2 Peter 3:15-18 "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 17 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. 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."
I'd like to preach today in this article about understanding the bible, particularly in the epistles of Paul, and could be said in a lot of other places in bible where there are some things that are hard to be understood.
It is true that there are some things said in the bible that really confound you, but just as there are hard things in the bible to be understood; there are also things in the bible that can be understood easily as well.
So if the bible tells us that there some things hard to be understood, doesn't that tell us that there are a lot of things that can be easily understood in there also?
Now you might ask yourself, why are there things in the bible that are hard to understand, God is all powerful and all knowing; why didn't he just make everything in the bible easy to understand?
Open your bibles to Matthew 13.
Matthew 13:9-10 "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. 10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?"
The disciples are wondering here as to why he speaks to the people in parables, they wanted to know why Jesus doesn't explicitly tell the people what he wants them to hear. Let's look at the next verses where Jesus answers them.
Matthew 13:11-14 "He answered and said unto them, because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, by hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:"
You can clearly see from those verses that Jesus is saying, that there are certain things in the bible that are designed so that certain people who might hear it or read will not understand it.
Jesus said to his disciples that unto you it is given so that the disciples will understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but unto them it is not given.
The bible says in 1 Corinthians chapter 2 the following.
1 Corinthians 2:14 "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
So according to the bible the natural man, the unsaved man, will not be able to understand the things of God: He said it's foolishness unto him, you have to be saved to be able to understand the things of the bible.
To an unsaved person, most of the things said in the bible is going to go right over their head, and the bible is purposely written in that way.
Matthew 13:15-17 "for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them."
So in those verses, we learn that certain things in the bible were not able to be understood in the distant past, but only to be understood in the later on in human history as certain things would come to pass and God himself revealing more information ultimately in the book of Revelation.
There were many people in the Old Testament who wanted to understand the things but it was only given to those in the New Testament generation to fully understand what was being said back then.
A lot of righteous men and prophets in the Old Testament wanted to understand certain things that was being revealed to them in their day but couldn't understand, and when we move into the New Testament era, we can clearly see that the Apostles began to understand what the old prophets were talking about; the Apostles however didn't quite understand all the things that Jesus was teaching them in their time either.
There are certain things in the bible that cannot be understood by the unsaved either, and this is true, I have been in rooms many times where I will quote scriptures from the bible and there will be unsaved people in the room that will not understand a word that was said, and if you read my article on "Love of the truth" you will understand why these people are unsaved and will not understand the words in the bible.
There are things in the bible spoken of right from the beginning of time where things could not be understood, and not only until we get further into the stages of human history where more information becomes revealed that will be made available to understand these things much clearer.
So we see the following things when it comes to understanding the bible.
- Some things are hard to understand
- Some things are purposely hidden
- God wants to keep certain people from understanding things
- God also wanted people of different times to understand things at different times
Turn to Revelation Chapter 2:
Revelation 2:17 "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."
Now manna in the bible is a picture of the Word of God, and the bible tells us this in Deuteronomy Chapter 8.
Deuteronomy 8:3 "And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live."
So according to Deuteronomy chapter 8, we read that the manna represented God's Word, and the bible tells us that there is HIDDEN manna that we can eat from.
When we read from God's Word every day we are eating of the manna of God's Word, and we are getting our daily bread from the Word of God; but the bible teaches that that there is HIDDEN manna, something that is hidden, it is something that is purposely put out of the way, put out of plain sight so that someone has to dig deeper and search to find it.
So there are things that are easily understood and things that are not easy to be understood and that you really have to be saved, to understand everything in the bible.
The bible says to him that overcometh, means to be saved, and of course if you do a search for the word "overcometh" in the bible you will find that it does mean to be saved.
But look, just because you're saved doesn't mean that you're going to learn everything in the bible the first time round you finish reading it through right?
It's going to take time, it's going to take work, and it's going to take study to dig out that hidden manna; but the fact that you are saved makes you capable of searching out the hidden manna in God's Word.
It's all there for you, and you have the ability to understand it all if you are saved. I'm not saying you're going to understand it immediately, I mean what good would that be if you just read the bible once and understood everything, why would you even read it through a second time?
There is so much truth in the bible and that if you understood it all at once, your head would probably explode, I mean you probably fall over dead! It'll be like trying to run too many application on your computer at once, and your computer would just freeze or overload; that's what it'd be like.
Every time you read the bible you learn something new, and look, don't worry about the part you don't understand, worry about the part that you do understand; it's going to take a life time to understand things of God and we will keep on learning, the bible is an infinite book.
Now let's start out with some basic principles to utilize to help us understand the bible.
The Hard Stuff
What do you do when you run into hard, difficult, confusing and hard to wrap your head around things to understand in the bible?
Number 1, the first and foremost thing you need to understand to wrap your head around these difficult passages to help you understand is this:
YOU MUST BELIEVE THAT EVERY VERSE IN THE BIBLE IS TRUE!
Now if you don't believe that every verse in the bible is true, YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE!
You must believe that every verse in the bible is true, you cannot doubt any aspect of it or you will never understand what is contained in the bible.
This must be your first and foremost rule to establish in your foundation to properly exegete the scriptures, this of course ties in with being saved.
You have to be saved to understand it, the Holy Spirit that is in you will illuminate things to you.
But you have to believe that the Word of God has been preserved in our English KJV translation, and that every single verse in there is true.
In fact, ANYONE who says that they believe there are contradictions and it is not translated correctly will only NOT understand the bible, but they are NOT saved themselves period.
Hebrews 11:3 "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
FAITH is the key to understanding, you must believe the bible in order to understand the bible; for example turn to Mark Chapter 16:
Now before I go into this more, if I believe that every verse in the bible is true, because that's our foundation right? That's the first thing that I need to have.
I believe that every verse in the bible is true, so that means when I come to two verses that looks as though they are contradicting each other, the first thing that I have to realise is that BOTH VERSES ARE TRUE!
They are both God's Word so I must understand that both verses are true. Therefore, I must find a way to understand that scripture whereby both can be true.
Now I'm using Mark 16:16 here as an example because this is a scripture that is often used, it is twisted and twisted to teach a false doctrine where it really teaches no such thing.
This false doctrine is called Baptismal Regeneration where these false teachers will say that you have to ALSO be baptised by Immersion in water to be saved.
Mark 16:16 "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."
This verse can be understood by anyone with Basic English skills that there is a semicolon there denoting a long pause in between the sentence but not signalling the end of a statement. Let's analyse the first half of the sentence.
"He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved"
Now it's easy to see that this can create problems if the entire statement ended here, but it doesn't does it?
And if there are numerous (probably around 100) other verses that tell that Salvation is by faith alone. So how do we figure this scripture out?
OK, so what's the first thing we need to realise? This verse is true.
"He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" this is a true statement.
Now John 3:15 says, "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."
How can both these scriptures be true?
Well it's really simple, both of these can be true if the only thing you have to do to be saved is to BELIEVE.
And if the only thing you have to do to be saved is to believe, then both verses are true.
By this method of interpretation you can then ask yourself, well if the only thing that I have to do to be saved is believe, then John 3:15 is true, and Mark 16:16 if you believe and be baptised you'll be saved is true.
Let me ask you this, if you believe and walk through a door you'll be saved?
If you believe and stand on your head you'll be saved?
The answer to these questions would be yes, because if you believe you'll be saved; there is no contradiction at all here.
Look at the next statement after the semicolon, it says "He that believeth not shall be damned." Does it say, "if you're not baptised you'll be damned."?
No, if it did say he that is not baptised then we would have a real problem here, he doesn't say at all, in fact there is no verse in the bible that will even come close to saying that if you're not baptised you'll be damned.
Find a verse in the bible that comes out and says that, but I'll find you many verses that say if you don't believe you'll be damned. Where do you want to start? We have a ton of them that'll tell you that.
Some people will even say that everyone who believes will get baptised as well, now for the sake of an argument you could say that everyone who believes will automatically get baptised; no we know that that is not true.
There are tons of examples in the bible where we see people who believe, don't get baptised like the thief on the cross, what about the great multitudes of people in the book of John who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ but did not confess him openly for fear of the Jews?
This is an example of people who believed but didn't want to make it public that they believed because they loved the praise of men, more than they loved the praise of God, look that was wrong of them, that was sinful of them but look, we don't always know who is getting saved or not this happens internally we cannot see it.
So remember, all verses in the bible are true, but I'm going to show 3 principles to help you understand this.
- Always use the clear scripture to interpret the unclear scripture.
You're more than likely to be wrong about the unclear scripture, so let the clear scripture interpret or outweigh the unclear scripture. But remember, they are both true don't get me wrong here as you continue to grow in the bible the unclear scripture will soon become clear as the Holy Spirit will help you along the way in understanding the scriptures.
Always start with the clear scripture.
- Use the New Testament Scripture to interpret the Old Testament Scripture.
Now in the Old Testament, did the people then have more knowledge or less knowledge?
They had less knowledge right?
There are more unclear scriptures in the Old Testament than in the New Testament which conveys more information and is more up-to-date.
Now in Daniel Chapter 12, God has just given Daniel a prophetic vision and Daniel says he heard, but understood it not.
Daniel 12:8-10 "And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? 9 And he said, go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. 10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand."
So Daniel asks God what all these things meant, and God responds to him by telling him to go thy way, for the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. So are the words sealed forever?
No, they are sealed until the time of the end.
God is saying to Daniel, look you don't understand and you're not going to understand the words are sealed up till the time of the end.
Look at verse 10, just like we talked about earlier it says NONE of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand!!!
At this time Daniel did not understand but in the future, the wise shall understand and the wicked won't. This is part of the reason why we should use the New Testament scripture as our primary source of authority, not to say that the Old Testament isn't true, EVERY word of the Old Testament is true but let the New Testament guide you and help you clarify the Old Testament.
So in Daniel 12 it says sealed till the time of the end right? Well let's go forward to Revelation 22:
Revelation 22:10 "And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand."
So in Daniel 12, God is saying it is sealed and you're not going to understand it, but in Revelation 22 he says Seal it NOT for the time is at hand!
If I'm dealing with bible prophecy, what's the clearest book that I should parked in?
Daniel or Revelation? Revelation of course, the word itself means "to reveal".
You need to get into the New Testament to tell you what Ezekiel 38 and 39 means, you need to get into the New Testament to tell you what Daniel and Zechariah means.
Use the majority of scriptures that agree with each other to interpret the minority of verses, you're more than likely to be wrong about the one obscure verse than you are to be about the many clear verses that you understand.
Let the majority of verses help you understand that one obscure verse, for example you might have one or two verses like in James chapter 2 where he says faith without works is dead and can faith save him, and you have hundreds of verses that you are saved by faith alone; which one do you think you're probably mixed up on, which one do you think that you are interpreting wrong?
No look, when I first came upon James 2 in the bible it totally confounded me, it just blew me away especially after reading that Salvation is faith only and not of works and then coming to these verses that seemed to just punch me in the face.
I actually left it and kept reading because I knew that what I had been reading from the beginning of the bible right past Hebrews Hall of Faith Chapter 11 and bang! James 2, what the heck; faith without works is dead?
I moved on because I knew that I wasn't understanding it correctly and came back to it many times and finally realised what James was talking about as my knowledge grew that particular confounding passage became clear and the Holy Spirit illuminated me on that matter.
So the 3rd point here is to let the clear majority of verses interpret the difficult minority of verses.
4. Let the Statements outweigh the Questions
A lot of false doctrines are based on questions that are asked in the bible rather than the clear statements of the bible.
Look at people who deny faith alone saves, they base their doctrine of works salvation on a question from James 2, which says can faith save him?
What about the doctrine of baptisms for the dead?
This doctrine is also based on a question rather than a statement in 1 Corinthians 15:
1 Corinthians 15:29 "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?'"
What on earth?
Can you see the error one can make when basing a doctrine on questions in the bible rather than a statement?
And Paul here isn't even talking to the Christians he is talking about another group (possibly Pagans who did engage in baptising the dead in Corinth), if he were talking about the Corinthians he would be saying, "Else what shall WE do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are WE then baptized for the dead?'"
Always let the statement teach you what the answer is to the question.
Right, now those principles are taken care of let's move on!
2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
The bible says we need to rightly divide the word of truth meaning we need to differentiate between different things.
|KJV 1611 Version|
There are a few things we need to know to help us differentiate from.
First of all we need to differentiate between the Old and New Testament right?
Because there are differences in the Old and New Testaments so we need to study the bible to differentiate between the two.
The wrong way to divide is to say, "Oh that's Old Testament, I don't want to hear it", there are a lot of people who think that, just throw away the Old Testament. That's wrongly dividing the word.
Rightly dividing the word is understanding that God has made specific changes in the New Testament, and that if something in the Old Testament that has NOT been specifically changed, specifically altered, and specifically repealed it is still in force today.
If God didn't specifically repeal it in the New Testament, it IS STILL IN FORCE TODAY.
If God did not specifically repeal it; you better be doing it.
So what are some of the things that God repealed in the New Testament?
Hebrews 9:10 "which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation."
So we have meats, drinks, divers washing, and carnal ordinances or physical rituals until the time of reformation, which is the time when Christ gave his life for us.
In Colossians 2 we have a similar list:
Colossians 2:16 "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: 17 which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
We see in Colossians 2 that we are no longer have to observe meats, drinks, regard one day as a holyday or the Jewish festivals or of the Sabbath days.
So we no longer have to keep the dietary laws that were imposed in the Old Testament such as the shellfish and swine (Pig), wherein the New Testament we are told that anything we eat so long as it is received with thanksgiving to God is fine.
What about clothing?
There are things in the Old Testament that God still has in force:
Deuteronomy 22:5 "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God."
That's right, nowhere in the New Testament has God specifically repealed this law such items that women wear are (ahem) pants/trousers that only men should be wearing; and the same is considered true vice versa as well. This is also known in our time as cross dressing.A man should look like a man, and women should look like a woman. God has not repealed this at all in the New Testament.
There is still many prohibitions in the Old Testament still in force today. You should, get out your bibles and start reading to find out what they are.
The next point I'd like to move onto is that we need to differentiate between the statements of God and the statements of Man.
Remember to always base the truth on statements of the bible and especially rightly divide between a statement and a story or a parable, and always use the statement to interpret the story or the parable.
Look if the only evidence that you have to back up your doctrine is a story or a question; then I'm sorry, but you have the wrong doctrine!
A story should only reinforce what you believe, illustrate what you believe, but it should not be the foundation of your belief, it should NOT be the foundation of your doctrine.
Everything that you believe SHOULD be based on a CLEAR STATEMENT in the bible.
We know that a lot people say things in the bible, and those things aren't always true.
For example a verily, verily statement should not be outweighed by one that is not consisting of the word verily. Another example is that the Devil speaks in the bible and we know that there is no truth in him.
I'll give another example, turn to Luke chapter 2 talking about Jesus:
Luke 2:33 "And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him."
Notice the inspired KJV bible says Joseph and his mother marvelled; the bible here is clear that Joseph is not Jesus' father, but the modern (Per-) versions of the bible like the New International version (NIV) call's Joseph Jesus' father.
NIV Luke 2:33 "The child's father and mother marvelled at what was said about him."
NASB Luke 2:33 "And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him."
ESV Luke 2:33 "And his father and his mother marvelled at what was said about him."
This is blasphemy, that is wrong, the NIV and the other modern bibles are teaching a wrong doctrine!
Joseph is NOT Jesus' father, Joseph is Jesus' stepfather I'll give you that, but in no way does any of the translation calls him a stepfather!
It's funny when you tell people who attack the KJV and they'll say what about verse 48 where the KJV calls Joseph Jesus's father?
Luke 2:48 "And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing."
Um OK, is God the one doing the talking?
This is Mary speaking calling Joseph Jesus' father.
Listen Roman Catholic!
Mary isn't God, someone needs to rebuke these Catholics that are defending these modern versions that Mary isn't God!
Look in the next verse, Jesus corrects Mary for saying what she did:
Luke 2:49 "And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"
See here Jesus rebuking his mother, he says how is it that you sought me?
Do you not know that I must be about my Father's business?
Notice the capitalization of the word "Father" being used also compared to the previous verse use of the word when Mary is speaking.
In essence he's saying to Mary, how is it even possible for my Father to be seeking me when he is in heaven and knows everything?
He's not looking for me, he knows exactly where I was!
Jesus is saying I AM about my Father's business, preaching and teaching God's Word, how is it that you say this man, this carpenter is my father and he was seeking me?
Here is another misconception of Jesus, people who call Jesus a carpenter, the bible makes no indication that Jesus was a carpenter, the only passage that alludes people to believe Jesus was a carpenter is in the book of Mark chapter 6 we read:
Mark 6:3 "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him."
See how this is a question from people who really didn't know him at all?
See how you can get the wrong doctrine from a question instead of a clear statement?
Jesus was more like an engineer, a mister fix it, and jack of all trades, is he not the creator of all things?
There is no clear evidence that Jesus was a carpenter.
So we need to differentiate between when God is talking and when man is talking, and when man is talking, what he says may or may not be true.
One more thing, who is the narrator of the bible when there is nobody talking? The Holy Spirit, the Spirit narrates the story.
And when you are struggling with a passage in the bible, you've got to put away preconceived ideas.
A major enemy to the bible is an idea or belief that you have been holding onto causing you to be biased in your interpretations.
For example John Chapter 3 is one of the chapters in the bible where a preconceived idea will cause you to misinterpret what Jesus is teaching Nicodemus.
The subject being "born again" and greatly misinterpreting the "water" to be baptism is indeed a gross mistake people make, and people who believe in baptismal regeneration will use this chapter to prove their belief.
Jesus explains what it is to be born again and contrasts the two births further into the chapter – IT IS NOT ABOUT BAPTISM.
Once you get an idea stuck in your head, it prevents you from understanding the passage. You start to assume things that aren't there are there, and insert your ideas about something into the passage to twist and pervert the passage until it fits your idea, until it agrees with your belief rather than what God is teaching you.
In fact the only assumption you should be making at all is what we learnt earlier, THAT ALL VERSES OF THE BIBLE ARE TRUE, every single jot and tittle of the bible is true!
PUT ASIDE PRECONCEIVED IDEAS!!
Lastly, if in doubt, take the passage literally! We should always assume things are literal in the bible unless it is obvious that it is symbolic – Yes! Common sense is required here.
For example if I'm talking to my wife or children, shouldn't they assume that everything I say is literal?
Or should they just assume that most of everything I'm going to say is symbolic?
If I said, "Honey, I don't feel like hanging around the restaurant after dinner, I'd like you to, as soon as we've finished eating, to round up the kids and head straight for the car and go home".
And she thinks to herself, "Hmmm, what did he mean by that? I wonder if he means were starting something new, or he wants us to try something new in our lives"
Seriously, is that a literal interpretation or a Symbolic interpretation?
Shouldn't she take that as a literal interpretation?
If I said to my child, "I've told you a million times for you not to do that!"
With any common sense you would interpret that as symbolic right?
As if I said not to do that a million times.
If you start to think that everything in the bible is symbolic, you will start to get yourself into a lot of false doctrine.
We should not waste a lot of our time on someone who thinks everything is symbolic.
Hell is not symbolic; it is a literal real place. Get in the truth and walk in the light.
May God bless you on your personal journey to know the saviour, but remember it is not whether you know the saviour; it's whether the saviour know YOU.
Father I hope that whosoever should read these words, can use them and help guide them into trying to understand your Words written in the Holy Bible, I hope they get themselves and their house saved and I ask that my own household come into the fold as well. Please help understand that that the only preconceived ideas we should have is that all scripture, every jot and tittle written in your Word is true, we pray and thank thee in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.