The Bible is the most widely circulated book in the world, and strange as it may seem, it is also the book concerning which there is the most ignorance. Ministers of the gospel, and others who have penetrated into the varying depths of Bible knowledge, recognize that they have but made a mere beginning, and that stretching out before them are vast fields of unexplored truth. All who have entered upon the conquest of Scripture truth can testify to the abundant fruitfulness of their efforts; but let them not slacken their labors or slow down their pace. The time is very short, the field of inexhaustible treasure is very great; should we not hasten to take possession of the precious gems of truth to the fullest extent of our capacity and ability?
True Bible knowledge is not merely possession of an encyclopedic list of facts, figures, and data about the Bible, such as deal with Scripture canon, authorship, time of writing, chronology, and events of Bible history. Such knowledge might suffice for the bestowing of a theological degree from recognized institutions of learning, but with the Great Teacher such knowledge will not pass as adequate. True Bible knowledge can be acquired only as accurate information, intelligent comprehension, and the soul's apprehension of truth are welded together into a living experience in fellowship with Him who is both the source from which the Bible comes and the goal to which it leads. One must enter into the life of the Bible, if he would possess its light and know its wisdom.
There are certain requirements placed before those who would attain success in Bible study, which might be placed in order as follows:
1. A Life Surrendered to God.—This is the primary requisite in true study of the Book of books. In such a life the will becomes subject to the Teacher, so that the truth taught is wrought out and interwoven in the experience of life. The ultimate of this requirement centers in conversion; it brings the pupil to the new birth experience; and only from that standpoint can the Bible reveal its hidden treasure to the student. (Read in this connection John 7:17; 3:21; 8:43; Matt. 7:21; Dan. 12:10; Ps. 25:9, 14.)
2. Childlike Simplicity and Teachableness.—The little child who comes to its parent to be taught has not filled his mind with preconceived notions as to what it is going to believe or disbelieve of what the parent says. The child comes to the parent with its mind free from set opinions, and ready to be filled with the knowledge the father has to give. Such must be the attitude of those who study the word of God.
Men often turn to the world to acquire what they choose to call "an education," but which is as barren of Bible knowledge as is the desert of vegetation. And when men have completed that so-called "education," they often regard themselves as too "wise and understanding" to gain anything from Bible study, or, if they have any regard for the Bible at all, their "approach to Bible study" is according to the standard set up by men of the world, which means holding set notions, personal opinions, human ideas, and man-made theories, and using these as keys to the understanding of the Scriptures.
Often it becomes necessary to unlearn much of human knowledge acquired before we can begin to perceive the true knowledge which is imparted by God. Jesus said, "I thank Thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes." Any attempt to make the wisdom of this world serve as a magnifying glass to assist us in our search for the diamonds in the mine of truth, is futile. (Read in this connection Matt. 11:25, 26; 1 Cor. 1:17-31; 2:1-9.)
3. Guidance of the Holy Spirit.—The teacher is the Holy Spirit; the textbook is the Bible, and the pupil is the soul that has become estranged from God. If we would attain unto true knowledge, we must be susceptible to the Spirit's leadings and quick to respond to His guidance. An honest soul who does not have a Bible, but earnestly follows the leadings of the Holy Spirit in his life, will attain unto a truer and fuller knowledge of the truth than the man who studies the Bible constantly, but depends entirely upon the natural resources of the human intellect. It is very essential to recognize that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to teach, to guide, and to bring to a comprehensive and experimental knowledge of the truths revealed in the word of God. (Read in this connection Matt. 11: 27; John 14: 26; 15: 26; 16: 7-15.)
4. Constant Prayer Life.—This is essential to all Christian experience, and a true knowledge of the word of God includes a genuine Christian experience. Prayer is an act of reverence, and a recognition of our need of divine guidance and help. We approach the study of the Bible in the right mental attitude when we open our Bibles with a prayer on our lips. But this, of itself, is not sufficient. We need to live constantly in the spirit and mental attitude of prayer. This is not to say that we must always be uttering audible words of prayer as we go about our work in performance of duty. It is, rather, that we should ever keep our minds stayed on God and directed heavenward, even as in the attitude of prayer. We should ever be in harmony with, and living in the spirit of prayer. We must be often in the exercise of prayer. Jesus said, "Pray without ceasing." The Holy Spirit is given in answer to prayer. It is out of the depths of this prayer life that there comes the power to penetrate into the hidden mysteries of the Bible. (Read in this connection Luke 11: 13; James 1: 5-8; Ps. 119: 18; Luke 18: 1-8.)
5. Faith in the Bible as the Word of God.—Doubt, unbelief, and skepticism stand out prominently among the great obstacles to progress in Bible study. The student who measures up to the preceding four requirements, will scarcely be lacking in the element of faith, and faith will be strengthened as he continues his study. But doubt is a subtle thing. It is profuse in its invitations. Even the most profound and devout Bible students are at times perplexed, and are liable to be thrown into darkness unless they hold on by faith until light breaks through.
Finite man is constantly in danger of setting up his own judgment and reason as a standard by which to judge the words and works of God. It is so easy to make finite mind the test of infinite wisdom, and this is what is done when we reject the claims of God because they do not appeal to our rational thinking. If what God says does not approve itself to our reason, then let us submit our reasoning to the claims of divine wisdom. This, after all, is the reasonable thing for us to do. (Read in this connection Rom. 3: 3, 4; 9: 20; John 10: 35; 6: 63, 68; 17: 17; Isa. 40: 8; 2 Thess. 2: 13; James 1: 6-8.)
6. Diligence in Study.—It could scarcely be supposed that God would reward a lazy man with success in true Bible study. If any man is recognized as having attained unto an enviable position in his knowledge of the Bible, let it not be imagined that he gained such a place by some easy route. or by mere genius. It has been said, with a large measure of truthfulness and wisdom, that "genius is two per cent inspiration and ninety-eight per cent perspiration."
Parallel with the divine enlightenment of the Holy Spirit there must be, on the student's part, a willingness to work hard and to put forth sustained effort in digging for the hidden treasure. No amount of labor can be considered an unjust demand if it is required to bring to the surface even the smallest gem of divine truth. The finest details in study must not be slighted or overlooked, and it must be remembered that short cuts in the field of study do not get one very far. No field is more fruitful of blessings and rich returns for the labor bestowed than that of diligent Bible study. (Read in this connection Matt. 7:7, 8; Prov. 8:17; Deut. 4:29; Isa. 34:16; 1 Peter 1: 10-12; Acts 17: 11, 12.)
7. Dedication of Life to the Service of God.—In order to retain and make permanent in our lives the blessings we receive, we must pass them on to others. "Freely ye have received, freely give," is the law of permanent possession of the things of God. If the rich treasures of the word of God are to become ours to keep, we must dispense them freely. The knowledge locked up in the mind is soon forgotten and finally lost. We must be as diligent in disseminating the truths of God's word as we are in acquiring them. The sea that has no outlet is dead, even though it be fed by the sacred and abundant waters of the Jordan.
The man who seeks to find the light and love and life of God, which are the treasures of the word, but who refuses to bear witness of the same, will soon find himself in darkness and despair. The soul that is led by the Spirit of God and filled with the knowledge of God, is as salt that has not lost its savor, and as a light set on a hill; he stands as God's witness to a lost world. Peter said to the cripple lying at the gate of the temple, "Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that give I thee." Peter possessed the knowledge of God, and it was this that he gave to the cripple. Jesus told His disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power, and then they were to go forth to minister in spiritual things. We must feed upon the bread of life; drink deep at the fountain of truth; and then as we minister to a hungry and thirsty world, we shall find that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." (Read in this connection Matt. 10: 8, 39; 20: 28; 28: 18-20; Mark 16: 19, 20; Luke 24: 47-49; John 7:37-39; Acts 1:8; Rev. 22:17.)
Do these requirements seem too great? Let us not say so. Truly they are beyond the power of man to attain unto, in and of himself, but "my God shall supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
True Bible knowledge is gained through partaking of the divine nature. The two are bound together. When we enter into the experience of the things of God, knowledge and experience must keep pace with each other. Both the knowledge and the experience are dependent upon the power of God, and that power operates in us by the indwelling presence of His Spirit. Let us open our hearts to Him, let us receive Him into our lives and give Him complete dominion. Then He will open our minds that we may understand the Scriptures.
Pine Bluffs, Wyo.