Can We Understand The Bible Alike?

Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

(Philippians 2:2)

A question I’m asked from time to time is if it is possible for people to understand the Bible in the same way.  That’s an understandable question, especially when one considers the religious division and confusion existing in Christendom today.  Of the counted minimum of two thousand different sects and faiths which proclaim to be Christian, all have great regard for the Bible and claim to follow it.  However, common sense suggests that such is not the case when all proclaim to follow the Bible while believing and practicing different ideas and teachings.  In this county alone, drive from one end of it to the other, visit every church on the way, interview their preachers and pastors about what they believe and practice, and you’ll come up with a bevy of differences.  So it’s pretty obvious that not everyone understands the Bible alike.

However, Jesus knew we could understand His Word in the same way and follow it with complete unity.  That’s why He prayed that we “may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:21-23).  The apostle Paul believed the same, as evidenced in the Philippians passage above.

After Christianity started on the day of Pentecost after Christ’s death, the first converts “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42) and “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32).  Quite a contrast from today!  The Christians in Rome were instructed to be on the lookout for those who caused “divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine” they had learned, and avoid them (Romans 16:17).  How could they have obeyed that command without being taught to agree upon the doctrine they had been taught?  When the church in Corinth was divided, they were told, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).  How could this divine order be carried out if people are unable to understand God’s Word alike?

There are many reasons behind why division exists about what the Bible says.  First, all of us and our judgments are not perfect.  We either fail to study diligently, or we fail to practice proper, consistent interpretive principles.  Thus, we misunderstand biblical teaching and divide over it.  Secondly, some believe the Holy Spirit directs us in our study of Scripture and leads us to the truth.  However, that notions is proven incorrect repeatedly when two people both claim the Spirit guided them to different conclusions about the same biblical passage.  Thirdly, many times efforts to accurately interpret the Bible are hindered by an absence of complete, 100% open-minded objectivity.  This can easily take place when people try to subconsciously avoid dealing with the guilt of their sin and so twist the Scriptures to suit their ungodly lifestyles, words, and practices.  With others, extreme loyalty to family, peers, or their own religion and habits cause them to approach the Bible with a closed mind.

I’ve found that when someone says that no one can understand God’s will alike, that person has either never really engaged in a diligent, systematic study of the Bible or they are somehow seeking to justify a religious view or practice that is foreign to the Bible.  As a result, they attack the Bible as being a book that supposedly no one can understand instead of admitting that they believe something God does not teach.

The truth is that we can all understand the Bible alike.  Many of us just choose not to do so.

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