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WCF 1:6,7 Hermeneutics: the Proper Understanding and Use of the Word of God

"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed."

"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 the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them."


1) The Bible teaches the whole counsel of God.

The Bible tells us how to glorify God, how to be saved, what to believe, and how to live to the glory of God. It is the owner’s manual for human living. We are guided and informed by the explicit and the implicit teaching of the word.

2) The Bible addresses every area of life.

The Bible either expressly, deductively, or by principle touches every facet of life.

Expressly - meaning that a chapter and verse can be given that applies directly to the situation. For example, you shall not kill, or love one another.

Deductively - meaning that taking the given truth of Scripture and reasoning on that foundation, or putting two and two together, we can arrive at the mind of God. For example, there is no slave or free, Greek or Jew in Christ, therefore a trans-racial, trans-societal congregation is not only possible but should be a given.

Principle - meaning that the parameters or boundaries within which we are free to choose on a given issue are given in Scripture. For example, we don't hold church services at 3am or every night of the week because rest and tasks other than church tasks are commanded in the Scriptures.

3) The Bible is complete and does not require new revelations or traditions to fill in the gaps.

The more you study the Bible to understand and practice its precepts the less cause you will have to look elsewhere for moral directions. The Bible is a sufficient guide. We are not to depend on other revelations of the Spirit, nor seek supernatural guidance in any other way.

4) The Spirit's indwelling illumination is necessary in order to a true and saving understanding of the Word.

English literature professors, oriental language instructors and scholars in Grecian Rhetoric do not understand the Bible as well as the most weak and humble believer. Why? Because the believer knows the author. In this, he is wiser than all his teachers. In His light, we see light.

5) The regulative principle can be taken to an unwarranted extreme.

The Bible does regulate, or set the rules for every area of life, but we often press the Scriptures like a warm wax in order to force it to answer questions that it does not address. Where the Scriptures are silent, we should be as well; where they are unclear, we should not be definitive. This involves the exercise of both wisdom and grace.

6) The way of salvation can be understood by all men by reading the Bible.

We still need diligent, close study of the word by Spirit-filled godly men, but we are not dependent on them for the knowledge of salvation; which is at the center of revelation.


1) Acts 20:27

2) 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3

3) Galatians 1:8-9; Revelation 22:18-19

4) 1 Corinthians 2:9-12

5) 1 Corinthians 11:13-14; 14:26, 40

6) John 5:39-40; 2 Timothy 3:15


1) We cannot know exactly what the Bible teaches because so many people disagree.

Many interpreters are wrong, or at least immature, and the teaching of the Bible is clear and can be stated in the form of propositions or confessions that will never change. The Scriptures, properly interpreted, are painfully and joyfully clear.

2) The Bible contains errors and inconsistencies because the scholars tell us they do.

Without the Spirit's illumination of the mind and heart of man, interpreters will conceive of a thousand inconsistencies, because they do not understand the Scriptures.

3) We do not need to study the Bible to know and understand God.

The word is the light to our feet and a lamp to our path, without the word we are walking in the dark, and limited and misguided by our experiences and subjective opinions. We if would walk with God we must know His voice speaking to us in the Scriptures.


1) We can know that what we believe and how we live is pleasing to our God.

2) We can keep our heads in time of doctrinal and ecclesiastical strife if we know and abide by the Word.

3) We can know the way of salvation, and know that we are saved, and be confident when we point out to others the way of salvation.

4) The principles of Biblical worship set us free to worship God in an acceptable way.

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