Was it All so Simple Then

The early church during the 1st century, must have been full of hope and active learning. They had the privilege and benefit of the disciples and apostles of Christ among them. Having these men who had a personal relationship with Jesus teach them, must have been a tremendous experience. Learning first hand the gospels and the true meaning of every new testament scripture. But was it all so simple then? We know from scripture that many of the new churches had problems with interpretation and understanding. It is no wonder that today we have similar problems.

In a moment of reflection, I stopped to consider what each of us as Christians do, and should believe. So many theories abound regarding the disposition of the early church and how it may have evolved over the centuries. Questions about the origins of scripture, the inspiration for it and the teaching of it. Everything we believe is wrapped up in the pages of the bible, it seems a shame that many of us could be on the wrong track.

I do not say this cavalierly, I mean it in the most serious way. With so many differences in belief, interpretation and understanding, there must be something wrong with every approach. It cannot be with the scripture, God is incapable of mistakes. So it is safe to conclude that the problem is with us. Be it self-will, pride, arrogance, foolishness or just good old stupidity; we are the problem.

It is often said, that there are many ways to interpret the bible, I disagree with that premise. There is only one way to interpret the bible; the truth can only have one interpretation. I believe that the problem lay with the idea that any of us is intelligent enough to interpret it correctly more than half the time. It is not that man is stupid, he is too full of pride.

Scripture will lay our souls open too be examined and scrutinized by the very truth that makes us so weak. No one wants to admit their weakness, it runs counter too our nature. The problem that most people have, is that they are too willing to give in to their nature, while denying it has any control over them. This natural state of man is what separates him from his creator, short circuiting his connection too God. With no clear path to God, we must navigate through a sea of thoughts and words, often anchoring ourselves to a concept that we can ’relate’ too. However, when a person begins to relate to something, it is usually fueled by an experience that they can use as a reflector. In doing this they believe they are embracing and understanding the new paradigm based on their prior experience.

This approach works if the experience is a mutual equivalent to the new paradigm, such as when two strangers meet and discover they both have had a near death experience, they can then relate to each other from that mutual experience. It does not work very well when the paradigm is quantum leaps removed from any personal experiences. The bible is such a paradigm. Also, in the above example, once the mutual experience is played out, there is nothing left to maintain the connection and often people drift apart. The same thing can happen when people try and relate to the bible in the same way.
With 66 books, by 40 authors and written and transcribed over hundreds of years, the bible is a phenomenon in and of itself. It is so far out of the human concept of things, tens of thousands of people spend countless hours, weeks and even years, trying to both understand and prove it. And also debunk it as a sham. Many theories exist for both sides, but no one has yet been successful at either, yet proving it is much easier and closer to fruition than the other. With all of the efforts being made in the battle, it is surprising that any coherent doctrine even exists; the fact that many do is astounding. With all of this discourse, is it any wonder that we can get lost in the debate.

At some point in our individual experiences with God, the bible, discussions with others and soul searching, we make a decision to accept or reject scripture and it’s truths. I say truths, because I have accepted that it is an accounting of Gods promises and expectations for us. Other people may reject it as false, and still others have mixed reactions, accepting parts of it while rejecting others. The bible is not an easy study for some people. I believe it is because they lack a point of reference outside of the bible with which to understand it. As I noted earlier, the bible is several factors removed from the personal experiences of the vast majority of people, it can be a daunting task for anyone to gain an understanding of many scriptures.

That is not to say that it cannot be done, only that it may be difficult or it may take more time too understand some things. But I believe they are approaching it backwards. The bible is where we should turn to understand the events in our lives, not the other way around. I know from experience how long it can take before the light will come on, and I can see with more clarity, but I do understand that I see more clearly looking at my life through the lens of scripture, rather than looking at scripture through the events in my life.

The important thing to remember, is that without clarity you cannot have understanding. Many of us believe that we understand many things, but is our understanding correct? If we base our understanding of scripture on our personal experiences, we seem doomed to failure, in part because the imperfect cannot fully grasp the perfect.

It may appear to some that the early church had an advantage, because of their proximity in time to Christ. However, it must be remembered that Christ was not well liked by His contemporaries, with the exception of His apostles and the disciples that traveled with Him. The thousands that came too learn from Him were also exceptions, in as much as they were truly seeking the word of God. It follows, and should be assumed, that His true teachings were distorted intentionally by many of those who rejected Him, in order to discredit Him, and after Him, the apostles. If His teachings were so polarizing and misunderstood within a half century of His ascension; is it any wonder that we are constantly misled today?

During a recent debate over the veracity of the rapture theory, I was motivated too study again the scriptures around which my faith and understanding are built. During my study, I asked myself ‘what if’ questions, and tried to answer them from each perspective in regard to the debate. I asked myself if I believed as I do because I was taught to do so. Was it because I followed a popular belief, fitting the scriptures to my thinking. Perhaps I only hope the rapture is going to happen, because I want to believe that God really does intend to spare us the horrors of hell, and separation from Him. Could it be that I am reading into the scripture what I want it to say, forcing from it promises that Christ never made and God has no obligation to keep? And again, has the bible been so adulterated, that it’s truth is clouded in euphemisms, and obscured by gross misunderstandings?

On the other hand, what makes other people see the same scriptures differently than I do? The words are the same, there is no difference in cadence and as far as I know, I missed no chapter or verse. How is it that I can be so certain that I am on the right path in regard to the veracity of the scriptures? The answer is simple, but for many people, unacceptable. Truth is often that way.

In every life, in every society on earth, people are expected to live by a standard. Sometimes that standard is developed from the history of that society. More often it is a derivative of religious beliefs. In the case of a Christian society, that standard is set not by religious views, but by scriptural views. The formula is simple: the bible is the word of God and we believe it is the truth, if we live by that truth and the results are as the scriptures predict then it follows that the bible is the true word of God.

Sounds simplistic, but it is not. It takes faith and study to gain the confidence to trust in the word of God, accepting it as not just your guide post, but the focal point of your daily life. And for those who may believe that religion and the bible are one and the same; think again. Religion derives from mans search for a god, for other worldly powers that may have supremacy over us, or they may not.

The bible is not mans search for a god, it is God’s call to man. It is Gods blueprint for how we should live, treat other people, and respect the authority He has given us over the rest of His creation. More importantly it is the overlay of how we are to communicate with Him. God does not need religion to interact with His creation, but some men need religion to justify their attempt to communicate with their god. Religion and the bible are two completely separate things. I know that this statement may cause a few people to accuse me of making a semantic argument, however if a careful consideration of my statement is made, my contention will be proved.

As an example of this, in a few parts of the world, animals are worshipped as gods; cows, monkeys and even rats. By religious proclamation they are protected from deliberate harm, are required to be fed, cleaned and in some cases, allowed to cohabitate with their human worshippers. Much of this religious doctrine is the result of someone long ago considering his place in the world and his relationship to the animals and plants that exist along with us in this world. I am speculating here, but it is my belief that after considering the order of importance of various flora and fauna, a hierarchy of life was created by these early religious founders and a deity status was given to some animals. The considered hierarchy is then used to justify the worship of these animals, in some cases making them more important than people. This is what I mean when I say that religion is necessary for some men to legitimize their gods.

In the bible however, God is directly responsible for the doctrine. He begins by explaining our existence, moves on to our disgrace and shame, continues with the punishment of our forbearers, presents a way for our redemption and concludes with the vehicle for that redemption and the provision of grace so that those who choose to, may be redeemed. The differences are quite profound, and yet many people are confused beyond belief. Literally.

Many people simply choose to go against God because of the confusing stories and doctrines. And of those that do believe, many have spent decades and centuries arguing over meanings, definitions and the intent of many scriptures.Seemingly highly intelligent people will argue almost to the point of violence, over whether God created dinosaurs and why. Did God make us in His image, or did he just provide the catalyst for evolution to complete the job? Are we men or apes, and are the variations in skin color a punishment for some, or are they incidental to the region from which we originate? If the message of the bible were accepted and taken to heart, all of these silly questions would be of no consequence. But alas, such is not the case.

It is easy too assume that with their proximity in time to the patriarchs of the old testament, followed by the Messiah walking among them in the flesh, that the early church would have had no problems. Yet it seems that they suffered as much if not more from the sad condition that plagues many Christians today.

In I Corinthians 1:11, Paul speaks to the church regarding contentions among factions that developed in the church. The brethren in the church were divided about whom they liked amongst the apostles. They all preached the same gospel, but each had his own style and possibly stressed different areas of the gospels of Christ. In the case of Cephas, he preached the gospel, but not the resurrection because he was not among the early apostles and had not learned of the resurrection of Christ yet. The church was contending over the way too preach, and understand the same information, just as we do today.

In fairness to the early church, information was not easily disseminated and when a person had questions, there was no ready source for answers. I cannot imagine how frustrating that must have been, the bible was not yet written, so the gospels were not available. The consequence was that each gospel was passed on verbally in most cases with no way to reference them once the apostle left an area for another. Of course, looking back from here I can conclude these things, the information age has changed that. But if we have such access to information, what then is the problem with the church today? In a word; modeling.

The church today models the church immediately after the resurrection. Different factions, fractured doctrine, differing methods and often hostel relations between denominations. With Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Baptist, Mormon and Protestant churches the giants among other smaller denominations, there are so many different doctrinal views. It is a confusing morass of opinion and interpretation that has succeeded only in giving the world a reason to shun Christianity. It should be a simple thing to understand what is contained in the bible, the words have not changed in the centuries that have passed, neither have their meaning. But the pride of man cannot be overcome so easily. God can be loved, worshipped and perhaps even believed in, but the obedience requirement, well, that sometimes rubs men the wrong way.

It must have been that all of the church founders were lawyers or legal scholars; the bible alone was not enough. They saw a need to amend it, break it up and insert addendums. If the word of God does not say what you want or need, just amend it and claim that your interpretation is the correct one. Or you can take it further by claiming a divine revelation from God to a senior church official, or perhaps a miracle sighting in a window or grotto. The claim can be upheld by using the “divine” revelation or miracle as authority from God too effect the proposed change. Never mind that God said “I am the Lord, I change not”, (Malachi 3:6) which should have told everyone that God does not amend His word. The bottom line is that men have the audacity to challenge the authority of the God they claim to trust in all things, manipulating His words to suite their own purpose. The confusion this has caused, the anguish and hatred it has bred have been so divisive, painful and destructive, it can leave you breathless too consider it all. Sadder still when you realize that this is just among the Christian faiths, and the one thing they have in common is the bible, the inerrant word of God.

When you think about it, if we as Christians, look at the things of this world that are not Christian, and conclude that there is something wrong with the world, it should be no surprise that with all of the divisions and turmoil between Christians, the world would conclude that there is something wrong with us. The word of God is not so difficult to understand and accept. And yet, so many have a problem doing it, so much so that since the resurrection of Christ, it has been so.

I for one, have absolute faith in the word of God. I accept fully, that the bible is the inerrant, infallible and absolute word of God. I have seen, and experienced in my life the evidence of His truth. As I said before, if we live by Gods word, and the results are as He said they would be, that is proof of the truth of His word. That is my answer to anyone who may question my interpretation of the scriptures, for me it is that simple. I am certainly not perfect, and I often have to pull my life back into line, but I never doubt that the bible is the place I will find the answers to do just that.

And so the answer to the question is no, it was not all so simple then. Nothing has change, and sadly, nothing will. It is easier for people to believe that we are causing the earth to warm up, without any evidence to support the contention, than it is to believe the hundreds of years of biblical history and the thousands of testimonies of believers. I suppose that it is because there is no consensus of scientific experts to convince people of the veracity of biblical claims. And while that makes for a sad state of affairs, I am not personally sad. I have my faith that the bible is true. And the experiences in my life and the lives of my family and friends, along with the fellowship I share with people at church is consensus enough for me.

Was it All so Simple Then


LasVegas, United States

desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

10% off

for joining the Redbubble mailing list

Receive exclusive deals and awesome artist news and content right to your inbox. Free for your convenience.