james ray johnson
Why is it that some people read the Bible and can understand it, while others are confused? How can two people read the same passage and end up with 2 conflicting interpretations?
It has a lot to do with the missing ingredient. Sorta like my car key!
The keys in my pocket were heavy and pokey and would sometimes stab me just for fun. So, I tried to reduce the glob. A couple of the car keys had thick plastic decorative jackets on them. I took a knife and removed said jackets.
What a difference it made! The jingly tumor on my leg disappeared, plus, I no longer leaned to the right when I walked.
The next day I went to use my new streamlined key, but the engine whimpered. It wouldn’t start – which caused me to anxiously wonder, “Could there be an electronic chip buried in the jacket of that key.”
Google confirmed my suspicion. It was implanted to – thwart theft! (try saying that five times fast). Without the embedded chip, the car was a 6-cylinder paperweight.
Oh great! I sifted through my garbage looking for that mutilated rubbery thing. I found it and only hoped that the chip was still chipper. I held it next to the ignition switch while I turned the key and – the car roared to life.
Now, think of your Bible as a key and the Holy Spirit as the mysterious chip. When we come to faith in Christ, the Spirit comes to indwell the Christian much like that chip was embedded. When we want to correctly understand the words of God, we need both. He opens our minds to understand what God has already spoken.
The apostle Paul explained the dynamic in 1 Corinthians 2:12*, “Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God.” The work of the Holy Spirit is to help us correctly interpret what God has communicated in words.
And that’s important because words are not always enough. When I was a kid, my friends and I saw a restored ’56 Chevy and we called it a “bad” car. What we meant was, “It was an impressive car.” My mom, however, wanted to wash my mouth out with a bar of soap. (Do mom’s use squirt bottles today or is this kind of thing finally illegal?) Mom needed a teenager to help her understand what we were really saying.
Which brings me back to the Holy Spirit. He knows the heart and mind and intention of God because He is God. As we read the Word, we have the author within us to give us spiritual insight and discernment.
For example, some read Ephesians 5:22 and are offended by it because they understand the words, but only the words, “wives be subject to your own husbands.” It appears to regard a wife as a subservient person – less valued than her husband. That really is offensive.
However, in verse 25, husbands are commanded to “love their wives as Christ loved the church.” This is seldom considered by the critics of Scripture. However, both passages, coupled with insight from the Spirit, help us to understand the intention of God. His plan for marriage is a relationship that is equally and mutually a blessing to each partner.
It involves a husband who sacrifices himself for his wife – in all things, and a wife who responds to his tender leadership with respect.
What wife would resist the considerate care of such a husband, and what husband would trivialize or marginalize a wife who honors and respects him in such a wonderful way.
When husband and wife are fulfilling their responsibilities to each other, they create a rich warm partnership where they forge their direction together, in mutual respect.
That’s the understanding we get when the Spirit of God takes the black and white words of Scripture and broadcasts them in color.
If we all had the Spirit to tutor us, then there would be far less quibbling about Scripture.
Is your mental engine failing to start when you sit down to read the Bible? Take a moment to pray before you read. Invite the Spirit of God to open your mind and give you insight as to how to put it to work in your life.
A great hymn on the illumination work of the Holy Spirit, expertly sung to one of my favorite melodies – by the Heralds. Click and listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfUlCof-aM8
*Scripture references are from the NET Bible ®