There are many things in the scriptures that we must fight hard to understand, and there will always be theological debate about things that seem unclear. For example, The Nephilim in Genesis 6. So many have debated about who these people were and why they are mentioned in relation to the flood. Or what about the book of Revelation with all of its symbols and apocalyptic messages? Who is anti-christ? When will Christ return? Is the thousand year reign literal? These kinds of things can be discussed and debated for years. As a matter of fact, they have been. The question we must ask is this…How much must be understood from scripture in order to know the faith we profess. All the things mentioned above are not unimportant topics. It is good to discuss them within the body and for some of us who are more prone to nerdy theological conversation, it is quite fun. But when we consider the body as a whole, we must confess that there are things in the scripture that are vital to our understanding and things that are not. That is not to say that some things in the Bible have no purpose. All scripture is God breathed. But, as the 1689 confesses, we must make a distinction.
“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.” -1689 LBC, Chapter 1 Paragraph 7
Things That Are Necessary
There are core doctrines in the Bible that must be present in the life of the church and the life of individuals for them to be rightly called “Christian”. What you believe about eschatology (the end times) matters, but only certain aspects of it are necessary to confess. To elaborate, the actual timing of eschatological events do not hold the same weight as the core doctrine that Jesus will return bodily to the earth in the same way that he left in order to consummate his kingdom and to the judge with righteousness. When he does that and the surrounding events of him doing that are details that would not matter at all without the substance of Christ’s actual return. These core doctrines are both necessary and plainly taught in the Bible. They are necessary because salvation itself would make no sense to any Christian who did not understand and trust these things. Justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to scripture alone, for the glory of God alone. The doctrine of sin and knowing why we stand condemned before a holy God. The doctrine of God, and why his holiness demands justice. The doctrine of regeneration so that we know that God has given us new life. The doctrine of the Trinity, God’s oneness expressed in three persons. These kinds of things are necessary. They must be known, believed, and observed by anyone who claims the name of Christ.
These things are necessary because they are clearly taught in scripture. When we open up or Bibles and look for the truth therein, these core doctrines jump off of the page. Of course we have to dig for them as well. But in a paradoxical way, they are also plain. One cannot read the book of Romans while trusting the Bible is the word of God and come away with any sort of impression that they must earn their salvation and God’s forgiveness. It clearly teaches that no one is righteous. No one seeks God. No one will be justified by their works. Christ payed our penalty, died in our place, and rose for our justification. One cannot read Romans and come away with any other gospel than “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” -Romans 3:23-25a (ESV)
Learned & Unlearned
These core doctrines are for every Christian. You don’t have to go to seminary to understand them. They should be taught through the ordinary means of the local church teaching and preaching them. You don’t have to know big words to understand big truth. It doesn’t matter if you know the term “Pnuematology” as long as you know the importance of the Holy Spirit and his work because it is being taught from the pulpit. No matter your level of education, you can know and trust the core truths taught in the Bible. There is no excuse for not seeking to know these things, because in knowing them we are seeking to know God. So read his word. Ask your pastor(s) questions. Get involved in a community group at your local church and be a part of the discussion. These doctrines are necessary because they are also practical. They teach us how to live the Christian life. They teach us how to effectively share the gospel with others. I want to encourage you brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, do not count yourself as unable to know the things of God. He has made them necessary and is faithful to equip you to drink from the fountain of life he gives and live to his glory.