The Mystery and Wonder of God's Written Words
By Jose J. Ventilacion
PROTESTANTS ARE AMONG those who believe that in order for someone to fully explain or interpret the passages of the Bible, he should undergo a study of hermeneutics, which is often defined as the science and art of biblical interpretation. They believe that for a person to be a good interpreter of the Bible, he must learn the rules of hermeneutics as well as the art of applying those rules.
Protestants also advance the concept that in order for a person to be a good interpreter of the Bible, he has to study other fields of biblical study such as canon of the Scripture, textual criticism, historical criticism, biblical exegesis, and biblical and systematic theology.
Because of their emphasis on these things, Protestants established schools of theology and Bible seminaries in order to educate their ministers, believing firmly that by passing through this rigid system of study own would have the authority to explain the written words of God. They believe that the words of God written in the Bible are matters that human wisdom and knowledge can decipher and can be learned in such schools put up by men. Others think that the words of God are just like other fields and branches of science that the learned could study and understand.
It is true that the Bible has been translated into different languages and can be read by everyone who knows the language into which it was translated. However, reading and understanding are two different things. One might be able to read but could not understand what he is reading. Could human wisdom be able to decipher or fathom the wisdom of God which he revealed through His written words? Could the full understanding of God’s words be learned in schools put up by men? It may come as a surprise to many but the resounding answer to such question is “no”! Apostle Paul, one of God’s messengers in the Christian era, declared that:
“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages of our glory.” (I Cor. 2:6-7, New King James Version)
The wisdom of God could not be learned through the wisdom of this world. No matter how advanced and progressive man’s wisdom is, it could not be used to decipher the wisdom of God. Why? Because God’s wisdom is a mystery hidden by God Himself for age:
“And to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.” (Eph. 3:9, New International Version)
The words of God are hidden in mystery. Something that is hidden by man is hard to find. How much more if it is God Himself who has hidden it and it is in mystery! And so, no amount of human wisdom could ever be enough for one to come to the full understanding of God’s words. How, then will the words of God be understood if they are hidden even from the wise and learned? The answer is plain and simple: it is God Himself who shall provide the understanding since it was He who hid His words in the first place. How will God reveal to man the understanding of His words? By means of His Spirit as testified to by the Apostle Paul:
“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (I Cor. 2:11-12, NKJV)
Apostle Paul emphasized that in order for us to know the things of God, we need to receive the Spirit from God so that we might know the things He has given to us. Others would probably jump immediately to the conclusion that they could understand or decipher the words of God because they believe that they have the Spirit of God. However, Apostle John says that we should not believe immediately someone who claims to have the Spirit. He says:
“My dear friends, do not believe all who claim to have the Spirit, but test them to find out if the spirit they have comes from God. For many false prophets have gone out everywhere.” (I John 4:1, Today’s English Version)
The false prophets also claim to have the Spirit of God so we should not believe every claim of having the Spirit of God. Who are the one who have received the Spirit from God? Those who are sent by God. The Bible tells us this:
“ For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the spirit without limit.” (John 3:34, NIV)
The one who is sent by God has the Spirit coming from Him. The best example of this is our Lord Jesus Christ, who during the time He entered the synagogue, read the prophecy of Isaiah about Him. The prophecy revealed that He had the Spirit of the Lord and that His task was to preach the gospel:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18, Ibid)
Jesus, being a messenger of God, had the Spirit of the Lord which guided Him as He preached. What about His apostles whom he sent later on to preach the gospel? Did they also receive the Holy Spirit that would guide them in their oreaching?
“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.” (John20:21-22, NKJV)
The Apostles received the Holy Spirit through the Lord Jesus Christ. So when the apostles preached the gospel, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. The Bible testifies:
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘rulers and elders of the people!’” (Acts 4:8, NIV)
Although the words of god are hidden in mystery and could not be understood even by the wise and the learned who are not sent by God, the apostles despite not being schooled in the institutions of men, were able to preach the gospel since they were filled with the Holy Spirit. What miracle was revealed in Christ when He was preaching the words of God? The Jews who opposed Him testified about Him:
“The Jewish leaders were surprised when they heard him. ‘How does he know so much when he hasn’t studied everything we’ve studied?’ they asked.” (John 7:15, New Living Translation)
The Jews who opposed our Lord Jesus were people who studied in the schools of men. Great academies were founded in ancient times in Palestine, at Jamnia (now Yavne) and Tiberias (both now in Israel); and in Babylonia, at Sura, Nehardea, and Pumbedita. Such rabbinical academies existed in all the countries of the Diaspora (© 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation). Jesus did not study at the rabbinical academies of the Jews. Yet, the Jews marveled at Him and said, “How does this man know so much when he has never been to school?” (John 7:15, TEV) Why is it that Christ was able to teach the words of God in spite of the fact that He did not study in the schools of men? His answer is clear:
“What I teach is not my own teaching, but it comes from God, who sent me.” ( John 7:16, Ibid.)
Even without a formal education, Jesus Christ was able to teach the words of God because He was guided by the Spirit of God. Being a messenger, He received the knowledge from God which He likewise imparted to His apostles whom He likewise imparted to His apostles whom He sent to preach the gospel. When His apostles were preaching, what amazing event was witnessed by the people during their time?
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”(Acts 4:13, NIV)
The members of the Jewish Council were amazed to see how bold Peter and John were when they were preaching even though they were ordinary men of no education. Why is it that the apostles were shown to be wise and intelligent despite the fact that they did not study in the schools of men? Because they were made wise by Christ. Christ told them:
“For I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply!
This will be your opportunity to tell them about me.” (Luke 21:15, 13, NLT) How was Christ’s wisdom, which came from God, manifested even during the time when He was still young? Let’s take a look at the narrative about His youth:
“When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was with friends among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him. He was in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, discussing deep questions with them. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:42-47, Ibid.)
At a young age, our Lord Jesus Christ amazed many people because of His understanding. This comes as no surprise since He was destined by God to preach and to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Isa. 61:2-3; Luke 4:18-19). The Bible tells us that
“Jesus grew both in height and in wisdom, and he was loved by God and by all who knew him” (Luke 2:52, NLT).
Among the Apostles of Christ, one of them stood tall when it came to human wisdom. Apostle Paul was educated in Jerusalem under Gamaliel as he himself testified:
“I am a Jew, born in tarsus, a city in Cilica, and I was brought up and educated hee in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. At his feet I learned to follow our Jewish customs very carefully. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just as all of you are today.” (Acts 22:3, Ibid.)
Although Apostle Paul was educated in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, who was a renowned teacher of the law, did he teach the wisdom he learned from men? He testified:
“Let me tell you, my brothers, that the gospel I preach is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor did anyone teach it to me. It was Jesus Christ Himself who revealed it to me.”(Gal. 1:11-12, TEV)
Just like the rest of the apostles, Paul’s wisdom or knowledge of God’s words was taught him by the Lord Jesus Christ. Although he was educated in the school of men, he admonished the Christians not to be persuaded by human wisdom and philosophy which were not from Christ:
“Don’t let anyone lead you astray with empty philosophy and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world, and not from Christ.” (Col. 2:8-9,NLT)
What was Paul’s intention in teaching the Christians the things he learned from Christ and not the things of the world? So that their faith shall not rest on men’s wisdom:
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (I Cor. 2:4-5, NIV)
The power of God for man’s salvation is the gospel according to Apostle Paul (Rom. 1:16). The messengers of God are the ones who have the right to preach it (Rom. 10:15). It is to them that Christ said, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them” (Mark 4:11-12, NKJV). Since the messengers are the ones who have the authority to preach the pure gospel, what should be done by anyone before he can come to the true knowledge of God? The Bible’s command is clear:
“It is the duty of priests to teach the true knowledge of God. People should go to them to learn my will, because they are the messengers of the LORD Almighty.” (Mal. 2:7, TEV)
When it comes to understanding God’s words written in the Bible, one should not rely on human wisdom but on God’s wisdom which he revealed to the messengers sent by Him. It is to God’s true messengers whom people should go to learn God’s will and come to its full understanding. It is also to such ministry that people should be linked in order to be of God and Christ and eventually receive the promised salvation.
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