“Can Anybody Really Understand the Bible?”
1. “That’s just your hermeneutic.”
a. The current expression of an old viewpoint
b. Avoids responsible thought, establishes preferences, and intimidates questioners
2. How we plan to examine whether anybody can understand the scriptures
a. Apply the principles of communication to the Bible.
b. Intend to do what the Bible says.
c. Believe the Bible can be understood.
3. The Bible should be handled as a word of truth that is meant to be understood.
1. Many do not start with the conviction that the Bible can be understood.
a. One reason: the lack of what John 17:20-23 asks.
i. Because of lack of belief in and respect for the scriptures
ii. Meager and inadequate study of God’s word
iii. Failure to handle the word of truth aright
iv. The sinful self-will of mankind
b. Another reason: few have made the serious effort 2 Timothy 2:15 calls for.
i. One out of five have read more than a random quote
ii. Three-fifths of those have never read the NT through
iii. Less than ten percent of them have read through the OT
2. The Bible speaks of itself as if it can be understood.
a. Ephesians 3:3-4; 5:17 – “I have written...you can understand...”
b. 1 Peter 5:12 – “I have written...this is the true grace...Stand firm in it.”
c. 1 John 5:11-13 – “I write these things...that you may know...”
3. The Sacred Writings address mankind with the presumption that they can be read, understood, and obeyed.
a. Moses and the book of the covenant (Ex. 24:7)
b. Joshua and the copy of the law (Deut. 31:10-13; Josh. 8:31-35)
c. Josiah and the lost book of the Lord (2 Kings 23:1-3)
i. This kind of holding the people accountable to what the scriptures say is what the prophets tried (unsuccessfully) to do, 2 Chron. 36:15-16.
ii. It’s the kind of thing Jesus asked the people to do when they approached him with questions, Lk. 10:25, 26.
iii. Even in the epistles a form of this is used, 2 Tim. 1:13.
4. The nature of God assures us that we can understand what he seeks to make known to us.
a. The power to make himself known (1 Cor. 2:9-13)
b. The wisdom to not be the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). He is a God of order, not chaos. His ways are greater, and his thoughts higher, than ours, but they are always consistent with his nature.
c. The love to act with compassion for us (Ps. 103:13-14; Tit. 2:11-13)
5. Jesus certainly spoke as if he expected to be understood by those whose hearts are turned toward God.
a. Matt. 13:51, 13-15. He wanted to know if they had understood his teaching and they said they had. Verses 10 and following indicate that their comprehension was not perfect. Still, the Lord must have thought they could understand.
b. John 17:8. He gave him the words that the Father had given him. They had received them. As a result, they had come to believe that the Father had sent him. That is a good clue as to whether the scriptures have been understood: have we come to know in truth that Jesus came from the Father?
c. John 12:48. His word will be the standard of our judgment on the last day. Surely we will not claim then that it was not understandable!
1. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them....” (Matt. 7:24-27)
2. This kind of dependability–authority–is a huge blessing, as well as a significant responsibility.
a. It’s what makes an appropriately held belief faith rather than superstition.
b. It’s what causes a well-founded expectation to be hope rather than an empty wish.
c. It’s what turns actions into love rather than sentiments without substance.
3. “The Bible is every man’s book. To know the Bible and to handle it aright is the greatest accomplishment within the reach of any person. One might know English, astronomy, literature, music, sociology and philosophy; but if one does not know the Bible, one has failed in the only subject that brings all things into their proper relationship and that enables one to know life at its best.
“It is not intended for some special group. Not only is the Bible every man’s
book, it is written for the average person. Scholars may study it, but it is not written necessarily with scholars in mind. No one ever outgrows the Scriptures. The more one thinks on them, the wider and deeper they become. The Bible is a book which enables one to look into eternity....
“The Bible acknowledges man’s faults; it is patient with man’s weaknesses and it is honest with his virtues and his hopes. To own the Bible is to be rich. To...know and to trust the Bible is to find life. To study the Bible is to be wise; to obey it, to be strong.”
(Franklin Camp, adapted.)