Can the Bible be understood and applied by all believers, or only those with specialized training?
Do you need a Masters of Theology to really understand the Bible, or can any believer read it and understand it? The doctrine of the clarity of scripture will help us answer that question.
The clarity of scripture can be defined as follows:
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. (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine)
Psalm 119:130 says, ?The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.? These are sweet words. The words of scripture give us light, and they impart understanding even to the simple (someone lacking wisdom). They are clear and show us how to live rightly in the world.
It’s important to realize, however, that understanding God’s word is more of a spiritual ability than an intellectual ability. In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul says:
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.
In other words, only those who are born again by the Holy Spirit are able to truly understand and apply the Word of God. Those who aren’t willing to believe or obey they teachings of scripture cannot rightly understand it. The Holy Spirit must help us understand the Word of God.
Does the clarity of scripture mean that all believers will agree on the meaning of all the scriptures? No. There were many times that, due to unbelief or hardness of heart, Jesus’ own disciples misunderstood the teaching of scripture. Until we get to heaven and are freed from sin, there will always be some measure of disagreement over the scriptures. However, we can know that the problem always lies with us, and not scripture.
This doctrine should encourage us. God wants us to know Him and follow Him and has given us words that can be understood. When you sit down to read your Bible, you can know that God wants you to understand it and benefit from it. This truth should cause us to love, treasure, and study God’s word.
Adapted from Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem and Jeff Purswell
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