THE WICKET GATE
Chapter 10.....The Scriptures
"The Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus."2nd Timothy, ch. 3, verse 15.
N0 new convert can possibly enter into his new position with God and the Lord Jesus Christ without giving the most serious thought to the place the Scriptures are to have in his life. Actually he has been saved by some word of Scripture throwing light on the Lord Jesus Christ, which his mind, being enlightened by the Holy Spirit, has grasped, and the heart has believed. Quite plainly he must ask himself his attitude to such a volume. There may be those who, having read a number of books on the Bible, written from different standpoints, sum up the situation, record their verdict and decide to read, (or not to read!) their Bibles. The number of such, I suggest, is very few. Most Bible lovers were first enlightened on a vital truth and then searching in the treasure house entered into the possession of ever-increasing wealth. It is the one who has been passing experimentally through previous chapters to whom this one is now addressed.
Therefore having been saved, born again of the Holy Spirit, you will have the best of all reasons for giving the Bible further consideration. Since the Lord Jesus Christ is now your personal Saviour you will desire to know more about Him, everything indeed that is possible; and, of course, the Bible is the one book that can give you the information you need. It can hardly be thought that as a Saviour He has much significance to you, if the Book that tells you all about Him does not command your intense interest. You will notice also that men and women about you, obviously strong Christians, are, without exception, lovers of the Bible. The two are inter-related. Their first love for the Lord turned them to the Scriptures and their reading of the Scriptures has increased their love for the Lord.
Christians whose conception of Christianity is " doing " may neglect their Bibles, but Christians whose conception is " being " are always lovers of the Word. You will also notice those men and women whom God has greatly used have been careful and regular readers of the Word. Speaking generally the nations that have had the privilege of the Bible in their midst have been most in the vanguard of progress. There is also a certain vitality about the Bible. Its worst enemy has not been the Communists but the Romanist! All through the centuries Roman priests have sought, whenever they could, to keep it out of the hands of the people. They have sought to burn and otherwise destroy literally millions of copies and to persecute people found with a copy in their possession. But in spite of the fierce hatred of Rome, the Bible still persists. No Book has been translated into so many languages. Intellectually you need never be ashamed to read the Bible in a public vehicle. It is not only a marvellous treasure of truth but it is well-written truth. It is written in three languages most adaptable for translation. Our Authorised Version has itself done more to stabilise our language than all other books put together. Indeed, it has been the foundation of the best of our literature.
Even if John Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained are not now popular, and if it be true that John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is the dullest of the so-called " Classics," yet that does not touch the issue of their real worth. If it is good English that you wish to speak, freed from all slang, American or otherwise, then make the Bible and the books that grow out of it, your study. With these and many other considerations in the mind you will readily appreciate that the Bible must be for you the first of Books. In such circumstances you will be interested in its ORIGIN. Let me warn you, however, not to leave your Bible alone while you read about its origin. See for yourself what the Bible says about itself. "All Scripture is God breathed," says Paul to Timothy. Peter declares: "Holy men spake from God being moved by the Holy Spirit." Our Lord enjoins His disciples: "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they, which testify of Me ".
Now there is nothing strange in the principle of inspiration. We may have inspired others but most of us have been " inspired " by others as soldiers have by their generals. The Divine inspiration of Scripture, however, is somewhat different. For the Christian this is the point: Holy men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit to write down the words, and now to the believer the same Holy Spirit, indwelling him, makes those words life and power for his obedience to God. Inspiration will always be an issue to an unsaved man and to a nominal Christian but to the living believer, the ministry of the same Spirit through the Word will perpetually nourish the life received. Questions as to how far the original manuscripts have suffered in the process of copying; how far the writer intruded himself within the ministry of Divine inspiration may be asked but they can never be answered. Casting up doubts and discrediting facts is not the same as answering questions. The true believer will know the difference. While these matters are largely left aside in such a chapter as this, it must not be thought that they are neglected through ignorance. To the new convert I would say that the facts of life and the discoveries of research both buttress and confirm the enlightened experience of the believer.
The most recent discovery is that of a MS. of the prophecy of Isaiah written probably three centuries before Christ. So far as investigation has gone it corresponds with those versions from which our translations have been made. Another question will be that of the Canon of Scripture. What do we mean by Canon? We mean such books as have commended themselves to the Early Church as being part of the revealed testimony of God. Just as we may have the library of Scott and Dickens so we have a library of those books that give evidence of Divine inspiration. Their validity lies in the nourishment they have given to the spiritual life of believers. " These are the fountains of salvation so that he who thirsts may satisfy himself with the oracles in them. In these alone the lesson of piety is proclaimed. Let no one add to these nor take away from them." So wrote Athanasius. This will not be convincing to the unbeliever, but the new convert will prove it true as he drinks deep of them.
This really covers the question of the Authority of Scriptures. Why should we accept the authority of the Word? Let me stress that pre-eminently the Bible is a revelation of the will and purpose of God in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That revelation in all its power can only be received by faith and out of that faith comes forgiveness, life, joy and hope. That is the foundation of authority for the believer. If the Bible must first receive a certificate from a scholar of outstanding ability in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Ancient History, then very few indeed will have sufficient authority first-hand. Two issues then arise. First, how can I be sure of the scholarly infallibility of the scholar? Secondly: the Romanist depending on the authority of his priest is no worse than the Protestant depending on the authority of his professor! We have to eat food long before we are in a position, if ever, to analyse it for ourselves. Nobody is discredited who eats food before they have the ability to analyse it. The Word of God is the vital and essential food of the young Christian. Feed on it with all your heart and prove its power to build you up in your most holy faith.
How then shall you make use of your Bible? The first step is to secure a good copy for your own personal use. A good type, the best binding you can afford, one with marginal references are perhaps the principal considerations. You will do well, certainly at first, to confine your reading of other books to those that will help you intelligently to read the Bible. The two volumes by Dr. Graham Scroggie on " Know your Bible" will prove to be most helpful. They throw light in such a way as to create a desire to read more of the Word and this is important. Your business as a Christian is so to read the Bible that a life-long habit is created and an appetite continually stimulated. If this does not receive your earnest attention at the beginning of your Christian life you may easily become a Christian to whom the Bible experimentally means very little. And that means you will be a very undernourished little Christian, a Peter Pan! With this precious volume in your hands, you should read your Bible with at least three objects in view. First, you are to read it for correction. Although you have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and turned from your sin yet there is still much that needs correction and adjustment. The will of God is that fine line between Divine Holiness and Divine Love. We may have some understanding of it in general but we need to know its application in detail. Hence we read the Word of God to know the will of God, then to see daily where we are out of it, and in obedience to follow the light. If we watch other Christians we shall be completely muddled and mystified. If we decide to follow our own uncleansed conscience we shall surely be arrested in the way, if not deflected from it. However if we submit to the guidance of the Spirit through the Word on all matters of faith and conduct, we shall be led out from darkness into light.
Let this be our first concern in reading the Word, let us confess in prayer before we read, that even as Christians, we are ignorant and blind and proud and self-confident; most unwilling to be corrected and admonished. Then humbly seeking direction and most submissively obeying it, we shall prove what a guidebook indeed the Bible is. If, on the other hand, we refuse the leading of the Spirit through the Word, if we rebel against its injunctions, argue in self defence, contrast the guidance given with what we see in others, then the Bible will become a closed Book. We shall join the ranks of those who can see all manner of faults in the Bible, but never by any chance in themselves. The second purpose is that the man of God shall be equipped for every good work. Two things the new believer must know. First, what it is that God would have him do. He is not to respond to impulse, taking up service that is pleasant or does not involve any sacrifice; but he is to be in the place of duty of the Lord's appointing. The Spirit enlightening him through the Word will surely indicate the kind of work for which he is best fitted in God's eyes. That may easily be a work for which he himself feels himself most unfitted. His reading of the Bible will be one sure means of creating and developing the true spiritual capacity he needs. Then secondly, he will learn from the Word the spirit of his doing. How many there are who render service in a spirit that grieves God!
The moment we think ourselves in the very least degree anything else than grossly unprofitable servants, we are spoiling whatever we are doing and we are grieving our Saviour. Mark the spirit in which Jesus did His work. It was all in the deepest humility. Even Christ pleased not Himself! The right work, done in the right way! That means service springing out of the light of the Scriptures. Finally, the Spirit leads us to the written word that we may become more acquainted with the Living Word. The two on the road to Emmaus declared that their hearts burned within them as He opened up the Scriptures to them. Those burning hearts were the prelude to that glorious moment when their eyes were opened and they saw Jesus Risen! What an experience! The end of all Bible reading is Jesus! He is the centre of its revelation. To Him bear all the prophets witness, and He is the cynosure of every writing in the New Testament as well. Be sure that as, by the direction of the Holy Spirit you humbly read the Word, you shall see the Lord.
By way of the written Word we come to the presence of the Living Word and although the carnal mind cannot understand the possibility, and despises the process, yet it is even so. Press on with the Word and in God's gracious love and mercy, it shall be that every opening of its sacred pages will be an unveiling of the Glorious Lord to your own redeemed spirit. This is the end of all your Bible reading and what an end it is! Once you have known it then the daily portion is no longer a religious cul-de-sac, the value of which you seldom perceive. It is no longer an arduous duty that as a professing Christian you must discharge, but it becomes the means by which the mind is enlightened, trained and disciplined to apprehend the things that cannot be seen. All other issues will be as dust in the balance as day by day the life is corrected by the Word; day by day your service is rendered in the spirit of Jesus; and day by day, whatever the circumstances, whether dark and dismal, or bright and sunny, you will meet with Jesus. When you do, you know the darkness is dissipated and even the sunshine on the earth has a brighter light enfolding it. Who would neglect their Bible?
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