Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church of Standale, Michigan.
Dear Esteemed Sirs:
In this letter I would address a matter which, you have indicated, is of utmost concern to you, and to those of your estate.
It concerns Scripture Study, which, as at the first, you have continued to show is your joy and delight. Indeed, you have shown yourself to be like those Bereans.
They, you recall, were more noble than those in Thessalonica (Acts 17:10ff.).
Indeed, they were of a different sort of nobility. The Bereans were truly noble. They were truly honorable. Their character and virtue were sterling.
How did they get this way? What was their noble line, their heritage, their breeding, the source of their nobility? The answer, we know, is that these noble men, and honourable women, not a few, were born of God. Their noble line could be traced directly to heaven. Their Father was and is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. And, well-born of the Holy Spirit of God, they were also well-bred of Him through His sanctifying power and divine tutelage.
These Bereans could not help but show their nobility. They did not do this by flaunting earthly wealth and attending public events with great pomp and pageantry. No, there was just one thing, an entirely unworldly thing, which evidenced their nobility. And that was this: their attachment to God. This was especially seen in their being captive to God’s Word. Drawn by cords of love into the blessed life and society of the triune God, delighting daily in spiritual communion with their King and Father, God, these Christian nobles simply loved God’s Word! They loved to hear Father speak. They loved to hear His covenant secrets, His promises, His truth as it is in Jesus, the gospel of salvation by grace only, by faith only, in Christ only. They would know and submit to the decrees of the Most High Noble of nobles. There was a power in them, even the power of the living God, compelling them to hear, to know, to revere, to delight in, and to trust God’s Word.
That is why, when Paul came preaching to Berea, these noble Bereans attached themselves to Paul and hung on every word he spoke. They had been remade by God to do so. They were born to drink the milk of the Word and to eat its meat, born to receive messages from heaven. And so they received the Word, Acts tells us. They received it with all readiness of mind. There was no hesitation on their part, no doubts. Nor did they receive it to debate with that Word, to criticize it. Rather, they received it by faith, humbly, gratefully, with great expectations that they would be blessed by that Word, and eager to submit to this revelation of God’s will for them.
And they searched. They searched spiritually, prayerfully, as Jacob-princes seeking the blessing of God upon them in their quest for God’s light and communion through the Word.
And then, prayerfully, they examined the Scriptures. They pored over them. They scrutinized them, comparing Scripture with Scriptures. They did this daily, regularly. Their Bibles, if they had had personal copies, would have become worn with use, and they, very familiar with the Bible’s gospel message. They searched! They did this on their own, personally. They did this, no doubt, as families. They did this in societies of believers. They did this on Sunday, and every day of the week. They did this from September to May, and also during the summer months. There was no stopping them!
Why did they so search the Scriptures? Because, in the first place, they understood that this was how God communicates His will and gospel to human beings. They recognized, as so few do today, that the Scriptures are the revelation of God to His church. And even in those days of the early New Testament church, when God was pleased, in the establishing of the church, to confirm the word by miracles, the Bereans recognized the primacy of the Word. They were not like those spiritists who say they can commune with God by circumventing the written Word, or that there are revelations today apart from the Scriptures (I smite their spirit on the snout!). The Bible, for them, was the source of all light. The Spirit of the Word was, for them as for us, the only Holy Spirit.
And search they did, in the second place, for confirmation of what Paul said about the Word.
They wanted to see for themselves, and not just because a preacher told them, that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of prophecy. Not that they despised Paul’s teaching — for then they would never have listened to him. But they had received the anointing of the Spirit-teacher, and so would go to the Word themselves. They would not let a priest, a preacher, or a pope usurp their own noble office of all believers!
But then, too, they knew that Scripture study was important that they themselves might be confirmed in the faith. The Christian nobility of Berea recognized that searching the Scriptures was a means God gave for strength of faith, and that they might increase in the knowledge of God and in their love and attachment to God. This then they would do in their untiring quest to draw nigh unto their Redeemer.
The mark of Berean nobility was a searching of the Scriptures. You, esteemed brethren, are such nobility — as believers. You are the true nobility of the land. Yours is Christian nobility. You are prophets, priests, and kings of the Most High God. Your delight is believing Bible study: for the Bible, to you, is the light revealing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the life in Christ now, and that is to come.
You realize you must continue to search. The prosperity of your soul, and of the heart and soul of your religion and that of your children and churches depends on it. This is a crucial way God has ordained for His own to be established and built up: searching the Scriptures!
And how needed today! There was a time when the Word of God was scarce. Now this is true all the more. It is scarce via corrupt translations of the Bible. It is scarce through false preachers and preaching. It is scarce due to a self-proclaimed nobility: the “Christian intelligentsia,” who liken Scripture to mythology and ordinary literature, and who declare themselves and themselves alone, to be able to interpret the Scriptures and to find in them the real, historical Jesus and His real gospel. But, as well, Scripture-searching is scarce. No one, or very few, are searching the Scriptures! If there is study, it is easy — simply to confirm one’s own prejudices, and not to discern the truth. If there is study it is nonchalant, haphazard, irregular — reflecting on the priorities and worldliness of our age. If there is study it is to criticize — man showing he would have the last word. If there is study it is cold, mechanical, lifeless — indicative of dead orthodoxy or killing apostasy resident in the churches.
And you? Christian nobility, I write that you should persevere in your noble quest of the Word. The Spirit, I know, is willing, but the flesh is weak! Persevere! Desire the Word as the deer panting after water brooks. As the babe on the breast. As the saved sinner. As becoming your nobility!
In conclusion, I herewith offer you my services in a series of articles in this noble magazine. It will be found in a column called “Search the Scriptures.” Use these articles, if you like, to further your Scripture study at home and in the church, for devotions, formal studies, or to enliven your table talk. I realize that I am a lowly Protestant monk, and the least of all the Christian nobility. But, God helping me, I would gladly help you in your noble occupation.
Let us go on then. For reformation. For continuing reformation. For we either go forward, or we go back to Babylon. And if the latter must be, give me death instead.
Here I stand. And you?
M.L. (in spiriti), 1996
*The author of this acrostic is unknown to me. I found it taped to my dear Katy’s well-worn Bible!