VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.
So, what exactly does this imply? Well, for starters, that because “the learned, [and] unlearned alike” are able to understand all that’s necessary for being a believer in the Scriptures, then “the learned, [and] unlearned alike” both have an obligation to study, learn, and know those Scriptures! Having grown up in mostly a Southern Baptist church setting, I cannot keep count of how many times I heard people excuse themselves from this obligation on the claims that they “couldn’t understand” the Bible most of the time. That, simply, is just not true, and is proof of several things, two upon which I’ll spend some commentary:
First, that American “Christianity” is chock full of apathetic, lazy, and hence, ignorant people who want to be a part of all the church programs, etc. but do not want to labor in the Word of God.
Second, that American “Pastors” fail to preach to their members that laboring in the Word of God is both a sign of one being a Christian and also incumbent upon any who would profess such an indentification with the God of the Scriptures.
Lazy and Ignorant Professors of Faith
Many well-intending folks lie in this category, but that doesn’t make it any more excusable. The Bible is how we are to “learn” God’s attributes and gives us the criteria by which we identify if something/someone is “of” Him. This cannot be accomplished by a person who has failed to labor in God’s Word. Sure, there are some difficult things in the Scriptures, but that does not mean we chunk the responsibility of knowing God’s Word out the window. There is a purpose as to why God has given teachers to the Church (Eph. 4:11).
Keep in mind, the first step is to ask the Lord to aid us in our reading. No, I’m not talking about some mystical movement, wherein the Holy Spirit gives one new revelation, etc. However, one obviously needs the illumination of the Spirit to properly interpret the texts of Scripture. So ask!
Yes there are some difficult places in Scripture, but there is a whole lot that is not difficult to understand. And it’s these very passages one should master in order to shed light on the more difficult passages. The most fundamental rule to be remembered when laboring in the Word is a principle called the Analogy of Scripture, wherein it is stated that Scripture does not contradict itself. Thus, if there seems to be a contradiction, the problem is not with the Bible, but with the interpreter. So it follows, when we come to a passage that confuses one or gives him pause, he should use the clearer passages to illuminate those which are less clear.
Another important thing to remember is that we believe in Sola Scriptura. That is, we believe that Scripture alone is the only sure source and guide of all our faith and practice. Many times, though, people instead develop a solo Scriptura understanding. This is the “me and my Bible” mentality which seems to think that one’s own personal interpretation is the ruler of everything. And this is just foolish, because we all have grids and presuppositions through which we interpret the Scriptures. Here is where the importance of having faithful commentaries and trusted preachers of God’s Word comes in. So don’t take the Me-and-My Bible-Alone-on-an-Island route. Instead, read men like the Reformers and Puritans of old, and contemporary Reformed Authors who have proven themselves with the faithful handling of God’s Word.
The Failure of Modern “Preachers”
Next, I mentioned the failure of modern “preachers.” I think of men like Joel Osteen, or any plethora of “preachers” that one may find on television, and there is displayed the epitome of failed “preaching.” There are some great motivating words, and encouragements like one would never believe, but there is no preaching of sin, and how one of those sins is the failure of professing Christians to labor in the Word of God! We could even mention Rick Warren, while although quoting passage after passage in his book The Purpose Driven Life, has so ripped said passages out of context that they no longer emphasize the thrust of what God is saying in and through those passages. So there are people who pick up these “onesies” and use them as “life verses,” but they remain profoundly ignorant of the thrust of the Scriptures. To be honest, I believe that this second point is the most contributing factor to the first point.
Until men once again preach the necessity of every Christian being a laborer in God’s Word, there will continue to be mass ignorance, false security, and more loss than living folks in the pews of the so-called Churches.
Now, I hate to come across so pessimistically. Really, I do. However, this problem is pervasive amongst the Church today. Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, Osteen’s Your Best Life Now, et cetera, are not going to elicit real change. Only the Word of God can do that. So, please be a laborer of the Word of God. GRASP it’s meaning by laboring in its treasures. It is a precious gift from our Father, for His glory and our good.