Who Can Understand?

Peter writes, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) What a royal position we have through the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

In today’s world I wonder how well we understand what God has done for us. In centuries gone past Christians were discouraged from reading the scriptures. The priesthood told the people they were unable to interpret and understand the writings of God and how they apply to daily life. Only the “anointed” could properly explain what God had provided in the Bible.

With the advent of movable type, the Reformation, and understanding of Grace, Christians began to learn they too could understand God. Believers could come directly to the throne of Christ in prayer and supplication without the intervention of priests and clergy. Christians began to dig deep into the word of God and live their lives completely for the creator of the universe.

Paul was clear in his praise of the Berean church for digging into the scriptures to test his words and approve what God had revealed. “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11) They were not willing to accept a new revelation or interpretation without confirmation by the written word of God.

When I visit Christian bookstores my vision is inundated with “self help” books and commentaries expounding the Word of God so we might understand. Unwittingly the church in creating such resources and placing preaching above ordinary man has turned Christians back to earlier days of ignorance. It becomes apparent, because so many writers have to explain things to us, that we are unable to understand and interpret the Word of God and apply it properly to our daily lives.

This needs to change in the church and new attitudes prevail in Christians today. Praise the Lord for good preachers and expositors of the Word of God. I enjoy their writings, preaching and teaching on a regular basis. However, we need to be sure as faithful believers to confirm and know from the Word of God what is true or false. We cannot rely on reports in books, sermons, lessons or conversations to keep our theology on the narrow path.

Companions to Bible study abound and are useful for earnest and fruitful exploration into the revelation of God. Concordances allow us to see where words are used and in what context throughout scripture. Thus, we can confirm our understanding of the writer’s intention in using a particular word. Topical Bibles allow us to see where different subjects and concepts are discussed in God’s holy word.

We must first allow God’s word to explain God’s word. It’s in the depth of God’s revelation that we understand our relationship to the savior and creator of the universe. The psalmist said it well, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:103-105)

Paul recognized the importance of turning to God’s word versus man’s interpretation. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)

I’m not saying abandon all the inspired work of these prolific authors. On the contrary, a good commentary is indispensable in preparation for teaching or preaching. However, this is the last place we go after we have exhausted the gems of God’s word. We go here not to define our understanding of God’s word but to compare ourselves to others. We want to be sure we have not wandered so far from the truth as to miss the message of the passage.

We cannot learn the truths or God through osmosis or the merits of others. If together we are panning for gold and I find a nugget it may look beautiful not only to me but also to you. However, it is my nugget and useful directly to me. As a fellow worker we need to locate another nugget, it may look just like another, and make it our own.

So we must each approach the Word of God to learn. We must search for revelations, nuggets of truth, convictions to guide our walk. They become true to us as we take the time, energy and invest the effort to dig then out with our own hands and minds. Until we have mined God’s word ourselves, we are only onlookers wishing we had what someone else reveals.

So where do we want to be living. Should we live in the dark ages listening to others describe their treasures? Or, should we dig, search and mine our own treasures to live by for a lifetime? We must each make a decision toward studying the Word of God. I pray we will all choose to spend as much time searching God’s word for truth as we do searching cable for a good TV show.


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