One of the great verses in Scripture is found in 2 Tim 3:15, “…and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation.”
During the Middle Ages, the Roman Church insisted that the priest was instrumental in bringing people to faith. For the Roman Church it was Scripture plus the clergy as well as anything else that was decided upon by the Pope or others in authority.
One of the reformational solas is that we trust in Scripture alone. By that we understand we don’t need any additional people, or books alongside of Scripture to bring us to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, some people take this verse to mean that ministers or other Scripture teachers are all superfluous to requirements.
As a result of this narrow understanding, we have so called ‘churches’ where there are no appointed ministers or teachers. As they meet, someone is asked to read the Scriptures or give a ‘word from the Lord.’ Then it is followed by a time of prayer and singing and that is about the sum of it.
However, Paul’s words to Timothy does not mean God no longer uses trained people to teach His Word. Throughout Scripture God appointed various people to bring his word. They included parents, prophets, priests, apostles, and others and woe to them if they did not do it properly or disobeyed (Deut 6:1-9; Eze 34; Jonah; Gal 3 etc). It is also clear from 2 Tim 1:5ff that Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice had a positive impact on Timothy’s faith.
So the truth that Scripture is able to make someone wise to salvation can give us great confidence. We can give our children and grandchildren a Bible of their own knowing that should they read it or hear it read, they can with the Holy Spirit’s help, be made wise to salvation.
However, this does not mean we will understand everything that is in Scripture. Some passages are very difficult to understand. The Apostle Peter even suggested that Paul wrote things that were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16), so we shouldn’t be surprised when we come across things that are hard to understand. Sometimes your minister or elder will acknowledge that they just don’t know the full meaning of a passage.
Sadly, some preachers and teachers who cannot accept that they don’t know can easily fall into the trap of doing ‘i-so-gesis’ rather than exegesis. “I-so-gesis” usually means that Scripture is applied in a way that is not the intended meaning of the text, but applied in way that strokes the bias of the preacher / teacher and at times can be very unbiblical. “I-so-gesis” may even lead some to do ‘gymnastics’ with the text to make it fit what they think it means or with what they are comfortable.
At seminary, we were taught to do careful exegesis and not ‘i-so-gesis.’ Sometimes we were even encouraged to set aside passages we didn’t fully understand until the Holy Spirit revealed to us the true meaning of the text, especially as it points to Christ (Lk 24:44).
Thankfully, through the ages, God has blessed the church with many great minds and exegetes who have been able to throw light on difficult passages and we thank the Lord for His provision. Yet, we remain thankful that the Scriptures alone, when read carefully and prayerfully, can make us wise to salvation. JZ