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The Limits of Perspicuity

When we speak of the perspicuity of Scripture, it is not without a vital qualification. Luther wrote,


If you speak of internal perspicuity, the truth is that nobody who has not the Spirit of God sees a jot of what is in the Scriptures. All men have their hearts darkened, so that, even when they can discuss and quote all that is in Scripture, they do not understand or really know any of it. They do not believe in God, nor do they believe that they are God’s creatures, nor anything else—as Ps. 13 puts it, ‘The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God’ (Ps. 14.1). The Spirit is needed for the understanding of all Scripture and every part of Scripture.

—Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Revell, 1957), 73–74.

Posted 2011·12·05 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Martin Luther · Perspicuity · Pneumatology · The Bondage of the Will · Total Depravity
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#1 || 11·12·06··07:49 || Daniel

So very true.

Only through the Holy Spirit can a person comprehend the scriptures, but there is a danger in understanding this incorrectly. While only the spiritual are able to discern the things of the spirit, yet even they are not able to perfectly devine all that is in God's word, as their own sin will blind them here and there to what would otherwise be obvious.

How many times have I rejected the right understanding because it favored my sin to do so? Only God knows. It is a good thing to pray when we read the word, to recognize our profound poverty and sin, and to know that what we hold we hold in a broken vessel. To be willing to have all that we believe is true, to be adjusted when we see that some sin has tainted our understanding.

Truly, genuine humility and and an understanding of God's word go hand in hand.

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