Last Friday Martin Luther was “trending” on facebook because he single-handedly spurred the Protestant Reformation by nailing his 95 theses onto the front door of All Saints Church at Wittenburg, Saxony on Halloween Day. Many reformed and devout Christians, thus, celebrate Reformation Day instead of Halloween. For a variety of reasons I have been musing on the level of conviction, the consequences and the circumstances in Luther’s life throughout the weekend and I was meditating on His unashamed dedication to the Scriptures. The Bible existed, however it was in Latin (known as the Vulgate) and the average German (Martin Luther was German) could not read or understand it, so he sat under the teaching of his local priest and depended completely on him for spiritual nourishment and teaching. Luther determined that it was God’s intention for every person to know Him personally and intimately and the Scriptures were essential for that, so he translated the Bible from Latin to German.
He spent years pouring over Scripture and fearing the wrath of God, looking for salvation. He earned a doctorate, he lived as a monk, he despaired over his sin and made Jesus “the jailer and hangman of his poor soul” (Luther). But after coming to saving faith by grace, he desired that everyone know the Truth and have access to Jesus on their own and through the Scriptures. It was on this foundation that he made the statement:
“I certainly grant that many passages in the Scriptures are obscure and hard to elucidate, but that is due, not to the exalted nature of their subject, but to our own linguistic and grammatical ignorance; and it does not in any way prevent our knowing all the contents of Scripture…I know that to many people a great deal remains obscure; but that is due, not to any lack of clarity in Scripture, but to their own blindness and dullness, in that they make no effort to see truth which, in itself, could not be plainer.”
– Martin Luther
This is an extremely bold statement, in context. When people have had limited or no access to the Bible until he personally translated it, he turns around and proclaims that Scripture and truth is accessible, and we are the weak link. Have you ever heard people speak of the mysteries of Scripture? That some doctrines are beyond our understanding? There are many truths and realities about God that are hidden and beyond our comprehension. The trinity, for instance, is clearly taught in Scripture, but baffles the mind that attempts to comprehend how God can be one God, singular in nature, essence and being, yet function as three persons at the same time. We can verbalize the concept clearly but to grasp what that looks like and how that works is impossible. He is not like an egg, because the shell is not the full egg, the yoke is not the full egg, and the white is not the full egg. That is modalism, a heresy denied by the church hundreds of years ago. He is not like the three phases of water: gas, liquid and ice – that is modalism too. Ice cannot be gas at the same time.
“God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
– 1 Cor 14.33
Not only is God not a God of confusion, but He has given us His word so that we can know Him and that we can have instruction for every life situation:
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”
– 2 Peter 1.2-3
God has given us, in Scripture and in the Holy Spirit, everything pertaining to life and godliness. There is no life situation or moral dilemma that Scripture cannot answer. Now, our cultural, ethical and moral lenses might make that difficult to fully apply! But that is not for lack of clarity on God’s part, but weakness on our part. Or dullness of mind, as Martin Luther would say.
Scripture does not tell us everything. But it tells us everything we need to know. And God gives it to us with the intention that we would learn it, and know Him.
I do not know Scripture in its fullness. I do not have it memorized, and I am unable to fully expound and explain every doctrine with verses, themes and historical understandings. But I fully encourage you that when you come to a passage that stumps you, do not walk away and write it off. Dig in. Ask the basic study questions, equip your tool belt so that you know how to ask those questions, and be confident that the Scripture does not contradict itself but affirms itself over and over again. If it is in the Scripture, it is there because God intends for you to know it, understand it, love it and apply it.