Bible Study Opportunities
Why Cannot Everyone Understand The Bible Alike?
By Jon W. Quinn
The Bible says that religious division is not a good thing. Jesus prayed that it would not happen. Paul said not to let it happen. Unity in Christ is better than division, but division is better than unity with error. Interestingly enough, when Jesus prayed for unity (John 17), He did not pray for just any kind of unity at any cost, but a unity such as existed between Him and His Father.
People can agree on things. We are pretty much settled that there are twelve inches in a foot and sixteen ounces in a pound. There is pretty solid unity when it comes to measurements. Why?
Mainly because all are agreed as to the standards we use. It is not difficult to agree on how long a foot is if all are agreed as to how long an inch is and that there are twelve of them in a foot.
The Bible is a standard, and to the degree that all are willing to accept it as such, to that degree we will have unity and understand the Bible's message. Paul said we could understand the Scripture he wrote; “And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,” (Ephesians 3:4). He also challenged us to understand the Scriptures; “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17). Jesus challenged us to know the truth as well; “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. " (John 8:31,32).
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15). To understand the Bible, one must be willing to put forth proper effort. “No pain, no gain” is a saying that may fit well here. Be lazy about it, and one will fail to correctly comprehend the very important lessons and counsel for living that are found in the Scripture.
This passage tells us that we can come to understand and accurately handle the Scripture if we really want to. Paul also encourages us all “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Yes, we can understand the Bible, and if we do, we will understand it alike.
Division Over What The Bible Does Not Say
Some people like to suggest that there is much division over what the Bible says. They suggest this proves that the Bible is difficult, if not impossible, to understand and that unity based on a unity of minds is impossible.
But when examined more closely, something startling becomes apparent. Very little of the religious division that exists is caused by disagreement on what the Bible says. Most disagreement is over things that the Bible does not say!
To illustrate, consider the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. What act of disobedience constituted the first sin? Why, that was when Eve ate the apple, of course! No it wasn't an apple. Yes it was. No it wasn't. Now we have a division.
But a look at the text will show us that the division occurred not because there was a difference over what the Bible says, but over what it does not say. “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6).
So, was it an apple? The answer is, “We do not know and the Bible does not say.” The Bible says “fruit” and that is all it says. The dispute was over something the Bible does not say, not over something the Bible says. Most religious division works the same way, only the details are different.
Baptism, A Case in Point
As numerous as are the conflicting beliefs and practices about baptism, the remarkable thing is that these conflicts are again based on things the Bible does not say! Can you believe it? Well, consider:
“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16).
Everyone agrees that believers are proper subjects for baptism. That's what the Bible says, and almost everyone understands and agrees with this. There is no division on this.
But, some say that infants, who do not believe, should also be baptized. There is division on this. But infant baptism is not something the Bible teaches at all. So, disunity is not based on what the Bible says about baptism, but rather on what it does not say! If people would just practice what the Bible teaches, and not what it doesn't, then we would take a giant step toward unity.
Unity would be a simple matter to achieve if we would just stay with what the Bible actually teaches.
Traditions are hard to overcome. Religious creeds have developed over the centuries as men were not content to just let the Bible be their guide. Perhaps they did not think the Scriptures alone were adequate for the task of training us to please God, but they were wrong about that. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
It takes faith to lay aside the extra-biblical religious creeds of human origin, but that is exactly what the Lord requires us to do. He commands that we seek for unity, and since these human religious traditions prevent that from happening, we must put them away. Jesus asked, "And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3). The question still has merit today, and deserves an answer.
Reprinted From the Bradley Banner Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois October 10,1999