Our Protestant Reformed young people will presently inaugurate another season of society activity. “Beacon Lights” will again lead the way. Having been asked to contribute the feature article to its first issue of October 1, I could not think of a more appropriate subject than the study of the Word of God. It is possible, of course, to write on one of several phases of society activity. Such an article would also be appropriate at this time. One could write, for example, on the subject of Christian fellowship, emphasizing the Scriptural truth relative to the communion of saints as applied to the society life of our young men and women. However, all these subjects are secondary to the study of the Word of God. The Word of God is not only most important in our society life—it controls and determines every phase and aspect of it. God’s Word is a lamp before our feet and a light upon our path. That light must illumine our every walk of life. Our relation to it determines our growth and fellowship. Also, our relation to and position in the midst of the world. Hence, I would call attention in this article to the study of the Word of God.
THE WORD OF GOD
It is, of course, of paramount significance that we ask ourselves the question: What is the Word of God? The answer to this question will determine our study of the Bible. Naturally, the first answer which presents itself to us is: The Bible is the Word of God because God spoke it. Notice: because God spoke it. And this is true. We believe in the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures. This means that God moved, illumined, directed holy men so that they wrote infallibly, unerringly what God would have them write. Inspiration is both plenary and organic. We believe in plenary (full, complete) inspiration, and declare thereby firstly, that all of Scripture is inspired of God, and secondly, that Scripture is a complete revelation of the God of our salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord. We believe in organic inspiration because the Scriptures are a beautiful unity, having one thought, in winch scheme of Divine thought each holy writer occupies his own place, not only through Divine preparedness and inspiration but also as according to the Lord’s sovereign counsel with respect to the revelation of His truth. And although it is true that we no longer possess this original document of God given us through holy men, this tends to substantiate rather than weaken the truth that our Bible is literally the inspired Word of God. It is an amazing fact, to be ascribed only to Jehovah’s own jealous safekeeping of His truth, that we. notwithstanding the thousands of translations of this Word of God, still retain in essence the same inspired truth.
It is well that we maintain this principle with all our heart and soul. It establishes the unique authority of the Bible as the sole rule for our conduct and life. God did not merely acquaint His holy writers in general with His revelation. leaving the actual writing of this truth in the hands of these men. This would be ‘‘risky’’ to say the least. God surely could not entrust to sinful men the writing of His will. Besides, man is conceived and born dead in sin. All men are liars, haters of the truth, and lovers of darkness and the lie. The truth could never originate within the heart and mind of man; it must come to us from the living God Himself. And God alone can reveal to us His own will. Hence, Divine inspiration teaches us that, in this world of sin and lie and darkness, Jehovah infallibly wrote His truth, through holy writers, because only when the Lord speaks to us in our language are we able to receive it. But we must remember that God used our language as the vehicle of His own Divine thought.
However, the Bible is more than merely the Word of God in the above-mentioned sense of the Word. It is not merely the Word of God because God spoke it. But the Lord also speaks it. Particularly this truth we must ever bear in mind. There is a word of God which the Lord alone can speak, and which He as God always speaks. When God speaks, it is. When He commands, it stands. It is this word which never return void unto Him but accomplishes all His good pleasure. God speaks creatively, irresistibly. Thus, God spoke at the beginning of time and the heavens and the earth received being. Thus, God speaks also in the hearts of His people, calling them irresistibly out of darkness into His marvelous light.
The Bible is that Word of God. This must be understood not merely in the sense that it is the Lord’s infallible record of that word. It is that, too. The Scriptures indeed speak to us of the Lord’s development of His own covenant. They tell us of Jehovah’s irresistible operations not only within the hearts of His people but also within the lives of all men. God realizes all His good pleasures, fulfills His own counsel, carries out His own will of predestination, reprobation as well as election. The Bible is indeed Jehovah’s infallible revelation of this antithetic development of His covenant. But the Lord still speaks His own word.
The Scriptures are not merely a record of past events. Jehovah has not merely spoken. He still speaks. And He still speaks that Word in connection with the Divine Scriptures. God always maintains His own revelation and truth. This truth, briefly expressed, is that God is God. He alone is eternal life within Himself and also for His people in Christ Jesus. Man’s happiness and peace can be experienced only in fellowship with the living God. Moreover, this eternal life can be experienced only through Jesus Christ, Whose Name is the only Name by which man can be saved. By nature we are conceived and born dead in sin, are objects of Divine wrath, and deserving of eternal wrath. Christ however, is God’s appointed Mediator of salvation. He bore the wrath of God for the sins of the elect. And by faith we are in grafted into Christ, learn to know ourselves as hopelessly condemnable before God, and receive from God the blessed assurance that we are righteous before Him and heirs of life eternal. And this everlasting life we shall receive in perfection in the heavenly renewal of all things in glory. Hence, the service of God, because of and through Jesus Christ, is life eternal. The hatred of God and the pursuit of things below is the way of death and eternal misery.
This truth Jehovah maintains and ever idealizes in the lives of men. No man can read the Word of God without being vitally affected. He will either bow before the Scriptures or oppose them. He will either love the truth or despise and hate it. He will either embrace the truth that God is God, confess his sin and have fellowship with the Lord, or he will reject that truth, maintain our sin, but also experience that the wicked have no peace. For God speaks. And He speaks irresistibly in connection with the Bible, He fulfills His counsel, operates within men according to His sovereign will. In the one He works as a savor of life unto life, causing the truth of His Scriptures to live within his heart and life; in the other He operates equally irresistibly, also causing him to experience that same truth, only in the antithetic way of sin and death. The Bible does not leave us neutral. We must give an answer to the message contained therein. God wills this and also realizes it. He reveals Himself in order that man may reveal himself over against this revelation. And whatever our answer may be. either the answer of grace or that of sin, God will maintain His Name and glorify Himself.
OUR STUDY OF THIS WORD OF GOD
How. then, must we study this Word of God? Of course, we shall study the Scriptures. I will assume this, although it is well to emphasize even this assumption. We must not be lax in our Bible study. “Beacon Lights” should not cause us to become indifferent or neglectful as far as our personal study of the Scriptures is concerned. I am afraid that we are not immune to this danger. Beacon Lights, then, has the “last word”. Its explanation of the Scriptural lesson wholly sufficeth us. Perhaps we feel that it would be useless to add our own findings to the lesson as already explained. Our monthly magazines ceases thereby to be a guide. It is no longer “Beacon Lights”. It does not open to us new avenues of thought and study. We have become stagnant in our Bible discussion at our society meetings. This is not as it should be. We must and shall use our paper as a handbook to guide us in our study. We must all study the Scriptures, each one for him- or her-self. We must take time to meditate on the Word of God. It is well to set an evening aside, wholly for this purpose. This, however, I assume. I am principally concerned with this question; How must we study the Word of God?
Firstly, we must study the Word of God thoroughly. I mean that we must study the whole Word of God. The Bible does not consist of a body of isolated passages. The present dispensationalist does not understand this principle. He cuts the Word of God into irrelated
parts. God’s Word, however, is a unity. It consists throughout of parts which are marvelously related. Thus, the Old Testament can be understood only in the light of the New. It is, therefore, imperative, that we study the Scriptures thoroughly, not haphazardly. We must read and compare. And. in this connection, the Bible must be for us the authoritative Word of God. It has and must have the “final word”. Consequently, when we study our lesson this coming season, let us not be satisfied merely with a hasty perusal of the explanation in “Beacon Lights”, but study this lesson diligently and painstakingly in the light of its corresponding passages.
Secondly, and primarily, we must study the Word of God prayerfully. This is a primary requisite, firstly, because we cannot of ourselves receive and appropriate the truth of God. The Bible, we must remember, is the Word of God. As such it revolves wholly around God. It is wholly spiritual. God speaks in the Scriptures concerning Himself. In them we are commanded by Jehovah to love Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, to serve Him with all that we are and have. We are commanded, moreover, to hate sin and darkness, to confess that we are wholly perverse and utterly condemnable. that we cannot obtain salvation in our own strength. Consequently, the Bible does not adapt itself to natural man. Man, by nature, opposes its truth, cannot receive it. We stand directly opposed to all the teachings of Holy Write. Neither are we able of ourselves to effect any change within us. We cannot learn to love the truth. Diligent and careful study of the Word of God cannot open our hearts to its teachings. Indeed, we are able to read the Scriptures. We can also understand them as far as our intellectual ability is concerned. But except we be born again and led by the Spirit of God into the mysteries of His covenant, we cannot see the Kingdom of God. Moreover, this remains true throughout our life, even after we have received enlightening grace. The Lord must continually deliver us from our sinful, carnal flesh and induct us into the beauties of His covenant. Hence, we must study the Word of God prayerfully. We must at all times be conscious of the fact that God’s Word is spiritual and I am carnal. It must therefore be my prayer continuously that He may open my eyes that I may see, that He may grant me an understanding heart, in order that I may be fed spiritually with that Bread of Life.
Moreover, this receives added emphasis when we remember that the Word of God is sharper than any sharp, two-edged sword. God’s Word cuts, and cuts deeply. It will, it must, evoke from us an answer.
We cannot read the Scriptures as we would read any other book. We cannot read it and forget what we have read. We shall acquiesce and bow before it, or reject and trample it under feet. Our heart will give an answer to God’s revelation of Himself. For God speaks and His Word never returns void unto Him. Therefore, we may well open the Word of God with fear and with trembling, with the prayer in our hearts and on our lips: “Lord, I fear Thy Word, but I also love Thy truth. It is in principle my meditation, day and night. Open Thou therefore my heart and sanctify Thy Word unto my life.”
How rich will be our society life if we thus study the Word of God. Firstly, we will grow in the knowledge of the Scriptures. The Bible alone can be a lamp before our feet and a light upon our path in the midst of the darkness of this world. And how dark is this world wherein we have a name and a place! Particularly in our present age! The times are ominous, especially for the covenant young man and woman. It is becoming increasingly difficult to manifest ourselves as the party of the living God. The calling to separate ourselves from the world and remain steadfast, to walk with head uplifted as having the victory and therefore certain of its ultimate manifestation, is becoming apparently more and more hopeless. How necessary that we know the will of God, know what our calling implies! And how necessary that we, understanding that calling, may realize that our hope maketh not ashamed!
And, secondly, we shall hear and receive the Word of God. We will then grow not merely in our intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures. But God’s own Word will be received in our heart and soul. The Lord will speak by His Spirit within our souls and cause the truth of His testimony to become a living reality within our lives. Thus, our society life will become instrumental in our spiritual upbuilding and growth in our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible will more and more become a lamp before our feet and a light upon our path. As covenant young men and women we, by the grace of God, will increase in knowledge and grace and be able to stand in the evil day. May God unto that end bless our Protestant Reformed young men and women in the season which lies ahead.