THE CLARITY OF SCRIPTURE
Separating God’s Word from Man’s Word
A Study By
Gary Ray Branscome
“If you continue in my word… you will know the truth. // We have not written anything to you, other than what you read. // If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
(John 8:31-32, 2Corinthians , Isaiah )
God’s Word is to be believed not debated, faithfully taught not twisted to make it agree with the opinions of men. God is not a fool who is unable to convey a thought clearly. The message that He wants us to get from His Word is plainly stated. It is stated so clearly that it needs no interpretation. It is stated so clearly that it is nothing “other than what you read” (2Cor. ). Because it is so clear, man’s finite reasoning, opinions, and explanations only get in the way (2Peter ).
It is true that God’s Law needs to be applied, and men may disagree on how it is to be applied. It is also true that many passages are hard to understand. However, every doctrine necessary to our salvation is so clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture that it needs no interpretation. The only interpretation you need is the same interpretation you are putting on my words as you read this, the plain grammatical meaning of the words. In other words, I am not writing “anything to you, other than what you read” (2Cor. ). For that reason, “In whatever matter Holy Scripture has definitely spoken the Christian theologian must suppress his own views, opinions, and speculations and adhere unwaveringly to the divine truths revealed in Holy Scripture. In no case is he permitted to inject into the body of divine truth his own figments and fabrications, and at no time must he allow his reason the prerogative of doubt, criticism, or denial, but every thought must everywhere be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2Cor. 10:5.” [John Theodore Muller, “Christian Dogmatics,” page 39.]
Of course Satan wants just the opposite. He wants people to debate about what the words mean instead of believing what they say, to read their own ideas into the text, to supplement what the Bible says with man-made explanations, and to explain away anything that does not agree with their way of thinking.
The Doctrine of the Clarity of Scripture
The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture is clearly stated in the words, “we have not written anything to you, other than what you read,” (2Cor. ). However it is assumed in many other passages. The words of Scripture can only be “a light” unto our path because they are clear (Psalm 119:105). A dark book in which everything that is said is “all a matter of opinion” cannot be a light to anyone’s path. Likewise, it is only because the words of Scripture are clear that those who continue in them will “know the truth” (John -32). It is only because the words of Scripture are clear that a child can know what they teach (2Timothy ). And, it is only because the words of Scripture are clear that we can tell if someone is speaking “according to” them or not (Isaiah ).
Because the words of Scripture are clear we do not need any man-made explanations. God wants us to believe and teach what His word says, not the opinions, traditions and “private” revelations that men come up with (2Peter ). That means that when the Bible says, “In six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything that is in them,” that is what God wants us to teach, not man-made speculation about the meaning of the word “day”. Likewise He wants us to teach that each of those days had an, “evening and the morning,” consisting of a period of darkness and light (Genesis 1:5). Those truths are so clearly stated in Scripture that when I say “that is what the Bible says,” I am stating an objective fact, not a subjective opinion.
The same holds true for all of the other doctrinal truths that are clearly stated in Scripture. When the Bible says of Jesus, “Whoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John ) that is the doctrine that God wants us to teach, not some man-made explanation or abstraction of what is said. The true doctrine consists of the words of Scripture, not the words of man. Nevertheless, because Satan wants to keep you from believing what the Bible says, he attacks the clarity of Scripture with a fury. Every cult and every false prophet denies that the Bible is clear. They may not deny it openly. But, they deny it every time that they explain away something the Bible says; something that contradicts the doctrines they have made up. For example, those who deny that man has a soul that leaves the body at death, feel constrained to explain away the words, “we… would rather be absent from the body, and present with the Lord,” (2Corinthians 5:8). In contrast, those who have conformed their thinking to the Word of God are willing to accept everything the Bible says, without trying to make it fit their own ideas (2Corinthians 10:5).
The Doctrine of the Trinity
Because every doctrine necessary for our salvation is clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture every Christian ought to be able agree on what is taught. Sadly, because of the blindness of the human heart, that is not the case and it is not likely to be (2Corinthians 4:4, Jeremiah 17:9). Instead, Satan gets people arguing over all sort of trivial matters. Instead of concentrating on what the Bible clearly says, they sift through the hard to understand statements looking for words they can make up explanations for, words they can interpret to fit their own ideas. And, then they pit those man-made explanations against the plain words of Scripture, causing controversy after controversy until people who are fed up with controversy look for some other authority — looking outside of Scripture for truth while ignoring what the Bible plainly says.
Another ploy Satan has used to convince people that Scripture alone is not sufficient, and must be supplemented by man’s word, is the false claim that the Bible does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Satan even sends cult people door to door trying to sell that idea to the public. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true that the word, “Trinity” is not found in Scripture, that word is simply the name we ascribe to a body of doctrinal truths that are each clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture.
1- Through the words, “Don’t we all have one father? Hasn’t one God created us,” the Bible gives us the doctrine that the Father is God (Malachi ) [See also Matthew , 45, 48.]
2- Through the words, “We are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God, and eternal life,” the Bible gives us the doctrine that the Son is God (1John ).
3- Through the words, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost… you have not lied to men, but to God,” the Bible gives us the doctrine that the Holy Ghost is God (Acts 5:3-4).
4- Through the words, “There is one God; and there is none other but he,” the Bible gives us the doctrine that there is only one God (Mark ).
In stating those four doctrines I in no way want to imply that those are the only passages of Scripture that teach those doctrines. Nor do I wish to imply that those four doctrines are all there is to the doctrine of the Trinity. There is far more. Nevertheless, those four doctrines constitute the heart and core of the doctrine of the Trinity. And, the point I want to make is that each of them is clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture.
I also want to call attention to the fact that those doctrinal truths are not all found in one place, but are scattered through Scripture “here a little and there a little”. For it is written, “To whom can he teach knowledge? and who will he enable to understand doctrine?… for truth must be upon truth, truth upon truth; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little,” (Isaiah 28:9-10).
Why did God scatter the doctrinal truths through Scripture that way? So that those who “would not hear… might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken” (Isaiah 28:12-13). And, that is exactly what has happened to all of the cults that have rejected the doctrine of the Trinity.
Teaching God’s Word Faithfully
The Bible plainly tells us that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and there is only One God. Therefore, that is what God wants us to believe and teach. However, the idea of three being one is totally alien to our way of thinking. In fact, in our universe it is impossible for three to be one. However, God transcends our universe. Although present everywhere, He exists in a different dimension, a spiritual dimension where Three can be One. Nevertheless, one false teacher after another has attempted to come up with some explanation aimed at reconciling what the Bible says about God with man’s ignorance.
One such attempt claims that the Holy Spirit is nothing more than, “God’s active force”. We reject that claim because the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit has a "mind" (Romans ), "speaks" (1Timothy 4:1), teaches (John ), can "grieve" (Ephesians ), can be "lied to" (Acts 5:3-4) and should be referred to as "He," not it (John ). [Notice that the doctrine God wants us to believe and teach is again plainly stated in Scripture, “Line upon line; here a little, and there a little,” (Isaiah 28:10)”.] Because having a mind, speaking, teaching and so forth are the qualities of a personal being (not a force), we speak of the Holy Spirit as a “Person”.
Since the same can be said about the Father and the Son, we refer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three “Persons” rather than three Gods. That terminology is used in order to avoid contradicting the fact that there is only One God.
Every attempt men make to harmonize what God has revealed about Himself with man’s way of thinking winds up contradicting something clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture. And, in regard to the Trinity, that generally means that they either contradict the fact that there is only one God, deny that the Son is God, or deny that there are three distinct persons.
As to the last error, the Bible clearly tells us that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons when it says, “Having been baptized, Jesus immediately went up out of the water: and, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And a voice from heaven, said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” (Matthew 3:16-17). Or, when it says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may remain with you forever; even the Spirit of truth,” (John -17). [See also John 14:26.] Here again, the doctrine that God wants us to believe and teach is clearly stated in Scripture, “Line upon line; here a little, and there a little,” (Isaiah 28:10). While those who refuse to “hear” simply brush what the Bible says aside (Isaiah 28:12-13).
Those who refuse to “hear” what the Bible says sometimes claim that no one believed that Christ was God until centuries after His death. However, the fact that “The high priest said to him, I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God,” tells us that the high priest believed the Messiah would be the “Son of God”. Likewise, the words, “The Jews tried all the harder to kill him, because he… said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God,” tell us the Jews believed that the Son of God (the Messiah) would be equal to God (Matthew 26:63, John 5:18). Again the truth is clearly stated in Scripture, “Line upon line; here a little, and there a little,” (Isaiah 28:10).
The words, “By Grace are you saved through faith,” should be of great comfort to every Christian (Ephesians 2:8). However, millions of Christians have been robbed of that comfort by a man-made interpretation that redefines grace as works. However, if we let Scripture define grace, the words, “If by grace, then is it no longer by works,” make it clear that “grace” excludes “works” (Romans 11:6). While the words, “The forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,” go on to tell us that God’s grace consists of forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7). So again the truth is clearly stated in Scripture, “Line upon line; here a little, and there a little,” while man-made explanations only hinder the gospel (Isaiah 28:10, 2Peter ).
It is the plain words of Scripture (not man-made explanations) that tell us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), that, “the wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23), that, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,” (1Peter 3:18), and that, “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7). Therefore, by defending the “clarity” of Scripture we are defending the salvation message against man-made explanations that make God’s Word of no effect (Mark ).
Moreover, because the doctrine that God wants us to believe and teach is clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture, Bible history is at the heart and center of that doctrine. The words, “Don’t we all have one father? Hasn’t one God created us?” tell us the spiritual significance of Creation (Malachi ). The words, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,” tell us the spiritual significance of Adam’s fall (Romans ). The words, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government will be on his shoulders: and his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” tell us the spiritual significance of Christ’s virgin birth (Isaiah 9:6). The words, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us of all sin,” tell us the spiritual significance of Christ’s death on the cross (1John 1:7). The words, “If Christ has not risen, your faith is worthless; and you are still in your sins,” tell us the spiritual significance of Christ’s resurrection from the dead (1Corinthians ). And, the words, “If I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you,” or “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” tell us the spiritual significance of Christ’s ascension into heaven (John 16:7, 1John 2:1). Here again, the truth that God wants us to believe and teach is clearly stated in Scripture “Line upon line; here a little, and there a little,” (Isaiah 28:10).
Because the doctrine that God wants us to believe and teach is clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture, everything else that the Bible says is there to support that doctrine, and nothing that is taught in the hard to understand passages of Scripture will contradict what is taught in the clear. For that reason, all of the hard to understand passages need to be interpreted to teach the same doctrine that is taught in the clear passages. And, those who interpret the hard to understand passages in a way that contradicts what is taught in the clear passages should not be listened to (Isaiah , Luke 24:25).