Understanding the Scriptures
By: Charles L. Morton
• The Preceptor, October, 1979
• King James Version
It is generally believed today that an understanding of the Bible depends upon either ( 1 ) a direct operation of the Holy Spirit, by which “enlightenment” is given supernaturally, or ( 2 ) extensive formal education such as is available in a college or sectarian seminary. The Bible teaches, however, that the ability of an accountable person to understand the will of God depends entirely upon the willingness of that person to approach the word of God in diligent study with an honest mind that is uncluttered by prejudice and human tradition (Luke 8:11-15). The privilege and responsibility of the common person to read, study and comprehend the Bible for himself is further taught in a variety of ways.
1. People are commanded to study, with understanding as the result. The apostle Paul wrote, “…Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). When he was describing the things recorded by the apostles, Paul wrote again, “…when ye read, ye may understand…” (Ephesians 3:1-4).
2. The nature of obedience implies the ability to understand. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” ( Matthew 7:21 ). It must be insisted that one cannot intelligently “do” that which he is not capable of understanding!
3. The ability of the average person to understand the Bible is taught by New Testament example. When the gospel was preached on Pentecost, it is said of those who listened, “Then they that gladly received his word…” (Acts 2:41). Cornelius was told to send for Peter, “Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts 11:13-14). What was then taught vocally by the apostles is now permanently recorded in the written word, the Bible (1 Corinthians 14:37). If people could understand the word of God in the first century then similar people can understand it today for it is the same word.
4. The nature of eternal judgment implies ability of understanding. Jesus said, “… The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). There can be no lesson more basic than that accountability in judgment implies capability of understanding.
It is by the New Testament, the gospel of Christ, that God has mercifully revealed the conditions of salvation by grace (Acts 20:24; 20:32; Romans 1:16).
We plead with all people to love it, learn and obey it, for we shall surely meet the word of God in eternal judgment.