Precept Upon Precept, Line Upon Line

by Jeffrey Wilkes

“The Bible is so difficult to understand,” an acquaintance recently asked. “Why is it written this way?”

The Holy Spirit through Peter acknowledges that some things in Paul’s letters are hard to understand:

"As also in all his [Paul’s] epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures" (II Peter 3:16).

Notice that these hard things are only destructive for “untaught and unstable” people who twist all Scripture.

It appears that the taught and stable people who never twist scripture also have difficulty understanding the hard things, but their ignorance shouldn’t result in their destruction.

"You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ …" (II Peter 3:17-18).

The heart of the person is the issue, not the degree of difficulty of the Scripture being considered.

"Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10).

  • “precept” tsâv: an injunction: - commandment, precept.
  • “line” qâv: a cord (as connecting), especially for measuring; figuratively a rule; also a rim, a musical string or accord: - line.

The Bible is written to be understood precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little there a little. This is a learning process, a maturing process we all must go through to be able to understand the harder things.

"For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe" (Hebrews 5:13).

"I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able" (I Corinthians 3:2).

If I find something that I can’t seem to understand, perhaps I need to put it aside, keep patiently receiving the easier things and let myself grow a while before tackling it again.

"As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (I Peter 2:2).

My personal experience is that there will be an “ah ha” moment when the message I didn’t understand and put aside will jump clearly into my mind. Often it comes “out of the blue,” sometimes it comes from the comments or writings of another Christian, other times I see it while I’m meditating on what I come to realize is a prerequisite precept, line, or little. Our experience helps us understand, and obeying what we do understand helps open our understanding of harder things.

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