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  • Writer's pictureVic Bernales

Perspicuity of Scripture

The 16th century Reformers believed and argued that God's written word is plain and clear. They taught that anyone who earnestly seeks to know God may find Him by reading His written Word.

These Protestant Reformers asserted that an ordinary believer indwelt by the Spirit of God is able to read and grasp the main message of the Scripture about God and His gift of salvation in Christ, as well as His revealed will for us.

This perfection or attribute of the holy Writ is often called perspicuity. Louis Berkhof writes, “In opposition to Rome, [the Reformers] further defended the clearness of the Bible. They did not deny that it contains mysteries too deep for human understanding, but simply contended that the knowledge necessary unto salvation, though not equally clear on every page of the Bible, is yet conveyed in a manner so simple that anyone earnestly seeking salvation can easily gather this knowledge for himself, and need not depend on the interpretation of the Church or the priesthood” ("Summary of Christian Doctrine," 20).

As Bible readers and interpreters we may not twist or misinterpret the plain biblical message of salvation by grace alone through faith (and not by works) in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8 9; 1 Tim. 1:12-17; Titus 3:4-7). Salvation is of the Lord!

We may not also diminish nor complicate simple commands that we as children of God ought to obey with gratitude and gladness to the Lord.

Commands such as “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” or “Honor your father and your mother,” are simple to understand and need not be allegorized.

The same thing applies to the narrative or parabolic sections of the Bible and the truth they teach or portray. The truth they reveal is usually clear enough to see and understand.

However, the clarity of the Scripture does not deny that there are different literary genres in the Bible (like narrative, prophetic, apocalyptic, parable, etc.) and therefore different literary approaches are required to make sense of the different Scriptural texts.

Likewise perspicuity recognizes that there are passages in the Scripture that are not easy to understand and this is where the principle that says “Scripture interprets Scripture” or the idea that states “the clearer parts of the Scripture must shed light to the difficult part” must be employed and applied.

The unity of Scripture is also important here. We should not forget that there is one God the Holy Spirit who is behind all the writing of the books of the Bible.

Literary and historical contexts are also important in this regard. A faithful Bible interpreter cannot afford to disregard the literary structure as well as the environment or background of the author and his audience in trying to understand the meaning of the text.

Responsible Bible interpretation then acknowledges the simplicity of the message of the Scripture, particularly on God’s work of salvation in Christ, while recognizing that there are things that God did not reveal to us and will remain unknown to us this side of glory (Deut. 29:29).

This should move us then to be diligent and careful, always relying on the Spirit's guidance in studying and understanding the word of God, not giving up when we seem to face dead end.


Posted with permission from Ptr Vic Bernales, Pastor, Davao Covenant Reformed Church

Original from a Facebook post here.


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