The Bible Is Understandable

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Psalm 119:97-112


I.         When it comes to religion, people seem to prefer having a mystery

            A.        Those in leadership of many denominations prefer it because people depend on them for answers.

            B.        Those in the ranks of denominations are satisfied having others tell them what they need to know.

            C.        The problem is that it leaves people wide open for false doctrine.

            D.        It led to the downfall of Israel - Hosea 4:6-9

II.        The Bible was written to be understood

            A.        Ephesians 3:3-5 - The reason Paul wrote was for understanding

            B.        A simplicity to be understood - II Corinthians 1:12-13

            C.        Peter wrote to bring remembrance - II Peter 1:12-15

            D.        John wrote with a purpose, to share what he had witnessed - I John 1:1-4

            E.        John blessed those who read and listen to the words - Revelation 1:3

            F.        In fact, understanding is commanded by God - Ephesians 5:17

III.       It can’t be understood if you don’t expect to understand it

            A.        Psalm 119:97-104 - Contrast David’s attitude to denominations today

            B.        Roman Catholic

                        1.         The very nature of the Bible ought to prove to any thinking man the impossibility of its being the one safe method to find out what the Saviour taught. [Question Box, 1913 edition, page 67]

                        2.         The Bible was not intended to be a textbook of the Christian religion. [John Francis Knoll, Catholic Facts, Our Sunday Visitor Press, Huntington, Indiana, 1927, page 50]

                        3.         Second, ... a competent religious guide must be clear and intelligible to all, so that everyone may fully understand the true meaning of the instructions it contains. Is the Bible a book intelligible to all? Far from it; it is full of obscurities and difficulties not only for the illiterate, but even for the learned. [The Faith of Our Fathers, James Cardinal Gibbons, 1917, page 70]

                        4.         More than this, parts of the Bible are evidently unsuited to the very young or to the ignorant, and hence Clement XI condemned the proposition that the reading of the Scriptures is for all. These principles are fixed and invariable but the discipline of the Church with regard to the reading of the Bible in the vulgar tongue has varied with varying circumstances. In early times the Bible was read freely by the lay people ... New dangers came in during the Middle Ages ... To meet these evils, the Council of Toulouse (1229 ) and Terragona (1234) forbade the laity to read the vernacular translations of the Bible. Pius IV required bishops to refuse lay persons leave to read even Catholic versions of Scriptures unless their confessors or parish priests judged that such reading was likely to prove beneficial. [Catholic Dictionary, Addis and Arnold, 1887, page 82]

            C.        Orthodox

                        1.         "The idea that the Scriptures are self-interpreting is patently absurd. It assumes a degree of absolute objectivity that would make the most ardent positivist cringe with embarrassment. ... this is exactly what the doctrine of sola Scriptura assumes: a bare text that somehow imposes its meaning on the reader." [THE WAY: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, Clark Carlton, 1997, p 100]

            D.        Jehovah’s Witnesses

                        1.         People can only fully and accurately understand the Bible and God's purposes through their association with the religion. [The Watchtower, Sep. 1, 1954, p. 529; Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587; Dec. 1, 1981, p.27; Feb 15, 1981, p.19]

                        2.         Witnesses are encouraged to attain to “oneness” and thus not to “harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding,” or be suspicious of their teachings, but rather to have confidence in what they print. [The Watchtower, Aug 1, 2001 p. 13; Qualified, 1955, p. 156]

            E.        Presbyterian

                        1.         "Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word" [Westminster Confession of faith, 6:6

                        2.         "They who strive to build up firm faith in Scripture through disputation are doing things backwards.... [because] even if anyone clears God's Sacred Word from man's evil speaking, he will not at once imprint upon their hearts that certainty which piety requires. Since for unbelieving men religion seems to stand by opinion alone, they, in order not to believe anything foolishly or lightly, both wish and demand rational proof that Moses and the prophets spoke divinely. But I reply: the testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason. For as God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word, so also the Word will not find acceptance in men's hearts before it is sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit. The same Spirit, therefore, who has spoken through the mouths of the prophets must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us that they faithfully proclaimed what had been divinely commanded." [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I. vii. 4]

            F.        Christian Scientist

                        1.         Doesn't the Bible alone show us the way to eternal life? Yes, it does. But humanity had the Bible for close to two millenniums without fully understanding how to use its truths in a scientifically provable way to heal and regenerate people like Christ Jesus did. To arrive at that kind of understanding, humanity needed to comprehend the Bible on a deeper level. They needed to "unlock" the Bible, so to speak. It was the specific mission of Science and Health to give the world this "key" to the Scriptures-to open up their treasures and enable everyone to use them. [Mary Metzner Trammell, "A Pastor for the World," The Christian Science Journal, May 1994]

IV.      What a contrast

            A.        Timothy understood from childhood - II Timothy 3:14-17

            B.        The Bereans are praised for searching the Scriptures for proof - Acts 17:11

            C.        Lack of understand comes from lack of seeing - Matthew 13:15

            D.        We come to God by being taught - John 6:44-45

V.        Are we the good soil? - Matthew 13:23

Print Friendly, PDF & Email