Archive for May, 2009


The Perspicuity of Scripture…Isn’t that Clear

Perspicuity –  The Clarity of Scripture.

“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” (WCF)

“The doctrine of the perspicuity (clarity) of Holy Scripture has frequently been misunderstood and misrepresented, both by Protestant and Catholics. (Negatively) Perspicuity – does not mean that the matters and subjects with which Scripture deals are not mysteries that far exceed the reach of the human intellect. Nor does it assert that Scripture is clear in all its parts, so that no scientific exegesis is needed, or that, also in its doctrine of salvation, Scripture is plain and clear to every person without distinction. (Positively) It means only that the truth, the knowledge of which is necessary to everyone for salvation, though not spelled out with equal clarity on every page of Scripture, is nevertheless presented throughout all of Scripture in such a simple and intelligible for that a person concerned about the salvation of his or her soul can easily, by personal reading and study, learn to know that truth from Scripture without the assistance and guidance of the church and the priest. The way of salvation, not as it concerns the matter itself but as it concerns the mode of transmission, has been clearly set down there for the reader desirous of salvation.” Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics – Prolegomena

The Roman Catholic system taught and teaches that Scripture must be interpreted by the one that is infallible and always present in the church, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit possesses his own infallible organ of interpretation, the church; better still the pope the head of the church. The church is in possession of the truth so she is akin to the truth itself that she alone understands its meaning and is called to uphold it according to 2Tim. 3:15

The early church Fathers held no such view. Chrystostom – held just the opposite, here he is comparing the teaching of the prophets and apostles with the special knowledge of the “philosophers” of his day. “The prophets and apostles did the complete opposite; for they established for all the things that are sure and clear, inasmuch as they are the common teachers of the whole world so that each person by himself or herself might be able to understand what was said from the reading alone.”

Gregory I compares Scripture… “to a smooth and deep river in which a lamb could walk and an elephant could swim.”

 The Reformers taught and we still teach that the Holy Spirit alone is the true interpreter of the Word. Matt. 7:15; 16:17; John 6:44; 10:3; Heb. 5:14; 1 John 4:1

The Reformers taught that the Holy Spirit indwells the heart of every believer, and illuminates every child of God with the ability and desire to know the truth. The Clarity is in light of the Source. Scripture possesses the “power to interpret itself” and is the supreme judge of all controversies.

The Reformers referred to this as the “analogia Scriptura” Scripture interprets Scripture. “The obscure texts are explained by the plain ones, and the fundamental ideas of Scripture as a whole serve to clarify the parts.” Bavinck

Perspicuity is an attribute of Holy Scripture that Scripture claims for itself.

The Law was given in the Old Testament to be understood by the people. (The Word was meant to light their path to God.) Deut. 30:11; Ps. 19:8-9; 119:105, 130; Prov. 6:23

The Word came through the Prophets addressed to all the people. (not just the priests, elite etc.) Is.1:10; 5:3; 9:1; 40:1; Jer. 2:4; Ezek. 3:1)

The WORD (Jesus) spoke to openly to all the crowds that followed Him. Matt. 5:1; 13:1-2; 26:55

 The Apostles wrote to ALL those called saints with the intention of being understood by all to bring hope, endurance, comfort and edification. Rom. 1:7; 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 John 1:1

Scripture is meant to be understood by all and it is intended to be proclaimed just as clearly in the Church to all that have ears to hear. This principle directs the Church on how to teach, preach and apply the ministry of the Word to the saints.

The authority and power of the church then lies in how they handle apply and expound scripture not in itself. The role of the Church is to teach and proclaim these truths with equal clarity by employing literal, historical, grammatical hermeneutics based on this principle.

The principle of the perspicuity of scripture should then be the basis for all Confessions of faith, sermons, lessons and discussions in the church.

The Church has been charged with…

“Training in the Word” – 1Timothy 4:6-11

“Preserving the Word” – 1Timothy 6:20

“Preaching the Word”- 2 Timothy 4:2

“Defending the Word” – Titus 1:9

“Command from the Word” – 2Thess. 3:6

 The Church is called to explain the Word just as the teachers of the Old Testament were called to do, we are also commanded to make clear the less clear by interpreting Scripture with Scripture. Nehemiah 8:5-12

This is why God gave a gift to the church – pastor-teachers. Ephesians 4:11-14

Pastors are not the final authority on all things, the church is not the final authority either but when the principle of perspicuity of scripture is applied by the Church and pastors then the message they proclaim is clear to all.

The message proclaimed from scripture alone is our final source and authority for all things in the Church and when a pastor and Church follow that authority God is glorified and the saints are edified. 2 Peter 1:2-3

Pastor Randy – Sovereign Grace Bible Church – Ada, OK