t{squared}: The Clarity of Scripture

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theology

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The Clarity of Scripture

Clear watersThere are two reasons I hear and give repeatedly for why people (including myself) do not spend more time reading and studying the Bible:

  1. They don’t have the time.
  2. They find the Bible difficult to understand.
Today’s focus is on reason number 2, however I can’t just pass by the “I don’t have time” excuse without saying something. The reality is that we have time for what we want to have time for. If studying God’s word is truly important, we will make time. Stop reading this right now and go read your Bible. There, we just made time. :) I say this as much to myself as anyone else. There have been phases in my life where I studied the Word for 45 minutes a day and times when I never opened the Bible except for church. We must remember grace, but that does not stop us from seeking growth.

The Bible is too difficult for me to understand.

I’m going to just call a spade a spade. This is a lie from Satan.

God desires for us to know Him, so it stands to reason for Him to make His Word understandable in order that we may know Him. Having said that, I readily admit there are some confusing passages in the Bible. I read some chapters, and my first thought is “huh?” But we mustn’t stop there. We must trust that God’s desire is for our growth and understanding, therefore that is what we seek.

The Bible acknowledges that some parts are difficult (not impossible) to understand (2 Peter 3:15), but it also affirms its clarity and the ability of believers to read and understand it. Even children are able to understand it (Deut. 6:6-7). We may say that we do no have theological training or that we don’t know the original languages. However, think of the original members of the New Testament church–they came from all walks of life with varying degrees of education, both Jew and Gentile. The New Testament authors expected that they would understand Old Testament references. The Old Testament is written originally in Hebrew, so Gentile Christians read a Greek translation. We are not so different from them!
Grudem concludes that the “Clarity of Scripture means that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it” (108).

How do we understand Scripture?

  1. We accept that we need God’s help and ask for it. God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead us in understanding of His Word. So often we forget to ask the Spirit to help us discern what the Lord is saying in a passage.
  2. We seek to follow God’s Word. I can’t help but wonder if the reason we claim to “misunderstand” God’s Word is more because we simply don’t like what it says than that we really don’t understand. We come across a passage that convicts us and claim that we must have read that wrong instead of repenting and allowing the Holy Spirit to change us. This is not always the case, but its worth some introspection.  

If Scripture is clear, why are there disagreements on doctrine?

Grudem gives two reasons for disagreements on doctrine:
  1. We may be seeking to draw a conclusion about a topic on which Scripture is silent. (See application in this post for what to do in this situation)
  2. We have made a mistake in our interpretation. Scripture has a clear message, but we may interpret it incorrectly. In such cases, we must consider if our personal viewpoint is clouding what Scripture actually says or perhaps we simply haven’t spent enough time prayerfully studying the passage to understand its meaning.
In such cases where disagreement arises, I feel it best to first look inwardly at my own personal understanding of the text. I take time to study it again and ask the Lord if I’ve misunderstood. Then, once I am firm in my position, I may gracefully discuss that with the person who disagrees and see how they made their conclusions. Both parties can grow from a healthy discussion of disagreements even if no final agreement is met.

Application

Often a passage is clear from several readings, but if you find yourself continuing to struggle in understanding a passage, some additional tools may help.

Tools for studying Scripture:

  • A Study Bible: I use The ESV Study Bible. There are introductions to each book of the Bible and footnotes to help explain each major section of Scripture and individual verses.
  • A Greek/Hebrew Concordance: The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is good if you want a hard copy. I use the free one in the eBible app.
  • Commentaries: You can find oodles of commentaries on each book of the Bible. Be sure to research the author you choose and know what sort of background he is coming from. I can recommend The MacArthur New Testament Commentary by John MacArthur, however that is quite expensive. The eBible app also provides a brief commentary, although I haven’t read much of them.
  • Read different versions of the Bible. Sometimes reading it in a different translation helps clear up the confusion. I read the NIV, NASB, and ESV regularly.
If you really want to dive in, you can get Logos which is an amazing software program that combines all of this and more. Of course, its also quite expensive. They also have an app you can check out!
Remember, the Bible is meant to be understood and applied. Seek the Lord with a willing heart and He will illuminate His Word for you.<—Click to Tweet! 
What tools do you use to study Scripture? Please share in the comments!

If you are new to t{squared}, I am using Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine to guide this study! The numbers you see in parenthesis refer to page numbers in this text.

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This post is linked with thanks to:

Thought Provoking Thursday
Thoughtful Thursday
Thankful Thursday
Proverbs 31 Thursday
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Photo Credit: juicyverve 

Comments

  1. Sherri Davidson says:

    I love this post!! I will say that there are parts in the bible that I found hard, but any time spend in His Word is amazing and rewarding.

  2. Judith @havenuvrest says:

    You have definitely challenged all of us ladies who read this. This takes a lot of time to do the studying and research for these posts. Thank you.

  3. Mary Beth, let me just tell you again how much I appreciate what you are doing on this blog. It’s wonderful! You’re doing a great job with this series, especially, and I hope that God uses it to draw women closer to him and recognize that they can be solid theologians for His glory! So often women shy away from digging deep into the word for fear of not understanding, and you are providing a resource every week to tug them away from that fear and into obedience. I’m praying for you and your blog, and I can’t wait to see it reach more and more women.

  4. Woops That comment was for Sarah! I need to pay attention!

  5. So I just typed a response and it disappeared! Sorry if you get this twice! Let me try again: I would definitely rather folks read God’s Words than mine! His are definitely life changing! Have you heard of Hello Mornings? That has really helped me to consistently have a quiet time in the mornings. It may be short, but it’s something!

  6. Thanks for the resource! I will be checking that out!

  7. Hey Mary Beth! Found your blog through your Allume post and just loving it. Especially encouraged by this: “Stop reading this right now and go read your Bible.” Oh friend, I am the queen of don’t-have-time! Such a convicting reminder that I need to make time. Thank you, sister.

    • I would definitely rather folks read God’s words than mine! They are definitely life changing. Thanks for hopping over and commenting! Have you heard of Hello Mornings? It’s really helped me to make time for Bible study in the mornings. I only do about 15 minutes, but I consistently get it in during the week.

    • So I just typed a response and it disappeared! Sorry if you get this twice! Let me try again: I would definitely rather folks read God’s Words than mine! His are definitely life changing! Have you heard of Hello Mornings? That has really helped me to consistently have a quiet time in the mornings. It may be short, but it’s something!

  8. What a great post and vey thought provoking as well. I grew up fading the king James so now other versions almost seem to easy lol. I love learning new things and that almost alwa
    ys happens every day!

  9. TereasaM says:

    This was my life-saving verse, John 5:39-40, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” I learned from our experience that the best way to decipher truth in a disagreement is to look for Jesus. I have since tested this and find it true over and over. If Jesus is not in the answer, the answer is wrong. Like you said, there are areas of grace. The times we are pointed away from Jesus are the times we are in danger.

    • That’s so true! In my final semester of seminary, my Hermeneutics prof had us read a text that talks about how really the Whole Bible points to Christ. That when we finish reading a passage, we must ask ourselves, what does this tell me about Christ? Because He is IT.

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