How to Cope with Doctrines That Are Difficult to Understand
- Joe McKeever joemckeever.com
- 2021 2 Jun
“This is a hard saying. Who can hear it?” (John 6:60)
“In (Paul’s letters) are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16).
A fellow arguing for a cult religion scoffed at my statement that some doctrines are difficult and sincere Christian people differ on their interpretation.
“If it’s difficult,” he said, almost yelling with delight, “it’s because you are getting it wrong!”
I knew enough about his religion to be wary of anything he said. The leaders of that religion grew tired of having to explain away the obvious teachings of Scripture that contradict them, so they brought out their own translation. Bible scholars scoff at what they did and Greek/Hebrew linguists assure us that no one involved in that translation–if we want to call it that–was trained and capable of such a mammoth task.
What these people did with Scripture in order to get it simple and make it say what they wanted was akin to a fellow trying to close an overstuffed suitcase by taking the scissors to anything that didn’t fit and snipping it off. In the end, it closed easily. The only problem is that everything inside was injured (He was a Jehovah's Witness, and their monstrosity is called New World Translation.).
Beware of anyone telling you there is nothing in the Bible difficult to understand (In the same way you want to be wary of those who say nothing in it is understandable. Each is erroneous.).
How True Disciples React to Perplexing Doctrines
Something inside us wants doctrines to be simple.
Those people will reject doctrines that are difficult to get their minds around: subjects like predestination, the Atonement, the Trinity, and Prophecy. And, depending on who you’re talking to, the Incarnation, Pentecost, and Sanctification. And for that matter, the inspiration of Scripture, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.
I have heard that the Salvation Army stopped baptizing because good and sincere people could not agree on its method and significance.
In John 6, as the Lord Jesus spoke of “eating His body and drinking His blood,” the disciples had taken about all they could. Finally, one said, “Lord, this is a hard saying. Who can hear it?” Jesus had intentionally made His teachings heavy for this very reason. People were clamoring to follow Him because He fed them and worked miracles. So, He intentionally made the teaching hard to follow, as something of a test. True to form, they went away.
What do you do – how do you react – when Jesus says something you don’t agree with or find hard to understand?
His true disciples are those who stick, disciples who can leave room for God to be God with His own purposes and plans.
God’s Work Is Not Simple… and Why That’s a Good Thing
You have to wonder what it is in the human which insists that some things are rocket science (rocketry, for instance!) but when it comes to such basic matters as God’s work in the human heart, it should be simple and easy to follow.
In the late 1940s, a college professor asked his students how many believed that God understood radar? Only a few raised their hands. We smile at that today.
If those students could not get their minds around a concept as deep as radar, they figured that God in Heaven was likewise at a loss.
“In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). It all starts there. If we have trouble with that, with believing that the Heavenly Father is the One in the back of it all, nothing that follows in Scripture will make sense.
As Paul asked his jury when on trial for the resurrection of Jesus, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). If He’s God – if we can accept that! – then everything else falls into place.
I’ve sometimes had fun in Bible studies by tossing out this question: “If God in Heaven were to write a book, what would it look like?” The answers, once you stop to think about it, include: It would be true, wise, and accurate; it would be deep and beyond the mind of mortals in many areas; it would be helpful and meet our needs, and it would also be accessible even to a child.
We have just such a book in the Holy Bible.
Oh, one more. It would be a stumbling block – hard to swallow! – for the carnal mind. As it is.
3 Things Believers Must Leave Room for in Their Doctrinal Understanding
1. Mystery. Things that are hidden from us which the Lord has not revealed.
2. Majesty. Things beyond mortals, reserved for the Lord. We recall the Psalmist saying, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (Psalm 139:6). And Paul’s words: “O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).
3. Maturity. Growing in our understanding. “But grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever.” (2 Peter 3:18). If I am faithful in the Lord, I am still growing. The moment I quit growing, I become a liability to the work of the gospel.
Finally, my brethren…
I know a great many things about our Lord and about the Bible. And I give thanks for that. But there is a world of Bible knowledge that is beyond me. I’m such a child. And frankly, I am not unhappy that much of the revelation of Heaven is beyond my poor mind’s limited ability to grasp. I admire those whose insights are beyond mine – and there are so many! – but I know also that no one has it all figured out. I will be wary of anyone who claims otherwise.
This article originally appeared on joemckeever.com. Used with permission.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Ben White
Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.