By Larry Ray Hafley
Some excuse and justify the conflicting and contradictory doctrines of denominationalism by saying that we cannot understand the Bible alike. Though God tells us we may understand the truth, some say it is impossible to do so (John 8:32; Eph. 3:4; 5:17; 1 Tim. 2:4). Let us see the inconsistency of those who say this.
Those who say we cannot understand the Bible alike will say that we must believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God. They will not permit disagreement. All alike must understand that Jesus died for our sins and that he was raised from the dead by the power of God (Rom. 4:25; 10:9, 10). Let them explain how it is that we are expected to under- stand the Bible alike with respect to the life and death of Jesus while they say it is impossible in other areas.
It is said that we cannot know the purpose of baptism. We cannot agree on whether or not baptism is one of the conditions of pardon, therefore, we may go our separate ways. You may believe that baptism is not essential for salvation, and I may believe that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16). However, it does not matter in God’s sight since we cannot understand it alike.
If that is true, if it does not matter, and if we are free to believe either way, what about the element in which we are baptized? Does it matter? If I believe baptism is valid if one is immersed in buttermilk, am I just as free to believe that as you are to believe that baptism is in water (Acts 8:36; 10:47)? Would you insist that for baptism to be acceptable it must be performed in water and not in a pile of leaves? Must we understand alike that baptism is in water and not in whipped cream?
Others say we cannot agree on which church is right. Hence, I may go to “my church” and you are free to “join the church of your choice.” If that be true, is one free to choose not to be a member of any church, not even the Lord’s (Acts 20:28; Eph. 2:16; 5:23, 30, 32)? If we cannot “bind” one church over another, then Jim Jones, who led his “church” to commit suicide, is as valid as the Lord’s body. What about those nut-case groups who kill themselves to hitch a ride on a spaceship tethered to a comet? Are those churches as good as the one for which Jesus suffered and bled and died (Eph. 5:25, 26)?
It has been said that some would justify adulterous marriages because there is no consensus on the knotty issue of marriage, divorce, and remarriage (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Let us grant that since we cannot understand it alike that folks are allowed to enter into nearly any kind of question- able marriage relationship. Because there are many hard questions about divorce and remarriage, we will welcome nearly any married couple into our fellowship. Alright, then, suppose a fellow says he is not sure that marriage is limited to males and females. No, he is “not certain” that he can “understand it like you do.” He believes it is possible that God may allow marriages of men to men and women to women, not to mention the marriage of a man to a horse or a woman to a billygoat.
What now? Do we “demand” and insist that he under- stand with us that scriptural marriage can only be between a man and a woman (Matt. 19:3-6; 1 Cor. 7:2-5)? If so, what happens to the idea that we cannot understand the Bible alike?