As we continue through the book “Christian Beliefs”, Grudem tackles the clarity of Scripture. Something that each of us can struggle with at times because some passages are easier to understand than others. But in this small section, Grudem tries to help us with those times that verses don’t seem clear or we don’t understand what is being said.
Something I found helpful is that while some passages are “…difficult to grasp, the Bible is written in such a way that all things necessary to become a Christian, live as a Christian, and grow as a Christian are clear.” So while there can be debate over different theological ideas and what the Bible is saying in regards to certain things, the beauty is that it does instruct us how to live and follow Christ. We don’t need to get caught up in the mysteries, but embrace the beauty and freedom of God’s Word and all that He has done for us. What God has done for us and how He loves us is emphatically clear.
These mysteries while they may hang us up, we cannot let them “overwhelm us in our reading”. Interestingly enough, Grudem points to two verses in Psalms about wisdom and understanding for the simple (Psalm 19:7, 119:130). But what God does is make His Word “…so understandable and clear that even the simple (people who lack sound judgment) can be made wise by it.”
Then Grudem gets right to the heart in a very condemning passage: “Since the things of God are ‘spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor. 2:14), a proper understanding of Scripture is often more the result of an individual’s spiritual condition than his or her intellectual ability. Often the truth of Scripture will appear to be ‘folly’ to those who have rejected the claims of Jesus (v.14).”
Now in saying that, he warns that every misunderstanding is due to a person’s spiritual condition because there are many godly Christian people that have misunderstood parts of Scripture. There are many that have distorted it in some way. Even the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about, as shown in Matthew 15:16. “Sometimes it was due to their hardened hearts (Luke 24:25); at other times it was because they needed to wait for further events and understanding (John 12:16). In addition, members of the early church did not always agree on the meaning of what was written in Scripture.”
So in reading this, we have to remember since the early church and the disciples had disagreements, we need to recognize our own shortcomings and be humble. In humility, admit that we don’t know everything or one denomination is better than the other. We are still brothers and sisters, sometimes with different views but our end goal is the same, to glorify God.
The world is quick to put the blame on the Scriptures when there are misunderstandings or things don’t seem clear, but as believers we have to remember that “God guided its composition so that it could be understood.” Due to our own shortcomings, “we fail to properly understand what the Bible is specifically teaching.” But, every time we read God’s Word, we are to seek Him. Seek to understand what He is saying and pray through it. Asking Him to “reveal the truth of his words to us.”
As you read through Scripture I encourage you to ask God what He is impressing on you. Allow the Spirit to work in you, to focus you on God’s Word and let it feed and nourish your soul. Then, pray through it. Pray through those items than stand out or the theme of what God is leading you. Finally, ask God what do you need to start doing, stop doing or continue doing.
Also, something that helps me understand difficult passages is to read multiple versions to see how it is translated differently. Even then, I may not understand so I try to look at commentaries to provide a little more clarity. It is easy for me to be lazy and not want to do the extra work but I want to understand as best as possible. I also trust God that as I seek Him, He will reveal to me what He knows is best for me. Sometimes, those prayers may not be answered immediately, but God loves it when we ask Him and talk to Him about it and He will show us.