John 5:39 — "Search the Scriptures."
When the Sadducees approached our blessed Lord and asked him, "who will be the husband of a woman in the next life, who had seven husbands in this life," he told them, "you're mistaken, because you don't know the scriptures." And if we were to trace back the origin of all the misunderstandings that have spread throughout the Christian church, we'd find that, to a large extent, they stem from the same source - a lack of knowledge of the Bible.
Even though our blessed Lord was the eternal God, he still used the scriptures as his constant guide and rule in his human form. So, when a lawyer asked him about the greatest commandment of the law, he directed him to the Bible for the answer, asking, "What do you read?" Similarly, when he was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil, he defended himself against all attacks by saying, "it is written."
This effectively disproves the belief of those who say, "the Spirit alone, and not the Spirit through the Word, should guide our actions." If that were true, then our Savior, who was filled with the Spirit beyond measure, wouldn't have needed to constantly refer to the written word.
But how many people actually follow Christ's example? How many completely disregard the word of God, tossing it aside like an outdated book, only suitable for those who can't read?
People make big mistakes when they don't understand what the scriptures are saying. So, I'm going to explain it.
- First, let's establish that it's everyone's responsibility to look into them.
- Secondly, let me give you some guidelines to help you find them more effectively.
I'm here to explain why it's everyone's responsibility to explore the Scriptures.
When I refer to the Scriptures, I'm talking about the law and the prophets, as well as those books that have always been considered canonical, the ones that make up the collection we usually refer to as the Bible.
These are definitely referred to as the Scriptures, and in one instance, the "Scriptures of Truth," as if no other books are worthy of being called true writings or scripture compared to them.
These aren't based on any personal interpretation, authority, or invention. Instead, they were written by holy men from the past, guided by the Holy Spirit.
The reason God reveals himself to us in this way stems from our downfall with Adam and the essential need for our rebirth through Jesus Christ. If we properly delve into the scriptures, we'll discover that the main point, the A to Z, the start and finish of them, is to guide us to understand these two significant truths.
Every threat, promise, and rule, every piece of advice and teaching included in it, every ritual, ceremony, and sacrifice set up under Jewish law; in fact, nearly all the historical sections of the Holy Bible assume our downfall in Adam. They either hint at a future Mediator or talk about him as if he's already arrived in human form.
If humans had remained innocent, they wouldn't have needed any external revelation because God's laws were deeply ingrained in their hearts. But, after eating the forbidden fruit, they upset God, lost their divine image, and therefore, without an external revelation, they wouldn't have known how to make amends with God or how to escape the suffering and darkness that came with their fallen nature.
These truths are undeniable, and you don't need to look any further than your own hearts to confirm this.
Unless we're flawed beings, where do all these terrible corruptions that pop up in our hearts every day come from? We couldn't have been created this corrupt by our Maker, because He, being the embodiment of goodness, could only create things that are like Him - holy, just, and good. It's clear that we want to be free from these flaws in our nature. This is evident because we're reluctant to admit that we're this messed up, and we're always trying to show others that we're completely different - that our mindset and temperament are not as they truly are.
I'd like to ask those who are highly educated and argue against divine revelation, don't you notice within yourselves that you naturally tend to be proud, angry, vengeful, and filled with other emotions that go against the purity, holiness, and patience of God? Doesn't this suggest that in some way, you've strayed from God? And I'd also like to ask, don't you notice that while you harbor these harmful desires in your heart, you try to appear likable, polite, kind, and friendly? Doesn't this clearly show that you realize you're unhappy and are seeking a way, even if you're not sure what it is, to be freed from this state?
So here's the deal, God steps in through His word, revealing a scene of divine love and boundless goodness in the Holy Scriptures. It's so profound that only people with seriously messed up and rejected minds, like our modern-day atheists, would choose to ignore it.
What is God essentially doing in the Bible, if not showing you, my friend, how you've ended up in this state of confusion, darkness, and suffering that you're experiencing and lamenting about? At the same time, He's guiding you towards what you're seeking - the way you can be saved from this state by having faith in, and emulating His beloved Son.
Just like I've mentioned before, I'm reminding you again that all divine revelations are based on these two truths. They are given to us for no other reason but to highlight our struggles and our joy; our downfall and our recovery. Or, to put it simply, they show us how we fell from grace in Adam, and how we can find redemption and life again through Christ.
So, this brings up the need to delve into the scriptures. Since they're essentially the main document of our salvation, the disclosure of a pact made by God with humans through Christ, and a light to guide us towards peace; it's clear that everyone should read and explore them. This is because we've all equally strayed from God and we all equally need to understand how we can be restored and reconnected with Him.
Isn't it absurd how the skeptics of our time behave, constantly demanding heavenly signs or tangible proof to validate the truth of divine revelation? Yet, what they're so desperately looking for is right there, even within them. If they just take a moment to listen to their own hearts, they can't deny what they're lacking. If they just refer to the vibrant teachings of God, they'll see a solution for all their needs, and realize that the scriptures perfectly meet the desires of their hearts, just like a reflection matches the face in the water. So where are the scholars, the intellectuals, the solid reasoning of these worldly debaters? Hasn't God made himself as clear to them as they could possibly wish? Still, they demand a sign, but no other sign will be given. Because if they can't believe in a revelation that so perfectly meets their needs, they wouldn't be convinced even if someone were to rise from the dead.
This discussion isn't really aimed at those who don't believe, but rather at those who both know and believe that the scriptures are a revelation from God. They understand it's their duty, as the main people involved, to not only read but also delve into these scriptures.
So, I'm moving on then, in the second place, I'll give you some guidelines on how you can effectively find them.
First, always keep in mind the purpose of the scriptures. They were written to guide us to salvation through Jesus Christ.
Our blessed Lord says, "Search the scriptures, for they are they that testify of me." So, always look for Christ in the scriptures. He is the hidden treasure in both the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament, you'll find him in prophecies, symbols, sacrifices, and shadows. In the New Testament, he is revealed in human form, serving as a Priest to atone for our sins and as a Prophet to reveal the entire will of his heavenly Father.
So, always keep Christ in mind when you're reading the Bible. Just like the star in the east led the way to the Messiah, this perspective will help you understand even the most complex parts. It'll be like a key, unlocking the wisdom and wealth hidden in God's kingdom's mysteries.
Secondly, approach your reading of the scriptures with the humility and openness of a child.
Anyone who doesn't approach these texts with an open mind won't truly understand what they're about. God keeps their meaning hidden from those who think they already know it all, revealing it only to those new to faith in Christ. These are the people who realize they still have a lot to learn, who are eager for righteousness, and who humbly want to nourish their growth with the pure, unadulterated truths of the word.
So, when you're diving into the scriptures, particularly the New Testament, imagine yourself sitting with Mary at the feet of Jesus. Be as open and ready to learn what God has to teach you, just like Samuel was when he said, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."
I wish that those who don't believe would let go of any lofty ideas or imaginations that go against God's revealed will! I hope they would, like newborn babies, crave the pure spiritual milk of the word! Then we wouldn't see them mocking divine revelation anymore, nor would they read the Bible just to ridicule it, like the Philistines did with our Samson. Instead, they would see the divine image and signature written on every line. They would hear God speaking to their souls through it, and as a result, they would grow in their understanding and reverence for Him, the Author of it all.
Thirdly, dive into the scriptures, with a genuine intention to apply what you read in your daily life.
The only way to truly understand God's will is to have a desire to follow it. As Jesus Christ himself said, "He shall know of my doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself," if a person is willing to do His will. In another instance, He told his disciples, "To you, (those who are ready to fulfill your responsibilities), it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. But for those on the outside (those who only aim to criticize my teachings), everything is spoken in parables. Even though they can see and hear, they may not understand or perceive."
It's only fair for God to send those powerful illusions, so they might believe a lie, and to hide his true knowledge from anyone who doesn't genuinely seek him.
Jesus Christ remains the same today as he always has been for those who seek to understand him through his word, so they can believe in him and live by his teachings. He will reveal himself as clearly as he did to the woman of Samaria, when he said, "I that speak to thee am he," or as he did to the man born blind, whom the Jews had rejected in his name, "He that talketh with thee, is he."
However, for those who turn to his word not out of a genuine desire to know him or follow his commandments, but merely for their own amusement or to mock the simplicity of his revelation, he will never reveal himself, no matter how deeply they delve into the scriptures. Just as he never confirmed whether he was the Messiah to those who asked out of mere curiosity or with the intention to find something to accuse him of.
Fourthly, to effectively explore the scriptures even more, apply everything you read to your own life.
Everything that's written in God's book was meant for us to learn from. And whatever Christ told people in the past, we should consider it as if He's speaking to us too. This is because the holy scriptures are essentially God's revelation about how Jesus Christ is going to restore humanity from its fallen state. So, all the instructions, warnings, and promises in there are meant for us and our kids, just as much as they were for the people who first got to know about them.
So, when the Apostle tells us that he lived by faith in the Son of God, he adds, "who died and gave himself for me." It's this personal connection to Jesus Christ that makes his sacrifice truly effective for each of us.
So, when we're reading the Bible, it's how we apply all the teachings and historical sections that makes it beneficial to us. Just as it was intended to reprimand, correct, guide us in living a righteous life, and to fully equip every believer to do good deeds.
I'm confident that anyone who's deeply engaged with reading the Bible can confirm this: if you turn to God's word for guidance, you'll find clear directions on how to act, just as if you were consulting the Urim and Thummim that was on the high priest's chest. This is how God communicates with us now. He doesn't give us new revelations, but rather, He applies the general teachings that are already in the Bible to the heart of every genuine reader.
This, incidentally, addresses a concern raised by some people who argue, "The word of God isn't a flawless guide for behavior because it doesn't instruct us on how to act or make decisions in specific situations, or where to go when we're uncertain. Therefore, it should be the Spirit, not the word, that guides our actions."
But I disagree with that, and instead, I firmly believe that God, at any given time, situation, and place, no matter how small or specific, will, if we earnestly seek the help of his Holy Spirit, make general things relevant to our hearts. And in doing so, as Jesus once said, he will guide us to all truth, and provide us with the specific help we need.
Fifth, Strive to grasp the spirit or essence that inspired their writing.
People who aren't spiritually inclined often struggle to understand the words of God's Spirit, because these words are spiritually interpreted. The words spoken by Christ are full of spirit and life, and they can't be truly understood by someone who only relies on their natural instincts, just like a person who hasn't learned a language can't understand someone speaking in it. That's why some people have compared the scriptures to the cloud that led the Israelites. To those who aren't spiritually inclined, these scriptures can seem as dark and difficult to understand as that cloud must have seemed to the Egyptians. But to true Christians, these scriptures are light and life, just like that same cloud, which seemed dark to Pharaoh and his people, appeared bright and absolutely glorious to God's chosen people, the Israelites.
Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel and a ruler of the Jews, was completely clueless about the concept of rebirth because he didn't have the guidance of the Spirit. Despite being a worldly man, he couldn't understand how such a thing could be possible. Similarly, the lack of the Spirit's guidance led Jesus' disciples to often misunderstand the teachings he shared with them, even though they interacted with him on a daily basis. Today, many people claim to study the scriptures, but because they don't have the spiritual insight to lift the natural veil from their hearts, they only see the literal words and remain oblivious to the deeper spiritual meanings hidden in every parable and almost all the commands in God's book.
Well, it makes sense, doesn't it? Since God is a spirit, the only way he can connect with us is in a spiritual way, right into our hearts. So, if we don't know his Spirit, we won't understand his word, because it's completely spiritual, just like him. So, it's really important to work hard to connect with this blessed Spirit. If not, you'll never truly understand the scriptures. And don't forget, one of the quickest ways to connect with this Holy Spirit is through prayer. So,
Sixth, before you start reading the Bible, I'd suggest you pray.
Ask Christ, as he promised, to send his Spirit to help you understand all the truths in it. While you're reading, feel free to say quick little prayers. If possible, pray over every word and verse. And when you're done reading, really ask God to help you take in what you've read, to let it become a part of you, and to help it inspire you to live a good life.
If you do this, you'll passionately invite God's Holy Spirit into your hearts. You'll feel His gracious influence and experience Him enlightening, energizing, and igniting your souls through the word of God. You'll not only read, but truly absorb and understand what you're reading. The word of God will then become your spiritual nourishment, feeding your souls. You'll become like Apollos, who was well-versed in the scriptures. You'll be like scribes well-prepared for the kingdom of God, sharing the wisdom from both the Old and New Testament with everyone you interact with.
Lastly, make sure to read the scriptures regularly.
Or, to put it in the words of our Savior from the text, "search the scriptures." Dive into them like you're searching for hidden treasure. This is clearly a reference to those who mine for precious metals, and our Savior is telling us that we need to put in just as much effort into regularly reading His word if we want to gain wisdom from it, as those who mine for gold and silver do. The scriptures hold the profound truths of God, so we can't just skim through them in a casual, shallow, or rushed manner. Instead, we need to approach them with diligence, focus, and humility.
The Psalmist describes a good person as someone who "meditates on God's law day and night." God told Joshua, "this book of the law should always be on your lips, and you should meditate on it day and night." By doing this, you'll pave your way to success and prosperity. So, make it a habit to explore the scriptures, not just with devotion but daily, because they contain the words of eternal life. Be a regular visitor at the gates of wisdom, and only then will she reveal her heavenly treasures to you.
If you're wealthy, there's no excuse for not doing this. And if you're poor, you should make the most of the little time you have. Because it's through the scriptures that you'll be judged innocent or guilty on the final day.
Maybe you don't appreciate this underrated book; perhaps you prefer plays, novels, and entertaining books. If that's the case, let me tell you, your taste is flawed and unless it's corrected by God's spirit and word, you won't be able to enter his heavenly kingdom. Because if you don't find joy in God now, how will you be prepared to live with him later?
So, you might ask, is it a sin to read pointless, irrelevant books? My answer is, yes. And it's a sin for the same reason that indulging in pointless conversation is a sin, because both directly tend to upset and suppress that Spirit, which is the only way we can be sealed for the day of redemption.
You might ask, how can we know this? Well, follow the advice in the text; study the scripture in the recommended way, and then you'll understand the danger, sinfulness, and dissatisfaction of reading any other books than God's book, or those written in the same spirit.
Then you'll say, when I was a child, and didn't understand the value of God's word, I read what the world calls harmless books, just like other children in knowledge, though old in years, do and continue to do. But now that I've tasted the good word of life, and have a better understanding of Christ Jesus my Lord, I've put away these childish, trivial things, and I've decided to read only those books that lead me to a better understanding of myself and of Christ Jesus.
So, my dear friends, dive into the scriptures. Try it out and see how amazing God's word is. Once you do, you won't ever want to go back to the superficial stuff, the empty words that some people find appealing. You'll look back and wonder why you ever thought that stuff was satisfying. God's word will become more appealing to you than the sweetest honey, more valuable than gold or silver. By reading it, your soul will be nourished, and your heart will gradually take on the spirit of its wonderful author. In short, you'll be guided by God's wisdom in this life, and led by the light of His divine word to glory in the next.