Perspicuity – I just love that word!
Before we go any further I should probably tell you what it means, shouldn’t I? It means “the quality of being perspicuous, of being clearly expressed and easily understood”. The word “Perspex” (which is a clear acrylic substitute for glass) is a close relative. If something is as “clear as glass” you can see through it!
Now for the sake of being “perspicuous” I better get to my main point: God’s Word is perspicuous, but many of us are unconvinced!
Years of sitting through bible studies and sermons can make us doubt the perspicuity of the bible, and our own ability to read and understand it. We think we must always rely on theologically trained people to explain the Bible to us. And so . . . we don’t read it, or we read with fear or reluctance. (Nb. I still love theologically trained people who teach the Word well.)
One great way to come back to the perspicuity to the bible is to read it with someone else, and this is what I was thinking about when I first came across the word a few months ago. I was preparing a presentation on One-2-One bible reading for a women’s breakfast. D. Broughton Knox (Moore College Principal 1959-1985) said regarding the perspicuity of the bible, that “the Bible is comprehensible, and its interpretation does not depend on experts or even authoritative interpreters“. Another theologian would like us to remember a similar point: “In evangelism, in edification, nothing can beat opening the text of the Bible and reading what God Himself has actually said. Christians need only have confidence in God’s word and a basic skill in reading it with others” (Phillip Jensen, Dean of Sydney, Anglican Church).
Through preparing and delivering my talk I now realise it is no easy task convincing people they can read the bible informally, understand it and be strengthened by it. Yet I have found this to be true by nearly all who will dare try it, including myself. So will you dare? If you are feeling flat or stuck or stifled or at a standstill in your growth as a Christian, or if you simply want to “let His Word dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16) then try it. All you need is a friend, a bible book (and pencil), and an hour a week, over whatever period of time you choose. Around 15-20 verses is enough to share each week; just pick up where you left off the next time you meet.
WHAT TO DO:
Read through the text aloud once, silently once, and then grab a pencil to mark up your text.
Identify 3 things: questions, “lightbulbs” (main points) and “arrows” (application points, things to apply and act on). I use little symbols for each of these. Once you’ve both marked your text with a pencil, simply share and discuss each of your questions, lightbulbs and arrows.
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
1. The purpose of reading together is to read and question the text together; the huge benefits come through the conversation, the dialogue you have around the text. Over time you will have talked your way through and in and around a whole book of the bible. You WILL remember the message of that book much better. . .and you will have deepened your friendship in the Lord! Bonus!
2. You don’t have to have all the answers or be an expert. It is best not to use study bibles as that can prevent you from thinking and really listening to the text. (That said, it is sometimes useful to look at intro notes before you start a book, just to clarify the context, date and author of a book. If burning or totally difficult issues/questions come out of your discussion look it up during the week and report back. I’ve found this isn’t required often at all).
3. No preparation! Don’t read ahead or study a passage so you can appear wiser/a better Christian! Trust that God can and will speak though His Word and that you will be able to discuss and understand it.
4. It’s good to use 2 different translations (if you can cope with that, like NIV and ESV and NLT) as you will get a greater grasp of the passage this way. A different translation sometimes help clarify the intended message.
5. Silence is okay! In fact, it’s great! Encourage thinking time. Make this clear to your reading partner at the start.
6. Pray at the start and end of your time together.
Enjoy the gracious gift of God’s perspicuous Word in your own language, and the opportunity to read it in freedom!
“God had every reader of Holy Scripture in mind at the time of its ‘exhalation’. This means not only that God’s Word is inspired and universally applicable, but also that, in it, God is speaking presently to every particular reader (or hearer) of His Word.”
(Peter Blowes, 2011, “Reading the Bible”, Matthias Minizine)
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