TGOC Bible Class Curricula – How To Study The Bible (1st Quarter) - Lesson #3 - Things That Hinder In Understanding The Bible
The following is a list of things that will hinder one in his pursuit of the knowledge of the word of God.
Dishonesty is one reason why some people misunderstand the Scriptures.
Many of the Jews were dishonest. They noted the miracles but still denied (John 11:47-48). They noted the miracles of the apostles also (Acts 4:16). They could not withstand the preaching of Stephen (Acts 7:54, 57). They had hardened their hearts (Ephesians 4:18 and Matthew 13:14-15). The Scriptures were written in such a manner that the dishonest will not understand (Isaiah 28:11-13). They would not hear (Isaiah 28:12). The word was written in order to break and snare them (Isaiah 28:13). This is the meaning of 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. They did not love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Since they did not love the truth, God sent a working of error (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). The word of God is written in such a manner that the dishonest will come away from it believing a lie.
Pride is a hindrance to a study of the word of God.
Pride causes some to be dishonest (1 Corinthians 1:26). The mighty (strong in their own eyes) see no need in seeking help from God. The wise (in their own eyes) see no need in studying the word of God.
Pride brings contention (Proverbs 13:10). It brings one low (Proverbs 29:23). Pride deceives. The pride of king Saul (1 Samuel 15:17) caused his downfall. His pride caused him to blame others for his own sin (1 Samuel 15:24). Pride caused him to be dishonest. Saul's confession was not real since he tried to blame the people for his sin instead of taking the blame himself.
It hinders a ready mind. If we must admit that we are wrong, pride may keep us from a serious study. Pride keeps us from humbling ourselves (Proverbs 8:13; 11:2) before the statements of the One whose ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Pride initially kept Naaman from doing what was necessary to rid himself of leprosy (2 Kings 5:13-15).
Prejudice is a hindrance to a study of the word of God.
Prejudice: “.... a (1): preconceived judgment or opinion (2): an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge” (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition).
Peter was prejudiced (Galatians 2:11-12). Paul calls it hypocrisy. Peter did not properly interpret the word of God because of his prejudice. Peter should have understood from Mark 16:15-16 that the gospel was for all. Peter did not properly interpret his own preaching (Acts 2:39). Peter seemed to recognize this in Acts 10:34-35.
Apollos was prejudiced because of incomplete knowledge (Acts 18:24-26). When he was shown that his knowledge was limited and incomplete, Apollos changed. Apollos was honest. When he learned more of the facts; he saw that his knowledge was limited and began to teach the full truth.
Prejudice is not necessarily dishonesty. Peter was not dishonest; he just did not consider the effects of his actions (Galatians 2:11-14). An honest man may be prejudiced, but he will change his mind when he is shown his error. All people have preconceived notions. A foolish man will never change his mind. We must have our senses educated by the word of God (Hebrews 5:14). We must be led by the word of God and be honest enough to change our minds as we learn more of the Scriptures. Until people recognize that they have imperfect knowledge and therefore, their ideas may not be right, they will not arrive at a knowledge of the truth. This is true because they will not study in order to grow. Our knowledge must grow and we can grow in grace thereby (2 Peter 3:18). If further study reveals that we formed the wrong convictions, we must form our convictions as our knowledge increases. This must not be interpreted to mean that we cannot be sure of the truth. Once we have considered the complete word of God, we can be sure we have the truth.
A prejudiced (but honest) person may study the Scriptures and note Mark 16:15-16; Mathew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 3:21, etc. and determine that baptism is essential to salvation. Suppose one grew up thinking baptism was sprinkling and has a desire to be sprinkled for the remission of sins. He has not considered all the facts (i.e. baptism is a burial – Romans 6:4). Honesty demands that he admits his error and rectifies it.
One may have preconceived notions because of his educational background, cultural background, etc.
If a person has studied the biological sciences in college, he may be predisposed to think the theory of organic macroevolution is true. This could affect his interpretation of chapters one and two of Genesis. He may attempt to reconcile his prejudices with what the Scriptures teach.
If a person grows up in a society that hates other races, he may be predisposed to interpret the Scriptures in such a way as to draw the conclusions that other races are “less than human” in some manner.
If one has studied geology in an American university, he may be predisposed to think that uniformitarian geology is true. This could affect his interpretation in Genesis 6-9. When an honest man is shown that he is in error one of two things happens: either he admits his error or he becomes dishonest and denies his error.
Preference can keep us from studying the word of God properly.
What we want the truth to be often keeps us from opening our minds to learn what it actually is. If I have strong feelings and a personal preference for a particular conclusion, it will require discipline for me to receive the word openly.
Naaman preferred the rivers of Syria over the Jordan river in Palestine (2 Kings 5:9-12).
Many prefer a more entertainment-oriented style worship, but if they studied Colossians 2:23 carefully, they would learn that “will-worship” (what you want in worship) is condemned. If we love God, we will do what He has authorized for us in worship (Colossians 3:17).
Some read Matthew 19:3-12 and prefer to believe that Jesus was not giving such a hard saying upon the restrictions of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. If a person is honest, he will cling to and surrender to the will of God.
Truth often takes considerable effort to learn. We have so many distractions today (such as electronics, social media, etc.) that can serve as hindrances, keeping us from letting our minds be occupied properly.
As there are many views competing for our attention, we may find ourselves unwilling to spend the time and effort required to search for God's will.
1. People often say because there is so much disagreement among brethren on a certain issue, then it is impossible to be certain of God's will. What did Jesus say in John 8:31,32? Did Jesus lie?
A Desire To Please The World
Those who try to reconcile every statement in the Bible with the so-called pronouncements of scientists will soon find that they will be in serious conflict with the Scriptures.
The Bible has nothing to fear from true science, but the pseudo-science which has manifested itself in evolutionary thinking has challenged the very core of the Bible, that is, that God is the Creator of the universe. A desire to please the world has resulted in all sorts of “pet” doctrines which originated to please one group or another.
For example, there are those who try to defend the Gap theory (which supposedly occurred between Genesis 1:1and Genesis 1:2 in order to allow millions of years to somehow fit into the Creation Week period). There are those who will argue that “day” in Genesis 1 represents millions of years. These scientists believe in what is known as theistic evolution because they do not want to be ridiculed by the scientific community.
The Bible says what it says regardless of what anyone thinks about it.
Thinking That The Bible Was Not Meant For The Common Man
Since God's word claims to be a revelation to man from God, it may appear strange that there are those who think that the Bible was not meant for the common man. The Roman Catholic religion is one group who holds such a view. John A. Brien writes in the Faith of Millions: “...The Bible is not a clear and intelligible guide to all. There are many passages in the Bible which are obscure, not only to the ordinary person but to the highly trained scholar as well. St. Peter himself tells us that in the Epistles of St. Paul there are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (pp. 152, 153). He continues to argue, “From all of which it must be abundantly clear that the Bible alone is not a safe and competent guide because it is not now and never has been accessible to all, because it is not clear and intelligible to all, and because it does not contain all the truth of the Christian religion.” (pp. 154,155).
His point is that there must be an infallible interpreter, which he would assume to be the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church.
The position held by the Catholics is not far from that held by many other groups which seek to maintain a control over their group. Claiming some ability to interpret the Bible above that of the common man is a technique that has been used by many to seize control over others.
They will suggest that the Bible is written in some sort of code and that they have been the ones blessed by God with the ability to tell everybody what the Bible means. In a similar way, others will claim they have the ability to interpret the Bible properly due to some miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit.
Howard F. Vos has stated: “A warning must be sounded here. Let no one think that he can take a set of rules or suggestions for the study of the Bible and arrive at the divine truth. Study plans are no substitution for the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit...” “Further let it be observed that this teaching ministry is not available to everyone. The unsaved man cannot expect to know it....” (Howard F. Vos, Effective Bible Study, p. 13). This is contrary to the very intent of Scripture.
Prejudice and Proof-Texting
It is difficult for some to study a passage without reading their own doctrines and beliefs into the passage (eisegesis). And, many who feel they are not guilty of eisegesis are those most susceptible to it.
A little article, Take A Quick Test, written by Carrol Beardain, illustrates our point well. Read the following phrase out loud.
“Paris In The The Spring”; “A Bird In The The Hand”; “Once In A Lifetime”
Did you notice the two “the's” and the two “a's”? You most likely read what you thought the phrase was going to say, didn't you? If one becomes familiar with certain passages and his interpretation of them, what keeps that person from constantly making the same mistake that many made with the above test? Reading passages with a bias is something that most will do unless they are careful to make sure that they are letting the Scriptures speak for themselves rather than imposing one's view on the passage.
One is proof-texting when he takes a passage from the Bible out of its original context to support his particular doctrine. To guard against such practices, one should always consider the context in using passages that substantiate his beliefs and practices. Or, even better than that, one should seek to let his beliefs and practices flow from what the Bible actually says, and not determine a practice and then go to see if the Bible will agree with it.
Looking At The Bible As A Book of Wonders
Too often men and women find themselves like Herod - when he called for Jesus (Luke 23:8).
Herod thought of Jesus as nothing more than a spectacle or entertainer.
Some approach their reading of the Bible as a book of wonders, myths, and even as a source of entertainment.
One with such a view would be very unlikely to ever see the application of the word of God to his life, a process which would truly hinder one in his study of the Bible.
Reading With No Intention Of Understanding
There are those who read the Bible with no plans to gain knowledge therein. They may be reading for duty's sake. The Bible says to read (1 Timothy 4:13), and to do one's duty would require reading. Some read just to find a passage to prove another wrong or prove a position of his own. In both of these cases, the student is not trying to learn what God wants him to know, but rather what he has to have at the time.
There are also those who are like the Athenians of Paul's day (Acts 17:21).
Some wanting to be “unique,” or otherwise novel, look through the Bible for something which no one else has found. In so doing, they have no intention of understanding but are seeking something that will give them recognition and popularity. This is a trap into which some preachers have fallen, seeking to be novel and fresh in their approach for something that will set them “above” their fellow man.
How would a desire to please the world hinder one in his interpretation of the Bible?
Why would one want to say that the Bible was not meant for the common man?
What is a “proof-text”?
Is it possible for one to be reading his own interpretation into a passage without even being aware of it?
What is wrong with studying the Bible just for entertainment?
What other reasons might one study other than to know what God would have him to do?
What would be the danger of trying to find something new in the Bible?
What other things can you think of that might hinder one in his study of the Bible?
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