Preachers and teachers of God’s word should never be afraid to admit when they are stumped. Some things in the Bible may never be grasped and other problems require years of contemplation before they can be understood. Pride is no friend to learning. It is impossible to learn something if you have deceived yourself into thinking you already know it.
Some of the most brilliant leaders in the churches of Christ have been men who could admit they struggled with certain parts of the biblical text. In the introduction to one of David Lipscomb’s New Testament commentaries, I.B. Bradley said this of Lipscomb:
His rugged honesty and sincerity, coupled with loyalty and devotion to truth, as also his firmness and humility, and his deep and profound reverence for the word of God, made him a safe and trustworthy exponent of the Bible. He was big enough and humble enough to say, “I don’t know,” and would not venture to speculate on untaught things in the Book of God.
Alan Highers likes to tell about a discussion between G.C. Brewer and a premillennialist who asked Brewer, “What does Revelation 20 mean?” Brewer said, “I don’t know what it means.” The premillennialist replied, “Then how do you know that it does not mean what I say it means?” About this time Brewer glanced across the street and saw a woman walking down the sidewalk. He said, “There goes your wife.” The man said, “That is not my wife.” Brewer said, “Well, then, who is she?” “I don’t know who she is,” the man said. “Then how,” asked Brewer, “do you know she is not your wife?”
Brewer’s point was that we don’t have to know what a passage means in order to know what it does not mean. When interpretations conflict with what is clear in the Bible, they have to be scrapped for interpretations that blend in with the rest of God’s word.
While there are some things I may never understand in God’s word, the matters that pertain to my salvation are very simple. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). But there is hope, for Jesus died on the cross to pay the ransom for our sins (Mt. 20:28) and has redeemed us through his blood (Eph. 1:7). If we do not believe in him, repent of our sins, and confess his name before others, we cannot benefit from this loving sacrifice (Jn. 8:24; Lk. 13:3; Mt. 10:32-33). Also, our faith ought to culminate in obedience to the command to be baptized in water for the forgiveness of our sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21). God does not save an individual who ignores these simple instructions (2 Thes. 2:10).
While we may struggle with the dimmer symbolism of parts of the Bible, may we never neglect the plain passages God has “shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).