Scripture is clear with regard to its primary message: salvation.
We need to recognize some caveats about the clarity of Scripture. First, not all texts in the Bible are equally clear. The original autographs were in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Translating from the original autographs is challenging at times because some words from one language do not have specific equivalent words in another language. Some texts of Scripture require more diligent study than others based on context and meaning. Some passages are plainly more difficult to grasp than others (see 2 Peter 3:16).
Second, the relative clarity of Scripture is also affected by the reader of Scripture. I’m indebted to Robert Letham’s Systematic Theology for this post, and he wrote on this issue:
“Some readers are less able to understand than others, whether by lack of knowledge or education, lack of Christian experience, or a deficit of intelligence… Hard work is needed to explain it. The role of the human interpreter, the knower in the process of knowing, is significant.”Robert Letham, Systematic Theology, 207.
But just because some Scriptures might not be as clear as we’d like them to be or we may not be as certain of our interpretation of some passages as we’d like, does not mean that Scripture lacks clarity. Amazingly, the 66 books of the Bible, 40 different authors, and a variety of themes throughout these books, the primary message of the Bible is clear.
Even with the above caveats, we can nevertheless affirm the clarity or perspicuity of Scripture. Perspicuity is the theological term for lucidity or clarity. (The following affirmations are just a sampling, and they are far from exhaustive in the Scripture references that address them).
- With regard to who God is and what God wants us to know about himself, Scripture is clear (Genesis 1:1).
- With regard to who mankind is and what God expects of us, Scripture is clear (Genesis 1:28, OT Law).
- With regard to who Jesus Christ is and what he did to secure salvation, Scripture is clear (Gospels, John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1).
- With regard to what it means to experience salvation, Scripture is clear (John 3:16, Romans 3:23, 5:8; 6:23, 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Scripture itself is the primary means for communicating the gospel. It is clear unto salvation. Two examples will suffice.
First, Scripture is clear enough for both children and adults to experience salvation. As a pastor, I preach Scripture regularly and share it personally when witnessing. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of leading both of my children to Christ as well as other children and adults. The primary communication tool that I use to explain salvation is the Scripture. Scriptures on salvation are gloriously clear. It is because of the clarity of Scripture that God has brought billions to faith in himself.
Second, Scripture is the primary communication mechanism from God to people for their conversion. I just finished a fascinating audiobook, Defying Jihad, by Esther Ahmad. Esther grew up a devout Muslim and was on the path toward becoming a suicide bomber. But a dream where she saw Jesus disturbed her devotion to Islam. Providentially, God placed a man in her life who was a Christian. Esther’s conversion to Christ was initiated by a dream, helped along by a couple of Christians, but her conversion only occurred as began reading the Bible. God brought salvation to Esther from the Bible. Esther’s only prior biblical understanding came through the false perspectives of Islam. She did not have a church, a teacher, or Bible study helps. She had the Bible. And God made it clear enough for her to reject Islam and follow Jesus.
In subsequent weeks we will discuss topics like the authority of Scripture and the need for clear and beneficial interpretive strategies regarding Scripture. But one does not have to be a Bible scholar or a trained academic to understand what the Bible has to say about salvation.
God put that information on the bottom shelf for all of us to grasp. God cares about his creatures enough that when he wrote his book to us, men and women, boys and girls, of all ages, geographical and cultural differences, anywhere and anytime, could understand the message of salvation from the pages of Scripture.
As an aside, our prayer partners at Wilkesboro Baptist Church this week are Wycliffe Bible Translators, Adam and Ruth Huntley and family. The reason we care about and prioritize the translation of the Bible in the languages of the peoples of he world is because the Bible is clear, especially about salvation and eternal life. Would you take a moment and pray for Adam and Ruth and other Wycliffe translators?