Bible – A Treasure Invaluable
By Adolph Saphir
If an angel from heaven, who had been before God’s throne for thousands of years, came down to earth to dwell among us, and was willing to communicate to us out of the treasure of his knowledge of divine things, how eagerly we would seek him out, and how attentively we would treasure up his words. But the Bible is better than such a celestial messenger. The Bible is given by God Himself, as the best and most perfect teacher. He, in His infinite wisdom, has adapted both the matter and manner to our needs and particular position in this world.
God has revealed to us things into which the very angels desire to look. What can be more precious than His own language and His own words, revealing to us the inmost thoughts and purposes of His heart? We ought to open the Bible with the greatest gratitude. Here is indeed a treasure invaluable. “Oh, how I love Thy Word! it is better than thousands of gold and silver; it is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.”
We ought never to open the Scriptures except with a feeling of profound reverence and gratitude. As one has said, “They are heaven speaking upon earth; in them we hear the voice of the living God. …” (A. Monod).
In reading the Scriptures, we ought to approach with awe and reverence, with an attentive mind and a solemn, teachable heart. How thankful ought we to be for this revelation from God, for its fulness and simplicity, for the great truths it unfolds and the minute counsels it contains, for its doctrine and consolation; the history of the past and the prophecy of the future, the example of the saints and the varied experiences of God’s children.
If we speak of our duty to read the Scriptures, we use a weak and inadequate word, that does not at all correspond to the real nature of the case and to the feelings of the Christian. Where there is reverence, love, trust, where there is joy in communion with God, we look upon the reading of Scripture not as a duty, one among many others. It stands by itself. Listening to the voice of God is not one of many duties, but it is the source as well as the regulator of all duties. It is not merely a work which our conscience declares to be right, but our very conscience, and affections, and will, and mind, our whole inner man, receives from this Word light and strength.
We feel it necessary to read the Scriptures, just as food is necessary to sustain life, and as we desire to breathe pure and fresh air. It is a necessity, not a compulsion of an external kind which is opposed to our nature and which is as a mechanical burden imposed on us. It is a necessity in the sense that our whole spiritual life craves for it and cannot prosper without it.
Is not one reason of our languid and feeble spiritual life the simple fact that we do not breathe sufficiently the Bible air? Sermons and tracts and religious books contain not sufficiently that ozone which is the exclusive characteristic of God’s Word.
Read The Whole Scripture
Scripture is a connected whole. Do not neglect the historical or prophetic, or doctrinal portions. Forget not the books of Proverbs nor the little Epistle to Philemon. Think not that there is no food for the soul in the books of the Chronicles.
God has given us the whole, and means us to use the whole, for it is all profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. We Protestants speak much, and at times somewhat boastfully, of our great reverence and love for the Bible. Is our glorying in truth? Do we love the Bible not merely as a text book from which to collect proofs for our doctrine, an armory from which to select weapons to defeat our opponents, but do we love the Bible as God’s revelation in which our minds are to be molded, by which our hearts are to be influenced? Let us be really disciples, learners, not selecting, not rejecting, but receiving all our Lord has graciously caused to be written for our instruction.
While we use with gratitude the books in which men communicate their thoughts and experience, we must always, not merely in theory, but in practice, hold them in a subordinate position. The more the Bible has the preeminence, the greater will be our power of discernment, and the more shall we be truly benefited by the writings of men. A diligent study of Scripture will place us in the true position of not being in bondage to man, and of being willing to learn with gratitude from all servants of the Lord.
Has a Christian ever regretted on his deathbed that he spent too much time in reading the Bible and too little time in reading men’s writings? But many of God’s people have expressed their regret that they have not studied the Word of God more. Let us then act as they would have acted, had their life been lengthened. Let us start now, as they, by the solemn and clear light of their last days, saw it was good, and wise, and blessed to start. Let us give time to the regular and diligent reading of “all Scripture.”
Read Scripture connectedly. It is true, every word of God is pure. Precious is every expression, and on a single line or verse we may meditate only to find that its depth is inexhaustible. But besides this minute reading and meditation, there ought to be also a more rapid and connected reading. Sometimes we dwell on every word and do not gain the meaning of a whole chapter or epistle. Bring all concentration of mind to the reading of Scripture, and then apply your intellect to it as to any other book.
Reverential reading includes the lower attitude of attention, exertion of mind, and earnestness. The Spirit is promised to reveal and apply to us the truths of Scripture. But one result of the Spirit’s influence is an honest application of the mind to the Bible. If we read in a kind of mental paralysis, with a mysterious feeling of performing a duty which somehow or other will benefit us, we misunderstand the nature of the Bible. It is used by the Spirit to convince, instruct, comfort, guide, and this through the understanding, conscience and emotions.
Therefore in the Bible we have history, argument, poetry, precepts and principles, suggestion and appeal. All that is within us is exercised by this Word, and the more the Spirit aids us, the more will all our mental and moral faculties be brought into activity in the reading of Scripture. Again I say, let us give ourselves to frequent, copious, honest reading of the Bible, in dependence on the grace of God who alone gives the increase. …
The Bible’s Practicality For Daily Life
Let us ever remember that God has given unto us His Word that we may find in it Him, and not food for our curiosity, material for the exercise of our skill and scholarship, relief from feelings of gloom, and security in the superficial acceptance of doctrines and promises. Let us use the book for godly edifying in faith, and realize in our experience that it is profitable. The practical character of the Bible will then increasingly manifest itself to us. …
God and God alone is life. He has life in Himself and His words have also life. His words bring with them not merely good things, but that which is the first and essential requisite of all good, that is Life.
The Word is living (“quick,” Heb. 4:12), and when it is recognized as the voice of God it is powerful. Christ’s words are spirit and life (John 6:63). They are therefore compared to the seed, which appears insignificant, but which, if received in good ground, soon shows its vitality. Often the seed springs and grows up, we know not how--first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
The Word of God, received as such, does not remain in us as a dead and inert mass, a mere addition to our knowledge, but is continually active and growing in our thoughts and words, in our character and walk, bringing forth in some a hundred-fold, in some sixty-fold, in some thirty. It is written that we are to lay aside everything that hinders and receive with meekness the engrafted Word (James 1:21). We are to keep the Word, to hide it in our heart, to give heed that the enemy take it not from our memory and our affection.
Again, this living and powerful Word is as a sword. It possesses a dividing, separating, piercing energy, which penetrates into the very depths of man and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12). With a most faithful accuracy and searching minuteness, it analyzes our motives. It distinguishes between nature and grace, spirit and flesh, the old life and the resurrection life. It divides, where we in our blindness and self-sufficiency imagine that all is pure and pleasing to God.
Thus the Word is a mirror true and clear, in which we may behold our likeness. As a mirror is for the purpose that we should look not at it but into it, so the Word is not used by us according to God’s purpose, unless we look into it to see in it ourselves. All “objective” admiration of the Bible as a wonderful mirror of the world and the Church, only increases our guilt when we neglect the subjective use. We are the subjects, “Thou art the man.” “Know thyself” has from remote antiquity been the counsel of human wisdom. But the precept forgets one great difficulty. “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9). Who but God can know that mysterious fountain out of which are the issues of life? God alone knows and searches the heart. We therefore need a mirror such as man cannot provide. But while this mirror shows us faithfully our true condition, we behold in it also the face of the Lord from heaven who is our righteousness and whose beauty thus shines on His believers, so that the Father delights in them.
Seed, sword, mirror—these are three aspects of the practical character of Scripture. In reading it according to God’s purpose, in reliance on the Spirit, a wonderful influence is exerted on us. Impressions of an eternal character are received. The influence of the Lord is on the very heart, out of which proceed thoughts and works. Grace is our teacher, and its discipline is through the Word.
As God’s dealings with us may be all comprised under the two grand lessons, our sin and need, and His grace and fulness, so the Word continually kills and quickens—takes away our own life and gives us the Resurrection Life; discloses to us our nothingness, and unfolds to us Christ’s riches.
The ultimate end of Scripture is always Comfort. “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people,” is the motto of the Bible. But God’s comfort is in righteousness and truth. Sin is condemned in the flesh; life is given through the righteousness of Christ. The consolation of the world and the natural mind is based on the imperfect view of sin (thinking it less evil than it is) and on the false view of the creature-life (regarding it with hope). It ignores sin and evades the cross. It does not humble man. It does not lead through death unto life. Not so God’s consolation. It is the consolation of resurrection after the cross. …
The Word makes us wise unto salvation. The Word teaches us what it is to be wise. The world often mistakes cleverness and prudence for wisdom, and sometimes calls unworldliness folly. But Scripture teaches us that wisdom is from above, that Christ is our wisdom and that the end of wisdom is salvation. Yet this wisdom embraces true prudence in all earthly duties and relationships.
If we are guided by the Word, if we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, if we have our eye fixed on His promise, and our affections set on the things above, if we walk with Him in humility and faith, our minds will be clear and calm, our words sober, truthful and kind, our actions straightforward and prudent. In our relationship with our fellow men we shall commend and adorn the doctrine of the Gospel. Oh, how beautiful and perfect are God’s directions in Scripture. If we obeyed God in all things, temporal as well as spiritual, inward and outward, how blessed and attractive our lives would be! What civilization attempts, and attempts superficially, God’s Word realizes, and realizes radically. …
Christ In The Scriptures
The Bible is a book for life, and only he who desires to use it for life can enter into its true meaning. The Bible is profitable, but only when we read as disciples whose object is to “learn Christ.” The children of God thus read Scripture, not with the purpose of exhausting its fulness, but of receiving from it what they need for the present, though often they treasure up much which at the time is scarcely understood, but is unfolded in the future.
In reading the Word in which Christ is the substance, the believer feels that the providence of the Father and the application of the Spirit make the Scripture to have direct guiding, exhorting and comforting meaning to him. He thus not merely sees green pastures, but God Himself makes him to lie down in them, and he receives from the heavenly Shepherd what is beneficial and refreshing for his soul.
In like manner he feels that he must read with diligence and meditation, not running hastily over the field in which is hidden treasure, but digging deep to discover the precious gold. Our hearts and lives must be fashioned in accordance with the great and solemn word. We know that the difficulties in understanding the Word are not intellectual but spiritual--in the heart and conscience and will. Hence the study of Scripture is based on self-denial.
In that wonderful 119th Psalm, we have a most instructive description of the attitude and discipline of one who loves the Word: “I have refrained my feet from every evil way that I may keep Thy word. Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies and not to covetousness. I hate vain thoughts, but Thy law do I love.” He who desires to see the hidden things of the Word prays, “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.”
Whatever the Word is, it is because of its relation to Christ. Is the Word of God quick--that is, living? It is because Christ is the Life. Is it powerful? It is because Christ is the power of God. Is it sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow? It is because Christ is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, because Christ divides between Peter who confesses Him as the Son of God and Peter who savors the things of men.
Is it a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart? It is because Christ knows what is in man, because He sees Nathanael when He is under the fig tree and the Pharisees who think evil in their hearts. Is it said of the Word, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do”? It is because the spoken and written Word is identified with the Lord Himself, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, even the Son of man unto whom the Father has committed all judgment.
Is the Word spoken of as the sincere milk, the nourishing food of the soul? It is because Christ is the Bread of Life. Is it commended as light shining into darkness? It is because Christ is wisdom. The essence of Scripture is that Saviour in whom are all things which pertain unto life and godliness. The soul that has found Jesus Christ sees Him in Scripture always and throughout.
Jesus is the door by which alone we can enter the sanctuary of the Word. When we come to Jesus we enter into possession of the Word, for He has the words of eternal life. They are His, and He only can give the Word (John 17:14). As we have the Word through Him, and in Him, so we find Him in every portion of Scripture.
Arranged from Christ And The Scriptures, by Adolph Saphir.