Human understanding is highly subjective to many variables. A person’s view of something can be extremely different from another person’s even though two people are considering the same thing. A dictionary definition of “understanding” is: an individual’s perception or judgment of a situation. By definition, with humans, there is not one understanding.
Communication is an attempt to transfer your understanding to another person. We use adjectives to describe something in ways that we believe will relate what we mean to another person. Yet, even our understanding of the adjectives we use are different from each other.
Culture, tradition and upbringing dramatically affect our understanding and our ability to communicate. People develop preconceptions based upon these factors. Those preconceptions will direct our thinking process. How we think becomes how we believe and act. People are often unaware of these patterns of thought, and are therefore controlled by them. It can be very difficult to get someone to think differently when they are not open to changing their thought process. Jesus faced this challenge most everywhere He went.
(Matthew 13:10–15 ESV) “Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”
Jesus spoke in parables to people because they would not listen otherwise. He used things familiar to the people and put them into stories hoping they would be willing to think differently. The people’s understanding had been “set” through culture and tradition and they closed their eyes and ears to anything different.
Parables were not designed to be the ultimate communication tool, they were necessary because of the dullness of the people. The Amplified Bible states it this way:
(Matthew 13:13 AMP) “This is the reason that I speak to them in parables: because having the power of seeing, they do not see; and having the power of hearing, they do not hear, nor do they grasp and understand.”
The people were perfectly capable of hearing the Word of God taught to them, but they closed themselves off to it. Jesus said, “For to the one who has (understanding), more will be given, and he will have an abundance (of understanding), but from the one who has not (understanding), even what he has will be taken away.” I have added the words in parentheses because the subject is “understanding.” There is no neutral ground concerning understanding — you are either gaining or losing, and, it’s our decision.
We never see parables being used as the means of communication to disciple the saints. Even Jesus told His own disciples that He would no longer speak to them in parables.
(John 16:25–29 ESV) “I have said these things to you in figures of speech (parables). The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech (parables) but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech (parables)!” - (words in parentheses added).
A born-again, Spirit filled believer does not need a story told to them. Perhaps this is the problem in America — the saints are being treated like dull, immature, hard hearted people that have refused to listen to the truth. I believe to disciple a person, they need to be spoken to in a manner that stretches them. Their thinking needs to be challenged upward rather than be condescended to. Going to church should be like taking a college course. But, our culture of appeasement in America has severely stunted the growth of God’s people.
We think we know a lot more than we do. I would call “preconception” a stronghold. Many people think a stronghold is a spirit of some kind but Paul said it was “reasonings” or “arguments” that set themselves against the knowledge of God. A stronghold is a particular thought that is guarded by many reasonings and arguments. Those reasonings protect the stronghold thought from other influence and change. It usually takes an anointed apostle to get through to destroy preconceptions.
(2 Corinthians 10:4–5 ESV) “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”
Once a particular thought pattern gets established in a person’s thinking, it influences the way other related subjects are understood. Remember, “understanding” is not truth, it is an individual’s perception or judgment of a situation. Once a “viewpoint” is established, perception and judgment of the Word of God is usually determined by that viewpoint.
(Mark 4:13–14 ESV) “And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word.”
Jesus is telling us that if you get this one wrong, then you will get all the others wrong. This is a critical truth. Everything becomes a stronghold — even things that are true. However, a stronghold of the truth revealed is the right stronghold to have. Preconceptions direct our continued thinking and believing.
An example of this is the idea that signs, wonders and miracles passed away with the last of the twelve apostles. Now, that “viewpoint’ influences the way all scripture concerning the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is interpreted. That is a very strong stronghold.
I have watched strongholds develop over the years among various groups. In my own life, it took God working with me for ten years to get me to change my mind concerning certain doctrines. What if you have been in ministry for thirty years and have hundreds of books in print and thousands of people looking to you? Do you understand how hard it would be for a person like that to change their mind on a subject they have preached as true for thirty years? Honestly, I don’t think they can do it because I don’t believe they could survive it. The apostle Paul had to be knocked off of his horse and blinded for three days before he would change his mind. He was then isolated for three years. He believed he was right, but he was not.
I know people, ministers, that have some strongholds so strong that they will not even have a discussion with you if they think you are not in agreement with their view. These same people teach against the strongholds of others. The Bible tells us that every man is right in his own eyes (Proverbs 21:2). What do you do if you believe you are right, but you are wrong?
Brother Kenneth E. Hagin mentioned that in several of the visions and visitations of the Lord to him that Jesus corrected his doctrine and thinking. He responded to the Lord once, “I didn’t know that was in there.” Jesus replied, “There is a lot in there you don’t know.”
Sowing the Word of God.
The Word of God becomes a seed sown in the heart, or soil, of mankind. Jesus plainly stated this as His own explanation.
(Mark 4:14 AMP) “The sower sows the Word.”
(Matthew 13:37 ESV) “He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.”
The Word of God contains the knowledge of God. If God had not spoken to us, we would have no way of understanding much about God. God is Spirit and mankind is predominately in a material world negotiating with natural senses. Romans chapter one tells us that the material creation can reveal God’s attributes and His power, but that revelation does not give mankind understanding of God — but rather the knowledge that He exists. It is then up to man to pursue a relationship with God.
God sows His Word into the hearts of man so that man will have the opportunity to pursue understanding of that Word and come to know God. However, man’s inclination is to lean to his own understanding. Man’s understanding is variable and subject to preconception. Paul said it this way:
(1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV) “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Man is not able to understand spiritual things with a natural mind, yet he tries. Even the Word of God, if naturally approached, will not give man understanding of God. Entire divergences in doctrine have formed multiple denominations resulting from natural man trying to understand God’s Word.
It takes the seed of the Word of God together with the Spirit of God to come to an understanding of God. God’s Word can only be understood by man when the Spirit of God reveals it to him. God gave us His Spirit for this very purpose.
(1 Corinthians 2:12 ESV) “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.”
There is only one truth. In reality, there is to be only one understanding of that truth. However, man’s understanding varies according to an individual’s perception or judgment. I am amazed when people demonstratively state a viewpoint of scripture as true when it is clearly not. They will likely say that God told them. If God is telling everyone something different, then someone is not hearing from God, but they think that they are. When the Spirit of God brings understanding, then everyone has the same understanding.
Paul understood the need for Spiritual understanding.
(Ephesians 1:16–18 ESV) “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,”
KJV — “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened;
Paul is praying this for born-again, Spirit-filled Christians. You would think that being born-again and Spirit-filled would automatically give you an understanding, but it does not. Honestly, true understanding does not come easily and most Christians do not want to work that hard. That’s why so many are gullible and believe false apostles and false prophets. They now believe in what a minister says because of who he is or what he has.
(John 16:13 ESV) “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
If we seek God for His understanding, we have the promise that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. You only need a guide if you are going on a journey. Godly understanding unfolds in revelation as our human understanding fades into the background.