Perspicuity of Scripture


“Nothing whatever is left obscure or ambiguous; but all things that are in the Scriptures, are by the Word brought forth into the clearest light, and proclaimed to the whole world.” (Martin Luther Bondage of the Will, 25-29)

The clarity of Scripture was a cornerstone of the Reformation and established an important principle: That the Word of God was revealed in an understandable way, that its central message is clear, and that because it is clear all men are fully accountable to its message.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

How we worship God often depends on how we view the Word of God.  The Bible is His very Word, His very self-revelation.  I was immediately drawn to a Church my wife and I attended when we first came to faith in our Lord. When we sat down in the pew and heard the pastor preach expositorily through Scripture we were floored. We were drawn to the attention given to detail and to every verse and every phrase. As we sat under that preacher’s teaching we began to understand the nature of the Bible. We began to understand that it was the very Word of God and it was how he revealed to us His nature, His plan for Salvation, His love for His people, His desire that we aspire to the righteousness that He had set the standard for. We had both grown up in the Church and had never heard the Word of God preached like this.

God has revealed Himself in His book.  When we read the words of our Bible, we’re reading the words out of the very mouth of God.  That is a tremendous reality.  That gives confidence to everything we do.  It also binds us to obedience and submission to everything that Scripture teaches.  If we do not understand this, if we do not hold to the whole Word of God, we are not submitting to His intent. So many Christians seem to pick and choose what to believe. They will soon find themselves not following the full counsel of God. Those that do not adhere to the full counsel of God will not be that “man of God” that is complete and “equipped for every good work.”

The writer of Hebrews in the first chapter and in the first two verses reveals to us that “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son….” The writer of Hebrews is telling us of God’s revelation. God has revealed Himself, and here we have a statement with regard to revelation through His inspired Word.  God spoke long ago and God has spoken in these last days.  The writer of Hebrews is, in effect, saying God spoke on two occasions.  He spoke once long ago.  He speaks in these last days by His Son.

So the Old Testament is God speaking and revealing Himself.  The New Testament is God speaking, and revealing His Son.  The Old Testament is God’s self-revelation, and that is the theme of the Old Testament.  From Genesis to the very end of the Old Testament in Malachi and everything in between is God’s revelation to us.  It is the revelation of God and who He is.  He reveals His attributes, His attitudes, His plan of Salvation. In the Old Testament we see a righteous God, a just God, a God of judgement, a God who blesses, a God who orders everything according to His perfect will.  That’s the Old Testament.  It is the revelation of God.  It is not the story of man.  It is not the story of Israel.  Those stories are there, but it is the revelation of God, and we see God revealed through man, through history, through Israel, through all that happens.

The New Testament is God revealed by His Son in the life of His Son, in the message of His Son, in the understanding of the work of His Son, and in the culmination and the coming of His Son to establish His eternal kingdom.

The concept that God desires us to know and understand Him would not be effective if Scripture is not clear to our understanding. I have always been amused that theologians refer to the clarity of Scripture as the “perspicuity” of Scripture. The very use of a word very few understand to describe the clarity of Scripture seems like an oxymoron. I will therefore be referring to the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture in a clear and understandable use of the word “clarity”.

I do not imply that all Scripture is of equal clarity. I do contend that all Scripture that is necessary “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” is abundantly clear. The Holy Spirit indwells us and enables us to interpret and apply God’s inspired Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. We are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Without Him, we cannot fully understand anything in His Word. We don’t need to be great scholars to understand God’s Word, we simply need to be born-again and open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Yet, even as believers, we know that not everything in Scripture is easy to understand.

For those areas of Scripture that God intended as a revelation of His being, that of His Son, His plan of Salvation and all aspects of His Word that are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that we might be complete and equipped for every good work, they are clear. God never intended that His people needed a magisterium or a pastor equipped with doctorates in ancient languages or a theologian that teaches a hidden aspect of eschatology that God kept hidden until this theological genius was able to bring it to light. God’s purpose was to reveal Himself to even the simplest among us. The early Church was almost universally poor and uneducated. They got it and did so when the apostles of God taught them in a clear and unambiguous way the Word of God as it was inspired to them by the Holy Spirit.

To read deeper in to this concept of the clarity of Scripture please follow the following link.

The Perspicuity of Scripture, Larry D. Pettegrew

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