No Fine Print|
We live in an age of fine print and multiplied words. By these things, advertisers are able to hide the details of their offers and take advantage of gullible consumers. Their bargains seem too good to be true because they aren't true, but the tiny words at the bottoms of their printed ads and television commercials and their mumbling, speed-talker disclaimers on radio ads permit them to be deceptive in their large, boldface banners and smoothly spoken words. Advertisers aren't the only ones who use these methods, for politicians, lawyers, and legislators often bury the truth of their intentions in a mountain of legalese that not even they fully understand. For example, the federal tax code is about 74,000 pages long, and no one on earth can possibly comprehend it. This mountain of law is the result of years of multiplied words that intentionally hide corruption and contort the tax code into an unfathomable mess. How much better it would be if it simply stated, "Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor" (Rom. 13:7).
Some people view the Bible as the same kind of incomprehensible enigma as fine print disclaimers, legal contracts, and federal codes. They believe that the Bible's true meaning is hidden behind its voluminous words. Many of them are intimidated and overwhelmed by the Bible's size and scope. As a result, they assume that they cannot understand it, and they make little or no effort to learn the word of God on their own. Some leave it to the experts to interpret the Bible for them so that they are dependent on scholars, theologians, or their "pastors" for their understanding.
While it is true that the Bible is a substantial document with a broad scope, it is not true that the Bible cannot be understood or that its true meaning is somehow hidden. Paul's words in Ephesians 3:4 express a truth that applies to all of Scripture, which is that God's word is readable and understandable by ordinary people. Paul wrote, "By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ." In this passage (Eph. 3:1-12) and many others, the gospel is referred to as a mystery that was previously unknown but has now been revealed in order to be understood (Mark 4:11; Rom. 16:25; 1Cor. 2:6-16; 15:51; Eph. 1:9; 5:32; 6:19; Col. 1:27; 2:2; 4:3; 1Tim. 3:9, 16). Indeed, the gospel is a mystery that has been uncovered, which is by definition a revelation. As Paul has assured, readers of his letters and all of the Scriptures are capable of comprehending the revelation of God's word contained within the Bible.
One reason for the Bible's large volume of words is because of its massive scope and purpose. It is God's instructions for "everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2Pet. 1:3), and it is God's provision for equipping the man of God for every good work (2Tim. 3:16-17). It is also a record of the history that pertains to man's redemption through Jesus Christ. From the creation of the world through the establishment of the church, the Bible explains the origins of our existence and our problems, the solutions to our problems, our purpose for being, and the possible outcomes of our lives. Considering the vastness of this scope, it is a wonder that the Bible is as concise as it is. Men have written countless volumes attempting to explain just a fraction of these issues by their own wisdom, but God's word reveals it all in one book.
Unlike the multiplied words of deceptive men that attempt to hide the truth, the words of the Bible are straightforward concerning God's appeal to us. In the Bible, there is no fine print, and there are no loopholes or technicalities. The Scriptures plainly teach not only the promises and benefits that God offers, but they also explain the costs involved. When men wanted to follow Jesus, He told them directly what was required to be His disciple (Luke 9:23-26, 57-62; 14:25-35). He spoke of self-denial, sacrifice, hardships, complete devotion, and possible separation from loved ones. Even in His gentle offer of rest to the weary, He required a yoke and a burden (Matt. 11:28-30). He promised rewards for sacrifices, the greatest of which is eternal life (Luke 18:28-30). He clearly demanded faithful obedience and warned that disobedience would forfeit the kingdom (Matt. 7:21-23; 28:18-20; Mark 16:16). In all of these things, the Lord did not sugarcoat His message or hide the difficult parts of serving Him. The same is true for all of the word of God.
Therefore, let us not regard the Bible as an incomprehensible web of words, but rather let us see for what it is -- the revelation of God's wisdom for man (1Cor. 2:6-16). The difficulties that have been endured to reveal and preserve God's word for us are evidence that God wants us to understand His message. He would not go to such trouble just to present us with a book that we cannot comprehend. While we may need help from others from time to time as we are learning (Acts 8:30-35), we must read the Bible for ourselves and engage our own minds in order to see the truth for ourselves. If we will do so, then we will find a lifetime of learning and a satisfying understanding of the word of God.
Stacey E. Durham
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