If the Bible is clear, then why are there so many disagreements about what it means?
The answer, simply put, is that people often stumble into missteps when reading it. Here are eight reasons we may fail to understand and interpret the Bible clearly.
The Bible tells us that living with sin that we are not sorry over, nor willing to forsake, can cloud our understanding of God’s Word (Romans 12:2; 1 John 1:9).
We might find ourselves becoming afraid of what other people might think of us when we interpret the Bible in a way that opposes their views. So, we choose a watered-down view of the Bible that doesn’t cause conflict so that we won’t be disliked or persecuted by others. (Proverbs 9:10).
Some people don’t see the Bible as their authority. Instead, they favor their own personal or cultural preferences over what the Bible says. Or, they prefer another source of authority that is contrary to God’s Word (e.g., non-Christian leader or another religious book). They are not willing to have the Bible correct them (Psalm 94:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Bible reading requires genuine faith in God to understand his Word properly (Hebrews 3:15). Although they read the Bible, some people are not willing or prepared to believe what it says (John 7:17).
Simply put, we all make mistakes! To err is human. Even if a passage is clear, we are capable of misunderstanding it.
People read the Bible alone. But no person is a theological island. Interpreting the Bible is meant to be exercised corporately in the Body of Christ, not in isolation from the people God has given the Church to help understand it properly (e.g., pastors, teachers, fellow Christians).
Productive Bible study takes time, hard work, and commitment (Psalm 111:2). Often, we may misunderstand a passage because we aren’t willing to invest the effort to really think about and study it.
Some people don’t know enough of the Bible to understand how to interpret individual parts of it. How can someone claim to understand a book they spent little time reading and studying?
Recognizing these stumbling blocks will go a long way to helping you properly read God’s Word. However, there’s one more thing you need to know in order to interpret the Bible correctly.
You must pray. Ask God to help you understand his Word. This is the best guard against misinterpretation. We need God’s help to understand God’s Word, and he is glad to give it (Proverbs 2:6).