3. THE SCRIPTURES AND
The order we follow in this series is that of experience. It is not until
man is made thoroughly displeased with himself that he begins to aspire
after God. The fallen creature deluded by Satan, is self-satisfied until his
sin-blinded eyes are opened to get a sight of himself. The Holy Spirit first
works in us a sense of our ignorance, vanity, poverty and depravity, before
He brings us to perceive and acknowledge that in God alone are to be found
true wisdom, real blessedness, perfect goodness and unspotted righteousness.
We must be made conscious of our imperfections before we can really
appreciate the Divine perfections. As the perfections of God are
contemplated, man becomes still more aware of the infinite distance that
separates him from the most High. As he learns something of God’s pressing
claims upon him, and his own utter inability to meet them, he is prepared to
hear and welcome the good news that Another has fully met those claims for
all who are led to believe in Him.
"Search the Scriptures," said the Lord Jesus, and then He added, "for. .
.they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39). They testify of Him as the
only Savior for perishing sinners, as the only Mediator between God and men,
as the only one through whom the Father can be approached. They testify to
the wondrous perfections of His person, the varied glories of His offices,
the sufficiency of His finished work. Apart from the Scriptures, He cannot
be known. In them alone He is revealed. When the Holy Spirit takes of the
things of Christ and shows them unto His people, in thus making them known
to the soul He uses nothing but what is written. While it is true that
Christ is the key to the Scriptures, it is equally true that only in the
Scriptures do we have an opening-up of the "mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4).
Now the measure in which we profit from our reading and study of the
Scriptures may be ascertained by the extent to which Christ is becoming more
real and more precious unto our hearts. To "grow in grace" is defined as and
in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18): the
second clause there is not something in addition to the first, but is an
explanation of it. To "know" Christ (Phil. 3:10) was the supreme longing and
aim of the apostle Paul, a longing and an aim to which he subordinated all
other interests. But mark it well, the "knowledge" which is spoken of in
these verses is not intellectual but spiritual, not theoretical but
experimental, not general but personal. It is a supernatural knowledge,
which is imparted to the regenerate heart by the operations of the Holy
Spirit, as He interprets and applies to us the Scriptures concerning Him.
Now the knowledge of Christ which the blessed Spirit imparts to the believer
through the Scriptures profits him in different ways, according to his
varying frames, circumstances and needs. Concerning the bread which God gave
to the children of Israel during their wilderness wanderings, it is recorded
that "some gathered more, some less" (Ex. 16:17). The same is true in our
apprehension of Him of whom the manna was a type. There is that in the
wondrous person of Christ which is exactly suited to our every condition,
every circumstance, every need, both for time and eternity; but we are slow
to realize it, and slower still to act upon it. There is an inexhaustible
fullness in Christ (John 1:16) which is available for us to draw from, and
the principle regulating the extent to which we become "strong in the grace
that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2:1) is "According to your faith be it to
you" (Matt. 9:29).
1. An individual is profited form the Scriptures when they reveal to him his
need of Christ. Man in his natural estate deems himself self-sufficient.
True, he has a dim perception that all is not quite right between himself
and God, yet has he no difficulty in persuading himself that he is able to
do that which will propitiate Him. That lies at the foundation of all man’s
religion, begun by Cain, in whose "way" (Jude 11) the multitudes still walk.
Tell the devout religionist that "those who are in the flesh cannot please
God" (Rom. 8:8), and he is at once offended. Press upon him the fact that
"all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:4), and his
hypocritical urbanity at once gives place to anger. So it was when Christ
was on earth. The most religious people of all, the Jews, had not sense they
were "lost" and in dire need of an almighty Savior.
"Those who are whole need not a physician, but those who are sick" (Matt.
9:12). It is the peculiar office of the Holy Spirit, by His application of
the Scriptures, to convict sinners of their desperate condition, to bring
them to see that their state is such that "from the sole of the foot even
unto the head there is no soundness" in them, but "wounds, and bruises, and
putrefying sores" (Isa. 1:6). As the Spirit convicts us of our sins—our
ingratitude to God, our murmuring against Him, our wanderings from Him—as He
presses upon us the claims of God—His right to our love, obedience and
adoration—and all our sad failures to render Him His due, then we are made
to recognize that Christ is our only hope, and that, except we flee to Him
for refuge, the righteous wrath of God will most certainly fall upon us.
Nor is this to be limited to the initial experience of conversion. The more
the Spirit deepens His work of grace in the regenerated soul, the more that
individual is made conscious of his pollution, his sinfulness and his
vileness; and the more does he discover his need of and learn to value that
precious, precious blood which cleanses from all sin. The Spirit is here to
glorify Christ, and one chief way in which He does so is by opening wider
and wider the eyes of those for whom He died, to see how suited Christ is
for such wretched, foul, hell-deserving creatures. Yes, the more we are
truly profiting from our reading of the Scriptures, the more do we feel our
need of Him.
2. An individual is profited from the Scriptures when they make Christ more
real to him. The great mass of the Israelitish nation saw nothing more than
the outward shell in the rites and ceremonies which God gave them, but a
regenerated remnant were privileged to behold Christ Himself. "Abraham
rejoiced to see my day" said Christ (John 8:56). Moses esteemed "the
reproach of Christ" greater riches than the treasures of Egypt (Heb. 11:16).
So it is in Christendom. To the multitudes Christ is but a name, or at most
a historical character. They have no personal dealings with Him, enjoy no
spiritual communion with Him. Should they hear one speak in rapture of His
excellency they regard him as an enthusiast or a fanatic. To them Christ is
unreal, vague, intangible. But with the real Christian it is far otherwise.
The language of his heart is
I have heard the voice of Jesus,
Tell me not of anything beside;
I have seen the face of Jesus,
And my soul is satisfied.
Yet such a blissful sight is not the consistent and unvarying experience of
the saints. Just as clouds come in between the sun and the earth, so
failures in our walk interrupt our communion with Christ and serve to hide
from us the light of His countenance. "He that has my commandments, and
keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of
my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John
14:21). Yes, it is the one who by grace is treading the path of obedience to
whom the Lord Jesus grants manifestations of Himself. And the more frequent
and prolonged these manifestations are, the more real He becomes to the
soul, until we are able to say with Job, "I have heard of you by the hearing
of the ear; but now mine eye sees you" (42:5). Thus the more Christ is
becoming a living reality to me, the more I am profiting from the Word.
3. An individual is profited from the Scriptures when he becomes more
engrossed with Christ’s perfections. It is a sense of need which first
drives the soul to Christ, but it is the realization of His excellency which
draws us to run after Him. The more real Christ becomes to us, the more are
we attracted by His perfections. At the beginning He is viewed only as a
Savior, but as the Spirit continues to take of the things of Christ and show
them unto us we discover that upon His head are "many crowns" (Rev. 19:12).
Of old it was said, "His name shall be called Wonderful" (Isa. 9:6). His
name signifies all that He is as made known in Scripture. "Wonderful" are
His offices, in their number, variety, sufficiency. He is the Friend that
sticks closer than a brother, to help in every time of need. He is the great
High Priest, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He is the
Advocate with the Father, who pleads our cause when Satan accuses us.
Our great need is to be occupied with Christ, to sit at His feet as Mary
did, and receive out of His fullness. Our chief delight should be to
"consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession" (Heb. 3:1): to
contemplate the various relations which He sustains to us, to meditate upon
the many promises He has given, to dwell upon His wondrous and changeless
love for us. As we do this, we shall so delight ourselves in the Lord that
the siren voices of this world will lose all their charm for us. Ah, my
reader, do you know anything about this in your own actual experience? Is
Christ the chief among ten thousand to your soul? Has He won your heart? Is
it your chief joy to get alone and be occupied with Him? If not, your Bible
reading and study has profited you little indeed.
4. An individual is profited from the Scriptures as Christ becomes more
precious to him. Christ is precious in the esteem of all true believers (1
Pet. 2:7). They count all things but loss for the excellency of the
knowledge of Christ Jesus their Lord (Phil. 3:8). His name to them is as
ointment poured forth (Song of Sol. 1:3). As the glory of God that appeared
in the wondrous beauty of the temple, and in the wisdom and splendor of
Solomon, drew worshipers to him from the uttermost parts of the earth, so
the unparalleled excellency of Christ which was prefigured thereby does more
powerfully attract the hearts of His people. The Devil knows this full well,
therefore is he ceaselessly engaged in blinding the minds of those who
believe not, by placing between them and Christ the allures of this world.
God permits him to assail the believer also, but it is written, "Resist the
devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Resist him by definite and
earnest prayer, entreating the Spirit to draw out your affections to Christ.
The more we are engaged with Christ’s perfections, the more we love and
adore Him. It is lack of experimental acquaintance with Him that makes our
hearts so cold towards Him. But where real and daily fellowship is
cultivated the Christian will be able to say with the Psalmist, "Whom have I
in heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside you"
(Ps. 73:25). This it is which is the very essence and distinguishing nature
of true Christianity. Legalistic zealots may be busily engaged in tithing
mint and anise and cummin, they may encompass sea and land to make one
proselyte, and yet have no love for God in Christ. It is the heart that God
looks at: "My son, give me your heart" (Prov. 23:26) is His demand. The more
precious Christ is to us, the more delight does He have in us.
5. An individual who is profited from the Scriptures has an increasing
confidence in Christ. There is "little faith" (Matt. 14:3) and "great faith"
(Matt. 8:10). There is the "full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:22), and
trusting in the Lord "with all the heart" (Prov. 3:5). Just as there is
growing "from strength to strength" (Ps. 84:7), so we read of "from faith to
faith" (Rom. 1:17). The stronger and steadier our faith, the more the Lord
Jesus is honored. Even a cursory reading of the four Gospels reveals the
fact that nothing pleased the Savior more than the firm reliance which was
placed in Him by the few who really counted upon Him. He Himself lived and
walked by faith, and the more we do so the more are the members being
conformed to their Head. Above everything else there is one thing to be
aimed at and diligently sought by earnest prayer: that our faith may be
increased. Of the Thessalonian saints Paul was able to say, "Your faith
grows exceedingly" (2 Thess. 1:3).
Now Christ cannot be trusted at all unless He be known, and the better he is
known the more will He be trusted: "And those who know your name will put
their trust in you" (Ps. 9:l0). As Christ becomes more real to the heart, as
we are increasingly occupied with His manifold perfections and He becomes
more precious to us, confidence in Him is deepened until it becomes as
natural to trust Him as it is to breathe. The Christian life is a walk of
faith (2 Cor. 5:7), and that very expression denotes a continual progress,
an increasing deliverance from doubts and fears, a fuller assurance that all
He has promised He will perform. Abraham is the father of all those who
believe, and thus the record of his life furnishes an illustration of what a
deepening confidence in the Lord signifies. First, at His bare word he
turned his back upon all that was dear to the flesh. Second, he went forth
in simple dependence on Him and dwelt as a stranger and sojourner in the
land of promise, though he never owned a single acre of it. Third, when the
promise was made of a seed in his old age, he considered not the obstacles
in the way of its fulfillment, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.
Finally, when called on to offer up Isaac, through whom the promises were to
be realized, he accounted that God was able to "raise him up, even from the
dead" (Heb. 11:19).
In the history of Abraham we are shown how grace is able to subdue an evil
heart of unbelief, how the spirit may be victorious over the flesh, how the
supernatural fruits of a God-given and God-sustained faith may be brought
forth by a man of like passions with us. This is recorded for our
encouragement, for us to pray that it may please the Lord to work in us what
He wrought in and through the father of the faithful. Nothing more pleases,
honors and glorifies Christ than the confiding trust, the expectant
confidence and the childlike faith of those to whom He has given every cause
to trust Him with all their hearts. And nothing more evidences that we are
being profited from the Scriptures than an increasing faith in Christ.
6. An individual is profited from the Scriptures when they beget in him a
deepening desire to please Christ. "You are not your own, for you are bought
with a price" (1 Cor. 6:19,20) is the first great fact that Christians need
to apprehend. Henceforth they are not to "live unto themselves, but unto him
which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:15). Love delights to please
its object, and the more our affections are drawn out to Christ the more
shall we desire to honor Him by a life of obedience to His known will. "If a
man love me, he will keep my words" (John 14:23). It is not in happy
emotions or in verbal professions of devotion, but in the actual assumption
of His yoke and the practical submitting to His precepts, that Christ is
It is at this point particularly that the genuineness of our profession may
be tested and proved. Have they a faith in Christ who make no effort to
learn His will? What a contempt of the king if his subjects refuse to read
his proclamations! Where there is faith in Christ there will be delight in
His commandments, and a sorrowing when they are broken by us. When we
displease Christ we should mourn over our failure. It is impossible
seriously to believe that it was my sins which caused the Son of God to shed
His precious blood without my hating them. If Christ groaned under sin, we
shall groan too. And the more sincere those groanings be, the more earnestly
shall we seek grace for deliverance from all that displeases, and strength
to do all that which pleases our blessed Redeemer.
7. An individual is profited from the Scriptures when they cause him to long
for the return of Christ. Love can be satisfied with nothing short of a
sight of its object. True, even now we behold Christ by faith, yet it is
"through a glass, darkly." But at His coming we shall behold Him "face to
face" (1 Cor. 13:12). Then will be fulfilled His own words, "Father, I will
that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am: that they may
behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the
foundation of the world" (John 17:24). Only this will fully meet the
longings of His heart, and only this will meet the longings of those
redeemed by Him. Only then will He "see of the travail of His soul, and be
satisfied" (Isa. 53:11); and "As for me, I will behold your face in
righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Your likeness" (Ps.
At the return of Christ we shall be done with sin forever. The elect are
predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, and that Divine
purpose will be realized only when Christ receives His people unto Himself.
"We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3: 2). Never
again will our communion with Him be broken, never again shall we groan and
moan over our inward corruptions; never again shall we be harassed with
unbelief. He will present His Church to Himself a glorious church, not
having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph. 5:27). For that hour we
eagerly wait. For our Redeemer we lovingly look. The more we yearn for the
coming One, the more we are trimming our lamps in earnest expectation of His
coming, the more do we give evidence that we are profiting from our
knowledge of the Word.
Let the reader and writer honestly search themselves as in the presence of
God. Let us seek truthful answers to these questions. Have we a deeper sense
of our need of Christ? Is He Himself becoming to us a brighter and living
reality? Are we finding increasing delight in being occupied with His
perfections? Is Christ Himself becoming daily more precious to us? Is our
faith in Him growing so that we confidently trust Him for everything? Are we
really seeking to please Him in all the details of our lives? Are we so
yearning for Him that we would be filled with joy did we know for certain
that He would come during the next twenty-four hours? May the Holy Spirit
search our hearts with these pointed questions!