Scripture is Basically Clear
The following was adapted from a sermon delivered by Jacob Abshire on January 30, 2013. It was preached at Christian Tabernacle’s The Journey, a Wednesday Night Bible Study. It was part of a series on the foundation teachings about God’s word.
We are now in week 3 of our series called Big Words where we are covering some basic and fundamental doctrines of the Bible. In our opening night, we covered the inspiration of Scripture, which basically tells us that the Scripture is God’s actual words. The Bible comes from Him and is kept pure and trustworthy by Him. It was given in the way He intended and in the words that He intended. We learned that the Bible is God-breathed, being His very words. We also saw that it is God spoken and God carried. If God speaks, it is Scripture. After that, we looked at the authority of God’s Word. By this, we said that since God gave His Scripture to us and that it comes from Him, it necessarily has authority, that is the power and right, to command us to live and think and act in such a way that is pleasing to Him.
Tonight, I wish to take us a step further. I want you to feel the gravity of tonight’s big word. I want you to understand the importance of knowing what we will unpack tonight. And I’ll slate it by saying this: if the inspiration of Scripture is true, that God breathed out the Bible from His own breath and spoke it into existence, and if the authority of Scripture is true, that what God breathed and spoke and collected in the Bible is His word it thereby has the power to rule all of us and the power to make us follow. If both of these are true and yet the Scripture is not understandable, then the Scripture is powerless to do what it was intended.
Do you get that? I’m being very bold when I say this because it is important. If God gave us a word of power and authority, He must also give it to us in a way that we can understand it. Otherwise, it is powerless and useless to do anything. If it is not clear, it has no power. The apostle Paul made a similar argument when dealing with some Christians in Corinth who were abusing the spiritual gifts. Listen to what he says in 1 Corinthians 14:7-9:
If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air.
In the same way, if God is unclear with the Scriptures, He too is speaking into the air. If His word is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? And, if no one knows what God says, how can we know what God means? And, if we do not know what God means, how can we be saved? How can there be any transforming power?
I used to work for a security company that installed security systems in new homes. So, as a home was being built, I would show up and drill holes in the frame to run cables and connect cables and so forth. And often, there were workers with me who only spoke Spanish. They were from Mexico. Now, suppose I was up in the attic on the second floor of a home and these Spanish speaking men were outside telling me, in their own language, that the house was about to fall down and that if I did not get out, I would be crushed under the wood.
Their words would be powerful words to hear. In fact, they would be words that would save my life. But, if I do not speak Spanish, what good are those words to me? Do they have any power to save me? Sure they do. But they are useless to me since I do not speak Spanish. This is the idea that Paul has and the same thing that we are considering tonight.
Paul says in verse 10 that we would be foreigners to each other. We would be like people who speak different languages. It would be like there is a gulf of land or sea in between us that separates us from understanding each other. But God said that the Scripture is not like that. It is not distant and foreign. It is near and easy to understand. Turn to Deuteronomy 30:11-15. It says this:
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
So the Word of God is not up in the clouds out of reach so that we have to wait for someone to go get it in the heavens. It is not in outer space so that only astronauts can hear it. Neither is across the ocean where we cannot see it or hear it but have to send someone on a boat to go get it. It is not out of our reach, the text says. Rather, it “very near you” and it is “in your mouth” and “in your heart” which basically means that it is intelligible and understandable. It is clear and near your mind, near your heart, near your understanding. And so you can obey it.
So tonight, we want to talk about the Perspicuity of Scripture. This is truly a big word in the literal sense. In fact, it takes a bit of practice to say—a bit of spit as well. It means that the Bible, in its basic and central message, is clear. Now this doesn’t mean that the Bible is simple. It just means that it clearly states what it means. You can take the word for what it says. It is clear and understandable.
I’d like to begin, then, where I left off last time I was hear. I briefly mentioned how Peter elevated the Scripture above the experience of the transfiguration. You might remember us reading 1 Peter 1:19 which says:
“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word”
Now, let’s stop there for a moment. I made a big deal out of this two weeks ago because it impressed me so much. I told my wife that I felt like any more passion in me and I would have fell over the podium trying to get it to you all last time. Peter was an eyewitness to the glorious transfiguration of Christ, an experience that none before him or after him have ever seen. And yet, he says that the Bible is more sure than that. Now, what I didn’t realize when I was talking about that, was that Peter was actually talking about the subject we have tonight—the clarity of Scripture. He says that the Bible is “something more sure” which is another way of saying that it is clearer.
My son and I just had an appointment with the eye doctor last week. I had corrective surgery a few years ago and so I have to go once a year just to keep my warranty. I don’t know what that means, but I follow along so that everything goes well. My son has poor sight like I did when I was his age. He is legally blind. He will have a hard time walking without corrective glasses. So it is pretty bad.
I sat down in the seat for my exam first and my son waited in the room patiently. You know how these things go. The room is dark and gigantic wheels are placed in front of your face and you are asked to read the line of letters. The first line is the largest, only a couple of letter fit. The bottom line is the smallest and there are about six letters there. This line is for the 20/20 vision. Of course, I can read that line. But my son cannot. Yet he heard me read it aloud. When it was his turn, the doctor says, “Now Justus, read whichever line you can see.” And my son, since he wants to be like Dad, attempts the bottom line and makes a mess of it. He doesn’t get one letter right.
You see, the bottom line is not visible to him. It is blurry. So he cannot read it. He cannot make it out. He doesn’t know what the letters are and gets it wrong. He would tell the doctor, “D” and the doctor would say to him, “Are you sure?” And my son would pause, double think, then change his mind to “A” and the doctor would ask again, “Are you sure?” The truth is, my son was not sure and so he kept changing his mind. Peter says that we have something more sure than actually seeing with our own eyes the majestic glory of Christ. We have the written Word. That is what he means by “something more sure.”
There is another thing that we ought to consider from this text. I’ll lead into it by asking you this: What is so significant about the transfiguration? I mean, Peter was there to see the many miracles of Jesus. He saw the feeding of the 5,000 and more. He saw the crucifixion too. And, he saw the burial and the resurrection. He saw the ascension. All of these things are wondrous events that should move us to belief. So, what is it about the transfiguration? What is so significant about that? Well, my friends, that is exactly where perspicuity comes into play.
The Big Picture
I want to go back to the story in the gospel of Luke so that we might get the big picture here. Peter has a big message but it requires that we first understand the big picture. Let’s go back to the moment when Jesus was transfigured and try to put ourselves in Peters shoes so that we might experience what it might have been like. Luke chapter 9. It was very common for Jesus to get alone and pray when it was night out. And it is night time, in the evening to be exact, and this is what happens, “Now about eight days after these sayings he,” that is Jesus, “took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” I like what Mark says in his record about this. He says, “and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them,” which sort of puts in today’s language. Jesus was glowing from the inside out. His skin was white and glowing like a light. It was not that his garments were lit, it was that his skin was glowing through his clothes.
Now verse 30, “And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure.” They were talking about Jesus mission to the cross. The word “departure” is the word “exodus” in the Greek. You might remember Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. This was the great exodus that symbolically taught about the coming Messiah who would save His people from the slavery of sin. This is Jesus. And so He and Moses and Elijah are talking about the atonement of Christ, “which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep.”
You know that it was typical for Jesus to go out and pray during the night for hours. It was also typical for the disciples to go with him partly but to sleep instead of pray. And that is what Peter and the other two did here. “but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus,” putting his foot in his mouth, I would say, which is also very typical of Peter. He says this to Jesus more or less, “Oh, it is good that we are here to help you three out. We can make tents for you, Moses, and Elijah. Jesus, aren’t you glad we came along!” But Luke records this: Peter didn’t realize what he was saying, verse 33. “As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!'” Now let’s stop there.
To recap—it is dark outside, evening time. Jesus take Peter and two others with him up a mountain to pray in the dark. Jesus is then transfigured into a intensely radiant, glowing light that lights up the darkness and the disciples wake up from this. Then, a voice from heaven, which is the voice of God, says, “Listen to him!”
The Big Message
With this picture in mind, let’s go back to 2 Peter chapter 1 and see how he speaks about this. You need to keep it all in your mind as we read, beginning with verse 16, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” He saying that we didn’t make this stuff up. We saw it with our own eyes. In fact, we saw the transfiguration. And now he is going to describe it, “For when he received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’,” which is what God said, remember? Peter continues, “we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
So Peter was with him. He saw the transfiguration of Christ. He saw the majestic glory on that mountain. Now listen, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” Do you see the wonderful parallels here. Peter is taking that event and telling us what to think about it. Look at the parallels.
First, in the gospel account, Jesus, who John calls the “word of God”, is the light shining in the darkness. Now here in the epistle, Peter says that the Scripture, or Word of God, is the lamp in the dark place. Second, in the gospel of Luke, God says to listen to Jesus, the word of God. Here in Peter, God says through the epistle, pay attention to the Word of God.
So there it is. The Scripture is the light in the darkness. We ought to listen and pay attention to it. Why? Because it is the Word of God. It is Jesus. From Genesis to Revelation, it is about Jesus. Jesus is the Scripture. He is the light that shines in the darkness.
In the Bible, the word “light” is a metaphor used to describe a source of truth, of direction and guidance. Light is something that makes a way for someone. It is a pathway and lead. It is the source of clarity. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Jesus is that light. He makes clear the path to heaven. He guides us to the Father.
Picture yourself in a pitch black, dark room. The walls are full of one-inch tiles that are all black. But in the room is one navy colored tile and a voice from a speaker says to you, “You have 30 seconds to find the navy tile in the room or you will die—touch any other tile and you will also die.” How well would you fair? Do you think that you could find it? Of course not! This is how we are before Jesus leads us to heaven. We are in a dark room with no chance to find the way to God. A voice, which is the law, tells us what to do but we cannot do it. We need the light. We need Jesus to shine His light on us, on the navy tile, and on the path to get there. So this is what Jesus does. He lights the path to heaven by being the light Himself.
Light is clarity. When we cannot see, the light enables our sight. It gives us clear vision. It is the presence of divine truth. Starting with Genesis, you recall that God spoke, “Let there be light and there was light.” Before that, there was only darkness. And that is where creation began. After that, the light of the pillar of fire, guided the Israelites out of Egypt. Then, the sun sat still in Joshua. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of the life” (John 8:12). Then, in John 3:19-21:
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Notice that John says that it may be “clearly seen” here in this passage. God makes things clear. He gives us His word in clear terms. He makes it easy to understand. He is the light in the dark confusion. Then, you might remember that when Jesus, the light of the world, was killed on the cross, the earth went dark. The light was snuffed out and the earth went dark. Skip ahead to Revelation. Here, we find that in the new world, God will be our light and we will not need any other source of light, that’s Revelation 22:5.
So first, Peter points out that we have something more sure, it is Jesus, the light of the World, as recorded here in the Scripture. Next, we should heed the command. What do we do with this light? Simply put, we should listen! God said, “Listen to Him!” Peter said, “Pay attention!”
In Psalm 119:130, we find these words, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” All we must do is listen, read, study the Scripture. Why? Because it is easy to understand—even if you are simple. Now, folks, that is me. I am a simple person. You may not know this but when I graduated high school and immediately went to college, I had to take 3 full semesters of remedial Reading before I could even take a credited course on reading. That is a year and half of uncredited education just to get caught up to the place I should have been. I am a simple person. I just commit myself to the Scripture and it imparts understanding.
Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Remember that when God speaks, it is Scripture. So the testimony of the Lord is the Scripture, the word of God. It is sure, clear, certain, understandable, trustworthy. And, it makes wise the simple. That is you and me. It makes us wise. Did you hear that? You can be wise, if you just listen to the testimony of the Lord. Listen to the word of God.
Here is the reality, Paul wrote the inspired word of God when he wrote to the church at Corinth, and at Thessalonica, and at Phlippi, and at Rome. Friends, Paul didn’t write to the scholars at Rome. He wrote to the Romans—that’s all of the them. Not the smart ones. But also the ones like us, the simple. He would write and his letters would be read to the people: man, woman, and child. Regardless of age and education. They all heard it because it is clear for all of them. Even children.
In fact, turn to Deuteronomy once more. In chapter 6 verses 6-7. Watch this. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” See? You should read and discuss the Scripture with all people in every place, especially your family and children. Now I have 4 children and so I take this passage to the bank. I need this passage. I have to have it.
Listen, one more story and I’ll close. We have family time in our house. And recently, we’ve been going through the attributes of God. One night, we were talking about God’s immutability. Now, many adults have no idea what this means. Not because they can’t, but because they have never thought about it. Well, we talked about it with our children. They are ages six, eight, and ten right now. And we have a little one year old who just make noises. But the youngest of those three, who is six, understood what it meant. See, what I do at the end of our family night is go around the table and have everyone tell me what it means in their own words. And, Kylee, my six year old, says to me, “It means that God doesn’t have to change His clothes.”
I love it! She has got it! God does not have to change his clothes because he is pure and never gets dirty. There is no need. Now that certainly isn’t the best way to think of it in theological, abstract terms, but that is essentially what it means. God never changes because he doesn’t have to. He is the same yesterday, today and forever more. And so, we know that even children can understand the Scripture, even some of the deepest truths.
Now let me leave you with this. You might be saying to yourself, “I understand, God speaks clearly or there would be no power to save, but how does that help me today?” Well, this is where I want you to be. I want you to walk out with this in mind. Let’s turn one last time back to 2 Peter 1. This time, to verse 10. He says, “Be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure.” Here is the idea of being sure. You can be sure. You can be certain. Why? Because the Bible is clear. And where there is clarity, there is certainty. Since the Bible is clear, you can be sure. And, when it comes to your salvation, you must be sure. Take that with you tonight as we close.