The Reformation and the Word

For the Bible-centred Christian today, one of the chief gains of the Sixteen Century Reformation is the victory of being able to read and study God’s Word for ourselves. The primacy of the Bible as the only source of revealed truth, and Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian) is also established. Why did men struggle, fight, and shed their blood to gain this victory for us? The simple and short answer is, so that we can study the Word of God for ourselves. But why should we study the Word?

I think it would suffice for me just to offer two reasons:

First, it is God’s very words to us! They are literally “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16), and they are fully and completely useful for training in righteousness. Very broadly, “righteousness” is defined by Thayer’s Greek Definitions as the “state” or “condition” of man that is acceptable to God. When viewed in this sense, God’s words to us are tools to educate and build us up to that state of acceptability.

Second, the Word is the “wisdom from above” (James 3:17). Augustine, one of the early “church fathers” refers to this wisdom as “the greatest good.” It is not merely something which is intellectually understandable; it must be demonstrated practically in Christian lifestyle. It is a moral rather than an intellectual quality. A person without this wisdom is described as “godless” by the Bible and is “foolish.”

I remember what God, through Jeremiah, said to the early Hebrews who turned to idolatry and remained stubbornly in their apostasy: “they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?” (8:9). That confirms beyond doubt that those who reject the Word of the Lord is without wisdom.

Sadly, we often ignore or gloss over the danger of rejecting the Word of God. Judgment will follow! The same verse in Jeremiah goes on to say, “there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig-tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them.”

There is a common excuse for not studying the Bible. It is: it is difficult to understand and only highly skilled theologians with technical training are equipped for the task. This is too often what we want to hear in order to quiet our consciences for neglecting our duty of studying the Scriptures.

The sixteenth-century Reformers answered this excuse by advocating the perspicuity of Scripture – meaning the Scripture’s clarity. This means that if you can read, you can, with the Spirit’s illumination, grasp the essentials and its basic message.

Hence, will you not apply yourself to: “Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly”? (2 Tim 2:15 CEB).

Pastor Robert Chew