6. THE SCRIPTURES AND
All professing Christians are agreed, in theory at least, that it is the
bounden duty of those who bear His name to honor and glorify Christ in this
world. But as to how this is to be done, as to what He requires from us to
this end, there is wide difference of opinion. Many suppose that honoring
Christ simply means to join some "church," take part in and support its
various activities. Others think that honoring Christ means to speak of Him
to others and be diligently engaged in "personal work." Others seem to
imagine that honoring Christ signifies little more than making liberal
financial contributions to His cause. Few indeed realize that Christ is
honored only as we live holily unto Him, and that, by walking in subjection
to His revealed will. Few indeed really believe that word, "Behold, to obey
is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam.
We are not Christians at all unless we have fully surrendered to and
"received Christ Jesus the Lord" (Col. 2:6). We would plead with you to
ponder that statement diligently. Satan is deceiving many today by leading
them to suppose that they are savingly trusting in "the finished work" of
Christ while their hearts remain unchanged and self still rules their lives.
Listen to Godís Word: "Salvation is far from the wicked; for they seek not
your statutes" (Ps. 119:155). Do you really seek His statutes"? Do you
diligently search His Word to discover what He has commanded? "He that says,
I know Him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not
in him" (1 John 2:4). What could be plainer than that?
"And why call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke
6:46). Obedience to the Lord in life, not merely glowing words from the
lips, is what Christ requires. What a searching and solemn word is that in
James 1:22: "Be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your
own selves"! There are many "hearers" of the Word, regular hearers, reverent
hearers, interested hearers; but alas, what they hear is not incorporated
into the life: it does not regulate their way. And God says that they who
are not doers of the Word are deceiving their own selves!
Alas, how many such there are in Christendom today! They are not downright
hypocrites, but deluded. They suppose that because they are so clear upon
salvation by grace alone they are saved. They suppose that because they sit
under the ministry of a man who has "made the Bible a new book" to them they
have grown in grace. They suppose that because their store of biblical
knowledge has increased they are more spiritual. They suppose that the mere
listening to a servant of God or reading his writings is feeding on the
Word. Not so! We "feed" on the Word only when we personally appropriate,
masticate and assimilate into our lives what we hear or read. Where there is
not an increasing conformity of heart and life to Godís Word, then increased
knowledge will only bring increased condemnation. "And that servant, which
knew his lordís will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his
will, shall be beaten with many stripes" (Luke 12:47).
"Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim
3:7). This is one of the prominent characteristics of the "perilous times"
in which we are now living. People hear one preacher after another, attend
this conference and that conference, read book after book on biblical
subjects, and yet never attain unto a vital and practical acquaintance with
the truth, so as to have an impression of its power and efficacy on the
soul. There is such a thing as spiritual dropsy, and multitudes are
suffering from it. The more they hear, the more they want to hear: they
drink in sermons and addresses with avidity, but their lives are unchanged.
They are puffed up with their knowledge, not humbled into the dust before
God. The faith of Godís elect is "the acknowledging [in the life] of the
truth which is after godliness" (Titus 1:1), but to this the vast majority
are total strangers.
God has given us His Word not only with the design of instructing us, but
for the purpose of directing us: to make known what He requires us to do.
The first thing we need is a clear and distinct knowledge of our duty; and
the first thing God demands of us is a conscientious practice of it,
corresponding to our knowledge. "What does the Lord require of you, but to
do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah
6:8). "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep
his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man (Eccles. 12:13). The
Lord Jesus affirmed the same thing when He said, "You are my friends, if you
do whatever I command you" (John 15:14).
1. A man profits from the Word as he discovers Godís demands upon him; His
undeviating demands, for He changes not. It is a great and grievous mistake
to suppose that in this present dispensation God has lowered His demands,
for that would necessarily imply that His previous demand was a harsh and
unrighteous one. Not so! "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and
just, and good" (Rom. 7:12). The sum of Godís demands is, "You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all
your might" (Deut. 6:5); and the Lord Jesus repeated it in Matthew 22:37.
The apostle Paul enforced the same when he wrote, "If any man love not the
Lord Jesus Christ let him be Anathema" (1 Cor. 16:22).
2. A man profits from the Word when he discovers how entirely and how
sinfully he has failed to meet Godís demands. And let us point out for the
benefit of any who may take issue with the last paragraph that no man can
see what a sinner he is, how infinitely short he has fallen of measuring up
to Godís standard, until he has a clear sight of the exalted demands of God
upon him! Just in proportion as preachers lower Godís standard of what He
requires from every human being, to that extent will their hearers obtain an
inadequate and faulty conception of their sinfulness, and the less will they
perceive their need of an almighty Savior. But once a soul really perceives
what are Godís demands upon him, and how completely and constantly he has
failed to render Him His due, then does he recognize what a desperate
situation he is in. The law must be preached before any are ready for the
3. A man profits from the Word when he is taught therefrom that God, in His
infinite grace, has fully provided for His peopleís meeting His own demands.
At this point, too, much present-day preaching is seriously defective. There
is being given forth what may loosely be termed a "half Gospel," but which
in reality is virtually a denial of the true Gospel. Christ is brought in,
yet only as a sort of make-weight. That Christ has vicariously met every
demand of God upon all who believe upon Him is blessedly true, yet it is
only a part of the truth. The Lord Jesus has not only vicariously satisfied
for His people the requirements of Godís righteousness, but He has also
secured that they shall personally satisfy them too. Christ has procured the
Holy Spirit to make good in them what the Redeemer wrought for them.
The grand and glorious miracle of salvation is that the saved are
regenerated. A transforming work is wrought within them. Their
understandings are illuminated, their hearts are changed, their wills are
renewed. They are made "new creatures in Christ Jesus" (2 Cor. 5:17). God
refers to this miracle of grace thus: "I will put my laws into their mind,
and write them in their hearts" (Heb. 8:10). The heart is now inclined to
Godís law: a disposition has been communicated to it which answers to its
demands; there is a sincere desire to perform it. And thus the quickened
soul is able to say, "When you said, Seek you my face; my heart said unto
you, your face, Lord, will I seek" (Ps. 27:8).
Christ not only rendered a perfect obedience unto the Law for the
justification of His believing people, but He also merited for them those
supplies of His Spirit which were essential unto their sanctification, and
which alone could transform carnal creatures and enable them to render
acceptable obedience unto God. Though Christ died for the "ungodly" (Rom.
5:6), though He finds them ungodly (Rom. 4:5) when He justifies them, yet He
does not leave them in that abominable state. On the contrary, He
effectually teaches them by His Spirit to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts
(Titus 2:12). Just as weight cannot be separated from a stone, or heat from
a fire, so cannot justification from sanctification.
When God really pardons a sinner in the court of his Conscience, under the
sense of that amazing grace the heart is purified, the life is rectified,
and the whole man is sanctified. Christ "gave himself for us, that he might
redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people [not
"careless about" but], zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14). Just as a
substance and its properties, causes and their necessary effects are
inseparably connected, so are a saving faith and conscientious obedience
unto God. Hence we read of "the obedience of faith" (Rom. 16:26).
Said the Lord Jesus, "He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is
that loves me" (John 14:21). Not in the Old Testament, the Gospels or the
Epistles does God own anyone as a lover of Him save the one who keeps His
commandments. Love is something more than sentiment or emotion; it is a
principle of action, and it expresses itself in something more than honeyed
expressions, namely, by deeds which please the object loved. "For this is
the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (1 John 5:3). Oh, my reader,
you are deceiving yourself if you do you think love God and yet have no deep
desire and make no real effort to walk obediently before Him.
But what is obedience to God? It is far more than a mechanical performance
of certain duties. I may have been brought up by Christian parents, and
under them acquired certain moral habits, and yet my abstaining from taking
the Lordís name in vain, and being guiltless of stealing, may be no
obedience to the third and eighth commandments. Again, obedience to God is
far more than conforming to the conduct of His people. I may board in a home
where the Sabbath is strictly observed, and out of respect for them, or
because I think it is a good and wise course to rest one day in seven, I may
refrain from all unnecessary labor on that day, and yet not keep the fourth
commandment at all! Obedience is not only subjection to an external law, but
it is the surrendering of my will to the authority of another. Thus,
obedience to God is the heartís recognition of His lordship: of His right to
command, and my duty to comply. It is the complete subjection of the soul to
the blessed yoke of Christ.
That obedience which God requires can proceed only from a heart which loves
Him. "Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord" (Col. 3:23). That
obedience which springs from a dread of punishment is servile. That
obedience which is performed in order to procure favors from God is selfish
and carnal. But spiritual and acceptable obedience is cheerfully given: it
is the heartís free response to and gratitude for the unmerited regard and
love of God for us.
4. We profit from the Word when we not only see it is our bounden duty to
obey God, but when there is wrought in us a love for His commandments. The
"blessed" man is the one whose "delight is in the law of the Lord" (Ps.
1:2).And again we read, "Blessed is the man that fears the Lord, that
delights greatly in his commandments" (Ps. 112:1). It affords a real test
for our hearts to face honestly the questions, Do I really value His
"commandments" as much as I do His promises? Ought I not to do so?
Assuredly, for the one proceeds as truly from His love as does the other.
The heartís compliance with the voice of Christ is the foundation for all
Here again we would earnestly and lovingly beg the reader to attend closely
to this detail. Any man who supposes that he is saved and yet has no genuine
love for Godís commandment is deceiving himself. Said the Psalmist, "O how
love I your law!" (Ps. 119:97). And again, "Therefore I love your
commandments above gold; yes, above fine gold" (Ps. 119:127). Should someone
object that that was under the Old Testament, we ask, Do you intimate that
the Holy Spirit produces a lesser change in the hearts of those whom He now
regenerates than He did of old? But a New Testament saint also placed on
record, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Rom. 7:22). And,
my reader, unless your heart delights in the "law of God" there is something
radically wrong with you; yes, it is greatly to be feared that you are
5. A man profits from the Word when his heart and will are yielded to all
Godís commandments. Partial obedience is no obedience at all. A holy mind
declines whatever God forbids, and chooses to practice all He requires,
without any exception. If our minds submit not unto God in all His
commandments, we submit not to His authority in anything He enjoins. If we
do not approve of our duty in its full extent, we are greatly mistaken if we
imagine that we have any liking unto any part of it. A person who has no
principle of holiness in him may yet be disinclined to many vices and be
pleased to practice many virtues, as he perceives the former are unfit
actions and the latter are, in themselves, lovely actions, but his
disapprobation of vice and approbation of virtue do not arise from any
disposition to submit to the will of God.
True spiritual obedience is impartial. A renewed heart does not pick and
choose from Godís commandments: the man who does so is not performing Godís
will, but his own. Make no mistake upon this point; if we do not sincerely
desire to please God in all things, then we do not truly wish to do so in
anything. Self must be denied; not merely some of the things which may be
craved, but self itself! A willful allowance of any known sin breaks the
whole law (James 2:10, 11). "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have
respect unto all your commandments" (Ps. 119:6). Said the Lord Jesus, "You
are my friends, if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14): if I am not
His friend, then I must be His enemy, for there is no other alternative-see
6. We profit from the Word when the soul is moved to pray earnestly for
enabling grace. In regeneration the Holy Spirit communicates a nature which
is fitted for obedience according to the Word. The heart has been won by
God. There is now a deep and sincere desire to please Him. But the new
nature possesses no inherent power, and the old nature or "flesh" strives
against it, and the Devil opposes. Thus, the Christian exclaims, "To will is
present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not" (Rom.
7:18). This does not mean that he is the slave of sin, as he was before
conversion; but it means that he finds not how fully to realize his
spiritual aspirations. Therefore does he pray, "Make me to go in the path of
Your commandments; for therein do I delight" (Ps. 119:35). And again, "Order
my steps in Your word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me" (Ps.
Here we would reply to a question which the above statements have probably
raised in many minds: Are you affirming that God requires perfect obedience
from us in this life? We answer, Yes! God will not set any lower standard
before us than that (see 1 Pet. 1:15). Then does the real Christian measure
up to that standard? Yes and no! Yes, in his heart, and it is at the heart
that God looks (I Sam. 16:7). In his heart every regenerated person has a
real love for Godís commandments, and genuinely desires to keep all of them
completely. It is in this sense, and this alone, that the Christian is
experimentally "perfect." The word "perfect," both in the Old Testament (Job
1:1, and Ps. 37:37) and in the new Testament (Phil. 3:15), means "upright",
"sincere", in contrast with "hypocritical".
"Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble" (Ps. 10:17). The "desires"
of the saint are the language of his soul, and the promise is, "He will
fulfil the desire of those who fear him" (Ps. 145:19). The Christianís
desire is to obey God in all things, to be completely conformed to the image
of Christ. But this will only be realized in the resurrection. Meanwhile,
God for Christís sake graciously accepts the will for the deed (1 Pet. 2:5).
He knows our hearts and see in His child a genuine love for and a sincere
desire to keep all His commandments, and He accepts the fervent longing and
cordial endeavor in lieu of an exact performance (2 Cor. 8:12). But let none
who are living in willful disobedience draw false peace and pervert to their
own destruction what has just been said for the comfort of those who are
heartily desirous of seeking to please God in all the details of their
If any ask, How am I to know that my "desires" are really those of a
regenerate soul? we answer, Saving grace is the communication to the heart
of an habitual disposition unto holy acts. The "desires" of the reader are
to be tested thus: Are they constant and continuous, or only by fits and
starts? Are they earnest and serious, so that you really hunger and thirst
after righteousness" (Matt. 5:6) and pant "after God" (Ps. 42:1)? Are they
operative and efficacious? Many desire to escape from hell, yet their
desires are not sufficiently strong to bring them to hate and turn from that
which must inevitably bring them to hell, namely, willful sinning against
God. Many desire to go to heaven, but not so that they enter upon and follow
that "narrow way" which alone leads there. True spiritual desires use the
means of grace and spare no pains to realize them, and continue prayerfully
pressing forward unto the mark set before them.
7. We profit from the Word when we are, even now, enjoying the reward of
obedience. "Godliness is profitable unto all things" (1 Tim. 4:8). By
obedience we purify our souls (1 Pet. 1:21). By obedience we obtain the ear
of God (1 John 3:22), just as disobedience is a barrier to our prayers (Isa.
59:2; Jer. 5:25). By obedience we obtain precious and intimate
manifestations of Christ unto the soul (John 14:21). As we tread the path of
wisdom (complete subjection to God) we discover that "her ways are ways of
pleasantness, and all her paths are peace" (Prov. 3:17). "His commandments
are not grievous" (1 John 5:3), and "in keeping of them there is great
reward" (Ps. 19:11).