On The Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God

Zwingli on the bronze doors by Otto Münch (193...

The preached Word of God is the foundation upon which everything should be built‘ wrote Huldrych Zwingli in a booklet he published on the 6th of September, 1522.  Von Klarheit und Gewissheit des Wortes Gottes is one of Zwingli’s early works and yet its theological outlook is mature and its position Reformed in the best and most historical sense of that word.

In fact, however, the booklet began its life as a sermon which was joyfully received and so Zwingli was urged to publish an expanded version of it, which he did.

In this book  Zwingli assures his readers that the Word of God is not dependent on the Magisterium or tradition of the Church but on the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the authorized and legitimately appointed preacher delivers it.  The Holy Spirit breathes life into the written word and it becomes God’s word to us.  ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’.  Without the Spirit, understanding is impossible and heresy the outcome.

In coming years Zwingli would be forced to emphasize the fact that the Spirit interprets Scripture and doesn’t speak apart from it.  This because of the maniacal spiritualists and Re-Baptizers who began asserting that since they had the Spirit, they could toss the Scriptures into the rubbish bin (much the same way that emergents and Pentecostals do today).

Among the many insightful observations contained in this tome, this one stands out-

No matter who a man may be, if he teaches you in accordance with his own thought and mind his teaching is false. But if he teaches you in accordance with the Word of God, it is not he that teaches you, but God who teaches him. For as Paul says, who are we but ministers of Christ and dispensers or stewards of the mysteries of God? Again, I know for certain that God teaches me, because I have experienced the fact of it; and to prevent misunderstanding this is what I mean when I say that I know for certain that God teaches me. When I was younger, I gave myself overmuch to human teaching, like others of my day, and when about seven or eight years ago I undertook to devote myself entirely to the Scriptures I was always prevented by philosophy and theology.

But eventually I came to the point where led by Scripture and the Word of God I saw the need to set aside all these things and to learn the doctrine of God direct from his own Word. Then I began to ask God for light and the Scriptures became far clearer to me- even though I read nothing else- than if I had studied many commentators and expositors. Note that that is always a sure sign of God’s leading; for I could never have reached that point by my own feeble understanding. You may see then that my interpretation does not derive from the over-estimation of myself, but the subjection.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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