Why we do not see the Bible alike #1
If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)…
I’m sure most of us have asked the question, “Why can’t people understand the clear truths revealed in Scripture?” It seems that the things which pertain to our salvation and the forgiveness of sin are clear and easily understood. All of the above Scriptures seem to imply our ability to study the Scripture and come to a common understanding. But if that is the case, why are there so many differences among religious people?
I am not saying that there are not things in the Bible on which we differ. Peter says there are things Paul wrote that are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16). Just read Romans! But typically the things we would differ on are not matters of faith, but the result of our individual study and arriving at a conclusion based on all that is written. I’m sure there are those that differ with me on my positions about some of the things in Romans and Matthew 24 and 25, but those difference don’t amount to a hill of beans as long as we each understand that they are opinions and we don’t attempt to impose our views on others. My views, or your views don’t affect our salvation as long as we agree on the things that lead to the forgiveness of our sins.
The question posed by the title generally prompts the thought of church or denominational differences. Some consider the lack of church unity a serious handicap to religious progress. But church division or denominationalism is not the cause of religious deterioration today – it is merely a symptom. If these differences are only symptoms, what are the real causes?
If we can find the answer to the question, “Why do people not see the Bible alike?” we shall, in part, answer the more basic question, “What is the real cause of the religious trouble today?”
As we begin this series of articles, there are a few basic facts to be recognized:
First, Jesus brought one teaching (John 7:16), and the disciples were in perfect agreement in their teaching of the things that were revealed to them. The Holy Spirit was sent to guide them into all truth and to remind them (perfect recollection) of the things Jesus had taught (John 14:26; 16:13-14). This is also seen in the unity of the things taught by the apostle Paul (Titus 2:11-12).
Therefore, since all taught one thing, and that teaching came from God, why should it direct one man to do one thing and another man to do something different? It is difficult to see how men can follow various paths and all claim to follow the example set by Christ. God’s teachings are the same today as in the days of Jesus and the apostles (Matthew 28:20). He has not, nor will He give any additional instruction other than what has already been revealed.
Second, man’s nature has remained basically unchanged from the Garden of Eden. He still loves, hates, rejoices, weeps, approves, rebukes, learns, and forgets. He still has the same organic needs now as then. He has the same drive and the same feelings.
Third, the reasons for man’s failure to understand and accept the New Testament teachings today are the same as they were 2000 years ago.
Now to the causes of religious differences.
Ignorance is the basic cause. Why did the Jews not accept the teachings of Jesus and the apostles? Paul states the problem – it was a problem of ignorance. (Romans 10:3; Acts 13:27; 1 Corinthians 2:8; 1 Timothy 1:12-13; Acts 26:9). When Paul refers to the Jews being ignorant, he is not implying that they were not capable of understanding, but that they had refused to accept the evidence that they had about the Messiah. Jesus identified the same weakness (Luke 19:42; 23:34), as well as Peter (Acts 3:17).
There are many living ignorantly today because they fail to accept the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. Many who have confessed that Jesus is the Son of God ignorantly follow practices contrary to His will because they have failed to accept the simple truths revealed in the Bible.
It seems inconceivable that intelligent people could miss what seems so obvious, but consider statements made by the apostle Paul:
Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day."
1 Corinthians 4:4
For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.
2 Corinthians 10:18
For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.
Do you think this could be true of many today? Ignorance can cause us to unjustly condemn others (Matthew 9:10-13), teach error (Matthew 23:16-19), and criticize what is being done by others (Matthew 26:8-10). Paul applied this type of attitude to the Gentiles (Ephesian 4:17-19).
Therefore, each one has an obligation to study God’s Word earnestly, sincerely, and prayerfully, to take every precaution to prevent being perverted by human ideas, to be diligent in applying the Bible teaching to our daily living (Titus 2:10), and to teach the word to all by precept and example not forgetting our responsibility to teach the truth as God has revealed it to us (James 3:1).
But all of this raises the question, “Why are people ignorant?”
There are three words that can be used to describe an individual: intelligent, educated, and ignorant. The first two are considered complimentary while the last is thought of as being derogatory. Many think of the first two as contradictory to the latter; i.e. if you are intelligent or educated (or both), you cannot be ignorant. But that is not necessarily the case. The New Testament give us some teaching to illustrate why this is not necessarily true. Paul was an intelligent man. Without this quality he could never have risen to the place of leadership among the Jews. He was given the best educational advantages of his day studying at the feet of Gamaliel. His speech before Agrippa was fluent, earnest, and eloquent. Festus accused him of being mad because of much learning (Acts 20:24). And yet, Paul writes that he was guilty of ignorance (1 Timothy 1:13). Therefore, the charge of ignorance is not a reflection upon one’s intelligence or general education. On the contrary, superior intelligence or secular education MAY hinder a correct understanding of the Bible. I emphasize the “may” because not all intelligent educated people are ignorant of Bible truths.
Ignorance of God’s word can be divided into two categories: those who have not studied, and those who have studied.
The first class is the largest and can be divided into two parts: those who have taken no part in Christianity, and those who claim to be Christians and have not studied the Bible. A Christian is a disciple, and a disciple is a learner.
The other class includes those who have studied but fail to understand. Can this be true of intelligent, educated individuals? Jesus says that even though the Jews were educated and studied the scripture, they did not understand (John 5:39-40). But this is more than a failure to understand, it involves the acceptance of a misunderstanding. The person who has accepted a misunderstanding and is confident he knows the truth is difficult to teach and may be responsible for misleading others. When a person thinks a thing is what it is not, he is deceived.
Ignorance is the primary cause of differences in Bible understanding, and this leads us to the next cause in our next article – deception.