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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Understanding God's Word

One of the most dangerous traps man falls into is taking the position that we cannot understand God's word; therefore, we must rely on someone else (scholars, preachers, priests, etc.) to interpret the word of God for us. Often this type of thinking is a result of two things: a general misconception that man cannot understand the Bible (common in denominations) or arrogance. Those who pride themselves on being intellects often exhibit arrogance and superiority over others. They put an undue emphasis on scholars and side with them in order to appear more intelligent than everyone else: they are on the "intellects' side."

Paul told the Ephesians, "Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17). This statement follows Paul's admonition that we walk "carefully," avoid being foolish, and redeem the time, "because the days are evil." Walking carefully, or circumspectly, and redeeming our time wisely demands that we understand the will of the Lord. If that were not possible, God would not have revealed that it IS possible. Luke records in Acts 17:11 that the Berean Christians were more fair-minded than the Thessalonians because the Bereans "received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." Of course, this passage is referring to the Old Testament Scriptures as the New Testament had not yet been completed. But it's interesting to note that the Christians went to the Scriptures to determine if what they were hearing was accurate. They didn't consult a multitude of commentaries, scholars, or man's opinion in general. And they did not have to be inspired in order to UNDERSTAND the word, only to REVEAL the word. According to the Bible, we CAN understand the will of the Lord, and we CAN determine if what we hear is accurate by comparing those teachings to the SCRIPTURES. This is what the Bible teaches. There is nothing wrong with reading commentaries or the writings of scholars. The problem is when these become our basis for understanding God's word or when we justify our beliefs by their opinions. This danger is obvious when Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." Gathering an arsenal of teachers (including scholars) who teach what we want to hear is what we do when we make man our source of authority. This is unacceptable to God and demonstrates a departure from sound doctrine.