This is the third installment in a Reformation-themed series, looking at the practical application of the five Solas for believers today. For the previous part, dealing with the truth of Scripture, use the series link above to catch up.
There is no heresy to postmodern society except to believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth.
Nothing quite illustrates this like the word truthiness. Coined by comic and late-night TV host Stephen Colbert in 2005, the word has the definition of:
The quality of seeming to be true according to one’s intuition, opinion, or perception without regard to logic, factual evidence, or the like.1
We’ve stopped asking whether we can know what the truth is and succumbed to being content with whether something feels true. After all, no one tells the truth anymore – one need only follow an election cycle to empathize with that concern. If the truth doesn’t exist, then we can only deal in the realm of the truthy, not the truth, right?
As we continue in our mini-series on the Bible, we come to two more characteristics of God’s Word that answer that issue of whether truth exists or not: we can know that truth exists because God’s Word is clear about the truth and it speaks with authority to those issues.
II. The Bible matters because it is clear:
The technical term for the clarity of Scripture is its perspicuity. When we talk about Scripture being perspicuous, the 1689 London Baptist Confession says the following:
Some things in Scripture are clearer than others, and some people understand the teachings more clearly than others. However, the things that must be known, believed, and obeyed for salvation are so clearly set forth and explained in one part of Scripture or another that both the educated and uneducated may achieve a sufficient understanding of them by properly using ordinary measures.2
Yes, some parts of the Bible are hard to grapple with – the Bible says as much!
Also, regard the patience of our Lord as [an opportunity for] salvation, just as our dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you. He speaks about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.3
But the core of the Bible’s message is not a mystery – when it comes to those things we need to know for salvation, for life and godliness in the knowledge of God4, the Bible is clear.
In an age where we despair about whether we can even know what the truth is, the principle of Scripture’s clarity cuts through that despair with the assurance that we can know what is true and what is not and know it with certainty!
III. The Bible matters because it carries God’s authority:
Related to the fact that God has spoken clearly is the fact that when God speaks, what He says bears His authority.
Dr. Richard Mayhue, the longtime dean at The Master’s Seminary, summarizes God’s authority as follows:
“…with a biblical worldview, original authority and ultimate authority reside with God and God alone. God did not inherit His authority—there was no one to bequeath it to Him. God did not receive His authority—there was no one to bestow it on Him. God’s authority did not come by way of an election—there was no one to vote for Him. God did not seize His authority—there was no one to steal it from. God did not earn His authority—it was already His. God inherently embodies authority because He is the great “I AM” (Exod 3:14; John 8:58).”5
Few people who claim to believe in God would outwardly disagree with much of that sentiment – but the heart of the issue has to do with whether this authority extends to God’s Word and not just God Himself.
Dr. Mayhue, in another article, gives a helpful syllogism for dealing with this issue:
1. Scripture is the Word of God.
2. The words of God are authoritative.
Conclusion: Scripture is authoritative.6
If the Bible is the Word of God – which it is7 – and any word God says carries divine authority – which it does – then Scripture must be authoritative.
Scripture then is more than just a record of human experiences in search of the divine or highly suggestible moral advice – it is God Himself speaking to His people in terms that cannot be ignored or defied.
Calvin nailed this in his commentary on 2 Timothy 3:
We owe to the Scriptures the same reverence as we owe to God, since it has its only source in Him and has nothing of human origin mixed with it.8
God has spoken – and we can neither argue with nor downplay His Word!
While these are glorious truths in themselves, let’s not lose sight of what we discussed in part one about who God is – God is a God who is for us! He is a Father and when Father God speaks, it is for our ultimate good. When God speaks to us clearly and authoritatively, He does not do so in a violent thundering designed to scare us off.
That God has spoken with clear authority ought to comfort us!
Far from being the joyless edict of a pan-galactic killjoy, Scripture is ultimately the loving communication of a Father to His children. Even in its communication to the wicked and the lost, the Bible is still God the Father mercifully communicating to us, warning us of the impending doom of the wicked and calling us to repentance and faith in Christ.
Its promises are the joy of the believer, its teachings and instruction our guidance along life’s weary way, its warnings given that we might not veer off the right path, its central focus the Lord Jesus Christ: our Saviour, Sanctifier, Advocate with the Father and soon-coming King.
What a great and glorious treasure is left for us in the Word of God – the revealed mind and heart of God the Father to His covenant people.
I close with the wise words of John Calvin once again:
For who even of slight intelligence does not understand that, as nurses commonly do with infants, God is wont in measure to ‘lisp’ in speaking to us? Thus such forms of speaking do not so much express clearly what God is like as accommodate the knowledge of him to our slight capacity. To do this he must descend far beneath his loftiness.9
- “The Definition Of Truthiness”. 2017. Dictionary.Com. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/truthiness. [↩]
- “Chapter 1 – The Holy Scriptures”. 2017. Founders Ministries. http://founders.org/1689-confession/chapter-1-the-holy-scriptures/. [↩]
- 2 Peter 3:15-16 CSB [↩]
- His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. – 2 Peter 1:3 CSB [↩]
- MacArthur, John, and Richard Mayhue. Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary Of Bible Truth. 1st ed. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 101 [↩]
- Mayhue, Richard. 2004. “The Authority Of Scripture”. The Masters’ Seminary Journal 15 (2): 232. https://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj15j.pdf. [↩]
- 2 Peter 1:16-21 [↩]
- Calvin, John. 1996. The Second Epistle Of Paul The Apostle To The Corinthians And The Epistles To Timothy, Titus And Philemon. 1st ed. Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans. [↩]
- Calvin, John. 1961. Institutes Of The Christian Religion. 1st ed. London: SCM, 1:121 [↩]