prayer

Scripture is clear with regard to its primary message: salvation.

In this post, we are still under the doctrine of Scripture. We’ve explored canon, inspiration, manuscripts, inerrancy, and sufficiency. In today’s post, we will explain the clarity of Scripture.

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).

See previous posts on the doctrine of salvation: soteriology, atonement, redemption, regeneration, election, justification, adoption, union with Christ, sanctification, and glorification.

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?

Photo by Randy ORourke on Unsplash

A little over three and a half years ago, my mom died. She had a strong faith, and I have no doubt she is in heaven with Jesus. When she passed, I wrote a tribute for her. Even though she’s been gone for a few years, I’m still learning from her.

None of us are perfect, and the past few years provided me the opportunity to evaluate my mom’s life and acknowledge her strengths and weaknesses. I’ve also had the privilege of learning from my wife and mother-in-law. The observations below are not exhaustive, but they have been spiritually formative in my life.

My mom taught me to spend time with Jesus. For many reasons, my mom struggled to sleep through the night. In her latter years, she was diagnosed with sleep apnea and had a breathing machine. Most of the time during my formative years when she would wake up at night, she would get her Bible and begin praying and reading. The memory of seeing her pray and read is imprinted on my mind.

My mom modeled selfless service. Nothing made mom happier than serving her family. That’s just who she was. She loved having us close, feeding us meals, and enjoying the company of her family. Her model challenges me often. Too many times, I connect my acts of service to rights or privileges. I think my service deserves recognition or appreciation. Mom’s example reinforces the concept that we are to serve Christ and trust that he sees, not worrying about any one else.

My mother-in-law reminds me to be compassionate. My mother-in-law has taken in and cared for lame dogs and feral cats. She cares about God’s creatures and will help a person in need with astounding quickness. She even took care of her mother-in-law on her death bed. My mother-in-law’s mother-in-law was mean and cruel with her words for many years. But instead of ignoring her, my mother-in-law returned compassion to the woman who treated her with cruelty. May I have her Christ-like and forgiving spirit.

My wife exemplifies love and grace. Being a pastor’s wife is not easy, and I’m not the easiest person to me married to (especially on Sunday afternoons after preaching three services). But she cares for our family in everyday and important ways: planning grocery orders, making meals, managing our money, and parenting our children. She overlooks my insensitivities and loves relentlessly. Her love inspires and encourages.

My wife teaches me to focus and follow through. In any task she undertakes (writing for a grant, refinishing cabinets, organizing a fundraiser, or planning our family calendar), she is able to concentrate and complete her work with quality and competency. In our age of social media, news on my smartphone, and constant interruption, I am too easily distracted. I envy her gift of concentration and follow through.

My mom, mother-in-law, and wife have modeled sensitivity to others. Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate, but it is also a difficult day for many. Infertility, grief, and broken relationships are experiences that are more acute on days like Mother’s Day. Our prayers, public comments, and interactions with others should reflect this sensitivity. We all need to remember that wherever we are and whatever we’ve been through Jesus sees and Jesus cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

I’ve been reading lately about spiritual formation, growth, and leadership development. And I have a long way to go before God is through with me. But however far I am along in this spiritual life, I owe much to the godly women God has used to shape me. I’m thankful for these Proverbs 31 women in my life.

Here’s a prayer for this meditation.

Father, thank you for the godly influences in my life. Thank you for the models of forgiveness, grace, and compassion that form my spiritual history. Give me eyes to see you at work in the lives of those closest to me. Grant me discernment to see patterns of selfish and sinful behavior in my life. Guide me in applying lessons like these in my daily walk. Glorify your name in my life as you form me into the likeness of Christ.

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash