The Bible is God’s Word. He has spoken to us and revealed Himself, His ways, and His will. This is an incredible blessing. The infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator and Ruler of all things has seen fit to make Himself known to finite, weak, and sinful creatures. What a good gift!
That said, it is easy to recognize that parts of the Bible are difficult to understand. There are many things it says that have left people confused over the course of history, and there are many people who disagree about its teachings. Even Peter acknowledged that parts of Paul’s letters were “hard to understand” (2 Pet. 3:15). Does this mean we can never truly understand the Bible or that the “average” person needs an “expert” to interpret the Bible for them?
The clear answer to these questions is “no”.
One of the key features of the Bible that has been proclaimed throughout the history of the Church is its clarity. Put simply, this means the Bible is written so that it can be understood by all who read it while seeking God’s help and desiring to believe it and obey it. God did not give us the Bible to confuse us. He told the Israelites to teach the Word to their children – which assumes they could all understand it and do so (Deut. 6:6-7). The psalmist encourages us to meditate on God’s Word day and night – which assumes we can understand that Word and meditate on it (Ps. 1:1-2). God’s Word is able to give wisdom to the simple (Ps. 19:7; 119:130). Jesus quoted the Old Testament numerous times, and He always assumed that his readers should have understood it. When they did not, He pointed out that the problem with with them and not with the Bible (Matt. 9:13; 12:3,5,7; 15:3; 19:14; 21:13,42; 22:31; John 3:10). The Bible as a whole is given to shine light and not to increase darkness (Deut. 17:8; Pss. 19:8; 119:105,130; Isa. 8:20; Mal. 2:7; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; 2 Pet. 1:19).
If the Bible is so clear, then, why is there so much misunderstanding and disagreement? The fundamental reason is because of sin. Those who do not have the Spirit of God in them consider God’s word foolish (1 Cor. 1:18). They cannot understand God’s Word because they do not have His Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14). Even Christians who have the Spirit still “see in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor. 13:12). Sometimes our own selfish desires affect the way we read the Bible, and we will misunderstand the Bible because we want it to say a certain thing or not say a certain thing. The point is that whenever the Bible is misunderstood, the problem lies not with the Bible but with sinful human beings. God has spoken, and His Word can be understood. He gives the Spirit to His people so that they can understand the things He freely gives them (1 Cor. 2:11-12).
This does not mean that teachers are unnecessary. Because we are still imperfect, God gives pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the ministry of building up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13). God puts us in His body so that others can help us grow, and we need their input and service to be all that God desires (1 Cor. 12). But that fact should never overshadow the fact that every Christian can pick up God’s Word and understand it. Every Christian is a priest who can come into the presence of God and hear His Word and know Him (Jer. 31:34; 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 1:6).
So why is this important? It serves as a profound encouragement to read God’s Word. God desires to be known, and therefore, He has revealed Himself and spoken through His Word. Moreover, He has saved sinners and put His Spirit within them so they could understand His Word. If you are a Christian, pick up the Bible and read it. Pray that God would open your eyes to behold wondrous things in His Word (Ps. 119:18). Read with a genuine willingness to believe whatever is said and obey whatever is commanded. You will find the Spirit opening your mind to understand and moving your heart to obey. So take up and read!