The Bible is a marvelous piece of literature. Written by the inspiration of the Almighty, it is more than a narrative of the history of the world from a Hebraic perspective – but the complete story of man from God’s own divine viewpoint. It contains all of the information man needs concerning his existence: past, present and future. It is the handbook for humanity, explaining the do’s, don’ts and how-to’s of life for all mankind. It transcends time, societal nuances and social standing. It is universally beneficial to every person, of every age, at every time, in every place on earth.
Nevertheless, it is disdained and disregarded by a great majority of the earth’s population, and even by some of those who claim belief in the Bible’s God – as evidenced by the way they choose to carry out their life. The Word of God struggles to find a place of prominence in even a small sliver of the family of man.
Even among those who have accepted the Bible as the inspired Word of God, ignorance of its meaning is commonplace. Of course, the Scriptures are rife with spiritual mysteries. Many of these mysteries are woven seamlessly within the text of the poetry and historical accounts it contains, and are therefore more likely to be overlooked than misunderstood.
Paul said, in 1 Cor. 4:1, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” These mysteries of God, such as “The Mystery of the Kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11), “The Mystery of God’s Will” (Eph. 1:9), “The Mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4), and “The Mystery of the Faith” (1 Tim. 3:9), are all explained throughout the pages of God’s Word, and can be understood with the help of the Holy Spirit – even though they have been hidden since the foundation of the world.
But it is not merely the understanding of the spiritual mysteries contained in the Bible that seems to elude us. It is also quite common for us to misunderstand the “earthly things” described in God’s Holy Writ.
When Jesus was explaining the born-again experience to rabbi Nicodemus, Nicodemus had some trouble making the application of the natural experience to the spiritual expression. “Nicodemus answered and said unto him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?’ ” (John 3:9-12).
Jesus was hereby showing us that if we cannot understand the natural things, we will not be able to comprehend their spiritual intent.
We want to know the depths of God’s wisdom. We want to understand all the mysteries and all of the prophecies. Especially in the Christian world today, there is an abundance of avarice with regards to end-times study. People are consumed with eschatology (the study of end times). It is a source of great debate, great consternation – and even greater financial profit (for those who can get their ideas printed and stocked on the nation’s bookshelves). The problem is that in our quest to unravel the Bible’s mysteries, we failed to notice that our knowledge of even basic Bible facts is at best lacking, and at worst erroneous.
There are various sources of misinformation among God’s people. One is ignorance. The believer can begin to believe an idea that is not altogether true, due to the ignorance of other scriptures on the subject. Likewise, a minister of God can put forth a somewhat incorrect (or even altogether false) premise due to the same kind of ignorance of God’s Word. The solution to this problem (so long as the ignorance is not willful) is quite simple: as Paul told Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). A sincere pursuit of the truth will yield much fruit. Whether a minister or simply a faithful believer, we can avoid many of the pitfalls of doctrinal error by simply applying ourselves to a lifelong study of the Bible: daily reading and meditating on His word, and allowing Him to write it in our hearts.
Another common source of doctrinal error is in Christian verse: both in songs and poetry. Doctrinal statements in poetic form become very emphatic, particularly when put to music. The powerful imagery that the mind creates when reciting a poem or singing a song more firmly establishes the idea being described. This can be either helpful or harmful, depending on the veracity of the premise. American lyricist E.Y. Harburg said, “Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. Song makes you feel a thought.” While there is no Scriptural support for, say, the “three wise men: Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar,” their imagery is firmly engrained in the minds of most Christians because of the Christmas carols they have sung since their youth. The way to prevent being led astray by false doctrine conveyed in verse is simple: know the truth of God’s word, and determine in your heart to sing only songs that are based on truth. Due to the sentimental nature of song however, this may sometimes be easier said than done.
Film has become a third, and possibly even more powerful, source for error. Once you have seen the epic movie, the premise of the film from the filmmaker’s own perspective is firmly established in your mind. Once again, a knowledge of the Word of God is imperative to keep us from being misled. A fairly recent film about the flood had Noah and Lot as contemporaries. Even a casual look through the Bible’s earliest chapters will dispel such a notion as preposterous, but for the person who has no knowledge of Scripture, it may as well be true.
So, the most important thing a believer can do to prevent being ensnared by false doctrines is to inoculate himself with scriptural truth, and thus be firmly established as one whom the Father is seeking: a true worshiper, worshiping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).
Having examined the ways misconceptions of Bible truth occur, it can be said that ignorance is a factor in nearly every doctrinal error. Ignorance falls into two categories: simple or innocent, and willful. Simple ignorance is a condition due to an innocent lack of knowledge. A young child may be ignorant of the danger of crossing the road, simply because he has never been nearly struck by a car. Willful ignorance, on the other hand, is borne out of ignoring the facts one has at his or her disposal. Those who promote the theory of evolution as an explanation of man’s origin are required to ignore many facts – from the lack of solid forensic evidence to the theory’s violation of every scientific law – to validate their belief system.
Evolutionists deny the Bible’s worldwide flood, one of the most logical explanations for various global anomalies and topographical phenomena. It is to this that Peter specifically spoke in 2 Pet. 3:3-7, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.’ For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
Paul said, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:1-4). Who could have had more authority to make such a statement than the Apostle to the Gentiles? Did he not seek out the disciples of the Lord Jesus to imprison, persecute, and even execute them – all because he ignorantly believed them to be heretics in violation of the laws of God? Thank God that Jesus has “compassion on the ignorant” (Heb. 5:2), as the high priest of God!
After having his own experience with ignorance, Paul wrote the words “I would not have you to be ignorant” no less than six times! Paul knew that God does not delight in our ignorance. In fact, God called Paul to thwart ignorance. Paul said so in Eph. 3:8-12, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.”
Contrary to the cliché, ignorance is not bliss. God, by the prophet Hosea, said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6). How much greater that destruction, when the ignorance is borne out of rejection? As Jesus said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
Even as is recorded in the writing of John, the beloved disciple, “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:17). God answered this question by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah in Isa. 33, “O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble. The Lord is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness. And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure.”
If we will reject ignorance and seek knowledge, God promises to give us knowledge and understanding. As it says in Proverbs 1:22-23, “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.”
We Christians, much like Israel was in the days of Paul, find ourselves ignorant of much of the truth of the Bible. In the next few issues of The Bible Guys, I challenge you to dust off your Bibles and join me as we look into some of the things that are being taught in the churches. Let us not continue on ignorantly accepting someone’s notion, but let us follow the example of those more noble saints in Berea, and search the Scriptures, whether those things are so.