By Bro Richard Lim
In the midst of the challenges that we are currently facing in the world, it is always comforting that God has not left us alone but has given us the Bible
whereby we can know Him and be comforted.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” 2 Cor. 1:3-4.
Paul encouraged the Christians in Rome to look towards the scriptures for comfort; Rom. 15:4 “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” In fact, the Bible claims that it is the inspired word of God and is complete for our every need and demands. 2 Tim. 3:16-17
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Greek word that’s being used for “complete or perfect” is “artios” which is only used in 2 Tim. 3:17 means that we, as the servants of God, are made complete by the word of God and so do not need any other “extra books” for our guide. The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (1:159) said this term has the “sense of capable of meeting all demands.”
Often times we hear people say that we would need some kind of supernatural intervention like some kind of voice of God to explain to us in order to understand mysteries in the Bible. This is not true as Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:3-4 “how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).”
Nevertheless, there are some parts of the Bible that are hard to understand but not impossible and it is these passages in the Bible that people who are unstable will twist them to their destruction. “As also in all his epistles,
speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” 2 Pet. 3:16. Therefore, we need to be careful not to fall into this trap.
There were in fact people who understood the scriptures in the wrong way during the time of Jesus’s ministry. One of these groups of people were the Sadducees. When it comes to understanding the scriptures, Satan will capitalize on our failure to see the big picture. This was where the Sadducees stumbled (Matt. 22:23-32).
Since they did not believe in the resurrection, so what Moses said caused them a problem because it seemed incongruent to them with their belief.
In actual fact, there was nothing wrong with what Moses said. The problem was their belief system. Jesus had to rebuke them with this “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Therefore, the scriptures can be understood in the wrong manner.
There are some basic principles in understanding the Bible. Firstly, con-
text is very important. Meaning must always be determined by context,
and the immediate context must take precedence in determining the
meaning over other contexts. “A text out of context becomes a pre-
text.” With this mishandling of the scriptures, we can make the Bible say just about anything we want. In the process of tempting Jesus to sin, Satan cited God’s word from Psa. 91:11-12. He tried to get Jesus to claim the promise of God in a way it was never intended.
Jesus had just asserted His faith and dependence upon God by refusing to turn the stones to bread. So Satan tried a reverse tactic and said in effect “OK, so you are dependent upon the Father and upon His word. Jump and let Him protect you. The word says you can.” The devil gave meaning to the passage that was never intended by God. He has cited the scripture out of context.
Though Psa. 91 talks about the trust that we can have in the Lord and that He is on our side, is our shield and our protector for one to attempt to prove it by setting up an artificial situation denies the very trust we are to have in Him. That is tempting God. Jesus very well put it when He said, “Thou shall not tempt thy God”.
Similar language does not refer to identical themes in different texts.
An example is the term “laying on of hands” which occur many times in
the Bible but it means different things depending on the context.
• Bless (Mt. 19:13-15)
• Comfort (Rev. 1:17)
• Seize (Mt. 18:28)
• Appoint or ordain (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Tim. 5:22)
• Heal (Mt. 9:18; Mk. 5:23; 6:5; 16:18; Lk. 4:40; 13:13; Acts 28:8)
• Arrest (Mt. 21:46; 26:50; Mk. 14:46; Lk. 20:19; 21:12; Jn. 7:30, 44; 8:20; Acts 4:3; 5:18; 21:27)
• Impart spiritual gifts (Acts 8:17-19; 19:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; Heb. 6:2)
Another principle is to understand that there some parts of scriptures that are to be understood in a figurative sense. Not all are to be taken literally. Nevertheless, the first instance is to understand them in a literal sense. When the plain sense makes good sense, any other sense is nonsense. But when it doesn’t make logical sense, then it should be read in figurative meaning. During Jesus’s ministry, there were people especially the Jews and the Pharisees who were mistakenly wrong when they took the words of Jesus in the literal sense.
In John 6:51-53, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” 52 The Jews, therefore, quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” When Jesus was talking about eating His flesh, He was referring to it in a figurative or spiritual sense. Jesus was definitely not advocating cannibalism!!
In the discourse between Jesus and Nicodemus, a person was required to be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God. He was mistaken when he thought that Jesus was talking about physical or literal birth. John 3:3-4, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can
he enters the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”
Finally, our conclusion must HARMONIZE with ALL that has been revealed and known to be true. Psa 119:160 “The sum of thy word is truth…” Our conclusion should not contradict clear teachings in the Bible. As an example, the term “sons of God” has been used in many instances in the Bible. In Job 1:6 “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. In this context, the ‘sons of God’ has reference to angels, cf. Job 38:7.
But in Gen 6:4 “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” The term “sons of God” in this context cannot mean angels because there is a clear teaching that angels do not have any sexual inclination but they are spirits. Consider these verses:
• Matt 22:30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”
• Heb 1:7 “And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels’ spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.”
• Heb 1:14 “Are they, not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”
We need to understand that God doesn’t contradict Himself and does not cause confusion.
• 1 Cor 14:33 “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
• Tit 1:2 “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;”
• Heb 6:18 “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:”
Many people have asked the question “Is the pandemic that’s happen-
ing today a sign that Jesus’ second coming is near?” Consider these passages:
• 2 Pet 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the
• 1 Thess 5:2 “For you, yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
• Luke 12:39-40 “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 40 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
• Matt. 24:43-44, Rev 3:3, Rev 16:15
The scriptures have been very clear about the second coming of Jesus.
There will not be any sign and He will come at a time when we don’t expect.
Let us not misunderstand the scriptures in a wrong manner but understand it accurately.