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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Why Is the Bible So Special?

Don Stewart :: Because the Scripture Is Clear, Does This Mean Everything Can Be Easily Understood?

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Question 24

Because the Scripture Is Clear, Does This Mean Everything Can Be Easily Understood?

The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture does teach that the message of the Bible can be clearly understood. However, it does not mean that all parts of the Bible are easily understood. Indeed, some parts are not easy to understand. From Scripture, we discover the following facts:

  1. Peter Said Paul’s Writings Were Hard to Understand

    Peter acknowledged that some things in Scripture were difficult to understand. He said the following about some of the things the Apostle Paul taught:

    Don’t forget that the Lord is patient because he wants people to be saved. This is also what our dear friend Paul said when he wrote you with the wisdom that God had given him. Paul talks about these same things in all his letters, but part of what he says is hard to understand. Some ignorant and unsteady people even destroy themselves by twisting what he said. They do the same thing with other Scriptures too. (2 Peter 3:15-16 CEV)

    Peter realized some of Paul’s wisdom was difficult to understand. However, even in Peter’s statement we find that Paul’s writings were understandable. Peter said that Paul’s words were difficult to understand, but they were not impossible to understand. Also it was only some of the things that Paul wrote that were difficult to understand—it was not all of the things.

  2. There Are More Parts That Are Clear than Are Problematic

    The good news is there is much more in Scripture that is clear than is problematic. While there are areas of difficulty, these parts are small in comparison to the totality of Scripture. Most of the Scripture is absolutely clear. Therefore, we do not have to hand the problems over to experts. This is because of the remarkable agreement among believers on the basic teachings of the faith.

  3. There Is a Role for Teachers and Scholars to Instruct Believers

    There are, however, problem areas in Scripture. This is where the role of teachers and Bible scholars comes into play. God has given the church people who are able to diligently study the Scripture. They are then able to explain their findings to others. Paul wrote about them in the following manner:

    And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NASB)

    The New Revised Standard Version translates these verses in the following manner:

    The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NRSV)

    From this passage, we find that God has given the church people with special gifts. Therefore, we should take advantage of the teaching gifts that God has given to His people. Teachers have been given to the church by God and we need to take advantage of their gifts.

    For one thing, scholars are able to help correct false teachers. Paul wrote to Titus about the qualifications of an elder:

    He must have a strong and steadfast belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with right teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong. (Titus 1:9 NLT)

    To Timothy, he wrote:

    They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth. (2 Timothy 2:25 NLT)

    They are able to answer new questions that arise, as well as refine and state the truth more precisely.

    While God has given scholars to the church, these scholars do not speak for the church. They have no right to decide what we believe. Bible scholars do not consist of some governing elite group. Therefore, we should not assume that scholars always get things right; or always get things wrong for that matter! Every Bible teacher recognizes his or her own limitations.

  4. We Should Appreciate and Take Advantage of the Heritage of Teachers and Bible Scholars

    We also have a heritage of two thousand years of godly people interpreting Scripture. We should not ignore this resource. It is important that we find out what others have said in the past, as well as the ongoing work of biblical scholars. We should learn from the work of others. They have much to teach us.

  5. The Holy Spirit Has a Teaching Ministry to All Believers

    There is also the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit that must be considered. The Bible promises that the Holy Spirit will teach believers. Jesus said:

    When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father?the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father?he will testify about me. (John 15:26 NET)

    He is the ultimate teacher for believers. He is the One who takes the teachings of Scripture and makes them real to us.

  6. There Is No Guarantee That We Will Understand Everything

    While the Holy Spirit does indeed teach all believers, we must be careful not to make hasty conclusions regarding His ministry. Believing in the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee that we will instantly understand everything. For a person to know what the Scripture says and means involves both study and thought. This is why the Bible commands us to study God’s Word. Paul wrote:

    Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

    The Contemporary English Version translates this verse as follows:

    Do your best to win God’s approval as a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed and who teaches only the true message. (2 Timothy 2:15 CEV)

    Studying the Scripture takes work. Time and effort must be expended if we are to know what God’s Word says. However, the results are well worth the effort.

Summary - Question 24
Because the Scripture Is Clear, Does This Mean Everything Can Be Easily Understood?

The idea that the Scriptures are clear does not mean that every passage will be easy to understand. The Bible itself testifies that some parts are difficult to understand. Peter acknowledged this about Paul’s writings. Yet these parts were not impossible to understand.

The Bible also promises that the Holy Spirit will teach believers. This, however, is not a guarantee that we will immediately understand everything written within its pages. Understanding Scripture takes study and work.

The Bible says that God has given to the church certain people who are able to teach His truth. We also have a heritage of two thousand years of people attempting to understand difficulties in Scripture. Consequently, we should take advantage of those gifts that God has given certain individuals, as well as the knowledge that we can learn from the past.

What Is the Clarity of Scripture? (Perspicuity) ← Prior Section
What Is the Sufficiency of Scripture? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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