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"The Clarity of God's Word"

John 14:23-31

Rev. Alan Taylor

Feast of Pentecost, series C
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Sun, May 19, 2013 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

This morning Jesus promises us that, even though He has ascended to the Father, we are not alone, nor are we left to our own devices when it comes to hearing and understanding His word.  The Father will send the Holy Spirit to teach us and to enable us to remember His promise of life in the midst of death, and forgiveness and grace in the face of sin and rebellion.

"These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Those of you who are techno savvy know that you can find a blog on the Internet covering virtually any subject.  For those of you who are not techno savvy, techno-challenged would be the correct term, I believe, a blog is roughly the Internet equivalent of the opinion page in the newspaper or periodical.

At any rate, a blogger wrote the following regarding the clarity of Scripture. "One of the popular refrains one hears in evangelical sermons is the claim that the Bible clearly teaches this or that.  What usually follows is some alliterative bullet points memorandum that is performed for the audience.

The more relevant pastors even use “everyday illustrations” to clarify and support their point about how clear the Bible is.  If you are lucky, the pastor will even be wearing skinny jeans, have his shirt untucked, and have a itty bitty microphone coming out of his ear like a CIA operative, except one with a dash of powered donut still on the corner of his mouth or on the tip of his nose from when he was relevantly fellowshipping before the share time.

The clarity of the Bible.  This always strikes me, says the blogger, as supremely odd.  I take it that if something is really clear, then you wouldn’t have to tell me, even once, how clear it is.  I could see that for myself.

The blogger concludes, Please, let’s ask more of our pastors and clergy.  Specifically, what I am asking for is honesty.  If the Bible is hard, difficult, huge, long, boring, ancient, offensive, not relevant according to our relevance-meter, unclear, or just downright bizarre, let’s start by admitting it.  Let’s get it out there in the open and be honest about it."

As strange as it might seem, I don't completely disagree with the blogger's assessment of the Bible!  Oh, don't get me wrong, if he is accusing the Bible itself, or, more specifically, if he is accusing God of failing to communicate clearly, he's dead wrong!  If, on the other hand, he's saying the Bible appears to us to be "difficult, huge, boring, ancient, offensive, not relevant, unclear and down right bizarre," I agree.  In other words, if the Bible doesn't make sense to us, the problem isn't with the Bible, it's with us.

Luther, in his battle with the Catholic Church over the Scriptures, said, wrote: "They who deny the all-clearness and all-plainness of the Scriptures, leave us nothing else but darkness.  Moreover I declare against you concerning the whole of the Scripture that I will have no one part

of it called obscure; and to support me stands that which I have brought forth out of Peter, that the Word of God is to us a "lamp shining in a dark place" (II Peter 1:19).  But if any part of this lamp does not shine, it

is rather a part of the dark place than the lamp itself.  For Christ has not so illuminated us, as to wish that any part of His Word should remain obscure, even while He commands us to attend to it: for if it be not shining plain, His commanding us to attend to it is in vain."

For whatever reason, we have bought into the notion that, "I, a poor miserable sinner," should be able to pick up the Bible, God's revelation of things unseen, of mysteries that defy reason and logic, of heavenly realities that transcend the things of this world, and, by my own reason or strength, by my powers of deduction, I should be able to discern and rightly understand what God says to me.  And, if I can't, then The problem isn't with me.  The problem is with God!  He should speak more clearly!  In fact, if He would have spoken more clearly in the Bible, Christendom wouldn't suffer all the denominational divisions that it suffers today.  To that premise, I say, "O really!?" In three of the four Gospels and in one of Paul's letters to the Corinthians, we have the words of Jesus from the night in which He celebrated His Last Supper with His disciples.  He said, "take and eat, this IS my body," and yet, Christians don't agree with what He meant by the word IS!

The point is, we tend to read the Scriptures through filters.  In other words, the Bible has to say what we expect it say and, if it doesn't we look for a way to interpret it differently.  The condition is really no different from our attempts throughout life to make God in our own image.

Chad Bird, who, by the way wrote a hymn that is in our hymnal, The Infant Priest was Holy born, wrote, "if cows had gods, their gods would look like cows.  So speculated at least one ancient philosopher.  They would fashion a lord in their own likeness, a projection of the divine bovine, one whose face would launch a thousand stampedes.  And I suppose one could say the same about horses, or dogs, or snakes.  Or humans.  As has often been said, in the beginning, God made us in his own image, and ever since we have been returning the favor.

Sometime after Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul settled the question of why we need God's Spirit to properly understand God's as it has been given to us.  He wrote,

"Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."

And there it is...God didn't give us His word with the expectation that we would be able to understand it by employing our natural powers.  No, in fact, to the natural man God's word is folly, it's laughable.  Thus, to properly understand His word we are defendant on the Holy Spirit, whom the Father has sent to us, who comes to us through the word itself.

Rather than criticizing God and His word for a seeming lack of clarity, we can thank Him that anyone understands, that anyone grasps the mysteries of His revelation and we can bow before Him and ask Him to enable us to come to His word simply, in a child like fashion.  Taking Luther's advice, in our reading and devotions, when we come to a part of God's word we don't understand we will pass it by and give thanks God for enlightening us as He has.  And the Spirit who has so graciously been given to us will lead us through what might appear difficult to understand, even unfathomable, to the blessings of Christ and Him crucified for the sins of the world.  God grant to you for Jesus' sake.  Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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