A Study By
Gary Ray Branscome

    The words “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” assure us that no part of Scripture originated “by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2Timothy 3:16, 2Peter 1:21). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit bears witness to the reliability of Scripture as He works through it to bring us to faith (Romans 1:16, 8:16 and 10:17). For that reason, faith in the Bible goes hand in hand with the work of the Spirit, and the doctrine that the Holy Spirit wants us to believe and teach, is nothing other than what the Bible explicitly says (2Corinthians 1:13, 2Peter 1:20).


    Because the Bible is God's own Word, its words have the authority of God behind them, and that authority is the standard to which all opinion must conform. If men disagree with what is written they need to change their minds, and if their interpretations contradict what the Bible explicitly says those interpretations must be surrendered. At the same time, no statement of Scripture should ever be explained away (1John 4:6). Instead, every thought is to be brought into subjection to the Word of God (2Corinthians 10:5). As it is written, “if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). In short, instead of trying to make the Bible agree with our theology, we need to correct our theology in order to bring it into agreement with God's Word (Romans 3:4, 1Corinthians 14:37).


    Since the Bible was written to testify of Christ, it was written in plain language and its words mean just what they say (2Corinthians 1:13 and 3:12). That being the case, we can be certain that it contains no hidden meanings or deceitful play on words (2Corinthians 4:2-3). If some passages seem dark to us that is because of our own ignorance, not because God wanted to conceal the truth (2Corinthians 3:12). Therefore, if we are to understand the Bible aright we must accept what it says at face value, while interpreting any statements that we do not understand in the light of what is stated so clearly that it needs no interpretation.

    Because false prophets are in darkness, they always assume that the Bible is a book of dark sayings. Working from that assumption, they then attempt to “cast light” on Scripture by making up their own private interpretations, while explaining away any statements of Scripture that contradict those interpretations (2Peter 1:20, 1John 4:6). Nevertheless, if the Bible was really a dark book it could never make wise the simple, nor be a light unto our path (Psalm 19:7 and 119:105).

    Since God brought the Bible into existence for a specific purpose, its words will accomplish what He intended (Romans 1:16, Isaiah 55:11, Matthew 4:4). For that reason, we need to understand that the law is His message to the unrepentant, and was given to rebuke, expose, and condemn all unrighteousness (1Timothy 1:9). At the same time, because the law cannot save, its purpose was never to make us righteous, but to show us our sin and need of forgiveness in Christ. The gospel, on the other hand, is God’s message of comfort and forgiveness to those who are sorry for their sin (Luke 4:18, John 20:31). Through the law hearts are convicted of sin, through the gospel those who confess their sins are brought to faith in Christ (Acts 2:37, Romans 10:17, 1John 5:11-13).

    Far from being passive and powerless, the Word of God is dynamic and life giving, for the Holy Spirit is active in working through that Word (in both its written and oral form) to bring men to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17 and 10:17). Therefore, even though preaching seems foolish to those who are in darkness, God is wiser than men, and the things that He has chosen to use will accomplish what He intended, in spite of what the world thinks. For, “God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise” and the weak things of this world to confound the mighty (1Corinthians 1:18, 21, 25, 27).

[Note: Because the law cannot make us righteous, and was never intended to make us righteous, preachers who are constantly urging people to seek God’s favor through obedience, are not approved of God (Romans 3:20, 2Timothy 2:15, Galatians 1:6-9). On the contrary, God wants the “righteous” as well as the “wicked” convicted of sin and pointed to Christ for forgiveness, for without faith in Christ “it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6).]


    In addition to the oral proclamation of His Word, God has also given us Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as a visible way of assuring all who repent that they have forgiveness in Christ. Nevertheless, even though God works through those ceremonies to give us His promise of forgiveness in Christ, because that promise is only meant for those who repent, only those who look to Christ for forgiveness receive what is promised (Galatians 3:22). In other words, even though God uses Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (just as He uses preaching) to give us His promise, it is only through personal faith in Christ that we receive what is promised (Romans 5:2, Galatians 3:22). Or, as Dr. Walter A. Maier put it:

“Do not be misled by those who say that Baptism is not important. They contradict Christ. They put their own opinion above Scripture. Take Jesus at His word, and you will find that through Baptism — and I mean of course, not merely the performance of the ritual itself, but by your personal faith in Jesus and in His promise — the Holy Ghost unmistakably comes to you.” (The Power of Pentecost, 1943)


    Since the Word of God was given to testify of Christ, the law of God is only being used as God intended when it is being used to condemn sin (as well as man’s righteousness) and point sinners to Christ. Likewise, it is only being obeyed when those who hear it confess their sin and turn to Christ for forgiveness. In fact, those who seek to make themselves righteous by the law are rebelling against God, for they are denying their sin and refusing accept the verdict His law pronounces against them.

    Because the law was given to convict us of our sin, whenever the Pharisees tried to explain it away, get around its precepts, or get themselves off the hook they were making it of “none effect” (Mark 7:9-13). Yet, in spite of Christ’s condemnation, there are many “pastors” who do the same thing! They explain away the very precepts of the law that they ought to be using to call men to repentance. For example: When God’s law warns the unrepentant that if they “sin willfully” after they “have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” those words are made “of none effect” whenever they are explained away (Hebrews 10:26). In fact, instead of bringing sinners to repentance, those who explain away Hebrews 10:26, help harden the guilty in unrepentance.

    Likewise, when it comes to the promises of the gospel, we undermine the salvation message if we ignore or explain away what was intended to assure us of forgiveness in Christ. For example: If the Bible says, “baptism doth also now save us” or, “Take, eat: this is My body” we do not build faith by telling people that they cannot believe those statements of Scripture (1Peter 3:21, Mark 14:22). In the same way, because Christ said, “THIS DO in remembrance of me,” we should do what He did, and repeat what He said, when we celebrate the lord’s Supper, instead of simply passing around bread and grape juice, as if that is all there is to it.


    The message that God intends for you to get from His Word, is nothing other than what you read (2Corinthians 1:13). Moreover, that message is not hard to understand, it only seems hard to those who create their own darkness by pulling words out of context, ignoring the plain grammatical meaning of the words, and reading their own assumptions into the text (2Corinthians 3:12 and 4:4).