This is post #6 of 6 in a brief series on the doctrine of Scripture called “Scripture Alone.” I’m convinced that Christians today need to constantly reaffirm our convictions about God’s Word in order to avoid drifting into error, and in order to effectively serve and honor Christ. This was a core conviction at the heart of the Protestant Reformation. So, in each of these brief articles, with the help of the reformers, we’ll be unpacking the question, “What do we believe about the Bible?”
When Peter says, We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place (2 Pet. 1:19), he obviously trusts that we will be able to understand what is written in the Bible. Otherwise, he would not have said, “pay attention to the Word”! If it sounds obvious to you that we should be able to take our Bibles, read, and understand, then you have the reformers to thank. They had to fight for this truth.
The Roman church of the reformers’ day believed that a proper understanding of Scripture required an infallible interpretation from the teachers and leaders of the church. That’s why concepts like Bible studies and personal devotions, which seem so common to us, were almost non-existent in the reformers’ day. But men like John Calvin, the great French reformer, saw this as an enormous error and a misunderstanding of God’s gracious work in making himself known. In the Bible, Calvin wrote, “God opens his holy lips… to reveal himself.”1
To question the clarity of Scripture is really to question the character of God. Is he a God who hides from his people behind a closed and confusing book? Is an understanding of God’s Word only available to seminary graduates and trained theologians? The reformers answer to those questions was an emphatic, “no!” God desires to be known by his people and God has made Scripture clear so that he can be known by his people.
Scripture is not immediately clear regarding everything it teaches, but it is clear regarding the most important things it teaches. And nothing is more important than the message of salvation contained in the Bible. In 2 Timothy 3:15 Paul says that Scripture is able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The glorious message of the reformation, and the glorious message of Christianity, is that though you and I are great sinners, we have a greater Savior. Jesus Christ, the Lord of all creation, has paid the penalty for sin at the cross, risen victoriously from the grave, and offers grace and forgiveness and new eternal life to all who trust in him.
When you read the Bible, this message is clear! And Calvin rejoiced that in order to help us understand his Word, God gives us his Holy Spirit to illuminate the truth of his Word! Calvin said, “Scripture really begins to affect us only when it is sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit… illuminated by his power.”2 In other words, ordinary people like you can me really can understand what the Bible says, because the extraordinary Holy Spirit helps us!
This is why David prayed in Psalm 119:18, Open my eyes to see marvelous things in your law. That should be our prayer every time we come to the Bible. And that is a prayer God delights to answer.
Salvation from sin is available to you by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. And that salvation is revealed authoritatively, truly, sufficiently, necessarily, and clearly in Scripture alone.