Question: Is it possible to understand the Bible? Doesn’t it mean different things to different people?
Answer: This excellent question reflects a common misunderstanding, which seems to be increasing in our day. Many people have been told, and have come to believe, that people cannot understand the Bible alike, and that one person’s interpretation is as good as another. When we really stop and think about that view, its falsity should become obvious.
If the Bible cannot be properly understood, then one of two things is true. Either God could not author a book in an understandable fashion, or he deliberately gave different messages to different people. Yet the Bible clearly teaches that God is “no respecter of persons,” (Acts 10:34). He does not say one thing to one person, and something conflicting to someone else. Nor is an all-powerful God incapable of speaking in a manner which can be understood.
The Bible itself plainly teaches that it can indeed be correctly understood. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he explained that the mind of God had been revealed unto him and the other inspired apostles and prophets. “…which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit,” (Eph. 3:5). The process of God revealing his mind to the inspired writers is here described as “revelation.” Thus, those writers were guided by the Holy Spirit in writing down the very word of God, (see also 1 Cor. 2:6-16).
Paul further explains “how that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words,” (Eph. 3:3a). That is, the very will of God was revealed by the Holy Spirit unto Paul and the other inspired writers, making us able to have and read it for ourselves. He then adds, “…whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ,” (Eph. 3:3b, emphasis supplied).
To perceive something is to observe it, to recognize it, to understand it. Paul is saying that when his words are read, the readers can perceive or understand the will of God, which had been revealed unto Paul. In reading the words written by Paul and the other inspired writers, we can perceive or understand the very word of God.
Too many times, the problem is not that we cannot understand the Bible, but that we do not take the time to humbly read and study it. We are so accustomed to reading various things and then dismissing them as optional or pleasure reading, that we sometimes fail to recognize the authoritative word of God. The Bible is God’s word to mankind. It is meant to be read, studied, understood, taken into our hearts and obeyed!
Robert Veil, Jr. has been a gospel preacher with the Church of Christ for over 35 years. Submit your Bible questions to him at Central Church of Christ, 90 Waverly Court, Martinsburg, WV 25403.