Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 14, 1961
NUMBER 32, PAGE 3,14

How Does The Bible Teach?

Wm. E. Shamblin, Port Hueneme, California

No one can understand what the Bible teaches until he understands how the Bible teaches. The Bible is an unusual book written in its own peculiar style. Unlike most text books it is not an exegetical exposition, nor is it a mysterious novel of subliminal facts. The Bible is both milk for the infant and strong meat for the mature Christian. It is a perfectly balanced diet and furnishes a well rounded meal for the spiritual man of any age: It is the only source of wholesome food for the soul — anything else is poison and will destroy the soul. The Bible is the inspired word of God (2 Tim. 2:15) and is complete and all-sufficient as our only rule of faith and practice. (2 Pet. 1:3) In it God reveals himself and His will to man. Man could not have known God except God had revealed Himself to man. Through this and only this medium is the nature and will of the Almighty God, the infinite creating Spirit, made known to the finite, physical creature. The Bible, then, is the only source of spiritual light to guide our footsteps and shine on our path directing us on the way to heaven. The spiritual man must walk by this light alone, or he will stumble about in darkness, missing the way entirely, wandering his way to perdition.

The Bible is truly an outstanding book. It is exceptional for its message and phenomenal in its nature. While its message is pure, simple and sweet and can be understood by elementary minds, its stratified depths challenge the profoundest minds. Its simple truths are so infinite, in fact, that the exploration of human wisdom frequently ends in foolish confusion (I Cor. 1:18-29), while the humble willingness of the less scholarly, more often leads to unquestioning obedience. This advantage (humility over the arrogance of human wisdom) is another phenomenon of the Bible and another proof of its unprejudiced, divine origin. This also accounts for the alarming amount of error and misunderstanding among the intellectuals.

Analytical minds are accustomed to proving things by mathematical formulas and scientific experiments, but God's word cannot be analyzed in the scientist's laboratory. Doctrinal truths cannot be congealed in his test tubes nor weighed on his scales. The Bible itself (the Word of God) is the laboratory for testing all matter of faith and doctrine. Every doctrine should be weighed on the balances of God's Word and measured in His beakers. God's Word cannot be measured by human standards, but all human standards must be measured by God's Word.

When man comes to recognize the Bible as the only inspired source of divine truth and as the only supreme and final authority, then and only then will he be subordinately humble himself in unconditional surrender to God and to unreserved obedience and fidelity. When, on the other hand, he denies the divinity and supremacy of the Bible and trusts in himself and human philosophies, he is proud, arrogant, and self-willed. This IS why modernism, atheism, and Communism pose such a threat to our society.

But occasionally someone says to me, "I can't understand the Bible. I read it but I can't understand what it teaches." Perhaps this is because he doesn't understand how it teaches.

The Bible is not just a book with a human interest angle. It is a divine pattern, an eternal principle, precedenting human behavior for all time to come. It must not be ignored; nor can it be evaded with such phlegmatic statements as: "I don't study the Bible because I can't understand it." Obviously such a person would never understand it. I am aware and readily admit that no man does or ever will fully understand every spark of divine truth; i.e. we can never comprehend it to its fullest depths. But this is all the more reason for study, not an exemption from it.

There are few things one must know about how to study the Bible, and even this can be learned from the Bible. It makes its own internal, irrefutable evidence. The Bible, then, must be studied with trust and confidence without doubtful disputation.

All the Bible does not have the same application; hence, cannot all be studied in the same way or accepted in the same vein. It must be handled aright or rightly divided. (2 Tim. 2:15)

The two major divisions of the Bible are the Old and New Testaments. This division must be recognized and respected if we are ever to learn God's will toward us. For while the Old Testament is true in every word, it is not applicable to us for doctrine — ;i.e., in does not apply to this dispensation. It was taken out of the way to make room for a new and better covenant. (see Heb. ch. 8; 9: 15-17; Gal. 3:21-25; 4:21-32; 2 Cor. 3:6-17; Col. 2:14-17) It is fatal to seek justification under the Old Law. (Gal. 5:1-4) In some places the Old Law and New Law contain opposing stipulations making simultaneous observance impossible. For instance, the Old Law commands Sabbath keeping (Ex. 20:8) while the New Law forbids it (Col. 2:16; Gal. 4:10); hence, it would be impossible to keep both laws at the same time. Anyone attempting to do so is like an adulterous and bigamous woman married to two husbands at the same time. (Rom. 7:1-4)

It is also necessary to divide or distinguish between literal and figurative passages. The New Testament contains a great deal of obscure language expressed in metaphors and figures. It is a mistake to make a literal application of, or formulate doctrine on the sole strength of figurative passages. These passages can only be understood in the light of plain, literal passages. We must never hold a position that pits one verse against another or one inspired writer against another.

Individual passages of scripture do not always teach what they seem to say. For instance, Jesus called Herod a "fox,"

This idea comes from taking passages out of context and trying to understand or explain them without regard for what is taught elsewhere, for when all passages are brought into proper collation, and all spurious meanings eliminated, the truth stands out in perfect harmony. So then, the Bible is its own best commentary. Each verse must be studied commensurably with all other verses.

When an understanding of one verse does violence to another and puts them in inharmonious conflict, the understanding is inevitably false. This is the best test of any doctrinal position. No doctrine can be true unless it is in perfect harmony with every word of the New Testament. The Bible is a book of perfect harmony, and its harmony must be sought in the genuine quest for truth, for this harmony is the basic proof of every Bible doctrine.

Everyone must study the Bible for himself. (2 Tim. 2:15) We may consider what others say about it, but our convictions must be our own conclusions, from our own studies. We must not accept any doctrinal teaching on the authority and say-so of men. Even if their doctrine be true, we must accept it as a teaching of the Bible and not of man, and we can be sure of this, only if we have investigated and found that the Bible positively teaches it.

The Bible is not an analytical resume or set of rules such as a boyscout handbook, but is a heavenly reflection of divine principles. God has revealed all that He wants us to know on any divine subject, but the whole truth on a subject is never expressed in one categorical statement. It is sprinkled throughout the Bible and must be gleaned from every page. One cannot possibly know what the Bible teaches on a subject until he knows all that it says about the subject. When every Bible expression and injunction pertinent to a subject is collated together, every inclusion and condition accepted, and every exclusion and prohibition eliminated; then and only then do we have a finished, valid, and divinely approved doctrine.