Scripture can be understood a bit at a time, by looking at various subjects. [Or almost all at once in the ways that count if truly “Born of the Spirit*”]. Many are the variations which appear to be presented by both the word itself and people of various “denominations”.
There are differing doctrines or beliefs on things like where you go when you die and when you go there, what will happen at the time of the end, whether Spirit gifts are still operational, and hosts of others. I want to present just a few which I feel to be relevant to understanding the “truth”.
One teaching that first appeared to me to be wrong, was one that said the man (Paul) in Romans chapter 7, was a Christian, IE speaking as a Christian from a Christian viewpoint. This chapter is extremely negative, saying things like “the good I want to do, I can’t do, and the evil I don’t want to do is what I end up doing”.
Many people might say, well, that’s me already, why should I become a Christian if nothing is going to change? Also this chapter, because of this wrong view, tends to reinforce the thinking that law is still in play. And LAW is about the biggest bogy-man you can entertain if you want to misunderstand the bible. [“the curse of the law”].
This chapter is about those who are in captivity to sin BECAUSE of the law, and explains this captivity, it is NOT about Christian behaviour or theory, but is how people, even well meaning ones, are in slavery or in service, servitude, to the law “of sin and death”. Understanding this puts you in a good position to understand scripture. That the law is no longer in control and that Christians now live to the Spirit, not the law, or any law. [except the “law” of Christ, which is not a “law” anyway.]
The existence of much superstitious influence in the bible has captivated people’s thinking to the extent that in some areas, people are subject to belief systems that take them a long way from simple truth, into areas of angel worship, Mary worship, prayers to the dead and others. Fear of evil in the form of so called demons creeps into some religions, and cleavage to law means people refuse to eat some foods and to meet only on certain days and a lot of other error which hides the truth of the absolute freedom that Christ has brought to the human race.
It appears plain that once you get past the superficiality of some of this, and always there are scriptures which seem to back up or deny certain things, like where you go when you die, that death means you go to the grave, IE you are placed in a grave until the return of Christ, at which time there will be a “resurrection”. This resurrection will only occur in the good sense if you have already been “resurrected” in Christ, IE you have joined yourself to Christ in what he died for and what he achieved in rising from death. Baptism is the symbolic ritual for this. It means you recognise your prior life as being deficient and that you need a total “rebirth” of your thinking. (“spirit”).
That LOVE is the aim, intention, and goal of all things. Without love, there is no life, only death. With love, there is theoretically no real need of scripture, if love is maintained by the Spirit so that the person “Lives a life of love”. Because guess what? God IS love.
The cross is obviously central to understanding. Scripture presents it as Christ having offered himself, in the fore-plan and knowledge of God, as a “sacrifice” for sin, “in his blood”. This goes back to the Judaistic sacrifices of animals. There is no doubt his blood was shed, and no doubt that he suffered. Importantly, it points to sin being dealt with in his body, such that in His experience was our forgiveness of sin, which we are to recognise and enter into by the ritual of baptism “for the forgiveness of sin”. [such is the silliness of some, that they demand the water be only clear running water]. This water baptism is meant as an aid to grasping the significance of Christ’s death in identifying with him/it, and has connotations of “the flood”. It is meant to help clear the conscience. [“from acts that lead to death…”]. Since Christ suffered and overcame the effects of sin in the human frame, and restored and advanced the human condition beyond the need to die, and himself advanced to immortality, he rendered sin and death ineffective. Since “He became a life-giving Spirit”, and “…life is given to our mortal bodies through his Spirit that indwells us…?” Faith in him now enables His Spirit to change us by drawing us into his victory, as reconciliation with God releases us from captivity to the death that is inherent in all.
Hell is when our conscience is caused to suffer the anguish of all our departure from the will of God, all those things where we harmed others and ourselves by thought and activity that was not of God, and also where we failed to act when we should have. Men recognise some of this now, and feel it as “wrath” or anger which is due to inner conflict arising from the knowledge of right and wrong and resulting judgement. This will happen in its totality when they are “immersed” or “subjected” in/to the Spirit at Christ’s return. Those living only to that which is “right” will experience little “conflict”, as will those whose conscience has been “seared”. The former will live, the latter die.
Historically, Christianity arose from Judaism, and there are prophecies concerning events through history right up to and beyond the present time. Many of these are regarding Israel and her people. There are many regarding the coming of Jesus. They are quite striking in their accuracy. (“We would do well to pay attention to these”).
“Born again” Christians are changed people who now live for different reasons to that of non Christians. They are considered to be raised with Christ and are said to be currently “reigning with him” as “Kings and priests”. The literal kingdom that some are expecting to arrive on earth with a 1000 year reign is a fallacy. (Some expect the animal sacrifices to be reinstated, amongst other things).
[*An experience where the person has been brought into contact with the Spirit such that they experience and subsequently demonstrate the effects of the Spirit in love, joy, peace etc. Some claim it is necessary to demonstrate the ability to manifest a “supernatural” gift of the Spirit, but commonly such groups are poorly regarded by mainstream theology. But it is not my place to say that such manifestations do not have a rightful place in the church. It would seem wonderful if people were able to be healed of physical sickness for example, but it would have to be first recognised that healing them spiritually is of the most importance].