By Tommy L. McClure
Widely held in the religious world is the idea that God’s word is so obscure and complicated that the common people cannot understand it. Many are led to believe they have to depend upon their priest, rabbi, or pastor to tell them what to do in religious matters. Therefore, they have little use for the Bible, and their faith stands in the wisdom of men rather than in the wisdom and power of God (see 1 Cor. 2:1-5).
That some parts of the Bible are difficult to understand is readily admitted. Peter declared this to be true (2 Pet. 3:16,17). Some things mentioned in the Bible may never be fully understood because God has not seen fit to fully reveal them to man. Secret things belong unto the Lord; the revealed belong unto man (Deut. 29:29). Many waste their time wondering and worrying about parts of the Bible which have not been fully revealed and questions upon which God has not spoken. When asked, “Don’t the passages which you do not understand worry you?” one man wisely and tersely replied, “Not nearly as much as those I do understand!”
This lesson is designed to show that God’s will for man – what God expects man to do in this world – is plain and understandable. When men are turned from it by concerning themselves with unrevealed matters, thereby wasting the time which should be devoted to doing the plainly revealed will of God, and stand before God’s judgment in an unprepared condition, surely the devil will laugh with satanic glee! This lesson is designed to prevent that.
The Gospel Is For Every Creature In All The World
To His apostles, Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). They were told to teach all nations (Matt. 28:19). By the commandment of the everlasting God, the gospel was to be made known to all nations for the obedience of faith (Rom. 16:25,26). According to Paul, this was accomplished in the first century (Col. 1:23).
Thus, it is evident that the gospel is not intended for a select few, but for all responsible beings of earth educated or uneducated, wise or unwise, Ph.D. or grade school dropout, sophisticated or simple. This being true, the gospel must be simple, easy of comprehension, and applicable to the masses!
Can any thinking, God-respecting person believe that God gave all what only a few can understand? If God’s message to man, the gospel, is so complicated that the common man cannot understand it, “Yes, ” is the only answer possible to the question here posed, That would put God on the level of an idiot! Consider: If a publishing company were to print and distribute to the masses a message which only a few can understand, would not that be idiotic? Certainly so! That is the very position to which those who occupy the position opposed by this article are driven!
All Who Obey Not The Gospel Are To Be Punished
Paul speaks of this fact by saying, “. . . the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Surely all will agree that understanding is necessary to obedience. A son cannot obey his father’s instructions unless he understands that instruction; a contractor cannot build according to the blueprint unless he understands the blueprint; the druggist cannot fill the prescription according to the doctor’s orders unless he understands the orders; just so, man cannot obey God unless he understands God’s requirements!
Question: How can God consistently punish man for not obeying the gospel if God Himself made the gospel so complicated that man cannot understand it? How?
Paul Plainly Says We Can Understand
He told the Ephesians, “. . . 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. 3:3-5). The “mystery” was not something mysterious in the sense of being beyond man’s capability of understanding it; rather, it was God’s plan which had not been revealed in ages past, but “is now” revealed unto the apostles and prophets, “Now” refers to the time Paul was writing. Note carefully the parenthetical expression above – in it Paul was telling the Ephesians that when they read what he wrote they could understand what he knew! They did not have to depend on an educated priest, rabbi, pastor or reverend to explain it to them – they could understand by reading! Hence, what Paul wrote must have been understandable. Question: Did Paul, guided in his teaching by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12,13; Gal. 1:11, 12), lie or tell the truth in Ephesians 3:3-5? Answer that question and the matter is settled. He told the truth, therefore the word of God is understandable!
Paul Commanded The Ephesians To Understand
“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). That is a command, if one ever existed! Would a Spirit guided apostle give such a command if the will of the Lord is incomprehensible! No! John tells us, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 Jn. 5:3). “Grievous” here is from the Greek barus which “. . . denotes heavy, burdensome. . . of God’s commandments, 1 Jn. 5:3 (causing a burden on him who fulfills them). . . ” (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary Of N. T. Words, Vol. 2, p. 179). But, if the gospel is incomprehensible so that man cannot understand his obligations to God, the command of Ephesians 5:17 is grievous! It demands man to do what he cannot do, if the theory under consideration is correct! That theory is surely wrong. Let it not keep you from a diligent study of God’s word any longer!
Shall We Impugn God’s Intelligence Or His Goodness?
If God gave to the world the gospel requirements in incomprehensible language, one of two possible conclusions must be reached: (1) Either God would have made it clear but couldn’t, which impugns His intelligence and ability; or (2) God could have made it clear but wouldn’t, which impugns His goodness. Face it! ye who have glibly mouthed the idea that the Bible is not understandable and have discouraged men from reading it! Tell us what you think of God! in light of your theory about His word. Is He so unintelligent and verbally weak that He cannot speak clearly? Is this your position? If you are unsatisfied with this conclusion, try the second, the only alternative: Will you say God could have made His will clear but wouldn’t? If so, God was mean not good at all! Is this what you think of God? Reader, men should hang their heads in shame for taking a position which drives them to either of the above conclusions. The only way out of the predicament is the way of repudiation!
If they will repudiate their false position as did those of Ephesus (Acts 19:18,19); hate every false way as did the Psalmist (Psa. 119:128; cf. Rom. 12:9); encourage the reading and study of God’s word as did Bible writers (Isa. 34:6; Psa. 1:1,2; Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27; Acts 20:32); respect and speak well of it as did holy men of God (Job 23:12; Psa. 119; Prov. 30:5; Isa. 8:20; Jer. 15:16; Acts 11:13,14; Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 1: 22-25); if they will encourage men to obey it as Bible writers repeatedly did (Deut. 28:1-45; Matt. 7:21; 28:20; Jn. 14:23,24; 15:14; Rom. 6:17,18; Acts 10:34,35; Heb. 5:8,9; Rev. 22:14); defend it against the onslaughts of Satan and his ministers as did Stephen, Paul, Jude and others (Acts 6:9,10; 15:1,2; 17:16,17; 19:9,10; Phil. 1:15-17; Jude 3,4); if they will fear God and keep His commandments which is the whole duty of man (Eccl. 12:13,14); then, the world will be a better place, more people will turn to God, escape the horrors of hell, and enjoy the bliss of heaven eternally!
“If the gospel is so simple, why all the conflicting preachers, doctrines and churches?”
Whatever might be said for or against the validity (?) of this objection, it does not nullify the arguments just made. Read those arguments again at this point so they will be firmly fixed in your mind.
First, the objection places the blame for religious division on the wrong doorstep. It implies that religious division is the fault of the Lord — He gave a complicated message, men could not understand it, so division exists. The objection was spawned in the infernal regions and is trumpeted by Satan’s ministers. They have called upon us to answer their wording of the matter, and we have answered it hundreds of times and will continue to do so. But, it is time for us to do some wording, as follows: If man has been following the plainly revealed will of God with no deviations, why so much division? Ah! Now, in which direction does the arrow of blame fly? Answer it! ye religionists who have tried to lay the blame at the feet of the Lord! Man, not the Lord, is the culprit in this case! The Lord prayed for unity (Jn. 17:20, 21), and I have enough faith in my Lord and Master to reject, denounce and abhor the idea that He nullified that prayer by giving a message so complicated the common man cannot understand it, thereby creating all the religious division which plagues this sin-cursed earth! And, if your religious leader priest, pastor, reverend, elder or whatever – does not have that kind of faith, he is leading you to Hell! You should cease following him and retrace your steps.
It would be as sensible to argue that the rotation of the earth around the sun is out of kilter, thereby creating all the “divisions” between timepieces in a given time zone, as to argue that the Bible is responsible for our religious divisions! Actually, both arguments are nonsensical and idiotic!
Men have said, “We can’t understand the Bible alike,” then preached doctrines not in the Bible! It is about these doctrines that we are divided. Example: We are not divided on salvation by faith and the Bible so teaches (Jn. 3:16; Mk. 16:16; Gal. 3:26,27; Eph. 2:8,9); we are divided on salvation by faith only, a doctrine of man not taught by the Bible! Multiply that by hundreds of other unscriptural and anti-scriptural doctrines, and the cause of division is as easy to see as the largest billboard on earth.
The word of God (the seed) is what is to be preached (Acts 8:4, 2 Tim. 4:1,2; Lk. 8:11). If all had done so the last 100 years we would now be united; division shows some have sown tares (cf. Matt. 13:24-30).
“What about Peter’s statement of Paul’s writings (2 Pet. 3:15,16)?”
Occasionally one will use this passage to try to convince some that the Bible is beyond human comprehension. When we see what the passage actually says in contrast to what they try to make it say, their effort collapses under its own weight!
Peter referred to “some things” in Paul’s writing that were hard to understand; he did not make that statement about all things Paul wrote. Note also the words “hard to be understood”; he didn’t say they were impossible to understand. Further, Peter said the wresting is done by the “unlearned and unstable” – not by everybody. I can well see how one who is so ignorant of God’s word as to think the epistles were the wives of the Apostles or that Dan and Beersheba were husband and wife “like Sodom and Gomorrah” might misunderstand and pervert some of Paul’s writings. Some try “strong meat” before they are ready for it (Heb. 5:12-14), before they have received the nourishment of “the sincere milk of the word” (1 Pet. 2:1,2). If an infant cannot digest meat, this does not prove meat cannot be digested at all, is bad for everyone, and is not needed by anyone!
Peter gives no indication in the passage that the Scriptures should be withheld from the masses, the we need an infallible interpreter, that Bible study is unprofitable or injurious (see 2 Pet. 3:18), nor that belief and teaching are matters of indifference (see vv. 16,17).
Every Step The Sinner Must Take Is Plain
(1) Faith. What he is to believe is made plain (Jn. 20:30,3 1). The necessity of faith is given in understandable terms (Jn. 8:24; Heb. 11:6). How faith is produced is given in terms that any fourth-grader can understand (Rom. 10: 17; Acts 14:1; 18:8). What makes faith avail is clearly stated (Gal. 5:6; cf. Jn. 14:23).
(2) Repentance. Its meaning (Jonah 3:10 with Matt. 12:41; Matt. 21:28,29; Rev. 9:20,21), and its necessity (Acts 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:9) are given in terms any accountable person can understand.
(3) Confession. What is to be confessed (Matt. 10:32,33; Rom. 10:9; cf. Acts 8:37), and how and why confession is to be made (Rom. 10:9, 10) are as easy to understand as the most simple column in the daily newspaper.
(4) Baptism. The element (Acts 8:36-38; 10:47), the scriptural subjects (Mk. 16:16; Acts 3:38; 8:12), the action (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12; cf. Acts 8:36-38), as well its design or purpose (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:26,27) are all given in simple words.
Duties Of God’s Children Are Plain
Characteristics which are to be added after conversion (2 Pet. 1:5-11), life (Tit. 2:11,12), relation to the world (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1; 1 Jn. 2:15-17), worship (Jn. 4:24), service (Heb. 12:28; Col. 3:16), assembling with the saints (Heb. 10:24,25; Matt. 18:20) are clearly stated. At the judgment, no child of God can honestly say, “Lord, thy will was so difficult I could not, after hours of sincere study, understand what thou wanted me to be and do.” Saying that would be the lie of the ages!
We of the religious world are not divided over nor confused about what the Bible plainly authorizes! The ground of strife, confusion and division is unauthorized doctrines, practices, organizations, names, etc. The serpent beguiled Eve (Gen. 3:1-6; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14), causing her to believe what God had not said (Gen. 3:4) and disbelieve what God had said! She understood the command (Gen. 3:2,3), but the serpent told her something else which she liked better! The same is true today – men are led to believe what God has not said which often necessitates disbelief of what He has said! As Peter of old, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Pet.3:17).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 2, pp. 48-50
January 16, 1986