Before you claim that the Bible teaches something, you have a responsibility to make certain that it actually does teach it, and that you are not reading your own ideas into the text (Galatians 6:4). To that end, God wants you to judge your own ideas critically and honestly, submitting every cherished belief and strongly held opinion to the light of His Word (2Corinthians 10:5, 1Corinthians 11:31). However, Satan wants you to do the opposite. Satan wants you to believe that what the Bible says is just a matter of opinion, read your own ideas into the text, and explain away anything that does not agree with your own ideas (Isaiah 8:20, 2Peter 1:20, 1John 4:6).
Therefore, in order to have an exact knowledge of what the Bible does or does not say on any topic, you must first learn to distinguish between what the words actually say, and thoughts that jump into your mind as you read those words. That distinction is important, because the message that God wants you to get from His Word is nothing other “than what ye read” (Jeremiah 23:28). For example: If I claim that the Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill,” I can prove that claim simply looking up Exodus 20:13. However, if I let my imagination run wild and start claiming that Exodus 20:13 forbids us to go to war, the text of that passage would not prove my claim because I would be saying something different from what the words actually say.
My point is, that we can be absolutely certain of what the Bible says, if we will simply stick to what is written without reading our own ideas into the text (2Peter 1:20). We can be absolutely certain that the Bible says, “The just shall live by faith” and can prove it simply by looking up Romans 1:17. We can be absolutely certain that the Bible says, “Being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” and can prove it simply by looking up Romans 5:9. And, we can be absolutely certain that we have the doctrine that God wants us to have, if our doctrine consists of such facts, gathered from Scripture “line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little” (Isaiah 28:9-10).
Since God's doctrine is clearly and explicitly set forth on the words of Scripture, you will only be able to learn it if you are willing to accept everything that the Bible says. At the same time, you also need to know Bible history, because all of the doctrinal statements in Scripture relate to that history. Furthermore, since your aim is to learn what the Bible actually says, don’t let yourself be sidetracked by speculation and opinion, stick to the facts. For example, we know as a fact that the Bible says, “in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is” (Exodus 20:11). We know as a fact that the Bible says, “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Romans 5:12). And, we know as a fact that is says that Christ “died for our sins” (1Corinthians 15:3) and “rose again the third day” (1Corinthians 15:4).
In order to understand what I am saying, you need to notice that none of the doctrines quoted in the preceding paragraph are a matter of interpretation. Instead, they are truths that are explicitly stated in Scripture. Furthermore, if you have questions about any of those statements, you need to let the Bible answer those questions, instead of making up answers. For example, if you have questions as to what the Bible means when it says that Christ “died for our sins,” the Bible answers those questions by telling us that Christ is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” that His blood was “shed for you // for the remission of sins,” that you “have redemption through His blood,” and that “He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (John 1:29, Matthew 26:28, Luke 22:20, Ephesians 1:7, Hebrews 9:26).
The sum total of all such doctrinal statements, is the standard by which every opinion is to be judged, and to which all teaching must conform (Isaiah 8:20, Romans 12:6, 2 Corinthians 10:5).
Since I have explained how you can be certain of what the Bible says, it should be obvious that disagreement does not exist because the Bible is not clear, but because the heart of man is dark (Jeremiah 17:9). Of course, I realize that many of the disagreements between churches are over matters that the Bible says nothing about. However, far too many exist because one group or another refuses to accept what the Bible says. For example, one group explains away the words, “The Lord is… not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9). Another group refuses to believe that the new birth does not come “of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). And, a third refuses to believe that Christ’s kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36).
Even though the refusal of these people to accept what the Bible says is rebellion against God, they are not trying to be wicked, but have been blinded by a false definition of doctrine. As a result, they are so intent on finding some general truth or “principle” behind the words of Scripture that they fail to see what is right before their eyes.
At the same time, we have far too many people who insist that a particular passage proves something that it does not. In fact, many times the meaning that they are reading into the passage files in the face of the context, yet they are blind to what is actually being said. That is why I pointed out the importance of distinguishing between what the words actually say and ideas that run through your mind, and that is why that you need to become your own worst critic. In other words, you must be determined to find and eliminate your own errors, or you are going to wind up defending them and thus fighting against the truth (1Corinthians 11:31). The Scriptural way to end controversy is not to allow different opinions to be taught, but to eliminate all opinion, teaching only that doctrine that is clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture (1Corinthians 1:10, Isaiah 8:20, John 8:31).
Another problem has to do with the fact that Satan will sometimes cause those who hold a particular false doctrine to become so adamant about that doctrine that it warps their entire worldview. For example, at one time in my life I was totally convinced that that the words, “Render unto Caesar” etc. were actually commanding us to keep religion and government absolutely separate (Matthew 22:21). At the time, I could not see how those words could mean anything else. Now, I wonder how I could have been so blind. The change in my thinking came when I decided to identify the logical steps needed to get from the actual words of the passage to the conclusion that religion and government should be absolutely separate. Once I identified those steps, I could see clearly that my conclusion was based upon assumptions and ideas that were being read into the text, rather than what the words actually said. Jesus was talking about taxes not church and state, and that He was not commanding us to keep anything separate. I then learned that a more Biblical position on the separation of church and state, can be illustrated by the fact that Moses was the head of the civil government while Aaron was the head of the religious establishment, the two were separate.
Once you understand how people are deceived, an alarm should go off in your mind whenever anyone claims that a passage teaches something other than what it actually says. No matter how plausible their words may sound, the fact that they are trying to lead you away from what the words actually say should tell you that they are deceived, and thus doing the work of Satan (2Corinthians 1:13).
Many of the problems that exist in our society stem from the fact that secular thinkers are just as prone to twist scientific evidence as cults are to twist Biblical evidence. As a result, a number of myths are now being passed off as science, even though they have no foundation in fact. For example, can an evolutionist show you any evidence that life originally came from nonliving chemicals? NO! In fact experiment after experiment has demonstrated the fact that life comes only from previously existing life. Yet, the myth continues because those who are devoted to a secular religion cannot distinguish between the facts, and ideas that run through their mind as they read the facts.
In a sermon entitled “All Life From God” (1937) Dr. Walter A. Maier presented the following testimonies regarding the lack of evidence for Darwinian evolution.
While Satan wants nothing more than to get your attention off of the words of scripture, the doctrine that God wants you to get from His Word is nothing other “than what ye read” (2Corinthians 1:13). In other words, the intended meaning is the plain grammatical meaning of the words, not the wild ideas that sometimes run through people’s minds as they read those words.