Why Isn’t God’s Word More Straightforward?
Most people—including myself—have probably asked this question at some point: If what Jesus said is true, why wasn’t he more straightforward and definitive about it? The question sometimes comes out like:
- God, if you really are the author of the Bible, why not prove that to everybody?
- Why not have a little angel hover over the Bible when people read it, saying, “This stuff is true”?
- Every time one of my professors denies the truth of the Bible, why not put a Darth Vader stranglehold on them? (Just a little stranglehold, mind you.)
Do you ever ask things like that?
Some Bible critics use Jesus’ lack of straightforwardness to try and suggest that even he didn’t believe he was God. His claims to divinity, they claim, were something later Christians added on to him.
UNC professor Bart Ehrman points out, for example, that in the “Synoptic Gospels” (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus doesn’t seem to aggressively put forward his deity—he doesn’t come out that often and say, “I am God.” In the Gospel of John he does, of course, but Ehrman says this proves that these details were added in later. Ehrman is convinced that if Jesus really was God—even if he just thought he was God—he would have talked about it more directly. He’d have come out of Mary’s womb saying, “Good morning everyone, I’m God! Now, watch me levitate.”
So why did Jesus leave any room for doubt or confusion in his claims?
1. Insight into truth is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus answers, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them” (Matthew 13:11 CSB).
No matter how smart you are, you can’t understand God’s Word without God’s help. Sin makes our heart so naturally dull and slanted against God that we can’t see spiritual truth without his help.
Have you ever met someone who is so biased that they can’t see an issue clearly? They so dislike a group of people that they twist anything and everything that person does. Or they so like a person that they can never entertain a slanderous word against them.
One of our worship leaders is like this with Lebron James (though he may have changed his mind with King James’ recent West Coast migration). He’s convinced that Lebron is the greatest basketball player—and possibly human being—of all time. If Lebron scores 2 points in a game, he says, “What an unselfish player to spread the ball around!” If Lebron hoists up 15 straight shots and misses them all, he says, “Only a true star would keep shooting after missing his first 14 shots.”
This kind of bias can be humorous when it comes to sports, but it’s deadly dangerous when it invades our hearts. Our sinful hearts are so jaded against God that we can be blind to evidence when it is right in front of us.
It is a miracle of regeneration for anyone to see the truth about Jesus. So if you’re a believer, you can stop congratulating yourself for coming to see the truth about Jesus. It wasn’t your intelligence or righteousness that led you to understanding; it was grace (Ephesians 2:8). And, when you find someone who isn’t convinced like you, don’t talk down to them like they are stupid. Pray for God to extend his grace to them just as he did to you.
2. Insight into truth is as much a matter of the heart as it is of the head.
“For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. That is why I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand” (Matthew 13:12-13).
What keeps us from seeing the truth is not a lack of clarity in the evidence but the condition of our hearts. Jesus obscured truth so that only those who are pure of heart could see it.
This isn’t something we easily accept. We tend to think that with the right intellectual capacity, we can discern everything we need to know—and if we don’t see something, it must be because we aren’t smart enough. But Jesus says otherwise: He reminds us that our dull minds aren’t usually the problem; our dull hearts are.
What keeps us from seeing the truth is not a lack of clarity in the evidence but the condition of our hearts.
Here are some things that keep us from seeing the truth about God that have nothing to do with intellectual capacity:
Unwillingness to change. “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (John 7:17). Submission to God precedes knowledge of God.
Cherishing sin in our hearts. “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18). Some of you are seeking God, but you have unconfessed, cherished sin in your heart, and that’s why you can’t see.
Apathy. “‘When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:13-14). Some people never see simply because they don’t give this question the weight it deserves.
Hating others. “How can he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20) If your heart is filled with hate and bigotry so that you use your knowledge of God as a weapon against others, God will keep you from the knowledge of him.
Giving others’ opinions more weight than God’s opinion. “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44) An idolatrous heart always leads to an unbelieving head.
The Apostle Paul said, “We are the pleasing aroma of Christ to those who are being saved, and to those who are perishing we are the stench of death” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
The same sun that softens the wax hardens the clay; the difference in effect comes not from differences in exposure to the sun but differences in the material it shines upon.
The condition of your heart is even more important than the intelligence of your head. That’s good news! Because no matter how smart you think you are or are not, you can still submit your heart to God, and he will show you the truth.