theology

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

Last week’s post dealt with an overview of theology. You can find it here if you’d like to look back at it. In these word of the week posts, we are looking at terms, doctrines, and concepts in systematic theology. Today’s word is revelation.

Theology is the study of God and God’s relation to the world. From our definition of theology, the question arises, “How do we know anything about God and God’s relation to the world?”

Answer: we know about God and his relationship to the world through what he has revealed to us.

Revelation means “unveiling, to make known.” The last book of the Bible is titled Revelation, and John’s revelation is God’s unveiling of Jesus Christ in all his glory to the world in salvation and judgment.

When we discuss the doctrine of revelation, we mean something more broad than merely the last book in the Bible. We mean that God to revealed himself to us.

Because humans are finite and God is infinite, if they are to know God, that knowledge must come about by God’s taking the initiative to make himself known.

Millard Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 26.

It is important here for readers to understand the necessity of revelation. In today’s experience authority is grounded in rationalism (math), empiricism (science), or personal autonomy (choice/freedom). Without getting into the weeds, the personal autonomy that permeates Western culture can be found in either rationalism or empiricism. In short, grounding truth and authority in any of these frameworks (rationalism, empiricism, personal autonomy) is insufficient. Questions remain unanswered if these are the only places for grounding truth. For centuries, revelation was considered the primary location for absolute truth. That changed philosophically during the Enlightenment era. And while the developments from the Enlightenment through Modernism and Postmodernism have changed how culture views truth and authority, these developments can never change what is true and absolute.

It is for this reason that we need God to reveal himself and what is true to us. When God reveals himself to us, we are able to grasp the core realities of what is and what has value in the world.

With regard to systematic theology, the doctrine of revelation is the starting place. We begin here because anything we know about God, and the world, and us, finds basis in what God has revealed to us.

There are several important truths about the doctrine of revelation that help us understand its value and importance for Christian theology and experience.

  • Revelation is personal. God made us in his image and revealed himself to us so we could know him. Nothing is more important in life than knowing God. How we come to know God occurs through God’s revelation of himself to us.
  • Revelation is cognitive. We can know truths, doctrines, content about God and us because God has revealed them to us. Because God made us rational beings, we can know and understand cognitively and experientially who God is and what he wants us to know.
  • Revelation is progressive. Over time God reveals himself. As seen in Scripture, God discloses more and more of himself as we read the accounts of God and his people. The more complete our picture of revelation, the more clear we are able to be about who God is and who we are.
  • Revelation is not exhaustive. While we can know truly about God, we cannot know fully about God. In other words, we know what God has revealed, but there are aspects of God’s nature and character that he has not fully revealed.
  • Revelation can be divided into two spheres: General and Special. The posts for the next two weeks will define general and special revelation. And many of the posts following those two will dive into aspects of special revelation.

Here is the primary truth we should take away from this post.

God wants us to know him. Think about this: the God who made the world and everything in it wants you to know him. God doesn’t need anything, and yet God revealed himself to sinful humans so that we could know him personally. This is an amazing thought. It is basically for this reason that I write, preach, teach, and share God with others. It should amaze us that God wants us to know him.

Do you know God? If not, comment below, and I’ll do my best to share with you how you can know him?

If you do know God, then remember that your knowledge of him will never be exhaustive. Keep learning, keep reading, and keep seeking God’s revelation so that you can know him better.