How much of the Bible DON'T you understand? If you are like most others, there are many passages in the Bible you have discovered which seem to be contradictory, or which seem to mean that what you believe to be true from other scriptures may not be true, after all! It has been said of the Bible: "It's the book nobody understands." But do you realize it is God's intention that you ultimately come to understand FULLY, COMPLETELY, every word contained in the Bible?
Perhaps it will come as a surprise to you, but the main reason so few people can really comprehend what God is telling them through the scriptures is — human nature! Paul wrote of that nature — the natural, physical YOU, just the way you were born and grew to maturity — as a CARNAL, a PHYSICAL nature, interested primarily in the carnal, temporary, and physical things of this world! Paul said that the natural mind we were all born with is ENMITY against God; it's just naturally hostile toward God! (Rom. 8:7). The natural mind, then, cannot understand God's Word in its fullness, nor can it submit to God's will and really be obedient to Him. Perhaps some brethren who do have difficulty in comprehending certain points need to ask themselves — "Do I have a truly SPIRITUAL mind?" It is not until that natural, carnal mind has been CONQUERED by God, and has been totally submitted to Him, that one's understanding can be OPENED to receive spiritual truth. To really sum up this point, then, a person must come to recognize the absolute AUTHORITY of God — and consequently of God's Word — over his life!
During a visit to a Florida alligator farm, Mr. Armstrong asked an attendant some questions about the huge lizards as they lay basking in the sun, apparently deep in sleep. The attendant cautioned, however, that in reality, the 'gators could snap their jaws together with lightning — like agility if someone were to grow careless and get too near. The alligators use "snap judgment," said the attendant. Many people are just like the alligators when it comes to reading the Bible! When they come to a difficult scripture, they use "snap judgment," deciding immediately what the doubtful text must mean! Having made up their minds quickly as to the meaning of this particular verse, they must then CHANGE their minds about other verses and misinterpret them in order to make them fit with the new one! Using "snap judgment" or trying to put your own ideas INTO the Bible is the surest way of MISUNDERSTANDING it entirely.
Simple Rules for Study
Isaiah tells us God's Word is "line upon line, here a little, and there a little," showing us NOT ALL the truth of any one subject is contained in just ONE scripture (Isa. 28:9-13). In order to correctly understand any doctrinal truth in the Bible, you must first gather every scripture referring to that subject. Use of a concordance will aid you greatly in accumulating EVERY scripture which is a direct reference to, or an example of, or alludes to the subject you are studying. For example: in the Gospels there are four different accounts of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Each Gospel writer records the truth — but each one differs slightly from the other — in writing from a different point of view, stressing a different facet of Christ's ministry, or grouping Christ's teachings differently. To glean the WHOLE TRUTH from the Gospel accounts, you must first get all FOUR Gospel accounts on any given subject and put them together. Take for example the four differing Gospel accounts of what was written over the cross. Matthew records, "This is Jesus the King of the Jews." Mark writes, "The King of the Jews." Luke's Gospel says, "This is the King of the Jews," and John includes "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Is there any contradiction here? No! Not one Gospel account CONTRADICTS the other — but when you take all four together, and add them up as you would any arithmetic problem, you find the answer, which is the SUM TOTAL of all scriptures on the subject, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."
Principles to Remember
If you will study the following basic principles of Bible study — and never forget them — your Bible study difficulties will always be solved: 1) The Bible never contradicts itself. Even though "scholars" and Bible critics lay various claims before us of supposed Biblical contradictions, the closer investigation of the claim always proves it to be without basis. 2) Wherever you find a vague or difficult-to-understand scripture, you must understand it in the light of all the other PLAIN, CLEAR, easy-to-understand scriptures on the same subject. 3) Wherever it is a vital, essential point you need to know in order to show you the way to salvation, God has seen to it the scriptures are PLAIN, and CLEAR, and without any shadow of doubt as to their meaning! 4) Usually always, the vague, ambiguous and difficult-to-understand scriptures will have to do with comparatively minor points, especially with points in prophecy on beyond the coming of Christ. It is nearly always over one of these comparatively minor points that dissension will arise, misinterpretations and wresting of Scripture will take place, and people will become offended. Always ask yourself, "IS THIS ESSENTIAL FOR MY SALVATION?" If it is not, then be willing to suspend judgment — wait on God to SHOW you the meaning later on, rather than becoming disgruntled or worried about a minor point.
The Ideal Attitude
God frankly tells you what the ideal attitude is for completely understanding His Sacred Word! Paul wrote, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (II Tim. 3:16), and Christ said, "THY WORD IS TRUTH!" (John 17:17). If a person has thoroughly been CONQUERED by God, and now recognizes the total authority of God over his life, then he needs have no fear of twisting, wresting and misunderstanding scriptural points! Why? Because of his attitude toward the Bible! If you are CONVERTED, and have God's Spirit, you will say, with Christ, "Not MY will be done, but THINE" to God. You won't be looking into God's Word just to have your own way, but to find out WHAT IS WRONG with your way — to get the CORRECTION and the REPROOF that will CHANGE your way, mold it into GOD'S WAY — a NEW WAY OF LIFE! If you really want to understand the Bible MORE THOROUGHLY, and you are sincere in that desire, then each time before you begin your Bible study, ask yourself if you really do RECOGNIZE the tremendous AUTHORITY of the Book you're about to open. Do you really FEAR to disobey it? Are you in complete SUBMISSIVENESS and subjection to it? God says to you "... but to THIS MAN will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and TREMBLETH AT MY WORD!" (Isa. 66:2). Do you really TREMBLE before the Holy Word of God? Are you SURE?