Can We Understand The Bible Alike


Good evening.

Looking out over the auditorium, I'm seeing faces that are, are visitors, but they're not just visitors, they're familiar faces that are visiting with us tonight. We Are grateful that you're with us and those of you that are worshiping with us today for the first time, we are also grateful that you've come our way and, and are with us this evening again. And again, our normal crowd. And that's, I'd say normal because you're really not normal. You're, you're above you're better than normal. You know, call describes you as beautiful people most of the time and uh, but your brethren that he doesn't make you normal, that makes you better than normal. And uh, I appreciate you being here as well. This morning's lesson on Arise and Build with, through the book of Nehemiah, set forth a principle that I believe is, is often debated among people in the religious community.

And that was the fact that when we looked at Nehemiah Chapter Eight, as Ezra was reading the scriptures, then there was with him men on his right and on his left, Levites and priests that were giving the sense of the scriptures. And three times within Nehemiah chapter eight, the precept of understanding was set forth within that chapter. And so I want to this evening examine a question, "Can We Understand The Bible Alike?" And I believe without a doubt in my mind that yes, we can. Now I want to start out with another illustration real quick. One that that makes sense in a great deal, uh, things that happened in the past. But this is from a man that you're probably familiar with through American history. This was a former general when he was going through school, but it starts out this way. "“The first section was studying the time-space relationship later formulated by Einstein as his Theory of Relativity. The text was complex and, being unable to comprehend it, I committed the pages to memory. When I was called upon to recite, I solemnly reeled off almost word for word what the book said. Our instructor, Colonel Fieberger, looked at me somewhat quizzically and asked, "Do you understand this theory?" It was a bad moment for me, but I did not hesitate in replying, "No, sir." You could have heard a pin drop. I braced myself and waited. And then the slow words of the professor: “Neither do I, Mr. MacArthur. Section dismissed.”.

There is difficult passage. There are difficult passages within the context of God's holy word. I will admit that, but they are not impossible to understand and there is no reason to dismiss them because you don't understand them. It is true that when you think about that they're found within the pages of God's word. Yet it is God's plan to reveal himself to us through his word.

The text that was read a little while ago from Ephesians Chapter Three the apostle Paul expressed the fact that what he gave to the gentiles, who to the brethren at Ephesus was his understanding. And he wrote it in such a way that they could comprehend, that they could understand what he had written. When we go back and we look at Nehemiah chapter eight what was the purpose of those men standing there with Ezra? It was the purpose of them. That there may be some things that were hard for the Jews who had not heard the word of God understand, but it was their purpose to give that sense, to give them that meaning.

And therefore, in verse 18 of Nehemiah Chapter Eight you see the people going into their homes or verse 12 going into their homes and doing what they were told to do, but grateful that they could understand what had been read to them. And so I want to propose to us that it's not impossible for us to understand God's word and understand it alike. But at the same time, we need to understand that not everybody in the religious community, not everybody in the world believes that. I want us to ask, look at this and understand that yes, they are going to be people in the world today that do not accept God's word. There are going to be people in the world today who are going to say it's outdated. It's antiquated, that's there, has no modern application to it whatsoever. And we might ask the question, get in and think about it and understand that they think it's incredible that that many people believe that God's Word is inspired, that it is inerrant, but why?

Why do they feel this way? Why do they feel that God's holy scriptures are, are where they are today and they shouldn't be believed? Why are families not taking time out of their schedules to devote time to study scripture? Well, I believe there are several reasons. One of which is indifference. Indifference to them. People are just, you know, who just do not care what the scriptures say. And that is a big issue today. People just don't care. It doesn't matter to them. What stated in Genesis chapter one verse one or in Revelation chapter 22 in the last verse. It doesn't matter what words are stated between the the beginning and the end of the Bible. Some look at it not as truth but as fiction and there's absolutely no interest at all. So indifference toward God's word is one of the reasons people don't believe that it's worthwhile to even attempt to understand it.

Then you have the idea that some people might be slightly concerned. They might listen to someone about religious subjects, but what they don't really want to do is they don't want to spend time being taught. They don't want to spend time studying themselves. And therefore they don't develop their own faith. And instead what they do is they rely upon the faith of others and that can also be detrimental to an individual. Therefore, they never truly hunger and thirst for righteousness. They never truly hunger and thirst for what God has revealed to them. And then they are never filled with that word. Some are just afraid, much like the one talent man who was afraid to use his talents. Some people are just simply afraid of the scriptures, that what they might read or be told tells them that they have to change, tells them that they, that they need to do something with their lives different from the way that they're living. They're afraid of the truth of God's word, that it might possibly reveal their sinful condition and their need for a savior.

It's kind of the hear no evil. See No evil speak no evil concept of approaching the Bible. And then you have what we're looking at this evening. People that say it's impossible to understand the Bible alike, therefore they refuse to study because they are under the impression that the scriptures are either too hard to understand or that because there are so many different religious views in the world today that it's impossible for men to agree on what the scriptures teach. And so this is what we want to address this evening. Is it possible? And so you think in, in those terms, can the scriptures be understood? Again, I will state in the affirmative here that I believe that they can be understood, but the fact that when you say that they can't, it's an invention of man. I know that the side up here says it originated in Rome, but that is placing the blame solely on a, a branch of what people call Christendom today and that that may be true to some extent, but the truth of the matter is this concept that it cannot be understood began and originated with men.

It did not originate from God's word. Just like I said, Ephesians chapter three when you look at what the Apostle Paul says, and we're going to examine this here in just a minute, we're gonna look at some of these scriptures and see that it was God's intent for man to be able to understand it. For several hundred years it has been set forth that the Bible was not meant for common people. Well, that's bolonga. I'll just say that right now. That originally when when Microsoft came out with their word Microsoft word, word processor, it had in it a scale and it graded the language of that. You would write in. And I would do my spell check and it would come back and it would tell me what level grade level I was writing on. Sometimes all I did just to check it was would put in what the scriptures, just the scriptures and then I would do a spell check and it would come back and invariably the scriptures are written at a sixth to seventh grade level is what it would tell me.

No. Sometimes it'd be a little bit higher and sometimes it'd be a little bit lower, but what does that tell us about being able to understand God's word? It is written in such a way that we should be able to understand it. It's not written and it's written for the common person. When you get right down to it. You do not have to have a Phd in theology. You do not have to have a masters of divinity or or some superior degree. You don't have to go through a theological seminary or extensive training to be able to understand it. You can read the scriptures on your own and you can reach a similar conclusion to someone who spent years studying it. Now, it may take you a little bit longer sometimes, but remember, Ezra, what, happened to Ezra this morning? We looked at Ezra chapter seven he was of a mind to study the law. And in order for you to be able to do the same thing, you have to be, have that similar mindset to be of the mind that you're going to take time to study it.

Private, private Bible study for years had been discouraged by certain people in the world. Because of this discouragement there is an ignorance of the scriptures, but at the same time, one of the things that is a challenge to you is to examine what is taught from a pulpit. I would challenge you every time that I get up here and present a lesson or whoever stands in this pulpit. If you are not testing that against God's word, then you're not fulfilling your duty to yourself. You have relied on someone else to do the teaching for you. But it should be that the person standing up here only has the desire to reveal to you in such a way God's word that you can understand it. Now, I look at that and I see that that means that there must be an attitude toward the scriptures that does not deprive people of individual liberty, but makes them and doesn't make them helpless subjects, but it makes them dependent upon God and God's ability to teach us.

So when you think about those things, keep in mind that it was God's intention for this to happen. We are told to let the word of God or the word of Christ, do what? Dwell in us. It cannot dwell in us if we are unable to understand it. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom." Colossians chapter three and verse 17. And when you consider that we are also told in First Peter Chapter two verse two that we are to "desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby." Okay, if we cannot understand something, why do we need to desire it is the question? But because we can understand it, we can desire it. Then the new American standard version of this is "that you may grow in respect to salvation" and the only way that you can grow in respect to salvation is for you to be able to understand what God has planned for you or what God's plan of salvation actually is.

Paul also said, there are examples for us to learn from and you think about this. If we listen to the Apostle Paul, then we listen to this way that "what was written in earlier times was written for our learning." You think about what he's talking about there in Romans Chapter 15. He's talking about those scriptures in the old covenant. They were written for our learning. What learning could they provide a New Testament child of God today? They provide examples of faith. They are provide us with the shadows that pointed Jesus Christ coming in to the world today. They are filled with instances that reveal God's plan from the Garden of Eden for Man in Genesis chapter three all the way to the time that Jesus Christ dies on the cross. He's buried and he's resurrected. On the third day. They reveal God's plan to save mankind, and yes, some of those prophecies are difficult to understand, but at the same time, if you spend a little time in God's word, scripture explains Scripture. And it will take care of itself in First Thessalonians chapter five and verse 27 Paul says, "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the brethren." Why read an epistle that Paul has written, an inspired epistle, if it was not able to be understood, if it was not there to encourage individuals? I mentioned First Corinthians chapter 10 and verse 11 if you think about it, the apostle Paul says that the things that were written were written as an example. Well, what was stated in First Corinthians chapter 10 it talks about Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness and what happened to them, and he said, those things were written as an example for what purpose so that you understand and don't make the same mistakes. I look at this and I hear the Apostle Paul again in Ephesians chapter three go to verse two, their text again and look at verses three and four in particular.

It says "how that by revelation he made known to me the mystery as I have briefly written already by which when you read, you may understand." What was Paul's purpose in writing? The same purpose that God has in revealing his holy word to us. He's written it so that we might understand it. Understand what? Paul's knowledge in the mystery of Christ. Paul goes on and he tells Timothy then as a young preacher, something that was necessary for him to encourage him in his preaching. "Be diligent..." The old King James uses the word study, but what the word "Be diligent to present yourself approved of God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." There's the key to understanding, to making sure that we are handling the word of God properly, that we are not misusing it. We're not just pulling things out of context.

We're not using things as a pretext. But what we are doing is we're using God's word as he would have us use it. Yes. Therefore, we can understand the scriptures alike. So I want to present this to you. Then another question, well, maybe it's more a statement than a question. If we cannot understand the scriptures, then one of two things is true. And to me this is the logic, the lack of logic behind saying that we cannot understand it. And this is the logic behind saying that very thing. If that's true, then God could not give us the scriptures in a way that we could understand them. Now think about the consequences of that type of thinking. If we cannot understand the scriptures, then we're talking about the almighty God, the creator of the universe, the one who Paul says in First, Second Timothy Chapter three in verse 16 that all scripture is inspired of God, which means it's God-breathed. If that is the case and we cannot understand the scriptures alike, then we're saying that God was incapable of giving us his word that was supposed to reveal him to us in such a way that we could understand it.

And then you can take it one step further than that. God didn't want us to understand the scriptures. If we can't understand the scriptures alike, then why, why can that not be a conclusion to that statement? That is the part that just disturbs me more than anything else and to say this, to be able to come to a conclusion like this, what have we done to God? Well, let's put it this way. We put God in this little tiny box and by putting God in this little tiny box, what do we do? We limit his power. We limit him. We talked about God being omniscient, omnipresent, all, all powerful, all knowing, and yet he's, and to not be able to give us a message that reveals him to us, that we can understand. We put limitations upon God and upon the power of God. He spoke things into existence. Genesis chapter one in the beginning, God, God was the power of creation. And if he is able to create where we live today, create man in his own image, then he should be able to, shouldn't he present himself through his word in such a way that we can understand?

Surely we cannot believe that God would give us a revelation an inspired revelation and commands. Tell us to study them, to know them, to write them on our hearts and not be able to understand them. If all we do or if all we're doing is memorizing God's word, then we're no better than general MacArthur was in his class, in the academy, and then we should just say it's time to go home.

Some people might be willing to say, we can understand the Bible, but there's that three little words that always gets in the way, but those continue to insist that we can't understand it alike. And here's the the problem that I see. It's this first idea again, but it's just modified a little bit. If God did not give us a revelation that we can understand alike, He either could not or would not. And surely God can give us a message that we can all understand and if we can understand then surely we can all understand it alike.

Sure, there are going to be individuals that are going to misunderstand the scriptures. Look at the New Testament. When Jesus Christ is alive. All you have to do is know that there were teachers at that time, Pharisees, scribes who knew the law, but there were times that they were wrong in what they taught. These were men who were supposed to understand. These were men who were supposed to lead them spiritually and Jesus time and again would tell them, "you have heard that it was said." The sermon on the mount is one of the great places that you can look at Matthew five six and seven and you can see those words echoed there. You have heard that it was said, which means they have had an understanding, but Jesus was follow those words. You've heard that it was said that he, he would say, "But I say to you," which means He was trying to clear up their understanding, straighten out there, incorrect teaching. And sometimes that is the case that we need to do the very same thing. If we can be guilty of that. Because what it can happen, you think about that. Think about what Jesus pray. Turning your bibles to John Chapter 17 for just a moment.

I want you to think about this. The first idea, again, like I said, this is only slightly modified, but the Bible plea for unity, I believe is something that is supposed to be a goal of everybody that claims to be a believer in Jesus Christ. And yet what we see is such a diversity of teaching in the world today. What did Jesus pray for in John Chapter 17? Well, look, beginning if you would in verse 17 verse 17 "Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have also sent them into the world and for their sakes, I sanctify myself that they may also be sanctified by the truth." You keep reading now and you look at verse 20, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word that they all may be..." What? One!

"...that they all may be one as you father are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us that the world may believe that you sent me." See, I truly believe that part of God's purpose was to unite men not to divide them, and yet men are divided over the word of God. They were divided in the days of Jesus. The Pharisees and Sadducees, different sects of the of the Jews believed and taught different things. Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection. They didn't believe in angels. Pharisees had misguided teachings on different subjects and they weren't united then. But you can look at this, man is very similar in fashion. Paul exhorts the church at Corinth in First Corinthians chapter one to speak the same thing in verse 10 "that there'd be no divisions among you, but that you'd be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement."

How can that be if we cannot understand God's word alike? Turn over in your bibles to Ephesians chapter four for just a moment. I want you to begin reading at Verse 11 Ephesians Chapter Four is one of those great chapters, especially in the first few verses there where everything talks about one you go, I said start verse 11 let's go back to verse 4 for just a moment. He says, "there is one body" that means that people should be United in one body, " spirit. Just as you recalled in one hope of your calling...", Everybody's called with the same one hope. Okay, " Lord, one faith...", not multiple faiths, " faith, one baptism, one God and father of all who is above all and through all and in you all." And if he is in you all like he supposed to be, then we are supposed to be one. United.

Now you drop it down. How do we achieve this? Well, in verse 11 he says, "and he gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers...", and as you continue reading there, you see that there is a purpose, "...for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come..." To what? "...the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ that we should no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting." See right there, the very thing that interferes with unity and people understanding the scriptures alike, men get in the way.

Therefore we have to strive to eliminate that type of distraction. I want you to consider again as you, as you keep looking at this, that when we are looking at what is stated right here in verse 13 and continue reading verse, well get my tongue twisted here. When we look at this "till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the son of God," that means we have to be able to understand what God has written. It means that we should be able to reach similar conclusions. We may stay to just a little bit differently, but the conclusions that we reach are the same. It helps us be of the same mind. It helps us speak the same things. It helps us be of the same judgment that Paul encouraged the church at Corinth. Because what happened at Corinth, people were divided. Men got in the way of things and they were divided. The plea for unity, asserts that God expects us to read the scriptures and understand them. Understand them means that we understand them alike. Would God approve of a preacher that teaches a different plan of salvation every week.

I dare say that if I did something like that, the elders would confront me and tell me that if I didn't stick to the Bible Plan of salvation, that I would probably be finding someplace else and I'd probably be discouraged from trying to find someplace else to preach. Unless I repented. Now you consider that how can someone approve of different doctrines of salvation being taught in the world today? And that's exactly what takes place. God is not a God of confusion. Is He? Amos chapter three and verse three says, "can two walk together except they be agreed?" How can man and God walk together if we're not teaching what God has told us to teach? How can men be united in faith when we're not united in faith? We can't walk together when we're disagreeing, can we? And then there are those that insist our differences are proof that we can't understand the Bible alike.

Well, I think our differences just prove that we have differences. I think the differences that exist are just that differences. That should be and can be worked out. If people get back to the word of God. Children of Israel, had been in captivity in Babylon, they come back to Jerusalem after 70 years. They're there, they rebuild the temple. Nehemiah comes back many years after they've been there in Jerusalem. Looks at the city, determines that they are need to rebuild the city. When the city is rebuilt, the gates are hung. The security of the city is there. He puts his brother and and the leader of the citadel in charge of the local government. He realizes also that now instead of just rebuilding the city, it's time to rebuild the hearts of the people. And that's what I'm suggesting in this. It's time for people's hearts to turn back to God, to be rebuilt upon his word. They encouraged in Nehemiah chapter eight in verse one Ezra to bring the book. And what did Ezra read from? He read from the book of the law. What did the people do? They wept when they heard it.

They rejoiced in understanding it and they started practicing it. Not just some of them, all of them. That's what needs to take place today. That's what will eliminate the differences that we have. Because we're divided over, you know, and we can ask the question, are they proof? No, they're not proof and what are the differences then? Again, just differences in here's the key, not in what God says, but in our own opinions of what God says. Instead of looking at God's word and taking the text for what it really means, we become guilty then of inserting our own opinions. Now look at this for just a moment. What are some of those differences? Well we're divided over creeds. Well, what's a creed? It's a manmade written document, a profession of faith, an uninspired profession of faith. You have them throughout the world today. I'm going to read some things here real quick and I don't mean this to be disparaging. Just as a statement of fact. You have the apostle's creed, you have standard manuals, a different of different denominations in the world today and many of them state different things, different ways to God, different plans of salvation.

You have written and oral traditions that even we can become guilty of. The pharisees had oral traditions. They hung their hat on those traditions. They equated them with the word of God. Only to have Jesus tell them, no, that's not right. We have in the religious world today, oral traditions that have been handed down supposedly from the apostles, but there's no way to verify that. And those are equated as equal to God's word. And we need to be careful with that. If we are to have anything in common, it begins right here with the elimination of manmade man written documents. We don't need statements of faith. This is our statement of faith. I don't need to go onto online and see this is our mission because our mission is stated right here in this book. All we have to do is look at it and we can find it. And I think about that.

I don't need books written by men. I made a statement earlier in this lesson and I said that because what we do, and I, I have these books to help me study. I have commentaries. I have books that are written by men that are simply are trying to help explain the text. But I'll be honest with you, the best commentary on the Bible is always going to be the Bible itself, because scripture will explain scripture better than men can explain scripture. You see, we're not just divided over creeds, we're divided over names. Why are there so many different, and we use the word denominations in the world today and there's a reason for that. Denomination suggests that division exists. Just like it was in Corinth. What took place in Corinth in First Corinthians chapter one some said, I am of Paul, I am of Apolos, I am of Cephas.

And some said they were a Christ. Men were divided over names and who they were going to follow. That's difficult and that's something that we need to understand that we need to avoid in our lives. Well, I don't need the name. You go to the yellow pages in your phone book and you go back to churches where it says churches and you will see just how divided Fort Smith is in name alone. We're supposed to be servants of God. We're supposed to be followers of Christ. We're supposed to wear that name, Christian. Acts chapter 11 you think about that. What were they first called in Antioch? Christian.

There should be no division over names and the reason that there's division over names is there a division over doctrine. Division over what is taught. Men are even divided over God's plan of salvation. Men get hung up on what Jesus commanded in Mark Chapter 16 Verses 15 and 16, Matthew Chapter 28 verses 18 through 20, Luke chapter 24 beginning at verse 47. They get hung up on what Peter says in acts chapter two in verse 38 about Baptism for the remission of sins. And they say, no, baptism is not necessary for salvation, but who said it was? Well, the first person that said it was necessary was Jesus Christ himself. Now who do you want to argue with the son of God or me? You can argue with me all you want, but I'm going to stick with what Jesus said. I want to listen to what he said and I want to follow his instruction. You think about this, they substitute what? Faith only or grace only, and they use passages of scripture that, like Ephesians chapter two and verse eight "for you are saved by grace through faith." But you know what's not in those verses?

The word only.

You are saved by grace. You are saved by faith. You're saved by repentance. You're saved by confession. You're saved by baptism. You think about all of those things. Each one of those things you can see and find in the Scripture and tells you that you are saved by them. So what does that tell me? It tells me that there's a bigger picture than just one item in the scriptures that tells me what I need to do to be saved. And I must go to them and look at them and put them together. The find out God's plan for me, God's plan for all men. Oftentimes they go so far as to eliminate acts of obedience from that such as baptism. But if they do baptize, they baptize. And let's tell you that you're being baptized and you need to be baptized, but you're, you're saved before you're baptized. Well, my question on that is, and I want you to turn to Romans chapter six for just a moment. Romans chapter six and then I'll finish the lesson.

It's this.

If you are saved before your a baptized, that means you've already died and you're alive again. Because here's the thing. You have to die to sin in order to obtain salvation, the cleansing of the blood of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul says it this way, beginning of verse one, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin that Grace May abound? Certainly not. How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as we're baptized into Christ, Jesus were baptized into his death..." Okay? "...Therefore, we are buried with him through baptism into death. That just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the father even so, we also should walk in newness of life."

Who gets buried?

Someone who is alive or someone who is dead. There's where the understanding of God's word becomes necessary. You bury a dead person. You don't bury someone alive. You bury someone dead so that when they come back in a similar fashion as Jesus did from the grave, you come back to life. You walk in newness of life. See, you don't substitute forms because baptism is described as a burial. It's not sprinkling. It's not pouring. It's a burial. And you look at this can we understand this alike? Absolutely, and we should be understanding things like this alike. This is just very basic. When you get right down to it. I know that they're going to be other places. There are other things that are taught by individuals that we don't agree on, but here's the key to understanding or why people don't understand the Bible alike.

It all boils down to things not found in the scriptures that we want to insert in place of God's word. Just like the children of Israel. This morning in Nehemiah chapter eight they found out that they were not observing the feast of booths that they were supposed to and had not been observing it since the days of Joshua, the son of Nun and they went back and they went out and got all the palm branches and the oil branches of trees and they came back and they built these booths and for seven days they were doing what God commanded them to do. And during that seven days, every day the father's the priest, the Levites were surrounded, surrounding Ezra and he was doing what he was reading from the book. And that's what we need to be doing more of is reading from the book and we do that. We will increase our understanding. Our faith must be grounded in what the Lord says. And know then when we do that with full assurance that we can understand the Bible alike.

Take out your songbooks

The song we're about to sing. Is a song that's based on Jesus' invitation. "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." It is his invitation and he will do just that if you listen to it and heed his invitation. If you've never been baptized for the mission of your sins, do you believe that that's what you need to be doing? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that he died for your sins, that he arose again that third day after he was crucified and shed blood for you? He's sitting now alive and well at the right hand of God on His throne in his kingdom. And you can become part of that if you repent of your sins, confess him before men, and be baptized for their mission of your sins. And if you've strayed from the Lord, if you haven't been near to him like you should be, then reconcile your life to him today. As an erring child of God you have that opportunity to do that. Confess your sin to him. He is faithful and just to forgive your unrighteousness and start living again with him in your life. United with him. United with his word and united with brethren in heart, in teaching. And let's live together peacefully. Understanding that God's word direct us straight to him and an eternal heavenly home.

Can we help you with your soul's salvation this evening? Why don't you come as together we stand and as we sing.