After hearing the simple truth of the scripture, some will say, “That is just one way to interpret the Bible. I interpret it differently.” In other words, they are saying, “It is impossible to agree about what the Bible says.” Such a statement is grossly in error. In an attempt to justify society’s religious diversity, many end up portraying God’s Word as a relatively confused and ambiguous book. Do we serve a God who is unable to give mankind clear instructions on matters of salvation, worship, obedience, and spiritual living?
By saying it is impossible to agree on what the Bible says, several implications must be accepted:
- The wisdom of God is insulted. To say that God, who is infinitely knowledgeable (Job 36:5, Isa. 40:28) and abundantly wise (Isa. 55:8-9, Rom 16:25-27, 1 Cor. 1:25), failed to give man a revelation that can be logically understood is nothing short of blasphemy. If fallible man can produce a written work that can be reasonably understood and followed, such as a textbook or a cookbook, why can’t the Infallible Creator give the human race a written work that also makes sense? The Word renders the man of God “complete” and by it he finds himself “thoroughly equiped” (2 Tim. 3:17).
- Unity among Christians is rendered impossible. Unity means oneness, sameness, likeness, harmony, concord, agreement, unanimity, etc. How can Christians be united and divided by interpretation at the same time? If the Bible is explained merely by man’s relative interpretation, then there can only be unity in confusion! In contrast, our Lord prayed heartily for unity among Christians (John 17:20-23). The apostle Paul begged Christians to “speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions” among them (1 Cor. 1:10). How can this instruction be taken seriously if people are incapable of understanding the Bible alike? How can unity be possible without being able to agree upon the fundamental teachings of the Bible, such as how to be saved, how to worship God, and how to distinguish between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’?
- Espousing ‘relative interpretation’ puts one in opposition to Biblical teaching. Jesus told His disciples they can “know the truth” (John 8:32). Can anyone “know” anything from the Bible if one interpretation is as good as another? Paul commanded Christians to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Is it possible to understand the will of the Lord if the specific details of what we are to understand are relative to the individual? Jewish leaders once asked Jesus an ignorant question about the afterlife, to which Jesus replied, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). Could the problem of relative interpretation actually be a problem of Biblical ignorance?
The simple truth of the matter is that we can understand the Bible alike. Whenever a specific passage is studied, several things should be understood before a conclusion is drawn:
- The context of the passage (Who is the author? Who is he writing to? Why was it written?)
- The covenant under which it was written (Patriarchal, Mosaical, Christian)
- The difference between custom & principle
- The difference between figurative & non-figurative language
- The elimination of any prejudices and personal biases
As we hope to better understand God’s Word, we must recognize that some scriptures in the Bible are difficult to understand. Peter plainly taught that there are some things that are “hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16). Difficult topics, therefore, require more in-depth study. The responsibility to understand the truths of the Bible is placed upon the individual. Paul instructed Christians to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:13), which should make understanding the Bible a high priority for each of us. The Christians in Berea were commended for studying the Scriptures “daily” to better understand the Divine truths (Acts 17:11). There are other things that are beyond our capacity to understand (Deut. 29:29, Isa. 55:8-9). We must acknowledge that God is without beginning or end and is infinitely wise and understanding. We, on the other hand, are fallible creatures who are bound by time and matter. There are some truths (not essential to salvation) that we simply can’t comprehend.
The statement that one interpretation is as good as another is made because of one of two reasons. The first reason is due to ignorance. Obviously, we can understand the Bible alike. The second reason is due to an attempt to justify error, and in so doing, they are “twisting” the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16). Personally, I prefer to place my salvation in the truth of God’s Word. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Psa. 118:8).