Is the Bible Simple to Understand?

I believe in SOLA FIDE, Faith is the act of acceptance of what God has told, therefore you’re saved by faith alone, but saving faith is not alone. Within that framework i do believe in Grace alone, but i do not take the frame work of Grace as a license to sin.
Because anyone who sins is of the devil, i believe in the willful act of repentance from our heart is an essential factor, because it is the evidence of the work of the HolySpirit when it comes to sanctification. I think, these implications can see throughout the gospels.

Once you’re saved you’re always be saved because God knows our Heart before the foundation of the world and he has his elect. I believe his elect will exhibit, the evidence of his standard through the Holyspirit. Which then influence their willful acts. I believe God maintains his justice, when it comes to the influenced willful act.

Yes, Joshua, we are blessed to know the True, God’s True. The invisible church of God , WHICH IS UNIVERSAL will be white as snow, waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ. Longing … to a seat at his feet.

I was thinking of this question over the weekend. I suppose another way to frame it would be to ask if one person’s opinion of the Bible is more valid than another’s. If Person A is a Bible scholar and has been studying the Bible for 30 years, reads the Bible every year, and does so in the original languages; and Person B has only finished reading the Bible for the first time; is Person A’s views and knowledge of the Bible more “valid” than Person B’s? I am not necessarily saying that Person A’s views are correct, but do they have a greater claim to understanding than someone who has just read it for the first time? How do we determine a “valid” view?

If two people read the Bible for the first time and disagree on a point, are they both right? Certainly not. But, how do we determine who is right and if either of them are right? Do we not turn to someone with more experience for evaluation? Doesn’t this lend credence to the idea that the Bible is not quite as simple as most make it out to be?

@Joshua_Hansen

Hi Joshua!

I was reading through this old discussion because it was linked in a newer one and your comment about a lack of knowledge regarding church history definitely applies to me! This is something however that I’m interested in learning.

Whenever I’ve start trying to study church history I get a little overwhelmed and bogged down in all the material out there especially because I don’t have a firm grasp of the “big picture” or overarching story of Church history. So when I start reading about the details of one particular moment in church history, I cant place that moment/those theological discussions in the larger picture and the ideas get jumbled in my mind. I hope that makes sense!

Could you recommend a book or books that give an overview of church history?

Thank you!

Only if God calls you, gives you His Spirit and reveals it to you.
If not it is foolishness to you.

My husband and I have lively discussions over passages that we interpret differently. We have found that when we each go back to the Bible and “let the Bible interpret the Bible”, we get to the truth. So I agree with you, Joshua, two different interpretations of the text cannot both be correct.

On the other hand, I believe that having two different opinions regarding concepts that are not essential to salvation (e.g., the timing of the rapture; speaking in tongues, etc.) is okay.

I also believe that when we asked God for wisdom and understanding when reading His Word, He is very giving (Psalm 119:18).

As a child, the only Bible I had was the KJV. It was considered a “child’s” Bible ONLY because it included pictures, but it was definitely the old King James text. But somehow, I understood what I read (which was mainly Psalms and Proverbs, and then the gospels).

I used to be a KJV and NASB only person. Now that I am in my 60s, I recognize that modern translations that don’t change the meaning of the original text (Hebrew and Greek) are wonderful. I now love the New Living Translation, and have gotten two NLT study Bibles.

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The Zondervan Handbook to History of Christianity and Mark Noll’s Turning Points are books I would recommend. The Zondervan one is more detailed and Mark Noll’s hits the highlights. They are both very good.

Hello Joshua,

This is an awesome discussion so far. I just wanted to add a couple of things. The first is that I’m not entirely sure the idea of Sola Scriptura is being understood correctly. I’m not aware of such an abandonment of Sola Scriptura by Martin Luther or any of the reformers, however I will research into that some more. The main focus of my statement here is that the reformers did not believe in such a way as to say that Scripture is all you need, and that is it, no explanation. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura was the the doctrine that the Scriptures alone have the authority of God. That is to say that if we come to a point of contention on a tradition or idea of men, then it can, and indeed must, be settled with sacred Scripture. Jesus talked about this in Mark 7:6-9 when talking to the Pharisees, “And He said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” You leave the commandments of God and hold to the tradition of men.’ And He said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandments of God in order to establish your tradition!’” The doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not to say that it is the only thing we should ever look at or learn from, but that it is, and always should be, our final authority on all things. It is the word of God(2 Timothy 16-17), and we should bring anything that we are unsure about, whether a tradition, a disagreement, or confusion to the Scripture alone as the final authority in all things. This is what the reformers believed and I’m not aware of them ever abandoning that doctrine. Many people, including myself, still hold to Sola Scriptura today and it serves very well, in addition the other four solas of course.

Next, on the Bible being easy to understand. This is such a difficult idea to discuss because, on one hand, yes it is easy to understand when we read the context and understand the time and meaning of its writing. However, apart from the Holy Spirit, no it’s not easy to understand. We see in 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 that Paul described this, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
The words of sacred Scripture are not taught by human wisdom, but by the Holy Spirit. Only those who have the Holy Spirit are going to be able to discern the truths of Scripture as we see in this passage, “they are spiritually discerned.”

What good do the words of Scripture do someone who has not been indwelt with the Holy Spirit? It will all be foolishness to those who are still perishing in sin. Just we are told in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The things of the Spirit of God are not acceptable or truly understandable to the “natural man” or those who are perishing in sin. These things are discerned fully and truthfully only by the wisdom imparted from the Holy Spirit. We must first be indewelt with Him before we can understand the truths in Scripture. Apart from Him it is all foolishness.

So, is the Bible simple to understand? I would say that if you have the Spirit, then yes and also no. To reduce Scripture in any way to something that we can just simply glance over, and then have the fullness of it sorted in our minds would be untrue. We should rather look at Scripture as if every word was it’s own separate gold mine. That if we would only dig into every verse and meditate on it, and mine it out for all it can give us, we would find a wealth of knowledge that we will never be able to reach the depths of in our lives. What did Jesus do when He preached? He taught the lessons of Scripture, what did Paul do when He preached? Taught the lessons of Scripture. Peter? Same. John? Same. We see the theme here. Even Jesus Christ kept bringing people back to the Scriptures. When He was asked questions by the Pharisees, what was one of the responses from Him? “Have you not read?”(Matthew 19:4, Matthew 12:3). He pointed them to the Scripture.

There is such a wealth of knowledge in the Scriptures that we will never be able to fully master the depths of it. But it is sufficient, authoritative, by the grace of the Holy Spirit it is understandable, and it is breathed out by God. I would never call any of it simple, because just when we get to the simple meanings of Scripture, then we see the vein of precious truth that can be mined out from under that and applied to our lives. We must dig, we must search, we must think, we must swing the pick into the pages of Scripture and break through to the deeper meanings that apply to our lives.

By the grace of God, He didn’t just try to give it all to us in baby terms. He set forth His word in such a way that any immature Christian, through the Holy Spirit, might grasp the truth on the surface, and as they grow and mature, that they might see the wealth of knowledge still to be dug out beneath the surface.

How do we learn? When we pursue the truth, and seek the knowledge we desire. Only those who truly desire the truth and depth of the Scriptures that is there will seek it out. What did Christ say to us? Not “I have given it all to you.” But rather, “Ask and it will be given to you; Seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened.” There is effort necessary on our part. We must pursue the truth and seek it out for ourselves. That is the only way we truly learn and grow, and only those who truly desire to learn and grow in it will pursue it. All to the glory of God alone.

I think I have said enough, and I hope I haven’t confused everything. This is a great discussion and thank you Joshua for starting it. God bless.

Matthew

Hi Matthew,

Thank you for your thorough and considered response. The idea that Luther and others abandoned, or perhaps drastically modified, the idea of Sola Scriptura can be found in this work:

https://www.amazon.com/Intellectual-Origins-European-Reformation/dp/0631229396

It is an absolutely fascinating read. If you want to jump straight to this section it is the last one, on Humanism and the Origins of the Lutheran Church. Keep in mind that humanism then and humanism now are not the same thing.

I do not have time to write out a full response at this present moment, so please don’t mistake my brevity for not appreciating the amount of work you put into your response.

I do see you point about the role of the Spirit illuminating the Word to us. I do not think that would constitute a full account, however, of all the Bible says about our ability to understand Scripture.

For one we have the eunuch not understanding until someone, a human, came and taught him. We have Aquila and Priscilla expounding the word more fully to someone who had not even heard of the Spirit, we have Gentiles coming to believe after hearing the Gospel and then the Spirit descends on them. Romans 10:15-16 talks about a person coming to the point of believing by hearing someone who has been sent to them to preach. It makes not mention of the Spirit. Matthew 13:15 also mentions that people could hear, see, and come to believe if only their hearts had not become so calloused.

These are only the examples I could think of off the top of my head. So I am not putting this forth as a full account.

I just bring these up to say that the Spirit does play a role in our understanding of Scripture, but not alone.

Luther took issue with the Anabaptists doctrines. They refuted his attempts to show them how their doctrines were wrong by pointing to Augustine and others. But, they shot back at him his own words of Sola Scriptura. This is when he and others like Melanchthon began to revise this idea. Can a person just read the Scripture and form their own doctrines? Is there accountability to the Church and community and believers? Should we look to tradition to help with our understanding? Commentaries? Should we commit to learning Greek?

I would say that the Bible, especially in modern times is not simple to understand. There is so much culturally in the Bible we don’t understand that the Bible doesn’t teach us. There are themes and narratives that take time to understand and trace out. There are literary structures that are hidden if you don’t know what to look for. Among other things.

That which is necessary for salvation, to me, seems very plain and obvious. I am glad for the Grace of God that has made this plain. The rest however, I am afraid, takes a bit of work. And to understand it, we need more than just Scripture. The Spirit yes, but also Scholarship. Not that our understanding is subject to those who call themselves scholars. But that our study must be thorough and organized. That would approach my position on the matter.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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Hello Joshua,

I agree with what you say. I think we are just saying it in ways that sounds like we aren’t completely on par here. Let me see if I can just quickly clear that part up.

When I say Sola Scriptura, I don’t mean that the Holy Spirit is the only thing we need. That was what I explained with our need to dig into Scripture using whatever means available to us. I could have worded that better. By swinging the proverbial pick, my reference was to using whatever means we have available to gain everything from scripture that we can. Whether this is discussing it with a friend, or studying it ourselves, or learning the Hebrew and Greek, or using a commentary, or all of the above. We most certainly do need to seek the truth of scripture, and often we do that by researching much more than just the scriptures themselves.

In my commitment to Sola Scriptura I mean this, that we should use every means possible to help us to further understand Scripture, but if we come across something that is confusing, or that disagrees with Scripture, then we must concede to the authority of the Word in settling such confusions. I mean that we should look to Scripture as the ultimate, and final, authority, and that we must not ascribe the same authority to other works or ideas that are not Scripture. Only Scripture alone has the authority of being God breathed and inerrant.

I hope that explains what I meant a bit better. I fully agree with your statements above and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow together for the Master. God bless you and thank you.

Matthew

For sure. I suppose I should have pointed out that I thought we agreed on much more than we disagreed on. I also think I was reading into more than you were saying. I was just reading someone who said that it is impossible for someone to understand the Scripture without the Spirit. That may have affected my lens through which I read your statements.

Great talk! I also look forward to interacting more in this space!

I also cannot recommend that McGrath book enough. I had to read it for an essay I was writing a couple of years ago and it really gripped me. I learned a lot from it, it was informational and formational.

Joshua,

Sounds great. I will add it I to my list. I have been looking for more books to add that can help me research into history more. I’m reading Nick Needum’s 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power right now, and I highly recommend it as well. It’s a 4 book series, soon to be five hopefully, that covers the history of the church all the way from Pentecost through to present time. Thanks again.

Matthew

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Thank you!! This helps me very much. I’m looking forward to studying this!

I’ve always been in the same boat, so to speak. In an attempt to “buckle down” in preparation for the Core Module class, I started reading “The Story of Christianity” authored by Justo Gonzalez…so far it’s been really good and difficult to put down.

@OrangeHat
Thank you! I’ve added it to my reading list :slightly_smiling_face: