The Clarity of the Bible – Part 1

Yesterday my family and I began reading Chapter 6, “The Four Characteristics of Scripture: (2) Clarity,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology in our after breakfast Bible reading time. We read the chapter’s introduction and its first section, which shows that the Bible often affirms its clarity or ability to be understood. We expect to spend three more days reading from the chapter.

That some parts of the Bible are difficult to understand is shown by what Peter says about the writings of Paul in 2 Peter 3:15-16, “Our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV).

However the Bible also affirms its overall clarity and the responsibility of God’s people to read and understand it. Here are a few passages that do this:
– “And these words that I command you shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when they sit in your house; and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
– “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).
– “Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures…'” (Matthew 21:42).
– “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you aslo read the letter from Laodicia” (Colossians 4:16; the “letter from Laodicia” was likely a letter that Paul wrote to Laodicea and that is now lost).
Grudem gives references to many more passages affirming the Bible’s clarity and the responsibility of God’s people to read and understand it, but in our family reading we read just the passages that he quoted.

Although the New Testament epistles were written to churches with large numbers of Gentile Christians with little or no knowledge of the history and culture of Israel, the writers of the epistles expected them to read and understand the Old Testament (in Greek). See, for example, Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Similarly believers of today are expected to read and understand the Bible despite the changes that have taken place since it was written.


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