Paul encourages us all to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). That comes from properly understanding the Bible. If two people understand the Bible correctly, then they understand it alike. In truth, all who understand the Bible understand it alike. The fact that there is so much diversity of ideas and denominations shows that people do not know what the Bible teaches.
Desire for Knowledge
In order to know the word of God you have to want to know the word of God. Solomon writes, “whoever loves instruction loves knowledge” (Proverbs 12:1). In any subject, a knowledge of it requires instruction in it. If you want to learn how to fly a plane, you taking flying lessons. If you want to become an expert chef, you go to cooking school. And if you want to become knowledgeable in the word of God, then you need to be instructed what it teaches. If you want to know your Bible, you will study it.
One thing that can make you want to have more knowledge of the Bible is to know enough about God to understand that His revelation needs to be studied. That is why the heart with understanding seek knowledge (Proverbs 15:14). The more you know of God, the more you want to know, and understanding the great nature of God compels one to have a greater knowledge of His word. Indeed, “the prudent heart gets knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15).
Can Be Rejected
Just as one can willfully seek out a knowledge of God through the knowledge of the Bible, one may also choose to be ignorant. The consequences of this rejection is dire, as God notes through Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos 4:6). This lack of knowledge need not appear only within the completely irreligious. Paul points out that the Jews who refuse to obey the gospel are lost. This lost condition exists even though they contain great amount of religious zeal, but that it is not based upon true knowledge of God (Romans 10:1-3).
These Jews without the gospel need to learn what the Bible says, but that means much more than reading the Bible. If someone reads the Bible but with a preconception about what it teaches, then they will not learn what the Bible says. This is the condition of these Jews. Elsewhere, Paul references the veil worn by Moses. While it was worn to hide the shine of his face from being in the presence of God on the mountain, here we also learn that it was to hide the almost instantaneous diminishment in the shine. This is symbolic of the fading glory of the old law.
Following this, Paul says a metaphoric veil is still worn over the hearts of Jews when they read the prophets yet deny they speak of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:14). In other words, one must by open and honest with the scriptures or read the text is worthless. Paul follows this up by stating that all of the lost, Jew and Gentile, have a veil that keeps the gospel from shining in their heart, but this veil is removed in learning about Christ (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).
Requires The Right Attitude
But there were plenty of Jews in the first century who became Christians because they had the right attitude towards the Bible and were in a place to learn it and understand it. One example is the Jews in Berea. They “received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). Usually, an emphasis is placed on the daily study portion of this verse, but notice that it is preceded with the attitude we should all have, one where they received the word with all readiness of mind. They told themselves that they would accept what the Bible said regardless of what they previously may have thought.
James describes this mindset when he says that the word must be accepted with meekness (James 1:21). The Greek word for this is used outside of the Bible to describe the ability to break horse. Imagine a large steed being controlled by a small bit in his mouth. That is how the Bible is to the true believer. Some have described meekness as self-control, but here it’s more like allowing yourself to be controlled by someone else, and this other party is God.
In the book of Romans, Paul pleads with the saints that they once and for all present their bodies as a living sacrifice. Having done that, they move on the being shaped by things from Heaven and not from the earth. Having done thus, we are in a place to examine the word of God and accept it (Romans 12:1-2). This is similar to the removal of all filth James mentions so that we can meekly accept the word just addressed priorly.
Peter recalls the occasion when he witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. He then makes the point that we have a word of prophecy that is more sure than if God were to open the cloud and speak to us directly as He did on that mount with Jesus (2 Peter 1:15-21). Because we have this word that is definite, sure, and objectively verifiable, no prophecy of scripture is subject to any private interpretation (v.20). If the Bible were somehow the product of men’s thinking and human words, then one interpretation is as good as another, as it may be great literature like Shakespeare. But with the Bible, one interpretation is not as good as another. The only interpretation that is worthwhile is the one God intends for us to reach by careful and honest study.
Our View Of God
All notions of religion begin with how one views God. When it comes from our openness to the Bible, it is no different. Solomon writes that it is a fear of God that is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). Further, he adds that it is by a fear of God that men depart from evil (Proverbs 6:16). When one is truly in awe of God, they will do whatever they can to know the will of God. Further, applying the knowledge of this will leads one to depart from evil as part of their service to God.
It comes down to one simple thing: do you love the truth or not (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10). If you love the truth more than all things, including your own mind and way of life, then you will do anything to learn the will of God so that you may perform it. Jesus clearly has this in mind when He speaks to those who were already believing in Him, and He says, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Knowing the truth and continuing in the truth is indispensable for discipleship and spiritual freedom from the rule of sin. And nearing His crucifixion, Jesus says in prayer that eternal life is knowing God and the One He sent (John 17:3). Putting all of this together, we fear God and study our Bible with an open mind. This same fear spurs us to live out what we have learned. By so doing, we achieve eternal life.
A knowledge of scripture is often considered a type of illumination. Consider the following:
- “Through Your precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way. Your word isa lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:104-105)
- “The entrance of Your words gives light. It gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130)
- “For the commandment isa lamp, and the law a light, reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23)
- “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19)
Counterwise, living is ignorance and sin is constantly rendered as living in darkness. We have to choose between light and dark, knowledge and ignorance, serving God or following sin. God has given us all a word that can be understood, and therefore it can be understood alike by all.