Perspicuity: The Bible is Clear, Accessible, and Available
By Margaret Bronson
“I defy the Pope and all his laws! If God spare my life, I will make a boy that driveth the plough know more of the Scripture than thou doest.”
This was said by William Tyndale (1494-1536) to a fellow priest during a time when Scripture came in only one flavor: Latin. It was illegal to have the Bible in English, which, unfortunately, was the primary language spoken in England. Only priests and scholars knew Latin, and because of this, they told everyone else what the Bible said and interpreted it for them. It was Tyndale’s mission to put the Bible into the hands of the “everyman” in his own language so that he might read and interpret it for himself.
The Doctrine of Perspicuity
Perspicuity (PER-spi-ku-i-tee) simply means that something is free from obscurity and easy to understand; it is the comprehensibility of clear expression. To say the Bible is perspicuous is to say that its truths are clear, accessible, and available.
The doctrine of Perspicuity is important because:
God created us to know Him. Before the Fall, God walked with Adam and Eve, sharing His words and His presence with them. They were intimately acquainted with Him in the way a child is with her father. Yet, after the Fall, sin separated us from that sort of intimacy on this side of heaven, but God continues to reach down and make Himself known to us specifically through His revelation in scripture.
We do not have to depend on anyone’s interpretation of Scripture. The Bereans of Acts 17 are commended for checking the apostolic message of Paul against scripture to see if it was in line with the whole of biblical testimony . As we now know, Paul had been given authority from God to speak, but the Bereans did not simply take this for granted. In the same way, we should not take for granted that any teacher, from J.I. Packer to T.D. Jakes, is interpreting the Word rightly. It is our responsibility to be mature, Christian adults when it comes to the way we understand the Bible, able to receive helpful insights from others without being utterly dependent on them.
It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit and Jesus to interpret Scripture for us. The Holy Spirit within us interprets the Word. We should never set up anyone in our hearts as another mediator – whether our husbands, pastors, favorite podcasters, or writers. Tyndale’s actions protected believers’ intimacy and relationship with the Lord. This is not to say that others’ interpretations are not helpful. But when we come to rely on others’ reading of scripture more than our own, we’re in danger of abandoning our relationship with God in favor of simply mimicking someone ELSE’S relationship with God.
The Bible contains truth accessible for all. It’s for moms who are overly exhausted from sleepless nights with little ones or days filled with being a taxi for extra curricular activities. It’s for students cramming for papers and ladies working long hours who are just trying to squeeze in time alone with their Lord. It’s for those who never received a good education and feel ignorant about most things. You don’t need a degree in Bible to understand and grow in the truths that the Word contains.
The Bible’s words are edible and nutritious both for baby believers and for those who can’t remember a time when they didn’t know the Lord.
The Bible is “edible” always. This means even if we only have a few moments to read, the Bible’s truths are usually not hidden or cryptic; they can typically be understood just by reading. There may be many seasons of life where reading a chapter is all you can manage. God has made Himself accessible even in those moments, and He rewards the faithfulness of a few moments of devotion by revealing Himself to us. Because of this accessibility we don’t need to be intimidated by our Bibles and theology!
The Bible is also “nutritious.” Deep fullness of wisdom can be found with study. God is so great and so glorious that if we studied Him without ceasing for our whole lives, we would still have more of Him to learn and know. You can never graduate from studying Scripture. You can never say that you fully know God and have no more use for your time in His Word.
Here at Thinking and Theology, our vision is to equip women to study their Bibles. Unfortunately, there are those within the Christian community who would say that women can’t be trusted to interpret Scripture for themselves. Some believe it is because women are too emotional, and some believe that God designated men to interpret Scripture for women. Please, dear sister, do not delegate your responsibility to know God through His Word to someone else. Whether this is due to lack of interest, lack of confidence, or because you’ve been told that as a woman you are not qualified, know this: it is your responsibility as a Christian to study your Lord. The only way to follow the Lord is to seek Him. He has created you in His image, and He has given you His Spirit in the same measure as any man. You have Christ to mediate between you and God. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5).
Perspicuity is the beautiful truth that God wants everyone to know Him. In particular, He wants us, the ordinary Christian, to know Him. He doesn’t want us to merely go to another person and find out who He is. In John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Sisters, the doctrine of perspicuity means that we, the sheep, can know our shepherd’s voice. We learn to recognize that voice by studying the place in which it speaks: the Bible. Undershepherds – theologians, pastors, teachers – are wonderful and helpful, but we must never allow their voices to replace the words of our very own Shepherd, nor should we listen to any undershepherd whose voice does not ring with the undertones of the Chief Shepherd.
How can we tell the difference between the two? By study. And perspicuity represents the promise that that study will always, always produce results.