The Bible is astounding. It’s a collection of 66 books, written over a period of 1500 years by 40 different authors in three different languages, yet it reveals one consistent God, communicating one central theme throughout: The Creator loves and redeems and wants to be known by the human beings He has made.
So why is the Bible sometimes hard to understand? Why do there seem to be contradictory messages? If God wants us to know Him, why does He shroud himself in mystery?
No one has definitive answers to these questions. We can say it’s impossible to understand an infinite God with our finite minds. This is true, for sure. We can also say that what look like contradictions to us may be compatible truths in the realm of the eternal. And we must also recognize that the devastating separation that happened between us and our Creator in the Garden of Eden did more to keep us from understanding Him than anything He might have done.
He has not shrouded Himself in mystery. He is simply who He is. He is a God whose nature is beyond our understanding. What else would we expect the Creator of the universe to be?
So we need to be content with the limitations of His revelation, assuming that He has given us all we need to know to come into relationship with Him, and trusting Him with the mysteries we can’t understand on this side of heaven.
6 Truths for Understanding the Bible’s “Mysteries”
We need to accept, and be encouraged by, these six truths about the Bible:
1. The Bible is full of mysteries that none of us, neither scholar nor layperson, can explain or understand completely. The Trinity, the Incarnation, the relationship between God’s sovereignty and our free will–mysteries such as these will remain unexplainable to all of us at least until we get to heaven.
2. The Bible does not even try to solve these mysteries for us. God’s Word simply tells us that certain things are true without explaining how they can be. We should carefully analyze the Word for what it says about the great mysteries of the faith and embrace those truths, without trying to make the text say more than it does. We should not give in to the temptation to overanalyze just to make us feel more in control of our understanding of the Truth.
3. In his inscrutable wisdom, God has chosen to involve human beings in the revelation and propagation of His Truth. He inspired human writers to record His Truth in the Bible, supernaturally anointing their thoughts and their pens as they wrote. Though we believe the Holy Spirit also watched over the selection of writings to be canonized, and guarded the meaning of the message as it was passed on in translation, there have been human errors, both in translation and interpretation of the message. But we believe that somehow, miraculously, the Truth about God has been preserved even in that process. None of the errors have altered or distorted the revelation of God’s mind or His character.
4. Because of these limitations to our human understanding, we should be gentle with fellow believers who hold to interpretations we don’t agree with. We can debate interpretations with others, but only within certain parameters: our arguments must be based on careful, prayerful, objective analysis of the biblical text, and we must always debate with humility and love.
5. We need to actively seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we read God’s Word. If we are humble and honest in our search for Him, every thought we have as we meditate on His Word will be covered by His grace and guided by His Spirit.
6. God is sovereign. His Truth will stand forever. No amount of erroneous speculation on our part will destroy it, so we can relax a bit in that direction. Yes, we must be careful. We are called to “rightly divide the Word of Truth,” but even when we are careful we will not be perfect in our understanding. That’s okay. He’s got a perfect handle on the situation!
God is Sovereign Through the Mysteries
One of the great and wonderful mysteries is that somehow, in his sovereignty, God works around and through our mistakes to reveal Himself accurately to us. How awesome to realize that God wants to be known by us, and has made that possible through a Book infused with holy mysteries! God wants us to go to His Word with confidence, looking to discover more of Him there. He wants us to delight in the things we understand and those that are beyond our understanding, knowing we can trust Him completely in either case.