The Bible is the most read book of all time. Its beginning, Genesis, opens with the creation of the heavens and the earth, spoken into existence by God. Shortly into the third chapter there’s an event that changes the course of history that includes a pronouncement of a prophecy. By chapter 4, the first murder is recorded and soon a cataclysmic flood destroys almost everything (and this is only shortly into the first book of the Bible). There’s a cast of characters throughout its pages from shepherds to kings to harlots to virgins, and more. There’s no shortage of plot twists and shocking revelations. The Bible is a book of history (things past) as well as prophecy (things to come). It’s also an instruction manual of how to live righteously (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible at its core is a love story and a book of Redemption. What many miss or don’t realize about the Bible is the one great thread (subject) that runs throughout it is Christ. He is the promised seed of the woman in the prophecy and promise of Genesis 3:15 and the foreshadowed Redeemer throughout the Old Testament. All hope of restoration for man and for creation are centered in Him. He is the key to divine revelation in the Word and apart from Him it cannot be understood.
Sadly the Bible is also the most misunderstood and misinterpreted book as well. This may be because the Bible is unlike any other book. Its pages have been God-breathed (divinely inspired by the power of God). It doesn’t have a special ‘About the Author’ page because God has divulged all He wants mankind to know about Himself throughout its pages from beginning to end. He has done this at different times and in various ways—all for His ultimate purpose (Heb. 1:1-2, 2:3, John 14:10, 16:13, Rom. 16:26, Eph. 3). First things first, one must believe “God is” and that “He has spoken” (Heb. 1:1-2, 11:6, Rom. 1:19-20). “…knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Hebrews 4:12 says that “the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword…” That makes God’s Word a dangerous weapon against those who oppose it, so it shouldn’t be surprising in the attempts that have been made to attack, twist, and pervert it since the beginning of time (Genesis 3). The apostle Paul was concerned for the Corinthians, when he said, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Peter, too, in his second letter to the Christian Jews of the dispersion, said, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies,…” (2 Peter 2:1).
Not everyone has a desire to seek God’s truth the way He intended.
The definition of TRUTH includes the words: transparent, clear, open, plain, and accurate. TRUTH comes from God and is associated with light (Psalm 33:4, 119:160, John 1:4, 14, 17, 14:6, 17:17, Titus 1:2, James 1:17).
The definition of DECEIT is: concealment, or distortion of the truth for the purpose of misleading. It’s associated with darkness (Gen. 3:13, Eph. 4:14, 22, 5:11-13, Rev. 12:9). “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:19-21).
Throughout time there have been many false teachers, posing as ’ministers of righteousness’ who may speak with ‘authority’ with their strong words, but have other motives (such as personal financial gain, status or power) in mind instead (2 Cor. 11:3-4). They have led many astray with their promotion of mankind’s traditions; as well as adding to God’s word with their own interpretations to fit their message and so pervert God’s truth (Deut. 4:2, Prov. 30:6, Matt. 15:1-9, Gal. 1:8-9, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, Rev. 22:18-19). The apostle Paul in his first letter to Timothy warns him of false teachers and those that are teaching other doctrines, “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself” (1 Tim. 6:3-5).
It’s no surprise where this generates from—the father of lies (the devil) who has no truth in him (John 8:44).
The enemy is cunning enough to allow just enough truth in things, while subtly perverting it. This strategy has been working since he deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden (1 Tim. 2:14) (as well as so many throughout time). To deceive a large amount of people, a lie must ‘look’ like the truth. Today ironically it’s easier than ever (even with all the access to information we have at our finger tips) for the enemy to deceive so many. A great percentage of people have lower attention spans and prefer to eat up sound bites that are taken out of context instead of feasting on God’s truth (Jer. 15:16, John 6:33-35, 48-51). And what’s more shocking today is the compliance to allow not just the perversion of the truth, but the attempts of those in authority to negate and block it from even being read or heard (2 Cor. 4:4).
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts, will they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they will turn away their ears from the truth, and will be turned unto fables (myths)” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). This is why it’s vital for those truly desiring to follow God’s word to heed the importance of what the apostle Paul was telling Timothy regarding believers at the time, “…not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:14-16).
2 Timothy 2:15 plainly teaches that our one great diligent purpose is to seek God’s approval, and not man’s. One will not be ‘approved unto God’ if care is not exercised in rightly dividing His Word. For many this will involve unlearning what they’ve heard from man and from tradition rather than directly from the Word of God (Phil. 1:10, 1 Cor. 2:13, 2 Cor. 10:3-5, Rom. 12:2, Eph. 2:10). Being a workman that’s approved unto God is not for the impatient or those that are easily distracted by worldly things and matters. It’s for those who will use great care and effort to seek God’s truth above all in a Berean-like mindedness (Acts 17:11, Heb. 11:6, Col. 3:2, Phil. 3:13-14).
You don’t have to be a scholar or an intellectual to read and understand the Bible.
One wouldn’t just pick up a novel or a historical book and flip through its pages picking out lines and sections and read them without knowing any background or context—but that’s exactly what many do with the Bible.
One must have a willingness to question what they’ve been taught or read by others with what the Word of God actually says, rightly divided as God intended. Every word from Genesis to Revelation is written for us and for our learning but not written to us or about us (Rom. 15:4).
Some key things to always pay attention to while reading the Bible are:
· WHAT is being spoken or written and to WHOM? What’s the subject matter—Who are the people involved?
· WHO is it addressed to? Is it addressed to the Jew, the Gentile (Nations), or the Church of today (the One Body)?
· WHERE? Where in the Bible is it written or spoken?
· During WHAT TIME, under WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES, and for WHAT PURPOSE is it being written or spoken? God didn’t reveal His mind and will at one time, but at different times and in different ways. These differing ‘times’ and ‘ways’ are referred to as dispensations and must be distinguished in order to come to an understanding of the truth.
· In WHAT CONTEXT? The parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage usually influence its meaning or effect.
Every area of God-breathed Scripture reflects the perfect and infinite wisdom of God and should be treated as such. While the word of God is written FOR all persons and FOR all time, not every part of it is addressed TO all persons or ABOUT all persons IN all time. We may make application to ourselves as long as it doesn’t conflict with what is written elsewhere concerning the Church of today. We shouldn’t read the past into the present and confuse the “law” with the “gospel”, or confuse the “Kingdom” with the “Church”. We shouldn’t read the future (the Great Tribulation, The day of the Lord when Christ will rule the world in Judgment and Righteousness, etc.) into the present. Each reader/student must personally and individually look at the references for him/herself. God’s word is clear when it’s rightly divided. No word or passage will contradict another. Over time word meanings change and some become obsolete all together. It’s necessary for the reader to go back to the original Hebrew text (re: the Old Testament) and the original Greek text (re: the New Testament). When one tests the things that differ he/she will discern and understand God’s true plan and purpose (Phil. 1:10).
There are questions that lead to truth and questions that generate strife.
Remember the rules of engagement for a believer (2 Tim. 2:1-6). Paul also warned Timothy in his second letter to him to “…avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife” (2 Timothy 2:23). The Bible says these things stir up strife: hatred, pride, wrath/anger, and perversity—all generating from the carnal flesh (Proverbs 10:12, 13:10, 15:18, 16:28, 28:25, 29:22).
LOVE REJOICES IN TRUTH (1 Cor. 13:6)
A believer should always approach others in love. They must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
May you experience the fullness of the Truth as God intended, realizing the great treasure that the Bible is and the considerable joy that is found in its pages (Ps. 119:162).