The Importance Of Studying God's Word
By William Gurnall
God has left only one book to the church, and can we refuse to study it? There is an immense treasure in a nearby mine but too often we remain paupers because we will not put on work clothes to dig it out. The rust of our gold and silver, which we earn by much harder work, will rise up in judgment and say: "You worked overtime for paychecks that turned into rust and dust; but you walked right over the field of the Word, where an incorruptible treasure was to be found, and yet were too lazy to do anything about it."
What has happened to the hunger of saints to study the Scripture? In years past they gave all they had – even the blood out of their veins – to purchase a few pages of it. Either these people were fools to pay so high a price for this knowledge or you are greater fools to refuse it when it is so readily obtainable. But so that you will not think I am persuading you to consider a work which is optional, you must understand the indispensable double necessity of knowing Scripture – a necessity of command and a necessity of means.
"Search the Scriptures" (John 5:39) – the command could not be any plainer. But even if God had not expressed this duty so explicitly, the very penning of His Word would unmistakably convey His purpose. The passage of a law is enough to make subjects obey it. And it does not do any good for us to plead ignorance; the publication of law carries with it an obligation for us to find out exactly what it means and how it applies to us.
Christ fastens condemnation on the ignorance of men when He Himself has provided knowledge: "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness" (John 3:19). Many people avoid the light because they do not intend to walk in it. Now if ignorance of the Word is condemned where light shines, surely God commands us to open our eyes to take in the knowledge it sheds forth; for a law must be broken before a condemnation sentence is pronounced. Because you live within the sound of this Gospel, you will be judged by it whether you know it or not.
The Jews once had the Word deposited right into their hands: "Unto them were committed the oracles of God" (Rom. 3:2). These Scriptures were given to them, and now to us, as a dying father leaves his will to his son, not for him to throw it aside among waste papers, but for him to study it so as to perform everything written in it.
God's Word is called " the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3) – delivered to their study and care. If we had lived when Christ was here in the flesh, and He left us one last special thing to take care of, would we not have abandoned everything else to perform the will of our dying Savior? It is for His sake that we keep and transmit this faith from one generation to the next as long as this world lasts.
The Word contains the whole counsel of God for bringing sinners to eternal life. But if you refuse to search the Scripture and sit at the feet of the Spirit – who prepares His disciples for heaven by this one book – where will you meet another master who has the words of eternal life?
Scripture is the way of God that leads us to Him. In other journeys we might miss some street and take a few wrong turns, and still arrive at the right place eventually; but there is no other way to God except by His Word. Even if you fail in everything else you do, study the Bible.
After all, what is important? You can read volumes of philosophers and still miss God. He has allowed these men, wise in their own wisdom, to shape a religion to themselves so He can prove them wrong. He wants the whole world to learn this lesson in another school, the ministry of the Gospel – which comes only from hearing and doing the Word. "After that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Cor. 1:21).
Do you want to come to the true knowledge of sin? Scripture alone dissects the whole body of sin and gives us a perfect anatomy lecture on its most secret parts. It discovers the ulcers of our wicked hearts which cause death to thousands who through ignorance of Scripture never know what their disease is.
For instance, if lust does not break out in open sores, philosophers pronounce the victim a healthy person. The plague of the heart, though an old ailment, has never been diagnosed properly or treated effectively except by this sacred book.
But Scripture does more than diagnose sin; it tells us where we got the infection in the first place – from Adam. And which of the world's most recognized thinkers would ever admit such genealogy? Without Scripture, the pitifully brilliant scholar will ultimately lie in the pit of sin and never know who has thrown him in.
The question is, Do you want to get out of this pit? Your own rope is too short to reach and too weak to draw you up. Unless you take hold of the cord of love which God lets down to you, there is no way out. Life and death are before you; I leave you to your choice.
Let me warn you though – if you are determined to reject the Almighty and launch out into eternity without His Word to direct you, then prepare to run aground on the shores of hell. Prepare to harden your heart, if you can, against the endless flames kindled for those "that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thes. 1:8). And know to your terror that in spite of your preferred and professed ignorance, one day you will understand Scripture perfectly. And that understanding will only make the tormenting fire burn hotter.
Hell moves from below to meet you when you are headed toward it. It will stir up the dead for you and its prisoners will close in with taunting reproaches: "We are heathens but we do not have any reason to blame God for this punishment, though we never heard of such a thing as the Gospel. We damned our own souls by rebelling against every tiny ray of light God sent. But you – you rejected God's Word and had to break through every one of His promises to get to this place!"
God Interprets His Word
No one can enter into the knowledge of God's Word unless His Spirit unlocks the door. Even if you were a confirmed genius you would still be like the blind Sodomites around Lot's house, groping but not able to find the way into true saving knowledge. The person with the wrong key is as far from entering the house as the man with no key at all, if not further. At least the one without a key might call out to the person inside, while the other keeps trusting to his false key. The Pharisees, for instance, were full of head knowledge of the Word but stumbled fatally over the whole truth of Christ which both Moses and the prophets taught.
At the same time, many people who these Pharisees considered ignorant began to see the Messiah. Make no mistake – no one is too smart for God to blind; but on the other hand, no one is too blind and ignorant for His Spirit to open his eyes. God moved on the waters at creation and changed a rude mass into the beauty we now enjoy; and His same power can move on your dark soul and enlighten it to look at Him. "The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (Psa. 119:130).
As soon as you enter the Spirit's school you begin to show progress. Then He commands us to encourage those who are in the habit of discouraging themselves: "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees" (Isa. 35:3). Why? "The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped" (v. 5). "A highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein" (v. 8).
The more aware you are of your weakness, the more fit you are for the Spirit to shape you into the likeness of Christ; for a proud student and a humble teacher will never agree. "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1 Pet. 5:5). He has no pleasure in the arrogant person, but He has patience with the humble and diligent. Remember – Jesus never became impatient with His disciples but was willing to teach them the same lesson over and over again, until finally they said, "Lo, now speakest thou plainly" (John 16:29).
Exhortation to Ministers
God has placed the sword of the Word in the hands of His ministers in a special manner. He "hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:19). You are ambassadors from the great God to take eternal peace from the Gospel to sinners, His underworkmen to build up His temple in men's hearts by laying every stone by the line and rule of the Word. And you are stewards to give His family their portions from His storehouse in due season. In a word, you are God's shepherds to lead and feed His flock in the pastures which are His.
If the terms of peace are not concluded, the ambassador is sure to be called in to account for the fault; if the house is poorly built, the negligent workman must take the blame. And what will the steward do if the family starves? Should the sheep wander or die because of neglect, the shepherd must pay for the loss…
If ever there was a time of temptation to ministers – and a need to stir them up in it to hold to the Word of God's patience – it is now in these last tumultuous days of the world, when most men do "not endure sound doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:3). To hold for the truth in such a perverse generation, ministers must have more power and boldness than flesh and blood can furnish.
It is no trial for a minister to speak truth freely among its friends, but among those who despise it and are enraged with the messenger for delivering his Master's mind without compromise. This makes the confession of our Lord even more glorious when He witnessed the whole counsel of God before Pontius Pilate, a bloody enemy against Him.
Even though our messages must sometimes go against the grain of people's consciences, we have our commission directly from the Most High God: "I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among My people, that thou mayest know and try their way" (Jer. 6:27).
– From The Christian In Complete Armour, Volume Three. This article has been reprinted by permission of The Banner of Truth, P.O. Box 621, Carlisle, PA 17013.