By Cecil Willis
The Bible is a book given by God for the express purpose of directing man from earth to heaven. Its message is of such importance that without faithful obedience to it, one will be lost eternally in the lake of fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. It is a Book that must be understood above all others. So much depends on one understanding what it has to say.
And yet one who is aware of these facts is almost driven to despair when he looks about him and observes the world’s unconcern and apathy toward God’s holy Word. People are pathetically ignorant of God’s Word. Bibles are rotting to pieces instead of being worn out. We live in an age in which there are more Bibles than ever before, but with our abundance of Bibles, knowledge has not been proportionately increased. Our children, in many instances, are much better acquainted with movie stars or passing popular singers, or with showmen than with the apostles. They are more interested in the new dance step than the law of the Lord. We may be living in an age of enlightenment in some ways, but in others, ours is an age of pitch-black darkness. We have refused to let the light of God’s word enlighten the dark recesses of our lives. Truthfully, at times I feel embarrassed for people. While in one’s home, or often while teaching a class or preaching a sermon, a certain scripture reference is cited. When I see these people start thumbing through their Bibles hoping that somehow their finger might accidentally cause the Book to fall open to the desired chapter, and when I can tell they have no idea whether the reference is in the Old Testament or the New, about all I know to do is act as though I am unaware of their problem, and hope with them that somehow they might stumble upon the passage. When one is not even acquainted enough with his Bible to know where to look in it for a given passage, he certainly should not try to place the blame for his ignorance upon the Lord.
Yet this is exactly what many would like to do. People try to excuse their lack of knowledge by saying the Lord clothed the message in such difficult language that it cannot be understood. But, the Bible, is written in the very simplest of language. Compare its simplicity with the density and ambiguity and meaninglessness of some of the modern philosophical works. Even the Bible declares its simplicity. Isaiah says, “And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for the redeemed: the wayfaring men, yea fools, shall not err therein” (Isa. 35:8). This way of holiness is to be so plain that even a foolish man shall not err therein. In the New Testament, we read that our Lord said, “If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself” (Jno. 7:17). This statement indicates the Lord’s will is clear enough that one can understand it. It is true that I do not know all that there is to be known concerning God’s truth, but God’s way of salvation is so plain that we all can understand it.
But there must yet be some reasons why people know so little about the word of God. So let us reflect upon some of the hindrances to a proper understanding of the Scriptures. Of course, there would be no value in pointing out some of these stumbling blocks to knowledge were we not determined to remove them after recognizing them.
1. In the passage we just read, we find stated one thing that hinders people in understanding the will of God. Read the verse once more: “If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself” (Jno. 7:17). Jesus says in order for one to understand His teaching, he must will to do it. There is no promise that one desiring merely an academic knowledge of God’s word will be granted it. One must desire to know so that he might do God’s will. And if one wills to do his will, this scripture says he shall know. So one thing hindering people in their knowledge of God’s will is their unwillingness to do his will.
2. Another thing contributing to the Biblical ignorance of people is that they expect something more difficult. They are looking for something unintelligible, and incomprehensible. And thus looking for something difficult, they overlook the simplicity of God’s message to mankind. It is as if one, expecting a question to have an intricate and complicated answer, is prone to overlook completely the obviously apparent answer. The Scriptures teach that God’s revelation to mankind is for all men. In Matt. 28:19, Jesus commands that the gospel be preached to all nations. In a parallel statement of the same commission, as Mark records it, Jesus commands that the Message be preached, not only to every nation, but to “every creature” of every nation. The gospel is not a message for a select few. It is not only for intellectuals, but for all men. Thus it must be a message simple enough for all men to understand it. So we should not approach the Scriptures looking for something difficult and mysterious.
3. Another thing that has contributed greatly to the present misunderstanding of the Bible is the fact that people approach the Bible with a preconceived notion as to what they shall find. They open their Bible, not opening it to see what God has said, but to see if perhaps they can find where God said something that looks a little bit like something they have said or believed. They only use the Bible to attempt to prove what they already believe, rather than studying it to believe and do what It says. The Bible furnishes us with some examples of the fallacy of this method. Back in the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 5, we find the historical record of a man named Naaman, the captain of the armies of Syria, being healed of the dreaded disease of leprosy. Naaman had been told that Elisha, the prophet of God could heal him. But when Naaman went to see the prophet, he already had a mental picture of how the prophet would heal him. Naaman thought the prophet would surely make a big show out of his healing. But he did not. Instead, he sent a messenger out to Naaman; Elisha did not even go out himself. The messenger told Naaman to go dip seven times in the river Jordan. And the Bible says, “But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of Jehovah his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the leper” (2 Kings 5:11). And because the prophet did not do as he thought he would, Naaman almost refused to do what he said. In fact, had it not been for the rebuke of his servant, certainly he would not have obeyed. He wanted to be healed, but he wanted to prescribe the conditions. And if the prophet of God did not meet his self-prescribed conditions, he just would not obey. Many today are like Naaman. They want to be healed of their sins. They want their sins forgiven. But they want to dictate the conditions. And if the Lord does not do it just like they thought He would, they refuse to obey His command. If the Lord’s plan is not their plan, they will have no part of it. We sinners are noton position to dictate to God the terms of our salvation. When you open your Bible, be sure you do so with an open mind. Be sure you are seeking what the Lord has said instead of seeking to have the Lord confirm something you have already believed or said.
This very fallacy was what caused the Jews to reject Christ. In Jno. l:11, we read, “He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not.” Christ came as a Jew and unto the Jews. But the Jews rejected Him. Why? It was simply because He was not exactly what they wanted. They had thought that the coming Messiah would be one that would sit upon David’s vacated throne in Jerusalem, and would revive the Jewish nation, enabling them to conquer their suppressing enemies. But Jesus came not as a ruling monarch, but as a crucified Savior. He came with a kingdom, it is true, but one which he described as being “not of this world” (Jno. 18:36). These were not the Jews’ expectations. He did not appear as they had thought He would. Thus the Jews crucified the only Savior they will ever have. What caused this? It was simply that Jesus did not meet up with the standards they had set up for Him. He was indeed all the Old Testament prophets had said He would be, but He was not all the Jews thought He would be. Thus they nailed Him to the cross.
Let us be sure that we do not commit the same fallacy. Let us not stumble over the words and laws of Christ simply because they do not appear exactly as we had anticipated. Let us employ the whole of our reasoning faculties in understanding everything God has said, forgetting every preconceived notion, and having understood, then dedicate the whole of our will and life to doing what He has instructed.
5. Another reason people know so little about the Bible is because of faulty study habits. In fact, it might be a more accurate statement of the situation if we were to say that people ,know so little about the Bible because of no study habits. Many Bible readers are not Bible students. One can repeat words without having seriously meditated on what he has read. Also many people read the Bible spasmodically. Perhaps today they will read a chapter. Then maybe two or three weeks later they will pick up the Book again, and
continue their reading. One could not read any other book with any degree of success in such a way. Neither can one learn the Biblical message in this way.
Some time ago, while holding a meeting in Florida, a lady told me how she studied the Bible. She said she just let her right thumb be her guide. She picked up her Bible, flipped through the pages, and wherever her right thumb happened to, open the Bible, there she began reading. Suppose you try that “method” in reading a novel. How long would it take you to grasp the plot of the story? A man must have real and reliable study habits, and then diligently study.
The consequences of being ignorant of some things are not so grave, but the Bible is one Boox of which one must not be ignorant. For it “contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the travelers’ map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, the Christian’s charter. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of Hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibilities, rewards the greatest labor, and condemns all who trifle with its holy contents.” (Author is unknown to me)
Truth Magzine, XVIII:48, p. 3-5
October 10, 1974