Why People Find the Bible Difficult

by A. W. Tozer

Chapter 6 from Man: The Dwelling Place of God (Camp Hill, Penn: Christian Publications, 1966).

That many persons find the Bible hard to understand will not be denied by those acquainted with the facts. Testimony to the difficulties encountered in Bible reading is too full and too widespread to be dismissed lightly.

In human experience there is usually a complex of causes rather than but one cause for everything, and so it is with the difficulty we run into with the Bible. To the question, Why is the Bible hard to understand? no snap answer can be given; the pert answer is sure to be the wrong one. The problem is multiple instead of singular, and for this reason the effort to find a single solution to it will be disappointing.

In spite of this I venture to give a short answer to the question, and while it is not the whole answer it is a major one and probably contains within itself most of the answers to what must be an involved and highly complex question. I believe that we find the Bible difficult because we try to read it as we would read any other book, and it is not the same as any other book.

The Bible is not addressed to just anybody. Its message is directed to a chosen few. Whether these few are chosen by God in a sovereign act of election or are chosen because they meet certain qualifying conditions I leave to each one to decide as he may, knowing full well that his decision will be determined by his basic beliefs about such matters as predestination, free will, the eternal decrees and other related doctrines. But whatever may have taken place in eternity, it is obvious what happens in time: Some believe and some do not; some are morally receptive and some are not; some have spiritual capacity and some have not. It is to those who do and are and have that the Bible is addressed. Those who do not and are not and have not will read it in vain.

Right here I expect some readers to enter strenuous objections, and for reasons not hard to find. Christianity today is man-centered, not God-centered. God is made to wait patiently, even respectfully, on the whims of men. The image of God currently popular is that of a distracted Father, struggling in heartbroken desperation to get people to accept a Saviour of whom they feel no need and in whom they have very little interest. To persuade these self-sufficient souls to respond to His generous offers God will do almost anything, even using salesmanship methods and talking down to them in the chummiest way imaginable. This view of things is, of course, a kind of religious romanticism which, while it often uses flattering and sometimes embarassing terms in praise of God, manages nevertheless to make man the star of the show.

The notion that the Bible is addressed to everybody has wrought confusion within and without the church. The effort to apply the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount to the unregenerate nations of the world is one example of this. Courts of law and the military powers of the earth are urged to follow the teachings of Christ, an obviously impossible thing for them to do. To quote the words of Christ as guides for policemen, judges and generals is to misunderstand those words completely and to reveal a total lack of understanding of the purposes of divine revelation. The gracious words of Christ are for the sons and daughters of grace, not for the Gentile nations whose chosen symbols are the lion, the eagle, the dragon and the bear.

Not only does God address His words of truth to those who are able to receive them, He actually conceals their meaning from those who are not. The preacher uses stories to make truth clear; our Lord often used them to obscure it. The parables of Christ were the exact opposite of the modern “illustration,” which is meant to give light; the parables were “dark sayings” and Christ asserted that He sometimes used them so that His disciples could understand and His enemies could not. (See Matthew 13:10-17.) As the pillar of fire gave light to Israel but was cloud and darkness to the Egyptians, so our Lord’s words shine in the hearts of His people but leave the self-confident unbeliever in the obscurity of moral night.

The saving power of the Word is reserved for those for whom it is intended. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. The impenitent heart will find the Bible but a skeleton of facts without flesh or life or breath. Shakespeare may be enjoyed without penitence; we may understand Plato without believing a word he says; but penitence and humility along with faith and obedience are necessary to a right understanding of the Scriptures.

In natural matters faith follows evidence and is impossible without it, but in the realm of the spirit faith precedes understanding; it does not follow it. The natural man must know in order to believe; the spiritual man must believe in order to know. The faith that saves is not a conclusion drawn from evidence; it is a moral thing, a thing of the spirit, a supernatural infusion of confidence in Jesus Christ, a very gift of God.

The faith that saves reposes in the Person of Christ; it leads at once to a committal of the total being to Christ, an act impossible to the natural man. To believe rightly is as much a miracle as was the coming forth of dead Lazarus at the command of Christ.

The Bible is a supernatural book and can be understood only by supernatural aid.

Source : http://www.bible-researcher.com/tozer1.html

5 thoughts on “Why People Find the Bible Difficult

  1. Elmarie,
    Great article!

    >>>>To believe rightly is as much a miracle as was the coming forth of dead Lazarus at the command of Christ.

    This is a tremendous truth! Only God Himself can break through the antipathy in our hearts against His Word. There are things in the Word of God that are hard to “hear” and unless and until God enables us to TRULY bow our hearts to Him as Lord, we will never be able to recieve it.

    Also, i believe that it is ONLY by Gods grace that any of us are willing to hear and not due to anything in ourselves. God is all in all and salvation is of the Lord. And the means of our salvation or rather the instrument, is the Word of God. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Yet as the article expresses <not all will correctly recieve the Word for what it is really saying.


  2. sylesa
    Thank You !!
    You say :

    Also, i believe that it is ONLY by Gods grace that any of us are willing to hear and not due to anything in ourselves.

    You are correct unless it is not the supernatural working of God & the Holy Spirit we can not understand the Word. Man is not able to have anything to do with being saved. I believe those who reject this fundamental doctrine have problems.

    Excerpt from JMA sermon I listened to a while ago on man’s Absolute Inability:

    And then verse 43, most interesting. “And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.'” Now what interests me here is that Jesus gave a command to a dead man. I’ve done a lot of funerals, I’ve seen a lot of dead people, I’ve never asked any of them to do anything, nor has anybody else, especially would I never say to a dead man, “Bill, come forth.” I mean, you wouldn’t waste words, you’d look foolish. Dead men can’t hear. Dead men can’t think. Dead men can’t respond cause they’re dead and dead means the absolute inability to do anything in response to any stimulus. There’s no will. There’s no power to think or act. But, look at verse 44, “He who had died came forth.” Lazarus did exactly what Jesus asked him to do. Amazing. He must have sort of stumbled out of there because he was bound hand and foot with wrappings. And his face was wrapped around with a cloth and Jesus said to then, “Unbind him and let him go.” Dead men can’t respond. Dead men can’t obey commands. He couldn’t but he did. He did what was impossible.

    How? How is it possible for a dead man to do what Jesus told him to do? We all know the answer, because Christ gave him the ability to do it. If Christ hadn’t given him the life, he couldn’t have obeyed. And that’s what’s bound up in the earlier words of Jesus in verses 25 and 26, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And the amazing miracle of commanding a man who can’t respond and then giving him the power to respond is analogous to salvation. The gospel commands dead men to rise, dead men to believe, dead men to understand, dead men to repent. The gospel commands dead people to do what frankly they can’t do.

    Now from there I want you to go to Ephesians chapter 2 and here we see the depth of this problem. Ephesians chapter 2, this is not a description of Lazarus, this is a description of everybody. Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead, you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” In that condition you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, Satan, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, you all, all of us, Paul included, we formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath even as everybody else. We were all dead. Dead to what? Dead to God, dead to spiritual reality, dead to the truth.



  3. oooh now I am thinking to place John MacArthur’s complete series on the Doctrines of Grace !!! i do not think I have placed it. 🙂


    • Sylesa

      I will post over the next couple of weeks 🙂 it was a very valuable series for me and my heart grasped this blessed teaching by John MacArthur he has such a wonderful way to do his expository !!! I love his teachings and may the Lord bless his ministry.



      ps your comment was in the inbox this time problem solved 🙂


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