The Bible Is … Clear (The Perspicuity of Scripture)
The fourth attribute (essential characteristic) of the Bible you need to know as a Christian is that the Bible is clear. It clearly communicates what God intends to get across to us, particularly its core message about salvation from sin through faith in Christ.
When we say the Bible is clear, we don’t mean that every part of the Bible is easy to understand. In 2 Peter 3, as Peter is talking about the letters of Paul, Peter acknowledges that “there are some things in them [Paul’s letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
When we say the Bible is clear, we also don’t mean that every person understands it just as easily as everybody else. Sometimes God’s word has the effect of hardening people’s hearts against the truth (Isaiah 6:8-10; Mark 4:10-12). As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the 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.” Even among Christians, variations in age, maturity, learning, and giftedness make a real difference—not everybody is the same.
So, not everything in the Bible is equally clear, or equally clear to everyone (WCF 1.7). But when we say the Bible is clear, here’s what we do mean: The Bible’s central message is clear. The Bible’s teaching about how to be saved through faith in Christ because he lived, died, and rose again for sinners is clear. The Bible’s explanation of God’s character, His law, and His grace is clear. All of these basic aspects of the Bible’s content are repeated over and over in the Scriptures, and anyone can understand them without extraordinary effort or expert help.
In Isaiah 55:10-11, the Lord says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout … so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” If God means to communicate His truth to His people, nothing is going to stop Him from doing so—not even our ignorance and the hardness of our hearts. God has given us a clear word, and His message gets through.
Grace-Based Action Point
One early church writer said that the Bible is like a stream where a lamb can wade, but an elephant can swim. Even the wisest and most mature Christian could spend a lifetime studying the Bible and never get to the bottom of it—there is always more to learn. But any of us can pick up the Bible, read it, and understand what God wants us to know and love and do. There is much you can gain from listening to learned students and teachers of the Bible, but don’t wait for an expert to tell you what the Bible says. Read it for yourself! You may understand it better than you think you will, because the Bible is God’s word, and God’s word is clear.
Yours in Christ,