witness.
10. Thou shalt not covet. Is it sinful to covet the things that belong to your neighbor?
Did anyone have trouble understanding what the Lord commanded? Did we understand the Bible alike? I suggest to you that not only can men understand the Bible alike, but by and large they do understand the Bible alike. Most of the differences in religion occur, not over what the Bible says, but over what it does not say. When men learn to respect the authority of God by not going beyond that which is revealed and authorized, unity can be had.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII, No. 23, p. 2