The Perspicuity, or Clarity, of God’s Precious Word
Sermon for the Sunday Service
Sixty-second Annual Convention
Concordia Lutheran Conference
Preached by Pastor David T. Mensing • Oak Forest, Illinois
Text: II Peter 1:19-21
In the Name of Jesus Christ, the only Savior of lost mankind, the Author and Finisher of our faith, and the Head of His dear Church, beloved hearers of His precious Word:
At this Sixty-second Annual Convention of our beloved Concordia Lutheran Conference, we are centering our attention, as the motto of our meeting and the theme of our doctrinal essay and of the sermons delivered in our services, on a doctrine that is scarcely believed nowadays, even by most professing Christians! It is nevertheless a “sound doctrine,” based squarely, pointedly, and undeniably upon passages of Holy Scripture as its foundation. Our president preached his keynote sermon on one such passage of Holy Writ, a passage which our children learn by heart in their Sunday School classes and presumably also in their Christian homes, the passage which, in its graphic form, is the seal and “trademark” as it were of our Conference, appearing on our official stationery and on the masthead of our Concordia Lutheran, on our official documents and on the homepage of our official website. You know the verse, and the children can say it with me: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Our convention motto upgrades our vocabulary with a word which seldom finds its way into our everyday conversation, but nevertheless a word that aptly describes an attribute, a characteristic, a quality of Holy Scripture, namely, its perspicuity. “Perspicuity” simply means the quality according to which a person can “see through” something, as, for example, a pane of plate glass. “Perspicuity” indicates complete transparency, clarity, lack of obscurity, intelligibility, exactness, and precision in definition, so that the Psalmist declares of Holy Scripture in verse 130 of that Psalm: “The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”
Many Christians, especially those fancying themselves as “conservatives,” easily confess the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, its authority, and even its sufficiency for faith unto salvation and the norm for Christian living; but few regard the Bible as clear, precise, easy to understand, truly enlightening, and as containing no contradictions. Sad, isn’t it, that they ascribe to the Holy Ghost the “shady” motive of keeping people in the dark, of confusing them, of frustrating their understanding, of making it practically impossible to understand God’s revelation of Himself to sinful men! But in the text before us this morning, the Apostle Peter debunks that claim and sets before us in clear and certain terms, for our information, admonition, exhortation and edification:
The Perspicuity, or Clarity, of God’s Precious Word
(I) clear as to its surety, (II) clear as to its purpose, and (III) clear as to its source.
In the preceding context, specifically in verse 16, Peter tells his readers of then and now: “We have not followed cunningly devised fables [or myths] when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” The apostles and evangelists had not been spinning yarns, relating legends, and spreading tales about the Lord Jesus — artfully contrived lies and myths about His power manifested forth in His miracles and about His coming as God’s bonafide Messiah, the Savior of mankind promised throughout the Old Testament. No, they were “eyewitnesses of His majesty”! They saw what they saw; they heard what they heard. They witnessed His miraculous Transfiguration “in the holy mount,” when Moses and Elijah appeared talking with Him (as reported by Matthew, Mark and Luke in their Gospel accounts). Peter, James and John witnessed firsthand Jesus’ “majesty” as the Son of God; and they heard the Father’s voice from heaven, saying: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!” They were positive of what they saw, confident of what they heard, and sure of what they had witnessed with their very own eyes and ears! Their testimony, therefore, could have stood the test of parole evidence in a court of law!
But Peter now says in our text concerning the Holy Scriptures: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy!” “More sure” than eye-witness testimony?? Isn’t that what he said?? “More sure” than ear-witness testimony?? You heard right! That’s what he said! “More sure” concerning “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” than the word of the apostles on-the-scene! “More sure,” my dearly-beloved hearers, than if you and I had been there on the Mount of Transfiguration to witness the event for ourselves!
This is the “word of prophecy,” Peter tells us, “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed,” that is, pay attention to! This “word of prophecy” is so clear and so unmistakable in what it sets forth, so sure and so steadfast in what it declares, so inerrant and so reliable in what it teaches, that we can and should absolutely trust and believe, rejoice and take comfort in its surety!
Why?? What purpose does the clear and sure testimony of the Scriptures serve? Peter says in our text that we are to “take heed” unto this word of prophecy “as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.” This is precisely the imagery that the Holy Spirit caused the Psalmist to use in the motto-text of our convention, as we noted before, and as President Worley expounded it on Friday morning. The same God “who [by means of His Word] commanded the light to shine out of darkness” on the first day of creation, saying, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3), “hath shined in our hearts” (I Cor. 4:6a), again, by means of His enlightening Word, to dispel the gloom of our sin-darkened, spiritually dead souls, as Zacharias sang at the birth of John the Baptist: “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk. 1:79).
What kind of “light”? Merely the light of moral self-awareness, of intellectual historical faith, of an “inner light” of spiritual consciousness, of an “infused” light that enables men to cooperate with the Holy Ghost in their own conversion, of the light of “infused grace” according to which people can exercise their free will and do good works toward their own salvation?? Absolutely NOT! For such “lights” are the deception of Satan in opposition to the revealed Word and will of God!!
What then? Peter enlightens us, saying that this “light shineth” “…until the day dawn and the Daystar arise in your hearts.” With specific reference to the Old Testament Scriptures (since the New Testament had not yet been committed to paper), St. Paul wrote to Timothy and said: “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” (II Tim. 3:15). The Christians “do well,” Peter tells us in our text, to “take heed” to the Scriptures because of their clearly-revealed blessed purpose. Not only does Scripture convert and enlighten the sin-darkened soul, the “dark place” where there is no light unto salvation, so that by its means the Holy Spirit “turns on the lights for us,” and the light of spiritual day “dawns” and the “Daystar” —our precious Savior—arises in our hearts; … not only does the Spirit “enlighten us with His gifts” by means of the Scriptures, “giving us the saving knowledge of Christ, our Savior, so that now we trust and believe, rejoice and take comfort in Him” (Catechism); but our continued “heed” of the Word of God keeps us in the true and saving faith, “effectually work[ing] in [us] that believe” (I Thess. 2:13), so that “He which hath begun a good work in [us] will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). Then “the bright and morning Star” (Rev. 22:16) will arise in glory at His great appearing, and “every eye shall see Him” (1:7) — the believers with joy, “for [their] redemption draweth nigh” (Lk. 21:28), the unbelievers in terror, as “all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” (Rev. 1:7).
The perspicuity of God’s precious Word concerning all of these things is particularly sure and reliable because of its source. Peter tells us that we should “know[…] this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.” How often do we hear people claiming the “right” to interpret Scripture according to their own opinion, according to the dictates of their private conscience NOT bound in the Word of God, according to their own rationalistic ideas and pre-conceived agendas! “What’s so nice about the Bible,” they say, quite comfortable about their “right” of private interpretation, “is that it is flexible and non-judgmental in its teachings. No two people read it the same way, after all; and what it says to one person it doesn’t necessarily say to another.” —And every sectarian, that is, false religion or church body that purports to be “Christian” in one way, shape or form, claims that its teachings are drawn from the Bible — teachings that are as opposite from one another as night is from day!! Indeed, they cite Scripture after Scripture, “wresting” the passages, Peter says in chapter 3 of this same epistle, that is, twisting them, perverting them, interpreting them, “unto their own destruction!” (v. 16b). Why? Because, Peter tells us, they are “unlearned and unstable.” They don’t really know the Holy Scriptures (having never really learned them), and they are not grounded in them. They are “loose cannons,” instead of “straight shooters;” they are like paper boats on a breezy pond, instead of ships tied up at a wharf built upon “the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” Scripture is not theirs to interpret! Scripture interprets itself! Scripture is its own light! Scripture has its own source independent of man and of man’s judgment!
How do we know that? How do we recognize that with clarity? How can we be sure of Scripture’s independent, objective, and unprejudiced Source?? Peter gives us the reason for our comfort and assurance: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man.” Moses didn’t just sit down one day and decide to write down what the modernists call “the allegory of Genesis.” The Psalmists didn’t just put together a song book of 150 poems that they thought would resonate with the people of Israel! And Isaiah did not become known as the Evangelist of the Old Testament because of his “creative writing.” “But holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
The fact that “God the Holy Ghost moved the holy men to write and put into their minds the very thoughts which they expressed and the very words which they wrote,” that blessed doctrine of verbal inspiration, specifically set forth by and grounded in sedes doctrinae or Bible prooftexts — passages so clear in and of themselves that they neither need nor permit of any interpretation, passages including this verse of our text, passages including the motto of our convention — that is the basis of our confidence in the perspicuity of Holy Writ! St. Paul writes to the Corinthians in his first epistle to them, chapter 2, verse 13: “We speak not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth,” which would make them suspect, fallible, unclear, biased, and unreliable; but “we speak… in the words…which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” The words of Scripture are God’s words — word for word, jot for tittle, syllable for blessed syllable. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable,” not merely advisable, commendable, or even useful … “profitable for doctrine” (since it sets forth teachings in clear and certain terms), “for reproof” (since it clearly distinguishes truth from error), “for correction” (since it is God’s perfect norm of truth), “for instruction in righteousness” (to train us in holiness of living according to God’s standards as the fruit of saving faith in His Son), “that the man of God [the believer] may be perfect [completed and readied], thoroughly furnished [equipped] unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16). God has left nothing “to the imagination” of sinful man’s heart, which is “evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21), but has clearly, perspicuously set forth “for our learning” (Romans 15:4) everything that we need to know for our faith, for our life, for our everlasting salvation. “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6). “To wit that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the Word of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:19).
How precious is the Book Divine
by inspiration given!
Bright as a lamp its doctrines shine
to guide our souls to heaven!
My dear brethren, “when God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow God’s Name nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh, but strengthens and preserves us steadfast in His Word and faith unto our end, this is His gracious and good will” (Luther, Third Petition). May God grant it to each and every one of us, by the effectual working of His Spirit through His holy, verbally-inspired, inerrant, authoritative, all-sufficient and perspicuous blessed Word, for Jesus our Savior’s sake! Amen.