Some books of the Bible are difficult to understand. In some Epistles, the flow of thought is somewhat obscured by complex structure. In some historical narratives, there are accounts of strange events that leave us wondering how to interpret and apply them (see Judges 19, for one example). In many of the prophets there are messages that are difficult to comprehend because of our lack of cultural understanding. In other words, there are things in Scripture that are just hard to understand.
But there are also some things in Scripture that we suggest are hard to understand that are not that hard to comprehend; we just don’t like the implications of what is being said.
Consider, for example, 1 John. The apostle says many things about believing in Christ and the implications of that faith that make us question whether people we know or even we ourselves are believers. So we say, “It’s hard to understand.” I submit that it is not hard to understand. We just don’t like the realities that we are reading. As an illustration, consider the series of conditional, “if…then” statements in chapter one:
- If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, [then] we lie and do not practice the truth. (v. 6)
- But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, [then] we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (v. 7)
- If we say that we have no sin, [then] we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (v. 8)
- If we confess our sins, [then] He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (v. 9)
- If we say that we have not sinned, [then] we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (v. 10)
These statements are not obscure. They are sobering. No matter what we say, if the pattern of our lifestyle is living in darkness, then we are not in Him and we are not in the light.
And these statements are also hopeful. No matter what our sin, when we confess, God is always faithful to Himself and completely right to forgive us and cleanse us by declaring us to be righteous (by applying Christ’s righteousness to us).