Weekly Bible Study
Tuesday 7th July 2020
TOPIC: THE CLARITY OF SCRIPTURE
TEXT: 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Anyone who has begun to read the Bible seriously will realize that some parts can be understood very easily while other parts seem puzzling. In fact, very early in the history of the church Peter reminded his readers that some parts of Paul’s epistles were difficult to understand: (2 Peter 3:15–16). Peter did not say that there are things impossible to understand, but only difficult to understand.
The Bible Frequently Affirms Its Own Clarity: The Bible’s clarity and the responsibility of believers generally to read it and understand it are often emphasized. (Deut. 6:6–7) All the people of Israel were expected to be able to understand the words of Scripture well enough to be able to “teach them diligently” to their children.
The Moral and Spiritual Qualities Needed for Right Understanding: The New Testament writers frequently state that the ability to understand Scripture rightly is more a moral and spiritual than intellectual ability: “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts (literally “things”) of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:14–16; Heb. 5:14; James 1:5–6; 2 Peter 3:5).
Thus, although the New Testament authors affirm that the Bible in itself is written clearly, they also affirm that it will not be understood rightly by those who are unwilling to receive its teachings. The Scripture can be understood by all unbelievers who will read it sincerely seeking salvation, and by all believers who will read it while seeking God’s help in understanding it. This is because in both cases the Holy Spirit is at work overcoming the effects of sin, which otherwise will make the truth appear to be foolish (1 Cor. 2:14; 1:18–25; James 1:5–6, 22–25).
Definition of the Clarity of Scripture: In order to summarize this biblical material, we can affirm that the Bible is written in such a way that all things necessary for our salvation and for our Christian life and growth are very clearly set forth in Scripture. During Jesus’ lifetime, his own disciples at times failed to understand the Old Testament and Jesus’ own teachings due to their own lack of faith or hardness of heart (Luke 24:25).
In order to help people to avoid making mistakes in interpreting Scripture, many Bible teachers have developed “principles of interpretation,” or guidelines to encourage growth in the skill of proper interpretation. The word hermeneutics (from the Greek word hermēnēuo, “to interpret”) is the more technical term for this field of study: hermeneutics is the study of correct methods of interpretation (especially interpretation of Scripture).
Another technical term often used in discussions of biblical interpretation is “exegesis,” a term that refers more to the actual practice of interpreting Scripture, not to theories and principles about how it should be done: exegesis is the process of interpreting a text of Scripture. Consequently, when one studies principles of interpretation, that is “hermeneutics,” but when one applies those principles and begins actually explaining a biblical text, he or she is doing “exegesis.”
The existence of many disagreements about the meaning of Scripture throughout history reminds us that the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture does not imply or suggest that all believers will agree on all the teachings of Scripture. Nevertheless, it does tell us something very important —that the problem always lies not with Scripture but with ourselves.
We should never assume, for example, that only those who know Greek and Hebrew, or only pastors or Bible scholars, are able to understand the Bible rightly. Let us remember that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and that many of the Christians to whom the New Testament letters were written had no knowledge of Hebrew at all: they had to read the Old Testament in a Greek translation. Yet the New Testament authors assume that these people can read it and understand it rightly even without scholarly ability in the original language. Christians must never give up to the scholarly “experts” the task of interpreting Scripture: they must keep doing it every day for themselves, but through the assistance of the Holy Spirit