The Clarity of Scripture

As we continue through the book “Christian Beliefs”, Grudem tackles the clarity of Scripture. Something that each of us can struggle with at times because some passages are easier to understand than others. But in this small section, Grudem tries to help us with those times that verses don’t seem clear or we don’t understand what is being said.

Something I found helpful is that while some passages are “…difficult to grasp, the Bible is written in such a way that all things necessary to become a Christian, live as a Christian, and grow as a Christian are clear.” So while there can be debate over different theological ideas and what the Bible is saying in regards to certain things, the beauty is that it does instruct us how to live and follow Christ. We don’t need to get caught up in the mysteries, but embrace the beauty and freedom of God’s Word and all that He has done for us. What God has done for us and how He loves us is emphatically clear.

These mysteries while they may hang us up, we cannot let them “overwhelm us in our reading”. Interestingly enough, Grudem points to two verses in Psalms about wisdom and understanding for the simple (Psalm 19:7, 119:130). But what God does is make His Word “…so understandable and clear that even the simple (people who lack sound judgment) can be made wise by it.”

Then Grudem gets right to the heart in a very condemning passage: “Since the things of God are ‘spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor. 2:14), a proper understanding of Scripture is often more the result of an individual’s spiritual condition than his or her intellectual ability. Often the truth of Scripture will appear to be ‘folly’ to those who have rejected the claims of Jesus (v.14).”

Now in saying that, he warns that every misunderstanding is due to a person’s spiritual condition because there are many godly Christian people that have misunderstood parts of Scripture. There are many that have distorted it in some way. Even the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about, as shown in Matthew 15:16. “Sometimes it was due to their hardened hearts (Luke 24:25); at other times it was because they needed to wait for further events and understanding (John 12:16). In addition, members of the early church did not always agree on the meaning of what was written in Scripture.”

So in reading this, we have to remember since the early church and the disciples had disagreements, we need to recognize our own shortcomings and be humble. In humility, admit that we don’t know everything or one denomination is better than the other. We are still brothers and sisters, sometimes with different views but our end goal is the same, to glorify God.

The world is quick to put the blame on the Scriptures when there are misunderstandings or things don’t seem clear, but as believers we have to remember that “God guided its composition so that it could be understood.” Due to our own shortcomings, “we fail to properly understand what the Bible is specifically teaching.” But, every time we read God’s Word, we are to seek Him. Seek to understand what He is saying and pray through it. Asking Him to “reveal the truth of his words to us.”

As you read through Scripture I encourage you to ask God what He is impressing on you. Allow the Spirit to work in you, to focus you on God’s Word and let it feed and nourish your soul. Then, pray through it. Pray through those items than stand out or the theme of what God is leading you. Finally, ask God what do you need to start doing, stop doing or continue doing.

Also, something that helps me understand difficult passages is to read multiple versions to see how it is translated differently. Even then, I may not understand so I try to look at commentaries to provide a little more clarity. It is easy for me to be lazy and not want to do the extra work but I want to understand as best as possible. I also trust God that as I seek Him, He will reveal to me what He knows is best for me. Sometimes, those prayers may not be answered immediately, but God loves it when we ask Him and talk to Him about it and He will show us.

Christian Beliefs: Authority of the Bible

Recently, I joined an early morning men’s group with guys from our adult community’s class. The focus of the discussion has been on improving our foundational skills and the basics of theology. One of the main books that have been used is called Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. The leaders decided that instead of going through this big textbook, that we would try to use the edited version called, “Christian Beliefs (20 basics every Christian should know)”.

It has been a great reminder of all the fundamental parts of our Christian faith. At the same time, it has helped by strengthening our beliefs. As we have started going through this book, I really want to share with you some of the key or important parts of the text in hopes of it reminding and strengthening your faith or its foundation.

For the next while, I am just going to let Wayne and Elliot Grudem talk to you from their book. All credit is theirs. The first chapter of the book focuses on the Bible. While this world tries to discredit our faith and the Bible, Grudem gives us some facts on the Bible and why we need it in our lives.

“…the Bible tells us what God thinks about his very words. God’s opinion of his words can be broken down into four general categories: authority, clarity, necessity and sufficiency.” I personally never thought about breaking down God’s opinion about the Bible into different categories but I like how he lays it out on where we are going and on why the Bible has authority and it is all sufficient for our nourishment.

The Authority of the Bible

All the words in the Bible are God’s words. Therefore, to disbelieve or disobey them is to disbelieve or disobey God himself.”

One thing I really appreciate is how the book points to how in the Bible, specifically the New Testament, it “affirms…the very words of God.” It gives reference to a small passage in 2 Peter 3:16 about the early church and the teachings of Paul. It shows us how Paul used the Old Testament writings and the very early writings that would later become the New Testament.

…Peter, and the early church, considered Paul’s writings to be in the same category as the Old Testament writings. Therefore, they considered Paul’s writings to be the very words of God.”

Paul quotes from both the Old Testament and the New Testament in 1 Timothy 5:18 “calling them both ‘Scripture’”. (The quote regarding the ox is from Deut. 25:4, and also from Luke 10:7 regarding the wages of a worker.)

How did the words of God get written down, Grudem goes on to explain there are “many ways” taken from Hebrews 1:1. But specifically, he mentions three ways:

“Sometimes God spoke directly to the author” (Rev. 2:1, 8, 12)
“…other times the author based much of his writings on interviews and research.” (Luke 1:1-3)
“At other times, the Holy Spirit brought to mind things that Jesus taught” (John 14:26)

But regardless of how the words came to be written down or given to the author, Grudem reminds us of the main idea about the authority of Scripture:

“…the words they put down were an extensions of them [the authors] – their personalities, skills, backgrounds, and training. But they were also exactly the words God wanted them to write – the very words that God claimed as his own.”

Again, the book reminds us who God is and what authority He has and why the authority of Scripture is above reproach, “For what authority could be higher than God? So, Scripture ultimately gains its authority from itself.” Why can it do that? Because the words written down in Scripture are the very words of God and God claims that they are his own.

But here is the beautiful reminder that causes us to think about our faith. He asks us why we believe that Scripture is true. He wants us to question ourselves and also humble ourselves in the realization that the main reason Scripture is true and we believe that the claims God makes about Scripture are not because of us or any work we have done. It is all through “the work of the Holy Spirit in an individual’s heart.” The work the Holy Spirit does is not changing the words of the Bible or makes them become the words of God, “He does, however, change the reader of Scripture.” There are other arguments or reasons why to believe the claims of Scripture, but we must not lesson the work of what the Holy Spirit does.

As to the truth of Scripture, we are reminded in John 17:17 that the “word is truth.” Nothing will ever contradict Scripture.

…because it was written by ordinary men in an ordinary language with an ordinary style, it does contain loos or free quotations and some uncommon and unusual forms of grammar or spelling. But there are not matters of truthfulness. The Bible does not, in its original form, affirm anything contrary to fact.”

Then one of my favorite parts of the section:

“If the Bible does not affirm something contrary to fact, then it cannot be trusted. And if the Bible cannot be trusted, then God himself cannot be trusted. To believe that the Bible affirms something false would be to disbelieve God himself. To disbelieve God himself is to place yourself as a higher authority with a deeper, more developed understanding on a topic or topics than God himself.”

But how many times do we still somehow say we know better than God or hear about people who say the Bible doesn’t apply to today; in our disobedience we place ourselves higher than God. We say we know best to the all-knowing God.

Lastly, we read Scripture because we want to know God. We want to have a personal relationship with Him. The only way to know God is not turn to man but turn to His very Word. As we seek God, He will reveal many marvelous mysteries of Him. As we read, we read to understand, to trust and to obey. The only way to know more of God is to seek Him. We must turn to His Word and be reminded of its amazing truthfulness. The authority of Scripture and we must let the Bible have authority in our lives.