Is it possible for individuals to understand the Bible, specifically the New Testament of Jesus Christ? Can we read and apply common sense principles of interpretation to the Scriptures and, finally, arrive at the truth that God wants us to know? Yes, we can.
Let me say at the outset that there are a number of areas of Biblical study that present some difficulties. The casual reader who is not committed to searching the Scriptures and applying its truths will find that the Bible is certainly not in the Reader’s Digest class of literature. The apostle Peter wrote, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15-16, NIV) Even so, the same apostle Paul wrote, “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17, NASB) Again, Paul wrote to these same Ephesians, “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” (3:4-5, NIV). That which was formerly a “mystery” (that is, unrevealed) is now revealed by God through His apostles and prophets.
The claim that, without the help of intervening elites, the Word of God could not be understood has existed from antiquity (see David Edwin Harrell, Jr.,Christian Primitivism in the Twenty-first Century, Harwell/Lewis Publishing Co.). Various individuals, heresies, sects, and movements have made the claim that, without their official, superior or mystical “knowledge” truth could not be known, thus the assumed authority to be the only valid interpreter of the Bible.
This is clearly in opposition to the express statements of the Lord and His apostles. The apostle Paul was sent to the Gentiles to “…open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:18, KJV) There will be more on this later.