Skilled In Scripture

Last week I shared how in a span of a month and a half Peter went from a man who crumbled before a little servant girl, to one who boldly stood up for Jesus before a huge crowd. Don’t you think that some of the other disciples that had spent the previous 3-plus years with Peter were thinking, “Who is this guy?! He’s preaching this amazing sermon that he didn’t even prepare for ahead of time!” 

That’s what the Holy Spirit does for us: He opens up God’s Word like we’ve never seen it before! It wasn’t just for Peter, or the original 12 disciples, or the first-century Church. This is still available to you and me today!  

Please note that it’s not just a relationship with Jesus that opens up the Scriptures to us. No one spent more time in the presence of Jesus than His disciples. And yet even after Jesus explicitly shared truth with them, we read, “His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into His glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about Him” (John 12:16). 

Notice those words “after…they remembered…and realized.” 

After what? After they were baptized in the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-16). In every setting after that we see their new understanding and correct application of the Scriptures (check out Acts 2:16, 25, 34; 2:42; 4:25-26; 8:35; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:21).

This is still available to you and me today! Jesus told us that He had more to say to us, and that’s why the Holy Spirit would come. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the Word of God is available today to illuminate it to us! 

R.T. Kendall made this observation about the teachings of Jesus, “[His teachings] cannot be truly understood until you see that it is our Lord’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It means we must embrace His interpretation of the Law and how it is fulfilled in us.” 

This is what God foretold through Ezekiel—I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws… (Ezekiel 11:19-20). In other words, God is saying, “When the Holy Spirit is in you, you will know how to apply My laws to your every-day life. You will become skilled in the correct and timely biblical application.”  

ALL Scripture is for ALL servants of God. ALL Scripture is applicable to ALL the circumstances we will ever face in life. But we need the illumination of the Holy Spirit in order to make the connection from the written Word to the real-life application. 

So don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

If you have missed any of the other lessons in this series, you may access them by clicking here. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Humility Of Christ’s Birth

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Humility Of Christ’s Birth

     Moreover, there was a peculiar wisdom ordaining that Jesus Christ should be the Son of the woman, and not of the man, because ‘that which is born of the flesh is flesh’ (John 3:6). Had He been born of the flesh, and merely flesh, He would, naturally, by carnal generation, have inherited all the frailties and the sins and the infirmities that man has from his birth. He would have been conceived in sin and shaped in iniquity, even as the rest of us. Therefore He was not born of man, but the Holy Spirit overshadowed the virgin Mary and Christ stands as the one man, save one other, who came forth pure from His Maker’s hands, who could ever say, ‘I am pure.’ Yes, and He could say far more than that other Adam could say concerning his purity, for He maintained His integrity and never let it go! And from His birth down to His death He knew no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth….

     Let us take courage here. If Jesus Christ was born in a manger in a rock, why should He not come and live in our rocky hearts? If He was born in a stable, why should not the stable of our souls be made into a house for Him? If He was born in poverty, may not the poor in spirit expect that He will be their friend? If He thus endured degradation at the first, will He count it any dishonor to come to the very poorest and humblest of His creatures and tabernacle in the souls of His children? Oh no!

From The Birth Of Christ

If Jesus was only God, He would never have been able to stoop to love us. 

If Jesus was only Man, He would never have been able to help us. 

Only the God-Man has both the power and the love to save use. Truly there is no one like Jesus! 

No one like Jesus our troubles can see
No one can feel them so keenly as He
No one like Jesus our burdens will bear
He and He only can answer our prayer

No one like Jesus could die for our sins
No one but Jesus can make the heart clean
No one but Jesus such mercy can show
He and He only such love can bestow

Jesus, Jesus
Precious Savior
Oh, how I love You
Love and adore You
Thank You, thank You
Precious Jesus
Oh, how You love me
Oh, what a Savior to me —Fanny J. Crosby, No One Like Jesus

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Comments On Commentaries

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Comments On Commentaries

     It has been said that the passage I have taken for my text [Isaiah 7:1-17] is one of the most difficult in all the Word of God. It may be so. I certainly did not think it was until I saw what the commentators had to say about it, and I rose up from reading them perfectly confused! One said one thing, and another denied what the other had said. And if there was anything that I liked, it was self-evident that it had been copied from one to the other and handed through the whole of them! 

     One set of commentators tells us that this passage refers entirely to some person who was to be born within a few months after this prophecy….

     Well, that seems a strange frittering away of a wonderful passage, full of meaning, and I cannot see how they can substantiate their view when we find the evangelist Matthew quoting this very passage in reference to the birth of Christ [Matthew 1:22-23]….

     I find, moreover, that many of the commentators divide the sixteenth verse from the fourteenth and fifteenth verses, and they read the fourteenth and fifteenth verses exclusively of Christ, and the sixteenth verse of Shear-Jashub….

     Then another view, which is the most popular of all, is to refer the passage, first of all, to some child who was then to be born, and afterward, in the highest sense, to our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. … 

     But I think that if I had never read those books at all, but had simply come to the Bible without knowing what any man had written upon it, I would have said, ‘There is Christ here as plainly as possible! Never could His name had been written more legibly than I see it here.’ 

From The Birth Of Christ

Spurgeon was not advocating that we never consult commentaries because elsewhere he said about the use of commentaries: “I find it odd that he who thinks so highly of what the Holy Spirit teaches him speaks so little of what the Holy Spirit teaches others also.” 

But what I believe Spurgeon is advocating here is this important principle—The best commentary on a passage of Scripture is another passage of Scripture. Which is why he used the passage in Matthew to help him understand the passage in Isaiah.

God makes Himself clear in His Word. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the pen of those who wrote the words in the Bible is the same Holy Spirit in you that can illuminate those words to your heart and mind. 

Commentators have their place. I believe that place is after you have prayed through and wrestled with a passage of Scripture for yourself. Think of commentators as the answers in the back of your math book. After you have worked through the equations for yourself, go to the answer key to verify your answers. If you simply look up the answer before you wrestle with the problem, how have you benefitted yourself? 

And always remember that God’s Word is infallible, but men are fallible. Commentators may provide an insight that helps you see something more clearly, but they are never a substitute for God’s very own word on a matter. 

Should you use commentaries? Sure! Find a good one, but consult it only after you have asked the Holy Spirit to help illuminate the passage, and after you have allowed the commentary of Scripture itself to shine its light on the difficult verse or passage.


Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Life-Changing Power In The Bible

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Life-Changing Power In The Bible

     When the Spirit came with His divine life and quickened the entire Book to my newly enlightened soul, the inner meaning shone forth with wondrous glory. … Whatever I found to be in His Word, I received with intense joy. … Moreover, I have found that those points of my character that were most weak have been strengthened, while strong passions have been subdued, evil propensities have been kept under, and new principles have been implanted. I am changed; I am as different from what I was as a man could be who had been annihilated and had then been made over again. Nor do I claim any of the credit for this change—far from it. God has done great things for me, but He has done the same for others and is willing to do it for any soul who seeks His face through Jesus Christ and His great atoning sacrifice. …  

     An idea has long possessed the public mind that a religious man can scarcely be a wise man. It has been the custom to talk of infidels, atheists, and deists as men of deep thought and comprehensive intellect, and to tremble for the Christian controversialist as if he must surely fall by the hand of his enemy. But this is purely a mistake, for the gospel is the sum of wisdom, an epitome of knowledge, a treasure house of truth, and a revelation of mysterious secrets. In it we see how justice and mercy may be married; here we behold inexorable law entirely satisfied and sovereign love bearing away the sinner in triumph. Our meditation upon it enlarges the mind, and as it opens to our soul in successive flashes of glory, we stand astonished at the profound wisdom manifest in it.

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon 

As Spurgeon experienced, all Christians can experience. Think about this—the same Holy Spirit that inspired the written words of the Bible is the same Holy Spirit in you that can illuminate and apply the words of the Bible to your life! 

Bible-reading, Spirit-empowered Christians should be the most informed, creative, wise people you will ever meet. Not because they have studied nature, but because they are getting to know Nature’s God intimately. The Creator can open up the mysteries of creation better than any scientist or philosopher. 

But we don’t read the Bible just to know God’s Word, but we read the Bible to get to know the God revealed in the Word. He said He would reveal Himself to those who earnestly seek for Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes, your mind, your heart as you read your Bible. 

Thursdays With Oswald—How To Understand And Apply The Scriptures

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

How To Understand And Apply The Scriptures

     In order to understand the Sermon on the Mount, it is necessary to have the mind of the Preacher, and this knowledge can be gained by anyone who will receive the Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13; John 20:22; Acts 19:2). The Holy Ghost alone can expound the teachings of Jesus Christ. The one abiding method of interpretation of the teachings of Jesus is the Spirit of Jesus in the heart of the believer applying His principles to the particular circumstances in which he is placed. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” says Paul, “that you may prove,” i.e. make out, “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” [Romans 12:2]. …

     Every mind has two compartments—conscious and subconscious. We say that the things we hear and read slip away from memory; they do not really, they pass into the subconscious mind. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring back into the conscious mind the things that are stored in the subconscious. In studying the Bible never think that because you do not understand it, therefore it is of no use. A truth may be of no use to you just now, but when the circumstances arise in which that truth is needed, the Holy Spirit will bring it back to your remembrance [John 14:26]. … 

     We do not hunt through the Bible for some precept to obey…but we live so in touch with God that the Holy Spirit can continually bring some word of His and apply it to the circumstances we are in. … The teaching of Jesus Christ comes with astonishing discomfort to begin with, because it is out of all proportion to our natural way of looking at things; but Jesus puts in a new sense of proportion, and slowly we form our way of walking and our conversation on the line of His precepts: Remember that our Lord’s teaching applies only to those who are His disciples.

From Studies On The Sermon On The Mount

What Chambers says about the Sermon on the Mount is true of any biblical passage we read: we need to have the Holy Spirit’s help to understand it and apply it to our unique life setting. 

Think of this—the same Holy Spirit who inspired the biblical writers is the exact same Spirit who will assist you in understanding that Word! Before I read the Bible I often pray: May the Spirit who inspired this Word now illuminate my mind to understand it and obey it. 

Try that prayer yourself and see how God’s Word is opened up to you. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 23

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 23

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 23.] 

     If the preaching of a servant of God does not make me brace myself up and watch my feet and my ways, one of two things is the reason—either the preacher is unreal, or I hate being better. At sometime or other all of us have had a detestation of being better. The rage produced by being faced with a life which in reality is better than our own, awakens either a desire to be like it, or else hatred without cause against that life. “They hated Me without a cause,” said Jesus. …  

     God makes His Word living by speaking it to you. There is a feeling of deep settled peace when the Holy Ghost brings a word, full of light and illumination, you know better than you can express, “The Lord said that to me.” …

     The Bible student must be careful to distinguish between the speculations of his own heart and the Word of God. … Be simple and obedient, and the Word of God will open to you as naturally as breathing. …  

     In reading God’s Word be careful of being guided by affinities instead of by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes us face facts for which we have no affinity. …

     Never ridicule the way in which people say God guides them; all you know is that God does not guide you like that, but never ridicule. 

From Notes On Jeremiah 

In this chapter of Jeremiah, God is contrasting true and false prophets. In order for us to distinguish the true from the false today, we must be students of God’s Word ourselves. Don’t get God’s Word solely from a man’s or woman’s preaching (although that does have its place), but be a student of the Word for yourself. 

God wants to speak to you through His Word. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the biblical authors wants to illuminate that Word to your specific life and situation. Get into the Word and let the Word get into you.  

11 Quotes From “Interpretation Of The Scriptures”

In my review of A.W. Pink’s book Interpretation Of The Scriptures, I noted that any student of the Bible will benefit from reading this exceptional book. The quotes I want to share today are for that universal audience, but I will also be sharing some additional quotes soon that are specifically aimed at those who are Bible teachers or pastors.

“God does not ask for blind credence from us, but an intelligent faith, and for that three things are indispensable: that His Word should be read (or heard), understood, and personally appropriated.”

“Moreover, the obscurity is not in them [the Scripture], but in the depravity of our nature which resists the holy requirements of God, and the pride of our hearts which disdains seeking enlightenment from Him.”

“It has pleased God to furnish His people with gifted instructors, and instead of haughtily ignoring them we ought (while testing their teaching—Acts 17:11) to accept thankfully whatever help they can afford us.”

“Methods of Bible study are only of relative importance; but the spirit in which it is studied is all-important. It calls for no argument to prove that a spiritual book calls for a spiritually minded reader. … Only where there is honesty of soul and spirituality of heart will there be clearness of vision to perceive the Truth; only then will the mind be capable of discerning the full import of what is read. … None but the Spirit of Truth can write God’s Law on my heart. Here, then, is the first and most essential qualification for understanding and interpreting the Scriptures, namely a mind illumined by the Holy Spirit.”

“That which conflicts with what is taught, plainly and uniformly, in the Scriptures as a whole, and which whole is set before us as the alone rule of our faith and obedience. This requires from the expositor not only a knowledge of the general sense of the Bible, but also that he takes the trouble to collect and compare all the passages which treat of or have a definite bearing upon the immediate point before him, so that he may obtain the full mind of the Spirit thereon. Having done that, any passage which is still obscure or doubtful to him must be interpreted by those which are clear. No doctrine is to be founded on a single passage.”

“By divorcing a verse from its setting or singling out a single clause, one may ‘prove’ not only absurdities but real falsities by the very words of Scripture.”

“The word for ‘search the Scriptures’ (John 5:39) signifies diligently to track out, as the hunter does the spoor of animals. The interpreter’s job is to bring out the sense and not merely the sound of the Word.”

“To a very large extent, and far more so than any uninspired book, the Bible is a self-explaining volume: not only because it records the performance of its promises and the fulfillment of its prophecies, not only because its types and antitypes mutually unfold each other, but because all its fundamental truths may be discovered by means of its own contents, without reference to anything extra or outside itself.”

“Assuredly God has not subordinated His Word to our reason for us to accept only what commends itself to our judgment. Nevertheless, He has furnished His people with this faculty, and though insufficient of itself it is a valuable aid in the understanding of Truth. While reason is not to be made the measurer of our belief, yet it is to be used as the handmaid of faith, by comparing passage with passage, deducing inferences and drawing consequences according to the legitimate laws of logic.”

“The concordance will stand [the Bible reader] in far better stead than the best dictionary.”

“There is a middle ground between hastily condemning or accepting, namely to weigh carefully and prayerfully what is presented, testing it by other passages and by our own experience.”

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