Can Ordinary People Understand The Bible?

Because of the long-standing and widespread teaching that the Bible can be interpreted only by priests or by other learned men, ordinary people question if the Bible is for their study and interpretation or if they must rely on others to tell them the will and the directions of God. Making this question real and deep are the many and varied interpretations given the scriptures by the teachers and learned scholars of the denominations. Each denomination feels its interpretation to be correct and many of them feel the interpretations of the others are wrong.

To resolve this question, we must appeal to the word of God, the Bible, to find if clear directions can be obtained from this source. This is a reasonable thing to do since most of the Bible teachers and scholars who disagree over the meanings of the scriptures can agree that the Bible is, truly, the inspired Word of God. They can agree, here, because the Bible has all of the necessary marks of inspiration: Among several other important marks of inspiration (or proofs that the Bible comes from God) is the Bible's claim to being the word of God, and its precise historical and scientific accuracy. Should you have questions regarding the origin, inspiration, and authenticity of the Bible, please study from the messages under Christian Evidences. We especially recommend the message "INSPIRATION OF THE BIBLE", and "DO WE REALLY HAVE THE BIBLE TODAY?", also "DID THE BIBLE COME FROM GOD OR MAN?"

So now with the safe assumption that the Bible is truly the Word of God, let us examine its clear words to see if it is reasonable to believe it to be understandable by those who read its words. Jesus intended that His word be clear, He wanted the instructions that his disciples would begin to deliver soon after his resurrection to lead those hearing them into uniform understanding and obedience. This intention is clearly stated in Jesus' prayer as recorded in John 17:20,21. "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, are in me, aid I in thee, that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."

After the church had been established, this expectation and requirement for uniform understanding of the doctrine of Christ was voiced by the apostle, Paul, as he addressed the Christians of the church at Corinth: I Corinthians "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you." Jesus' prayer and Paul's admonition to the Corinthians are neatly summed in Ephesians 4:2-6: "With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."

In practice, there were few misunderstandings of God's teachings by the early Christians; the churches of the first century were united in spirit and in teaching, just as Jesus had intended.

It is difficult to believe, logically, that just anything goes in the Christian religion. If wide interpretation of the scriptures were permitted, or were desirable, God would accept different faiths and different obedience from different people depending on how the individual read the scriptures. Thus, we would have to believe, not that man must be obedient to the will of God, but that God is obedient to the individual's interpretation. This is a very convenient, but obviously false doctrine, for God is not a respecter of persons, but accepts those who obey His will. Study Acts 10:34. Were God's words not clear enough for understanding, God would be the author of confusion, of religious division, and of strife. But, God is not the author of confusion. I Cor. 14:33 tells us that God is the author of peace.

Thus, we can accept the word of God as a document to be uniformly understood by all of mankind. The Bible is, then, the way of truth. But, is it for us to read and to study it for ourselves, or must we have someone else interpret it and teach us its meaning Again, the most logical place to find the intention and direction of God is in the pages of the Bible. The letters which are assembled together to form the New Testament were originally addressed to particular people or groups of the New Testament people: We need to see if those who originally received these words needed an interpreter. Typical of many verses in the New Testament are the following: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, fron God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Colossians 1:1-2

"Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ.? 2 Peter 1:1 "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." Colossians 4:16 "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren." I Thessalonians 5:27 "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: the time is at hand." Revelations 1:3 These scriptures show us that the bulk of the New Testament writings were written to the membership of the church and that it has intended that the writings be read b,,, or be read to those people. The divine instruction is "read", "hear", "read to", etc. Thus, the scriptures themselves tell us that we are to read them ourselves - an interpreter is unnecessary. Thus, we see that it is God's will and desire that His word be studied and understood by each individual who would believe and become obedient to that will. This is the way that it was in the early days of the church, and nothing has been changed since that time.

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