Author: gary rieben
Category: Scripture Engagement
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Deut 30:11-14
Our God is a speaking God. Out of his love and grace he has chosen to reveal his glory to his people through his words. His clearest expression of who he is was revealed in the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. In his life and his words we behold the glory of God [John 1:14]. God continues to speak to us today through his Written Word the Bible. We can hear Jesus Christ speak today just as clearly and forcefully as the disciples did 2000 years ago. When we take up the Bible in faith and prayer, Jesus communicates His will and His ways to our hearts. He speaks to make us his friends.
If that is true, then we can expect that powerful forces will be seeking to keep us from picking up the Bible and reading. J. I Packer said it like this: “If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible….I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorns, hedges and man traps to frighten people off.” The devil doesn’t want us in the Word. It is the truth of God, known, understood and obeyed that defeats his lies.
Since the Bible was written, the devil has done everything he could to keep the Church from devouring the Word. He has viciously attacked God’s Word through dictators, philosophers and heretics. But God called forth courageous men and women who resisted his onslaught to the point of death. Martyrs like William Tyndale willingly gave their lives so that so that we could have God’s Word in our home and hearts. But what the devil could not accomplish by direct attack in the past, he has succeeded in doing by fostering a spirit of neglect in the present. Although we are told that the average home in America has three Bibles, they are not being read. There is growing evidence that the Bible is the best loved never read book of all time.
I suspect that the root of the problem is a lack of conviction and motivation. The enemy has led Christians to think that Bible reading is not worth the effort. They don’t delight in God’s Word because they think it is too boring or too hard to understand. I want to use this newsletter to challenge those deadly misconceptions.
One of the greatest and most controversial doctrines to emerge from the Reformation is the doctrine called the Clarity of Scripture. It affirms that “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 Gruden] It is controversial because the Roman Catholic Church, contrary to the leaders of the Reformation, believed that the average believer could not understand a normal reading of the Scriptures. Consequently, they refused to allow the Scriptures to be translated into the common language of the people. Only the clergy could read and teach the Scriptures.
That is the back ground for William Tyndale’s comment made to one church Bishop: “If God spare my life ere many years I wyl cause a boye that dryveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou dost.” [William Tynsdale 1521] Tyndale fled England and spent twelve years in exile translating the Bible into English. In the end it cost him his life, but his prophecy came true. To this day, English people of every social class can hear God speak when they pick up the Bible and read.
Every Christian can hear and understand God’s Word. Our confidence is built upon the truth that God is both sovereign and good. When He speaks it is always for a purpose. When He speaks He always accomplishes that purpose. [Isaiah 55:10-11]. If his desire is to reveal himself to his people, you can be sure that he will see to it that it happens. God desires to bring us into fellowship with him. That is what words do. They reveal character, communicate secrets, establish trust, express love and attract friends.
If it is God’s intention to make us His friends, then we have every reason to expect to hear and understand what he is saying in the Bible. What He has written there is not just for theologians and scholars. That is what R. C. Sproul was referring to when he asked this question: “What kind of God would reveal his love and redemption in terms so technical and concepts so profound that only elite corps of professional scholars could understand them?” Not the God of the Bible.
Joshua was not a theologian like Moses. But God had chosen him to lead his people after Moses had died. How could Joshua possibly do what the great Moses did? Here was God’s instructions:
Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Josh 1:6-9
Joshua could be courageous, confident and successful as Moses because he had the same words that Moses had. He could hear and understand God’s words as surely as Moses did. As he meditated upon the Book of the Law day and night, there would never be a time when God would not be speaking and guiding him. But here is one secret that many of us miss. God has promised to go with Joshua. That means that Joshua is not left to himself to figure out all of the implications and applications of the Law. God is present in His Word, personally speaking and opening the eyes of Joshua so that he can understand and obey God’s law.
The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture assumes the presence of God in the preaching and the reading of the His Word. The Bible is not merely the record of God’s activity long ago in human history. It is the means by which, through the illuminating and convicting work of the Spirit, God directly and personally addresses his people and the world today. Knowledge of God is not a human accomplishment but a gift of God’s grace. Therefore we can read the Bible boldly and confidently, not because of our training or scholarship, but because we read and study and memorize and meditate in the presence of our God. God not only attends the production of His words but also the reception of his words. Because of his presence, we have a clear and present Word.
The Clarity of the Scriptures does not imply that all scriptures are easily understood. Gregory the Great pointed this out when he wrote referring to the Bible: "It is so to speak, a kind of river, if I may so liken it, which is both shallow and deep, in which both the lamb may find footing and the elephant may swim."
The eternal and glorious God who spoke our awesome universe into existence is not boring. The God who speaks in the Bible does not stutter. Our sovereign and gracious God is the creator of words and the ultimate communicator. Our minds may be dull and our hearts may be hardened, but God’s grace can overcome our problems. When we pray with the Psalmist, “Open my eyes that I may see the wonderful things in thy law,” God gives us the spirit of wisdom and revelation [Ephesians 1:17]. Whether we are a trained theologian or just a simple plough boy, God will speak powerfully and clearly to our minds. When God speaks there is certainty and that certainty entails clarity.
So, pick up the Bible and read. It is not too high nor is it too far away from your understanding that you need an expert to explain it to you. When you read and when you meditate you do so in the presence of the Author. He will speak and you will hear and understand and be transformed in his presence.
"The objectivity and the certainty of the Word remains even if it is not believed." Martin Luther
Permissions: Permission is granted for reproduction and distribution of this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1348 | Nixa, MO 65714 USA | 417.619.9536
© Give Me That Book