God’s Word, Holy Scripture, Is Clear. Are You?
Keynote Sermon for the 62nd Annual Convention
Preached by President Edward J. Worley
Friday, June 28, 2013
at Peace Ev. Lutheran Church, Oak Forest, Illinois
Text: Psalm 119:105, 130
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ our Savior and the Holy Ghost our Comforter:
Our sermon text is actually two verses from Psalm 119, verses105 and 130. Hear the clear Word of the only true God, the Holy Trinity: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. …The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”
Dearly beloved, in and of ourselves lost in the darkness of total depravity and doomed to eternal darkness, everlasting damnation but, by the grace and merit of Christ alone, delivered unto eternal life by the light of the Gospel:
Our convention theme for 2013, the 62nd Annual Convention of the Concordia Lutheran Conference, continues our recent series on the properties of Holy Scripture with “The Perspicuity of Holy Scripture.” Is that clear? When the discussion was on-going about this year’s theme, some asked, “Is the word perspicuity clear to our people?” The word, ironically, means “clearness, clarity”! We choose to retain it as a standard term used for centuries by those who speak as the oracles of God, the theologically orthodox.
The definition of this attribute of Holy Scripture is simply this: God’s Word is clear in and of itself, most especially in matters of salvation. Scripture teaches clearly (and perfectly) whatever we sinners need to know to obtain eternal life! The Bible sets forth in words so clear, simple and plain all the teaching regarding the salvation of sinners that the doctrine can be understood by all without the need of any other “source” or “helper” but solely by the words themselves (through the enlightening power of the Holy Ghost, of course). Therefore, the intention, the purpose of the Author, God Himself, in giving us His very Word is also clear: “And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:15-16).
May God bless each and every one of us as we consider from the heart:
God’s Word, Holy Scripture Is Clear. Are You?
Our main points are as follows:
I. Holy Scripture is God’s very Word; II. Holy Scripture is clear in and of itself; III. Holy Scripture is clear especially in regard to God’s two-fold purpose; and IV. Have you received the eternal benefit of God’s clear Word, Holy Scripture?
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (v. 105). The Psalmist begins with a connection vital to all which follows. Two simple words Thy and Word are connected. The result? The result is clear! The Holy Scripture is God’s very Word! The true God Himself, the Holy Trinity, gave sinners His inerrant and infallible Word, the Holy Scriptures. Everyone should be as the Psalmist and as the Thessalonian believers regarding whom the apostle declares: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (I Thessalonians 2:13). Only the Holy Ghost, by His grace and power alone, working through His very Word, can work such reception of Holy Scripture. Our Lord’s prayer for His own testifies to the fact: “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). The Lord prayed also for all future believers: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their Word” (John 17:20). In other words, He prayed for you!
Since Holy Scripture is God’s very Word, it is also clear in and of itself. As a lamp lights the dark night, and the sun lights the day, Holy Scripture enlightens, illuminates, shining continuously to fulfill God’s purpose.
As we use a lamp to light the dark hours and have the light of the sun to rule the day, providing light continuously, we enjoy continuous 24 hours a day light! Holy Scripture, God’s Word, is our continuous light, a clear shining of truth in the utter spiritual darkness. Without Holy Scripture we, by fallen nature, left to ourselves, would remain completely captive to darkness. The light is life-giving. The darkness is death-dealing. There is eternal damnation in the darkness. Scripture clearly teaches two sobering facts about spiritual darkness. All sinners are conceived and born in darkness and ruled by the prince thereof, the literal devil in the darkness! Consider these facts: God’s Word, Holy Scripture, declares: “Ye were…darkness” (Ephesians 5:8a). Prior to enlightenment, all men are darkness and in darkness under the spiritual dominion of the prince of darkness, Satan himself! In unbelief, sinners are “in darkness, [children] of the night…[children] of darkness” (I Thessalonians 5:4-5), walking according to the dark world and the dark prince of this world, the spirit of darkness who works in all unbelievers (Ephesians 2:2-3). God’s Word describes the unconverted this way: “They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness” (Psalms 82:5a).
Sinners cannot attain enlightenment in and of themselves. “Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us; we wait for light but behold obscurity, for brightness, but we walk in darkness” (Isaiah 59:9). In such darkness and blindness one result is inevitable. The Lord tells us: “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14b). How deep and dark is the ditch? Ultimately, it is eternally deep and dark! Holy Scripture, God’s clear Word, describes the place in which all unbelievers will dwell forever after death and Judgment Day as “the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 13b; cf. II Peter 2:17), “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12, cf. 22:13), and “obscure darkness” (Proverbs 20:20). The sad fact is, as the Lord says, “He that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth” (John 12:35c). He does not even know his darkness, his spiritual plight, nor the final result of abiding in this spiritual darkness: eternal darkness, everlasting damnation! Unbelievers die and fall into the black hole, the “bottomless pit” (Revelation 9:1) of hell! Hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). God does not want any human being to end up in that place! He gave us His clear Word to prevent any sinner from going to hell.
As a lamp and light to your feet, Holy Scripture enlightens you in the way of salvation (God’s chief purpose). And it provides you with all you need to lead a God-pleasing life through faith alone in Christ (His secondary purpose). The Psalmist understands God’s Word as the lamp and light to his feet. This is as personal an application as there can be. It is your walk, your path, the way of each step, each foot placement, each movement of your feet as you progress in life, your life. Remember the danger in the dark abysses on every side! Remember that the way is narrow, for there is only one path that leads to life forever in heaven! Remember that death’s dark valley awaits as we travel continuously in its shadow! Remember that there are dark forces at work, unseen by the human eye! Use God’s Word as God intends! Use God’s Word as He alone can move you to desire and to do! Your feet need the light for your path. No one but you can walk this path for you! No one can be saved by another’s faith! Although the way to heaven is always the same (solely by God-wrought faith in Christ), each person must believe for himself, by the grace and enlightenment of the Holy Ghost through the Gospel. Do you receive Holy Scripture and especially the Gospel as the light shining in a dark place, guiding your feet in every step, past the dark dangers on every side, “not with a dim and uncertain illumination,” Dr. Kretzmann notes, “but with a direct and clear ray, which line makes each foot of the way unmistakable” (Popular Commentary, O. T., Vol. II, p. 189). In other words, as our last point asks, “Has the clear Law of God convicted you of your darkness (total depravity and sin) unto true contrition? Has the clear Gospel of God converted you, turning you from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God, from eternal death to eternal life in the inheritance of Christ (righteousness and remission of sins)?” This is God’s chief purpose in giving sinners His clear Word, Holy Scripture…to work saving understanding in all (even the simple!). Our text makes this perfectly clear: “The entrance of Thy Words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (v. 130).
The Law of God is clear and is declared in Holy Writ primarily to expose to you your personal darkness, your total depravity and sin. The Holy Ghost uses the Law to penetrate your heart, exposing your sin, guilt and well-deserved eternal curse: You deserve hell! Until you are driven to despair of any merit or hope in yourself, this work of the Law must continue blasting away at your pride and supposed “self-sufficiency.” It is not pretty. It is painful. But it is necessary. You need to see what a spiritual “cockroach” you truly are by fallen nature! Like a cockroach, impenitent sinners run from the light! “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world; and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:19-20).
But when the Holy Spirit by the Law convicts you, bringing you to true sorrow, then the clear Gospel comes to convert you. Conversion is described in these clear and powerful terms by Jesus Himself: “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me” (Acts 26:18). The Holy Ghost works faith in your heart, calling “you out of darkness into [Christ’s] marvelous light” so that “the eyes of your [spiritual] understanding [are] enlightened [by the Gospel] that [you]…know what is the hope of His calling, and [know] the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, And [know] what is the exceeding greatness of His power [toward you] who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Ephesians 1:18-19). God gives you this wisdom of salvation as a sheer gift of grace for Jesus’ sake alone (Philippians 1:29). He grants you the revelation of His grace and mercy, working in you the saving knowledge of Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:17). Do you possess the blessing of the simple, childlike believer? Do you believe the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ? You are directed to ask yourself this very question in God’s clear exhortation: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (II Corinthians 13:5). Do you accept the clear Word of God that your Savior spoke: “It is finished” (John 19:30)? Do you know that Jesus lived your life in complete righteousness to fulfill the Law of God in your place? Do you trust in this righteousness alone before God for salvation — the righteousness offered, given and sealed to you in the Gospel? Do you know Jesus that died your accursed death, the very death you earned, the very damnation you deserved, to appease God’s wrath against you, to pay for all your sins, to fulfill the eternal plan to redeem you for heaven? God forgives you, He remembers your sins no more, because of Jesus’ blood ransom! Do you believe the finished salvation offered, given and sealed to you in the Gospel? Do you use God’s clear Word as God intends? “This then is the message which we have heard of Him and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar; and His word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 1:5-2:1). Is this not clear as crystal? Do not let the doubts of your sinful flesh convince you otherwise! “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son: He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in Himself; he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record: That God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. …These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (I John 5:9-11, 13). God’s Word, Holy Scripture, is clear. Are you? God has clearly lit the path to heaven. It is a gift, a purchased inheritance, received by faith alone in the Savior, “who hath abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (II Timothy 1:10b). God works to enlighten you continuously through His Word. Our Savior rejoiced over this work: “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight” (Matthew 11:25-26).
An old preacher from the 1880’s relates this illustration:
Going two miles into a neighbourhood where very few could read, to spend an evening in reading to a company who were assembled to listen, and about to return by a narrow path through the woods where paths diverged, I was provided with a torch of light wood, or “pitch pine.” I objected; it was too small, weighing not over half a pound. “It will light you home,” answered my host. I said, “The wind may blow it out.” He said “It will light you home.” “But if it should rain?” I again objected. “It will light you home,” he insisted.
Contrary to my fears, it gave abundant light to my path all the way home, furnishing an apt illustration, I often think, of the way in which doubting hearts would be led safely along the “narrow way.” If they would take the Bible as their guide, it would be a lamp to their feet, leading to the heavenly home. One man had five objections to the Bible. If he would take it as a lamp to his feet, it would “light him home.” Another told me he had two faults to find with the Bible. I answered him in the words of my good friend who furnished the torch, “It will light you home.” – (From the American Messenger, 1881).
May the light of the glorious Gospel continually shine unto you and into your heart! It will clearly “light you home” to heaven. In Jesus’ saving name, who is our Light unto life, Amen.
§ 15. The perspicuity of the Bible is that clearness of Holy Writ which renders all the doctrines and precepts laid down in the inspired Word freely accessible to every reader or hearer of average human intelligence and sufficient knowledge of the languages employed, and of a mind not in a manner preoccupied by error as to preclude the apprehension of the truths themselves, however clearly set forth in words of human speech.
Psalm 119:105 Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Psalm 119:130 The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
II Peter 1:19 We have also a more sure Word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the Day-star arise in your hearts.
Psalm 19:8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
Ephesians 3:3–4 How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.
John 8:31–32 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
II Corinthians 4:3–4 But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
John 8:43–45, 47 Why do ye not understand My speech? even because ye cannot hear My Word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe Me not. (47) He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
II Peter 3:15–16 Even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.
(Excerpt from Outlines of Doctrinal Theology 1898 Edition—A.L. Graebner )