The Clarity of Scripture

From BelieveTheSign

The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture means that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it.[1]

Did William Branham beleive in the clarity of scripture?

What the Bible teaches

The Bible’s clarity and the responsibility of believers generally to read it and understand it are often emphasized. In a very familiar passage, Moses tells the people of Israel in Deut. 6:6–7:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.[2]

All the people of Israel were expected to be able to understand the words of Scripture well enough to be able to “teach them diligently” to their children. This teaching would not have consisted merely of rote memorization devoid of understanding, for the people of Israel were to discuss the words of Scripture during their activities of sitting in the house or walking or going to bed or getting up in the morning. God expected that all of his people would know and be able to talk about his Word, with proper application to ordinary situations in life. Similarly, Psalm 1 tells us that the “blessed man,” whom all the righteous in Israel were to emulate, was one who meditated on God’s law “day and night” (Ps. 1:2). This daily meditation assumes an ability to understand Scripture rightly on the part of those who meditate.

The character of Scripture is said to be such that even the “simple” can understand it rightly and be made wise by it. “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7). Again we read, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:130). Here the “simple” person is not merely one who lacks intellectual ability, but one who lacks sound judgment, who is prone to making mistakes, and who is easily led astray. God’s Word is so understandable, so clear, that even this kind of person is made wise by it.

While people in the message would tell us that we need a prophet to interpret Scripture rightly, we would do well to remember that not once in the Gospels do we ever hear Jesus saying anything like this: “I see how your problem arose—the Scriptures are not very clear on that subject.” Instead, whether he is speaking to scholars or untrained common people, his responses always assume that the blame for misunderstanding any teaching of Scripture is not to be placed on the Scriptures themselves, but on those who misunderstand or fail to accept what is written. Again and again he answers questions with statements like, “Have you not read …” (Matt. 12:3, 5; 19:4; 22:31), “Have you never read in the scriptures …” (Matt. 21:42), or even, “You are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29; cf. Matt. 9:13; 12:7; 15:3; 21:13; John 3:10; et al.).

Similarly, most of the New Testament epistles are written not to church leaders but to entire congregations. Paul writes, “To the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2), “To the churches of Galatia” (Gal. 1:2), “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1), and so forth. Paul assumes that his hearers will understand what he writes, and he encourages the sharing of his letters with other churches: “And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea” (Col. 4:16; cf. John 20:30–31; 2 Cor. 1:13; Eph. 3:4; 1 Tim. 4:13; James 1:1, 22–25; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:2; 2 Peter 1:19; 1 John 5:13).[3]

Paul states clearly in 2 Cor 1:13 that nothing (including a prophet) is necessary to understand what he has written:

Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand.[4]

What is required to understand scripture?

The New Testament writers frequently state that the ability to understand Scripture rightly is more a moral and spiritual than intellectual ability: “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts (literally “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” (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. 1:18–3:4; 2 Cor. 3:14–16; 4:3–4, 6; Heb. 5:14; James 1:5–6; 2 Peter 3:5; cf. Mark 4:11–12; John 7:17; 8:43).

Thus, although the New Testament authors affirm that the Bible in itself is written clearly, they also affirm that it will not be understood rightly by those who are unwilling to receive its teachings.

Scripture is able to be understood by all unbelievers who will read it sincerely seeking salvation, and by all believers who will read it while seeking God’s help in understanding it. This is because in both cases the Holy Spirit is at work overcoming the effects of sin, which otherwise will make the truth appear to be foolish (1 Cor. 2:14; 1:18–25; James 1:5–6, 22–25).[5]

Why are there differences in interpretation if scripture is clear?

The existence of many disagreements about the meaning of Scripture throughout history reminds us that the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture does not imply or suggest that all believers will agree on all the teachings of Scripture. Nevertheless, it does tell us something very important—that the problem always lies not with Scripture but with ourselves.

Whereas we affirm that the words of Scripture have all the authority of God himself, we also realize that many people do not acknowledge that authority or submit themselves to it. Similarly, we affirm that all the teachings of Scripture are clear and able to be understood, but we also recognize that people often (through their own shortcomings) misunderstand what is clearly written in Scripture.

There are only two possible causes for these disagreements:

(1) On the one hand, it may be that we are seeking to make affirmations where Scripture itself is silent. In such cases we should be more ready to admit that God has not given us the answer to our quest, and to allow for differences of viewpoint within the church. (This will often be the case with very practical questions, such as methods of evangelism or styles of Bible teaching or appropriate church size.)
(2) On the other hand, it is possible that we have made mistakes in our interpretation of Scripture. This could have happened because the data we used to decide a question of interpretation were inaccurate or incomplete. Or it could be because there is some personal inadequacy on our part, whether it be, for example, personal pride, or greed, or lack of faith, or selfishness, or even failure to devote enough time to prayerfully reading and studying Scripture.

But in no case are we free to say that the teaching of the Bible on any subject is confusing or incapable of being understood correctly. In no case should we think that persistent disagreements on some subject through the history of the church mean that we will be unable to come to a correct conclusion on that subject ourselves. Rather, if a genuine concern about some such subject arises in our lives, we should sincerely ask God’s help and then go to Scripture, searching it with all our ability, believing that God will enable us to understand rightly.

This truth should give great encouragement to all Christians to read their Bibles daily and with great eagerness. We should never assume, for example, that only those who know Greek and Hebrew, or only pastors or Bible scholars, are able to understand the Bible rightly—remember that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and that many of the Christians to whom the New Testament letters were written had no knowledge of Hebrew at all: they had to read the Old Testament in a Greek translation. Yet the New Testament authors assume that these people can read it and understand it rightly even without scholarly ability in the original language. Christians must never give up to the scholarly “experts” the task of interpreting Scripture: they must keep doing it every day for themselves.

Furthermore, even though we admit that there have been many doctrinal disagreements in the history of the church, we must not forget that there has been an amazing amount of doctrinal agreement on the most central truths of Scripture throughout the history of the church. Indeed, those who have had opportunities for fellowship with Christians in other parts of the world have discovered the remarkable fact that wherever we find a group of vital Christians, almost immediately a vast amount of agreement on all the central doctrines of the Christian faith becomes apparent. Why is this true, no matter what the society, or culture, or denominational affiliation? It is because they all have been reading and believing the same Bible, and its primary teachings have been clear.[6]

What William Branham taught

Willliam Branham did not appear to belive in the clarity of scripture based on the following quotes:

A mystery is Scripture, is a previously hidden Truth now Divinely revealed... There is a lot of Truth lost out there, (why?) where others compromised on Truth. ...these mysteries that's hid, through the theologians, will have to be revealed... And the Word comes only to the prophet... And we know it. He will be the second Elijah, as promised.[7]
...there is no more higher order to reveal the Word, than prophets.[8]
But in every age God began to give back by revelation that which was hidden until in this last day according to Revelation 10:7, a prophet will come and reveal all the mysteries and then the Lord will come. Now in each age, I say, the messengers received hidden truth.[9]

William Branham believed that certain truths had been lost and that he (as the last prophet to the church) was the only one qualified to restore these lost truths to the church. Thus it is clear that William Branham did not believe in the clarity of scripture, a long held doctrine of the church.

Quotes of William Branham

First, I'll take what Scofield says here, in Matthew 13. If you'd like to type some of them down, if you haven't got a Scofield Bible. You might read what he thinks some of the mysteries are. Now, in the 11th verse. And he answered and said unto them, Because it's given to you (his disciples), because it is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but not to them, but to them it is not given. The mysteries, here is "the mystery." A mystery is Scripture, is a previously hidden Truth now Divinely revealed, but (which is) a supernatural element still remains despite the revelation.

...Now watch. There is a lot of Truth lost out there, (why?) where others compromised on Truth. But this seventh angel don't compromise on nothing. He gathers up all the loose ends, gathers them all up. And at his sounding, "All the mystery of God should be finished." Oh! God, send him. All of the hidden mysteries was finished when, he, It was revealed to him. By what? If these are hidden mysteries, the man will have to be a prophet. And didn't we just get through and see that the prophet, that would come in the last age, would be that great Elijah that we been looking for? [Congregation says, "Amen."—Ed.] Because, these mysteries that's hid, through the theologians, will have to be revealed; to God. And the Word comes only to the prophet. ["Amen."] And we know it. He will be the second Elijah, as promised. Oh, my! The Message he—he'll bring will be the mysteries, all, all these things.[10]


Notice, the very day when this messenger… Not when he starts on, but when he begins to declare his Message. See? The First Pull, healing; Second Pull, prophesying; Third Pull, the opening of the Word, the mysteries revealed. No more, there is no more higher order to reveal the Word, than prophets. But the only way the prophet can be vindicated is by the Word. And, remember, the Third Pull was the opening of them Seven Seals, to reveal the hidden Truth that's been sealed in the Word.[11]


But in every age God began to give back by revelation that which was hidden until in this last day according to Revelation 10:7, a prophet will come and reveal all the mysteries and then the Lord will come. Now in each age, I say, the messengers received hidden truth. But they did not receive it for themselves only. But it is as it was when the disciples were asked to serve the multitudes loaves and fishes; Jesus gave them the broken food, but they in turn gave it to the people. God gives His hidden manna to the overcomer. It cannot be otherwise. He would not open His treasures to those who spurn what is already revealed.[12]


Now this messenger of Malachi 4 and Revelation 10:7 is going to do two things. One: According to Malachi 4 he will turn the hearts of the children to the fathers. Two: He will reveal the mysteries of the seven thunders in Revelation 10 which are the revelations contained in the seven seals. It will be these Divinely revealed 'mystery-truths' that literally turn the hearts of the children to the Pentecostal fathers. Exactly so.[13]


Footnotes

  1. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 108.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Dt 6:6–7.
  3. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 106.
  4. Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), 2 Co 1:13.
  5. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 107–108.
  6. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 109.
  7. William Branham, 62-1230E - Is This The Sign Of The End, Sir?, para. 289
  8. William Branham, 65-0725M - The Anointed Ones At The End Time?, para. 262
  9. William Branham, An Exposition Of The Seven Church Ages - Chapter Five - The Pergamean Church Age, para. 210-3
  10. William Branham, 62-1230E - Is This The Sign Of The End, Sir?, para. 289
  11. William Branham, 65-0725M - The Anointed Ones At The End Time?, para. 262
  12. William Branham, An Exposition Of The Seven Church Ages - Chapter Five - The Pergamean Church Age, para. 210-3
  13. William Branham, An Exposition Of The Seven Church Ages - Chapter Nine - The Laodicean Church Age, para. 327-1


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