When people have a hard time grasping what the Bible says, and struggle to understand the words, the problem often lies in the fact that they are looking for more than is there. In fact, there was a time in my life when I failed to see much of what the Bible was saying, because I was so intent on finding something absolute or profound that I was always trying to look beyond what the words actually said. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is to focus on the simple truth of God’s Word, the easy to understand message that the world tends to overlook (2Corinthians 1:13).
Just because the Bible is the Word of God does not mean that the words are full of hidden meanings. On the contrary, the only truths that God wants you to get from His Word are the ones that are plainly stated for all to “read” (2Corinthians 1:13). Therefore, instead of exaggerating what is said and looking for principles or hidden meanings behind every statement, you need to pay close attention to the simple truth of what is being said. The Bible was not written to answer every question, but to record those things necessary for our salvation (2Peter 1:21). Therefore, while it does include words spoken directly by God, it also includes history, personal devotions, and other things written to strengthen our faith and guide us in life – including some statements by Satan (Matthew 4:5-6). [2Timothy 3:16, 2Peter 1:21, Exodus 34:1, Luke 4:3, Job 1:9, Matthew 4:5,6, 1Corinthians 7:12, Genesis 38:15-16, 1Corinthians 14:37, 2Peter 1:21.]
In giving us His Word, God did not invent a new language, or even use a highly abstract version of the language, instead He chose to speak to His people in the language of shepherds, carpenters, and fishermen. Moreover, since each of His penmen had a slightly different vocabulary and way of expressing things, He used those differences to provide us with a book that says exactly what He wanted it to say in the way He wanted it said. In short, no part of Scripture came “by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2Peter 1:21).
Since the Bible was written to lead us to faith in Christ, Satan wants nothing more than to get our attention off of what is being said. He wants us to look beyond the words, read between the lines, and interpret what is said to fit our own ideas. To that end, he often gets people to look for something profound, something hidden, something “scholarly” while paying little attention to the simple truths that fill the pages of Holy Writ. For example:
In Hebrews 10:22, the Bible uses the phrase “pure water.” However, I once encountered a man who tried to convince me that there was no such thing as “pure water.” Although he was able to tell me how that scientists had tried time and again to purify water but were never able to remove all of the impurities, he failed to see that he was missing the whole point. At the time the Bible was written, the word “pure” did not mean absolute molecular purity. Instead it simply meant water to which nothing had been added. In other words, it was not water plus salt, water plus ash, or water plus anything else. It was just plain water.
Over the years I have heard the words, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” interpreted in many ways (Romans 12:21). However, not one of the would-be interpreters paid enough attention to the context to notice that the subject being addressed has to do with returning good for evil. If they had paid attention to the context, they would have realized that those who return evil for evil have been overcome by evil, while those who return good for evil overcome evil by good. It is as simple as that!
I have also heard a good deal of discussion as to the definition of “kind,” in the passages that speak of animals reproducing “after their kind.” One key question is; Does the word “kind” correspond to our modern “species,” or is it broader? However, those who engage in such speculation are so intent on finding some profound truth that they miss what is being said. The simple fact is that cows produce cows, horses produce horses, dogs produce dogs, and cats produce cats.
Those who try to read absolute meaning into every statement of Scripture usually wind up concluding that Luke’s account of the Gadarene demoniac contradicts that of Matthew (Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:22- 29). After all, Matthew speaks of two men, while Luke speaks of only one. Matthew says that the encounter took place in “the country of the Gergesenes,” while Luke says that it took place in “the country of the Gadarenes.” However, when we stop looking for something profound, and open our minds to the simple truth of what is being said, it becomes obvious that there is no contradiction. Luke never denied that Christ encountered two men, and never said anything that was not true. He simply recorded a simplified account of what happened. Furthermore, because the towns of Gerasa and Gadara were close together, when it comes to the question of where the encounter took place, both accounts are correct. [Sometimes I tell people that I live in LaVergne Tennessee, at other times I say that I live near Nashville, yet both statements are true.]
People who are so intent on finding something profound in Scripture that they look beyond what the words actually say, are, for all intents and purposes, blind to the simple truths that are being expressed. Satan then uses this blindness to sow confusion and discord while working to undermine faith and destroy souls.