Of The Holy Scriptures
Often times, in the location and context in which I live and minister, I feel as if I am in a resounding echo chamber. Now don't get me wrong, I am exceedingly grateful to be in a place where orthodox Reformed doctrine is held in high, high esteem and is clearly taught. But in living and ministering in such a place, I cannot be naïve to the fact that the perceived echo chamber in which I live can be a dangerous breeding ground for pride of intellect and knowledge in one's theological insight. In fact, I cannot be naïve in thinking that this is true only in my context. The young, restless, and Reformed community around the globe can often be a caricature of this pridefully pedantic way of thinking. But let me be very clear, your intellect and understanding of theology is a gift of God and a work of the Holy Spirit. It was not, is not, and never will be your own doing.
In the 1689 Second London Confession, chapter one: "Of the Holy Scriptures" outlines for the reader ten points of doctrine relating to the Bible. In paragraphs five and six, the writers of this historic confession were very clear that our understanding of Scripture is the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in applying to our heart and mind the vital truths
"necessary for the saving understanding of such things that are revealed in the Word." (1689, 1.6)
"our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts." (1689, 1.5)
Intellect and reason are attributes of God graciously given to humanity. Understanding of the Scriptures is a gracious gift of God given to His people as applied by the Holy Spirit so that we may come to a saving faith in Christ and be increasingly made into his likeness.
However, it would be grossly misguided to rely solely on the writings of mere men for truth; godly as they may have been. We must make the Scriptures our final authority and the plumb line by which we measure our understanding (which was the ultimate goal of the 1689 and of any good confession of faith). Taking a very brief survey of the biblical data, we find that it is the sovereign work of God in his election and decree to choose to illuminate the saving work of Christ to the heart and mind of individuals. Briefly looking at the Old Testament, in chapter six of the book of Isaiah, the Lord commissions Isaiah to go to proclaim to his people,
Then later in the book of Isaiah as the prophet is speaking of the coming messiah he mentions that eyes and ears will be opened to understanding! There will be those who see, hear, and trust in the coming messiah due to the effectual work of the Lord. (Isa 32:3-4, 35:5, 52:15) Also in the New Testament, we find a similar theme. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul is clarifying for the Corinthian church where his teaching comes from. His proclamation is "not a wisdom of this age" but it is "God's hidden wisdom" revealed by the Spirit of God to the people of God. This is not some gnostic wisdom revealed only and secretly to Paul but it is the message of the gospel revealed to those redeemed by Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
The word of God, inspired by the Spirit, can only be understood for the purpose of saving faith by those who have been indwelt by the Spirit who authored those words. The indwelling of the Spirit occurs upon faith in Jesus Christ and his life, death, and resurrection being necessary for salvation. This glorious news of Jesus' work on His peoples' behalf to cleanse them of their rebellious sin and justify them before the Father is revealed to us by the Spirit because of the divine foreordination of the Father decreed before the foundations of the earth were laid. As Reformed Christians, we should be the humblest of all people as we see our wretchedness before a holy God.
Therefore, let us diligently labor in studying the Scriptures. Let us faithfully and intentionally spend time reading and gleaning from God's word. Also, let us not sit back lazily and presume upon God's grace that he will bless slothful study with wisdom. And to my Reformed brethren, let us be humble in our theological conversations and our theological understanding. First, there are elements of doctrine which I am sure we are wrong about. No theologian has ever had all their doctrinal stances 100% accurate. Let us not think for a second that we have it down perfectly. Second, what we glean from the texts of Scripture are a pure, life-giving, and refreshing gift of God. These are his words that he has graciously given to us for "all saving knowledge, faith and obedience..." (1689, 1.1) We would be wise to understand that they are his words graciously given to us so that we may know him, they are not our words to build our reputation.
Clay is an elder at Christ Fellowship Church in Louisville, KY. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Christian Education at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Clay is married to Sulema and has three children, Hadessah, Selah, and Silas. He is a Special Education teacher in the Louisville area.