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Why people do not see the Bible alike.
The question, "Why dont people understand the Bible alike," has been asked many times but for the most part the answers have been superficial. Usually an attempt is made to blame other persons or groups for the differences or to excuse themselves for factors beyond our control. Hopefully this paper will not indulge in either of these two alternatives. Instead we want to look at factors that are common to all to a greater or lesser extent, factors over which we have control. Before we do, let's look at two answers that are commonly given.
1. Are denominational differences the reason people do not see the Bible alike? Many believe that denominational differences are the reason that people do not see the Bible alike. We reject this answer because it seems clear that denominational differences are a symptom of the problem and not the real cause. Just as a runny nose is a symptom of a cold and not the real cause. The real cause is a virus. Denominational differences are a serious concern but not the real cause. We shall never deal with them effectively until their cause has been understood.
2. Are the Scriptures, themselves, the cause of not seeing the Bible alike? Many people believe that the scriptures are written so loosely, so lacking in unity that they can be correctly interpreted in many ways. We reject this answer also.
First, Jesus claimed to bring one teaching, which is from the Father. The Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles for the express purpose of guiding them into all the truth that so that they might make disciples and teach them. It was Jesus' prayer and that all of His disciples should be one just as He and the Father are one.
Second, obviously the Scriptures have been interpreted in many different ways, by those who claim to be His disciples. But these interpretations may not be consistent with the Scriptures. This must, grieve the Father very.much
Third, the Bible claims to be truth and it is axiomatic that truth is consistent with itself. Therefore when the differences are not consistent with the Scriptures, they are indicative of failure to comprehend the truth.
3. Am I suggesting that there can be absolutely no differences in interpretation of the Scriptures? Certainly not. When we go to the Scriptures we find that divisions and factions are condemned. Disciples are admonished to be of the same mind and speak the same thing but we also find that there were differences. However the fourteenth chapter of the letter to the Romans deals with instruction as to how disciples should treat one another so to maintain the unity of the body even when there are differences.
4. Why don't people see the Bible alike? The answers are to be found within us not external to us. Let's look at some of these factors. We will be considering primarily four factors. The factors are common to us all and they are interrelated, forming the proverbial vicious circle that keeps us from realizing our full potential as His disciples.
One of the basic causes is the grid through which we process all sensations and information that we receive. Some, especially those with a scientific bent, may think this is not true of them. None of us is totally objective. This grid is composed of our education, attitude, social and cultural background and those other factors that go into our make-up. Michael Polanyi in his book, Personal Knowledge, makes a convincing case that this is true of everyone. We all have our mind-sets, world-views, and assumptions, biases and prejudices, which color our perceptions. Over coming our presuppositions is one of the greatest challenges we have as we attempt to understand the Scriptures.
Ignorance is a primary cause. "Ignorance" should not be equated with "stupidity"; ignorance is a lack of knowledge. A little thought reveals there are two types of people; first, those who study the Bible, and second, those who dont. It has been estimated that from 75 % to 90% of the people who claim to be Christians do not seriously study the Bible. Oh, we don't mean that they never read the Scriptures, or don't go to church, or never hear sermons, but most don't study the Bible as they would their school courses when they were children. If this estimate is true, is there any wonder that they dont see the Bible alike. If you are not knowledgeable about the Scriptures, it is almost impossible to have a real understanding. But ignorance is not always the result of failure to apply oneself. Some diligently studied the Bible and still are ignorant. The Apostle Paul, educated at the feet of Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, stated that he had acted ignorantly in unbelief prior to his conversion. Paul was certainly one of the best educated at that time. This brings us to the third factor.
We can readily understand why those who dont study, and therefore lack knowledge, would not understand, but why do well educated, honest people, trained in seminaries and religious schools hold greatly varying positions on the Scriptures. The answer can only be that, they are deceived. Deception is the primary tool of Satan in controlling the hearts and mind of mankind. There are many warnings in the Scriptures to not be deceived by others and to not deceive ourselves. The Apostle Paul admitted in his epistle to Titus that he, himself, prior to his conversion, was deceived although he had lived in all good conscience. When our conclusions are at variance with reality, we are deceived. We have all been deceived. It is an all to common human trait. When you are deceived, you dont realize it; hence your thoughts about yourself can be sincere and positive.
We get our beliefs from those we trust most, our parents, at a time when we are not able to evaluate them. Likewise many of the religious leaders receive their beliefs from their mentors who they trust and often apparently also do not attempt to evaluate them.
Unjustifiable self-confidence or pride is the last factor. But in such serious matters, matters of life and death, why will people allow themselves to continue to be ignorant and deceived. We all think we are right and our ways are as good if not better than any others. When we know that we do not know, we are approachable and teachable but when we are ignorant and do not know it, or learned, but deceived, we are very difficult to approach. The Bible warns us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should, but we often do. We hold on to our ideas and concepts because they are ours, or because we have received from those we love and respect, our parents, minister or friends. We are reluctant to examine our beliefs because a large part of ourselves is invested in them.
Thus we find that the reasons people do not see the Bible alike are because of LACK OF OBJECTIVITY, IGNORANCE, DECEPTION and CONCEIT. These four factors often acting together in the proverbial vicious circle blind our hearts and minds so that we can not see the Bible alike.
5. What can we do about this? Much! Thank God! Just to be aware of these four enemies is the first step. But you cant stop there. If you want to be a disciple of Christ, you must come to understand His word for yourself. This will take time and effort but it is essential to have a personal knowledge and not be dependent on others. If you dont have much knowledge get a Bible; I suggest a New American Standard Version and start reading the Gospel according to John in order to get a basic understanding of God and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Ask questions! Then read the Acts of the Apostles. This letter, Acts of the Apostles, will tell you how to become a Christian. The people affiliated with Plain Talk would be happy to assist you.
6. Can ordinary people without religious training really understand the Bible? In the Bible the people of Berea were nobler than those of Thessalonica because they searched the Scriptures daily to see if the words of the Apostle Paul were true. Be like the Bereans. Ignorance can be overcome. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of God." 2 Timothy 2:15
7. Why must we constantly be on guard? We must learn to test the things we read and hear by the Scriptures and not the reverse. Satan appears as angels of light to deceive the elect. Substantive differences in interpretations of the Scriptures may indicate that at least one and perhaps both are inaccurate. It is not our purpose to suggest that all differences are potentially condemning nor to pass judgement on others. On the other hand it would be foolish not to recognize that faith in God leads to obedience. I do not know how much digression, if any, God will allow. I do know that Jesus prayed that His disciples would be one. If we love the Lord we will want to follow and honor Him as best we can. Dont be deceived.
8. What is the first thing we must do if we would come to Christ? Jesus said that if anyone would come to Him he must deny himself. Jesus emptied Himself taking on the form of man and then humbled Himself to become obedient to death by crucifixion. We must humble ourselves, including being willing to examine and change our most cherished beliefs if necessary to arrive at the truth. God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. By so doing conceit can be overcome.
9. How did the Apostle Paul overcome conceit, unjustified self-confidence? Paul, or Saul before his conversion, placed his confidence in the flesh. He was born of the nation of Israel, circumcised the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, as to the law a Pharisee, self-righteous and of great zeal. Yet, when he came to know Jesus Christ, all that he had formerly took great pride in, was now counted as rubbish. May our confidence ever be in Christ and not ourselves.
Freedom in Christ. There will be differences in any group of believers. God has instructed, however, in how to relate to one another. Those who have some peculiar ideas should not try to bind their ideas on others. On the other hand, those who are perhaps better instructed should not hold the weaker brother in contempt. Every believer should be concerned with the welfare of others and not cause his brother to stumble, realizing we all ultimately answer to God and not to one another. God abhors those who cause division and factions in the body. God in His wisdom, knowing we need the fellowship and encouragement of other believers, has called believers into a family, the church.
God bless you in your efforts to learn and understand His will. If we can be of assistance please contact us.
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Last Update 09/26/12