Are Some Parts of Scripture Greater Than Others?
Sometimes in the name of zeal for biblical fidelity we can inadvertently correct others where no correction is needed. I’ve had the infelicitous experience of being corrected, on numerous occasions, for something for which I ought not to have been corrected. I have also been the culprit of such uncharitable action. I have, at times, made assertions about certain portions of Scripture (e.g.certain chapters in Genesis, Romans, Galatians and Hebrews) being greater than others. In response, I have been on the receiving end of well-meaning Christians firing something back along the lines of, “Every portion of Scripture is important. We shouldn’t say that one part is greater than another.” So the question is, "It right or wrong for us to speak of some portions of Scripture as being greater, or more important, than others?"
Not long ago, I happened across a statement by J. Gresham Machen, in one of his sermons in God Transcendent, in which he explained how is it altogether right to insist that some parts of Scripture are greater than others. Machen wrote:
Some chapters of the Bible are certainly greater than others, and it is by no means derogatory to the authority of Scripture to recognize their special greatness. The doctrine of plenary inspiration does not mean, as its opponents often represent it as meaning, that all parts of the Bible are equally valuable–it only means that all parts of the Bible are equally true. Even the least valuable parts of the Bible have, indeed, their place. Lovers of poetry love the level lines of Shakespeare; so we Christians cherish the great level, prose chapters of the word of God. Even in the level pathways of Scripture we can walk with God and learn of Him. But then when we have passed through such a stretch in our reading of the Bible, where distinct scenes are concealed, suddenly we emerge sometimes as we read, as upon the brow of some hill, and discern before us with wondering eyes a wide, free prospect of the world and destiny and human duty. And there, through the great expanse stretched out before, may be seen a narrow path that leads over hill and dale until in the dim distance it loses itself in the mysterious brightness of the city of God.1
In addition to what Machen wrote, the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith seems to suggest something similar when the Divines reflect on the clarity of the different portions of Scripture. When they speak of those places in Scripture that reveal “those things that are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation” they surely have in mind what we might call “the greater parts of Scripture:”
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.2
Fully believing that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16), and that no word that God has spoken will “return to Him void, but it shall accomplish what He pleases and it shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it” (Isaiah 55:11), I must admit that find myself in agreement with Machen: “Some chapters of the Bible are certainly greater than others.”
1. J. Gresham Machen God Transcendent (Wm. B. Eerdman’s: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1949) p. 116
2. Westminster Confession of Faith 1.7
*This first appeared at The Christward Collective.