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1176. The Clarity of God’s Word

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
The Truth Network Radio
January 31, 2022 7:00 pm

1176. The Clarity of God’s Word

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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January 31, 2022 7:00 pm

Dr. Kerry McGonigal of the BJU Bible faculty continues a doctrinal series entitled “God’s Word in Our Hands” with a message titled, “The Clarity of God’s Word,” from 2 Peter 3:15-17.

The post 1176. The Clarity of God’s Word appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. The school was founded in 1927 by the evangelist Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. His intent was to make a school where Christ would be the center of everything so he established daily chapel services. Today, that tradition continues with fervent biblical preaching from the University Chapel platform. Today's message will be preached by Dr. Kerry McGonigal, a professor in the School of Religion. I've been asked to talk about the perspicuity of scripture in our series on God's word in our hands.

And I know after hearing that I just want to appeal to you to kind of control your level of excitement. I mean, what is perspicuity anyways? If I didn't know any better, I might guess that it has something to do with acute perspiration. You know, like that feeling you guys have when you think about asking out that girl and you just break into a cold sweat.

Or like that feeling that you get when you're asked to preach a 25 minute message, a grand slam, home run message on perspicuity to a group of college students who are sermon connoisseurs in the middle of the semester and in the middle of the week, cold sweat. So I'm kind of facing this chapel like Cusco and Pacha in the Emperor's New Groove when, you know, they're floating down the river tied to that branch and Pacha says, uh oh. Cusco says, don't tell me, we're about to ready, you know, we're going to go over a huge waterfall. Yep.

Sharp rocks at the bottom? Most likely. Bring it on.

So bring it on. Okay, maybe not. According to Webster's dictionary, perspicuity means the quality of being perspicuous. Don't you love dictionaries?

They're, they're so helpful. So what does perspicuous mean? Perspicuous means playing to the understanding, especially because of clarity and precision of presentation.

So when we talk about the perspicuity of scripture, we are talking about scripture's clarity. Now I think we need to start with this question. Who cares, right? Why should you care about this topic?

Well, here's why. Because if the Bible isn't clear in its teachings, and if we're not clear about what the Bible teaches, then we may be in really, really big trouble. For example, most of us in this building are building our eternal destinies on the fact of what the Bible teaches regarding salvation.

We believe that a person is justified by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. But the question is just how clear is the biblical teaching regarding the way of salvation? What if we're not understanding it correctly? I mean, if we're honest, I think we're going to have to admit that there are some hard things in the Bible.

There are some difficult things to understand. In fact, Peter acknowledges this. Look at the way Peter talks about the Apostle Paul in 2 Peter 3 verses 15 through 17. He says, count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. Now he says there are some things in Paul's letters that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and the unstable twist to their own destruction as they do the other scriptures.

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. Now listen, if Peter, one of the big three among the Apostles, Peter, the one to whom the keys of the kingdom were given, if Peter is willing to admit that there are parts of scripture that are hard to understand, then where does that leave the rest of us average folks? Hard to understand doesn't sound like clarity to me.

Is it possible for you and for me to understand what is hard to understand? And look at the end of verse 16. I mean, there are massive ramifications. There are eternal implications to this misunderstanding. Peter says that those who are ignorant and unstable twist what Paul has written to their own destruction. And he warns his readers against being carried away with the error of lawless people and losing their own stability.

So looking at a passage like this, I may not come away with much confidence that clarity and certainty are even possible. I mean, have you ever thought, why are there so many denominations? Why are there so many different Christian groups with different Christian beliefs? Why are there so many subgroups?

Why are there so many cults? And even if you take a single local church among the believers in that church, there are differences of opinions and sometimes those differences are so strong that it creates divisions within an assembly. Is clarity a reality and is clarity a possibility? The answer is yes, it is.

It's both a reality and thankfully it is a possibility. And that's in part because clarity is a two-way street. Now you remember the definition that I gave you from Webster's dictionary about perspicuous. In to the understanding, especially because of clarity and precision of presentation. So the definition speaks of clarity of understanding on this hand from the receiver's standpoint and clarity of presentation on this hand, the sender's standpoint. And because of the speaker's clarity, because of the author's clarity, there is a greater chance of clarity on the part of the receiver. So as you know, communication is a tricky business and there's this complex interplay between the sender and the receiver. Not everything a sender sends is clearly understood by the receiver. And part of that may be due in part to a lack of clarity on the part of the speaker, the sender, the author.

But even if a sender demonstrates a high degree of clarity in communication, if you examine his speech in light of all the principles of communication and they're of the highest value, not every receiver is going to understand with the same degree of clarity. So whose fault is it if you're in a class right now and you don't understand what your teacher's talking about? Well, some might say if the students aren't learning, the teachers aren't teaching. Others might argue that if the students aren't learning, the students aren't learning. And there are a number of barriers that we have to overcome. There's a lot of interference that we have to overcome for there to be clarity in this communication process.

Sometimes there's a physical barrier. Maybe you've heard of the older couple that was sitting on the front porch and they were in their rocking chairs and the husband started to feel romantical as the sun set before them. And so he turns to his elderly wife and says, Mabel, I'm proud of you. No response. So he increased the volume a little bit. Mabel, I'm proud of you.

Still nothing. So this time he leaned forward and said with all he could muster, Mabel, I'm proud of you. Mabel turns, well I'm tired of you too. Sometimes there's a physical barrier to communication. That didn't go too well, did it? Sometimes there's a language barrier. Maybe you've seen this, seen the Berlitz commercial for improving your English language skills. And so it begins with this seasoned veteran German Coast Guard officer who's showing this young Coast Guard recruit around the area with some of the radar and some of the other monitoring equipment. And after the experienced officer leaves, the young recruit hears his first distress call coming over the radio in English. Mayday, you hear. We're sinking, we're sinking.

Mayday, can you hear us? Hello, says the German recruit in his thick German accent. This is the German Coast Guard. Again, you hear the distress call. We're sinking, we're sinking. And so the young recruit leans forward closer to his microphone and he says, what are you sinking about? Sometimes there's a contextual barrier.

So it's not a physical problem and it's not a language barrier per se, but we don't understand the context of something. Like the time when I was pursuing my daughter's lost bunny. Actually it had escaped from our backyard and so I was hunting this thing down around our neighborhood. Oops, I just did something.

There we go. I was hunting this bunny around our neighborhood and trying to capture it. And every time I'd get close, the bunny would run away. And so here I am going into my neighbor's backyard, crouched, perched, ready to jump on this bunny.

Several times I did jump and I missed. The bunny would take off. Well, at one point I'm standing on the back porch of this lady's house like this because the bunny had gotten into her garden. And all of a sudden it hit me that if she happens to look out her sliding glass door and sees this, I may be misunderstood.

Bob Jones, professor caught on surveillance camera prowling around Simpsonville neighborhood. Sometimes there's subtlety to language and so sometimes conveying a message clearly is lost because of the subtlety of human language. There was one chapel that I began this way.

It's quite a blustery day out there. Makes me think of poo. And of course, in my mind, I had just made a subtle literary allusion to the works of A.A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh. But those who missed my allusion heard something altogether different.

And it wasn't until afterwards that I found out people were buckled over laughing and the guys in the sound booth were hooting and hollering and I had no clue that I had just miscommunicated to the masses. And you know, sometimes there's a gender barrier. I'm sure you haven't had this experience of feeling like you're talking over each other. He has no clue what I'm trying to say and he's trying to figure you out.

You're trying to figure her out. In other words, this is just a sampling of the kinds of things that can go wrong in the communication process and it makes clarity in presentation and clarity in understanding really a minor miracle when it takes place. So, the Bible's different though, right? I mean, God is the sender in the case of the Bible and you would assume that he doesn't have any problem communicating clearly. If that's the case, then the problem is not on his end, the problem is on our end.

But thankfully, it's not a problem that cannot be overcome. Clarity is possible with reference to the Bible. Not only is the Bible itself clear in its communication, but it's possible for us as readers to be clear about its message and about its meaning. You and I can come to understand the Bible with a high degree of certainty, but for that to happen, there's something that we have to do and there's something that we have to pray for or ask for. We're not going to experience clarity apart from hard work and intense prayer.

So here's how I'd like to put it today. Clarity is both a task and a gift. It can be yours when it comes to the Bible through careful interpretation and spiritual illumination. Clarity is a reality.

Clarity is a possibility. You can enjoy clarity and understanding God's Word, but it's going to take careful interpretation and spiritual illumination. So in the time that we have left today, I'd like to explore, number one, the task, the need for careful interpretation, and then the gift, the need for spiritual illumination.

So let's start here with the need for careful interpretation. Would you look at Acts chapter 8 in your Bibles? Acts chapter 8. Here we see an account of Philip. He's on his way from Jerusalem to Gaza, and he encounters this eunuch of great authority.

He serves under the queen of Ethiopia, and he's seated in his carriage. He's reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. So here's a man who doesn't seem to be lacking in mental capacity, mental capability, and yet he doesn't understand a portion of the Bible that he's reading. So Philip runs over, and he hears this man reading, and he asks him in verse 30, do you understand what you're reading? And notice what the eunuch says in response.

How can I understand unless someone guides or instructs me? So the man urges Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. And they look at the passage that he's reading, and then the eunuch asks Philip a question. Was the prophet talking about himself or someone else? You see, he doesn't understand. It's not clear to him. The passage itself is clear, but not to his understanding. So he needs Philip to explain the Bible to him. And so Philip, verse 35, begins with this portion in Isaiah, and he preaches Jesus to him. In other words, Philip gives the eunuch what he needs for clarity. The eunuch needed a fuller sense of the context. He needed to understand how scripture points us to Jesus Christ. So Philip preaches Christ. And now, with this Christological context in view, the eunuch gets it. It's crystal clear to him now, to the point probably where he can't believe he couldn't see it before.

Now it's so clear. So it's like someone coming to James, chapter 2, verse 24, which says, you see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only. By works a man is justified and not by faith only. Now that's one of those verses that if there's not clarity, there could be devastation spiritually. In other words, if you don't have a broader sense of the context of James, and if you don't understand the relationship between James and Paul, and you don't understand the context of the New Testament, you may struggle to make sense out of that verse. And without clarity, the reader could twist what James is saying to his or her own destruction.

So yes, scripture is clear in its teaching. But that doesn't mean that every reader will understand its teachings clearly and correctly. There is the need for interpretation, which often involves human explanation on the part of pastors and teachers and other believers. So why is there the need for careful interpretation? Because when it comes to the Bible, you've got these hurdles that you have to leap over.

And I'm not going to spend a lot of time here, but there are a number of hurdles that we have to jump over to enjoy clarity. Number one, the nature of scripture itself. Number two, the character of us as interpreters, as readers, as hearers. And then thirdly, the process of interpretation. So think about these hurdles to clarity with reference to the scripture itself. You've got the author hurdle. You've got the language hurdle, the cultural hurdle, the historical hurdle.

You've got the content. All of these things, you know, we go back to the Bible, we're going back thousands of years to a different history, a different culture, different times, different language, and we have to cross over all of these things. Look at what Peter says again here in 2 Peter 3, 15 to 17. It's the ignorant and the unstable who twist the scripture to their own destruction.

In some cases, it's not the nature of scripture, but it's the nature, the character of the person coming to scripture. There's something wrong with us. It's like we're trying to leap over these hurdles with a torn ACL. It's like several years back, I started having hearing problems and I'd be in a social setting and I couldn't hear what people were saying. It was all muffled. So I go to the doctor and I find out there's a tumor growing in my head.

And that tumor was right above my ear canal and it was growing and it was closing off that channel and I couldn't hear because there was this physical debilitation. When we come to scripture, we've got to recognize that there are certain spiritual debilitations, certain spiritual deficiencies that make it difficult to understand what God says. And then we've got this hurdle. The process of understanding what the Word says requires diligent labor, requires hard work. Paul tells Timothy, 2 Timothy 2, 15 to be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of truth. Be diligent.

Be a worker in the text so that you can accurately divide the text. So clarity is both a task and a gift. It can be yours through careful interpretation and spiritual illumination.

So let's take up that second idea, the need for spiritual illumination. One of the things that's really cool about the software program that I use, Logos Bible Software, is that some of the books, some of the commentaries that I use have this ask the author feature. So I can be looking at a commentary in Romans by Douglas Mu and I've got this little option over here to ask the author a question. When we're reading the Bible, does it ever occur to you to ask the author?

Does it ever occur to us how deeply we need God Himself to open up our eyes to understand what the Scripture says? Look at this passage in Matthew chapter 16 where Jesus is talking to Peter and Jesus says to him, whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Right answer. And Jesus said to him, blessed art thou Simon Barjona for flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father which is in heaven. You came to the right theological conclusion, but it was a gift from God Himself. This text in Matthew 16 along with others makes it clear that God is over this whole process, He's sovereign over this process of revelation and illumination.

Here's one of my teachers, Dr. Leighton Talbert wrote about this. God Himself holds the gift of comprehending even what He plainly reveals. God holds the gift of understanding even for that which He plainly, clearly reveals.

He is free to hide from us for His own reasons even the most obvious of biblical truths. Without His illumination, we are prone to error, to insensitivity, to dullness. We need consciously to seek His help never to become confident in our own ability to discern and decipher eternal, spiritual, God given truth. How often do you and I pray before we read Scripture and pray during our reading of Scripture and pray after we've read Scripture that God, the Holy Spirit, the author of this word would open up our eyes to behold wondrous things out of His law?

This is absolutely critical. We can't just depend upon our skill as interpreters, the fact that we've grown up in Christian homes and have a Bible college education. All of this has to be conditioned under the authority of the Spirit of God to give us insight and illumination into the Scriptures.

Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 1. Here he is portraying the magnificence of our calling and he says, Wherefore, I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love and all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give unto you, it's a gift, the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened that you may know. In other words, if you're going to understand this calling that I've been talking about, we've got to stop, we've got to pray. We've got to pray for illumination. We've got to pray that God would open up our eyes to understand this.

He does the same thing in chapter 3 verses 14 through 18. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, it's a gift, to be strengthened with His might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye being rooted and grounded in love may be able, notice this, to comprehend, may be able to comprehend among all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height. We need Jesus to open our eyes and we need Him to help us see Him and understand Him and grasp the greatness of His love for us. So clarity is both a task and a gift. It can be yours through careful interpretation and spiritual illumination.

We don't need to pit these against one another. The Holy Spirit normally, characteristically uses human means to accomplish His purposes. We need God the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and that typically comes when we give ourselves as diligent workers to the text. When we examine the Bible in light of its context, when we apply the principles of interpretation and hermeneutics to passages of Scripture, God the Holy Spirit gives us understanding. So it's this dependent reading of the text. Clarity is both a task and a gift.

It can be yours through careful interpretation and spiritual illumination. You've been listening to a sermon preached by Dr. Kerry McGonigal, a professor in the School of Religion at Bob Jones University. I'm Steve Pettit, president of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. Thank you for listening to The Daily Platform. If you're looking for a regionally accredited Christian liberal arts university, I invite you to consider BJU, which is purposefully designed to inspire a lifelong pursuit of learning, loving and leading. For more information about Bob Jones University, visit or call 800-252-6363. Thanks again for listening, and we look forward to the next time as we study God's Word together on The Daily Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-14 19:37:18 / 2023-06-14 19:46:10 / 9

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