Part I: A Guide to Better Understanding and Greater Enjoyment of God’s Word
A REVELATION in writing must necessarily be given in “words.” The separate words, therefore, in which it is given must have the same importance and authority as the revelation as a whole. If we accept the Bible as a revelation from God, and receive it as inspired by God, we cannot separate the words of which that inspired revelation is made up, or admit the assertion “that the Bible contains the Word of God, but is not the Word of God.” The position conveyed by such an expression is both illogical and impossible.
As we design this work for those who accept the Scriptures as the Word of God, we do not propose to offer any arguments in proof of its inspiration.
The Bible is its own best proof of its inspiration. It claims to be “the Word of God;” and if it be not what it claims to be, then it is not only not a “good book,” but is unworthy of our further attention.
We cannot understand the position of those who assert and believe that many of its parts are myths and forgeries, while at the same time they continue to write commentaries upon it, and accept their emoluments and dignities for preaching or lecturing about it.
If we were told and believed that a bank-note in our possession is a forgery, we certainly should take no further interest in it, beyond mourning the loss which we had sustained. Our action would thus be consistent with our belief.
We write, therefore, for those who, receiving the claims of the Scriptures as being the Word of God, desire to study it so as to understand it and enjoy it.
When this claim is admitted, and a course of study is undertaken in this spirit, we shall be at once over-whelmed with proofs as to its truth; and on almost every page find abundant confirmation of our faith.
The Bible simply claims to be the Word of God. It does not attempt to establish its claim, or seek to prove it. It merely assumes it and asserts it. It is for us to believe it or to leave it.
Hence we do not now attempt to prove or establish that claim; but, believing it, our aim is to seek to understand what God has thus written for our learning.
Nor do we attempt to explain the phenomena connected with Inspiration. We have no theories to offer, or suggestions to make, respecting it.
We have the Divine explanation in Acts iii. 18, where we read:
Those things which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets … he hath so fulfilled.”
The particular “things” referred to here are “that Christ should suffer;” but the assertion is comprehensive and includes all other things “showed” by God.
Note, that it was God who, before, had showed them. It was the same God who had fulfilled them. The “mouth” was the mouth of “all His prophets,” but they were not the prophets’ words. They were the words of God.
Hence, concerning other words, it is written:
“This Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, spake before concerning Judas” (Acts i. 16).
It was David’s “mouth,” and David’s pen, David’s vocal organs, and David’s hand; but they were not David’s words. They were the words “which the Holy Ghost spake before concerning Judas.” David knew nothing about Judas, David could not possibly have spoken anything about Judas. David’s “mouth” spake concerning Ahithophel; but they were the words “which the Holy Ghost spake concerning Judas.”
David was “a prophet”: and, being a prophet, he “spake as he was moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. i. 21). Hence, in Psalm xvi., he spake concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts ii. 30, 31). In the same way he “spake before concerning Judas.”
In like manner, in the Book of Exodus, Moses wrote about the Tabernacle, but he himself did not and could not know what “the Holy Ghost signified” (Heb. ix. 8).
Here, then, we have all that God condescends to tell us about the phenomena of inspiration.
This is the Divine explanation of it; and this is all that can be known about it.
It is not for us to explain this explanation, but to receive it and believe it; and there leave it. It is enough for us that God speaks to us; and that He says “Thus saith Jehovah.” We do not question the fact; we believe it; and only seek to understand it.
We desire to be in the position of those Thessalonian saints who, in this, “were ensamples to all that believe,” and to whom it was written: “For this cause thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh in you that believe” (1 Thess. ii. 13).
The Word of God is thus for those “that believe.” The “Word” as a whole; and the “words” of which it is made up. They cannot be separated.
It is Jeremiah who says (Jer. xv. 16):
“THY WORDS were found,3 and I did eat them;
And THY WORD was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart:
For I am called by Thy name, O Jehovah Elohim of hosts.”
Here again, it is those who are called by Jehovah’s name who feed upon His “words,” and rejoice in His Word.”
The same distinction is made in the New Testament by the Lord Jesus in John xvii.:
“I have given unto them the WORDS which thou gavest me” (v. 8).
“I have given them thy WORD” (v. 14).
Those who are referred to in the word “them” are described seven times over, as having been “given” to Christ by the Father.4
These had “received” the words; these had “known surely”; these had “believed” (v. 8).
It is for such as these we now write, who receive, believe, read, and desire to feed upon the “words” of God; that the “word” of God may become “a joy, and the rejoicing” of the heart (Jer. xv. 16, R.V.).
True, this joy within will be tempered by trouble without. Jeremiah prefaces the statement, quoted above, with the words immediately preceding it in verse 15.
“For Thy sake I have suffered rebuke.”5
And the Lord Jesus after saying (John xvii. 14):
“I have given them Thy WORD
“And the world hath hated them.”
Those who thus feed upon and rejoice in God’s Word will soon realize their isolated position; but, in spite of the “reproach” and “hatred” of the world, there will always be the “joy and rejoicing” of the heart.
It was so on another occasion when the neglected Word of God was brought forth,
“AND EZRA OPENED THE BOOK,”
the people were assured that “the joy of the LORD was their strength” (Neh. viii. 5, 10, 12, 17). And we are told:
“So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (v. 8).
It must be the same with us if that “Word” and those “words” are to be the cause of our joy and rejoicing. And this is our object in writing now. We do not write for casual readers, or for those who read a daily portion of the Word merely as the performance of a duty and as a matter of form, but for those who “search the Scriptures,” and who seek, in them, for Him of whom the Scriptures testify (John v. 39).
Such a one was the eunuch who went up to Jerusalem from Ethiopia in Acts viii. He sought the Saviour, but he did not find Him in Jerusalem. He found “religion” there, and plenty of it; but he did not find that Blessed One; for He had been rejected, “crucified, and slain.” So the eunuch was returning, and was still seeking for the Living Word in the Written Word; “and, sitting in his chariot, read Isaiah the prophet.”
Being directed by the Divine Angel-messenger, Philip “ran thither to him and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said
UNDERSTANDEST THOU WHAT THOU READEST?
And he said:
“How can I except some man should guide me?
“And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him” (Acts viii. 27-31).
Philip’s question (v. 30) implies (in the Greek) a doubt on Philip’s part as to whether the eunuch did really understand. And the eunuch’s reply (v. 31) implies a negative answer. It begins with the word “for,” which is not translated either in the AN. or R.V. If we supply the ellipsis of the negative which is so clearly implied we can then translate the word gavr (gar), for; thus;
“[No]: for how should I be able unless some one should guide me.”
Of course, the Holy Spirit Himself is THE guide and teacher of His own Word. But sometimes, as in this case, He sends a messenger, and uses human instruments and agencies.
The word to guide is oJdhgevw (hodegeo), to lead or guide in the way.6 It is this guidance which the ordinary reader stands in need of today; and never more than today, when so many would-be guides are “blind leaders of the blind.” On all hands there are so many attractions to draw readers out of the way “altogether; and so many” good “books and helps” to lead them astray.
We cannot pretend to be a Philip, or to have his special commission. But, without assuming to teach others on such an important subject we may at least tell them what lines of study we have ourselves found helpful; and what principles we have found useful in our own searchings of God’s Word.
But these will be useless unless we are first prepared to unlearn.
If any think they know all, or that they have exhausted the Divine Word; or that what they set out to learn is only to be in addition to what they already know, instead of sometimes in substitution for it, then we shall be of little service to them: and they need not follow us any further.
When we come to ask ourselves, and say, “Where did I learn this?” “How did I get this?” “Who taught me this?” it is astonishing to find how much we have imbibed from man, and from tradition; and not directly and for ourselves, from the Word of God.
All that we have learned from our youth up must be tested and proved by the Word of God. Where we find it is true we must learn it over again, from God. And where it will not stand the test of His Word we must be not only content, but thankful to give it up; and receive Divine revelation in the place of man’s imagination.
With these introductory remarks we shall proceed to divide what we may call our essential and fundamental principles of Bible study into two parts:
First, those connected with THE “WORD” as a whole; and
Second: those connected with THE “WORDS” of which the Word is composed.
3 Ax^m` (matza), to discover. Gen. ii. 20. Here referring to the historic fact (2 Kings xxii. 8. 2 Chron. xxxiv, 11, 15) of the finding the book of the Law by Hilkiah in the reign of Josiah.
4 See verses 2, 6, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24.
5 HP*r=h# (cherpah), reproach; and so nearly always rendered.
6 From oJdov" (hodos), a way; and hJgevomai (hegeomai), to lead. It occurs only in Matt. xv. 14. Luke vi. 39. John xvi. 13. Acts viii. 31. and Rev. vii. 17. It is used both in its literal or proper sense (Exod. xiii. 17; xxxii. 34. Num. xxiv. 8; Deut. i. 33) ; and in a Tropical sense (Ps. v. 8; xxiii. 3; xxv. 5. 9; lxxvii 20, etc.).
Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word)