Summary: The Bible is the most-read, most-loved and most controversial book of all time. Almost everybody has one and everybody has questions about it. This three-sermon series will help Christians get into God's Word and get God's word into them.
Getting into God’s Word (3)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 1/27/2013
If you haven’t been here all this month, I started off this year talking about the Bible. Like it says in your bulletin, the Bible is the most-read, most-loved and most controversial book of all time. In America, Bibles are everywhere. You can find them in grocery stores, prisons, and motel rooms. They’re available in all sizes, shapes, translations, and versions—leather-bound, hard-cover or paperback. Every year the Bible outsells every other book. Last year 500 million Bibles were published in the world in 18,000 different languages. In America we are inundated with the word of God. It’s everywhere. Yet millions of people still miss the blessing of the Bible.
Last Sunday I talked about how you can know for certain that God has spoken. Using the acronym MAP—which stands for manuscripts, archeology, and prophecy—we can know that the Bible is indeed the Word of God. But if the Bible is God’s Word, then it’s important that we take great care in understanding everything it has to say, which can be difficult because misunderstandings are so common for us.
I read this week about a woman who was waiting at an airport one night, with several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport gift shop and bought a bag of cookies to hold her over. She found a seat by her terminal and read a chapter or two of her book when she saw the man sitting beside her open her bag of cookies, eat two of them and then set the bag on the tray between them. She tried to ignore it, so as not to make a scene. She simply picked up the bag and ate a couple herself. But then a few minutes later, the man took another one. She was getting more irritated as with each cookie she took, he took one too! When only one was left, she watched to see what he would do. He cheerfully took the last cookie and broke it in two, munching on one half and offering the other to her. That was the last straw! She was about to give this ungrateful cookie thief a piece of her mind, when her flight was called. So she just grabbed her purse and headed to the gate, grumbling all the away. She reached into her purse to get her boarding pass and gasp with surprise as pulled out her bag of cookies!
Sometimes we’re not the best interpreters. Misunderstandings happen all the time. And we’ve got to admit that some things in the Bible are difficult to understand.
In fact, the Bible itself tells us so:
“And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him—speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16 NLT).
Even the apostle Peter recognized that some portions of scripture were hard to understand. And someone who doesn’t know any better (ignorant) or someone who does know better, but does it anyway (unstable) can twist the scriptures—misinterpret them—to mean something very different from their original intended meaning. But you’ll notice that Peter doesn’t say that all or even most of Scripture is hard to understand or that any of Scripture is impossible to understand; just that some portions are hard to understand. But I believe we can understand all of God’s Word, if we’re willing to put in the time and effort it takes to interpret God’s Word properly. I’d like to share four principles with you this morning to help you better understand God’s Word—to really read the Bible for all it’s worth. The first principle in understanding the Bible is the spiritual principle.
• THE SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLE
The Spiritual principle is simply a reminder that in order to understand spiritual things, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:12 NIV).
You see, when a believer receives Christ we also receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then becomes our companion and guide as we study his Word. Jesus told his disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). We will never understand the truth of God’s Word apart from God’s Spirit.
Many people misunderstand and misuse the Bible not because they lack intelligence, but because they lack illumination from God’s Spirit. When we come to a difficult passage of Scripture, we can ask the Holy Spirit to shed divine light on the inspired text. And the problem isn’t a lack of light; rather, the problem is that people prefer darkness. Jesus once told the crowd he was preaching to, “You will listen and listen, yet never understand; and you will look and look, yet never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn back” (Matthew 13:14-15 HCSB).