Today our society sees not knowing in areas of religion as a virtue. The more unsure you are the better more tolerant person you are. If you start to express confidence in religious or moral beliefs, however, be careful! People will begin to suspect you are ignorant, rude, or even cruel. If this was just an issue outside of the church it would be something to deal with on an evangelistic basis. However, the Emergent Church movement and countless mixed up messages from leaders in the church give evidence that the virtue of unsureness of much of the truth has made its way into the church as well.
An Accusation Against God
Usually, the way we see this charge coming off is people saying that God’s words and actions are very mysterious. Or it can also happen when a teacher claims that common people should read devotionals rather than being in scripture itself. The unstated assumption is everyday people can’t understand God via His Word, it’s too complicated! However, if God has said He has been clear about the truth then it is a big deal with we as Christians claim He has not been. For one we call into question His judgment. If God is not clear then how can He rightly judge people for disobeying His command especially for something like not having worshiped Him (Romans 1:21)?
What God Says About Knowing Truth
Now somewhat surprisingly (since this is a common misperception) the truth that God has made Himself clear is not a side note in scripture, its one of the most common topics we see in scripture. Here are some examples:
The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of menTo see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.— Psalm 14:2-3Repeated in Psalm 53:2
They have said, “The Lord does not see, Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.”Pay heed, you senseless among the people; And when will you understand, stupid ones?— Psalm 94:7-8
Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.— Isaiah 40:21-22
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.— Isaiah 40:28-29
Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech or difficult language, but to the house of Israel, nor to many peoples of unintelligible speech or difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. But I have sent you to them who should listen to you; yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate.— Ezekiel 3:4-7
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.— John 16:12-15
Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears ,And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’— Matthew 13:13-15
“Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.”— Luke 8:16-18
Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? Matt 15:15-17
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. – Romans 1:18-19
Now writing out all the relevant verses would take a research paper because this topic is so clear and commonly repeated. However there are some clear implications from Scripture on how God has been clear.
Our Hearts, not our Heads are the Main Issue
In the verses above a clear pattern comes out again and again. God has been clear but we don’t hear rightly because we are not right in our hearts before God. We are stubborn, hard-hearted, and constantly attempting to dodge the revealed truth God has made clear. I think this is a vital point because if we understand this we understand why Jesus did not come and open a university, the first Christian schools didn’t exist until after 200 A.D. Instead, Jesus had apprentices or disciples who He showed and taught how to live in front of God. Jesus understood rightly that the heart was the main issue that kept people from hearing, once the issues of the stubborn heart were worked out then ears could be opened to hear the clear truth of the gospel. It is also why Paul addresses ethical and discipline issues hand and hand with theological problems. Theology is simple actually, but the heart is hard.
How do We Go from Here
Firstly, stop, stop, STOP saying God has not been clear or that a long education is necessary to understand the Bible or what God desires of you. God has given us His Word to help the common everyday person to grow in knowing Him (John 8:31-32). After that, focus on discipleship. If you are not a leader in the church STOP believing you need to have some person explain scripture to you in order to understand it! God does tell us to submit to elders, He also has appointed teachers however, again, this is because of our hard-heartedness primarily. In other words listen to teachers of the word, submit to good leadership including a Christian mentor but know and pursue to know God and obey Him yourself. Your pastor or teacher or mentor will not be with you on judgment day, it will be you and God, do you really want to accuse God of being unclear at that time? Finally, have hope! This truth is a hopeful one when you really grasp it, it means that there is an achievable hope in getting to know God and living for HIm! This ought to fill us with confidence to pursue Him.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:16