The Bible is the final authority on all matters of what we believe and how we are to live.
Our Reformed fathers expressed it this way, “We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever men ought to believe unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein. For since the whole manner of worship, which God requires of us, is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures, nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the holy apostle Paul saith,” Belgic Confession Article 7.
The entire Bible does this. We may not take certain parts of it or change other parts; we must bow before the entire Word of God. Of this we read in Rev. 22:18, 19: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book. If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any .man shall take away from the words of the book of ‘this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
In order to use the Bible, we must know our Bibles.
NEED TO KNOW THE BIBLE
Are you sometimes ashamed of how little you really know your Bible? Maybe you experienced this when you had contact with someone who could really quote passages and was able to prove what he believed. Sadly, many who are trained to misuse the Bible and quote it wrongfully are better able to do that than we are able to use it correctly.
I’m afraid that sometimes you young people are better able to explain what you believe and argue dogmatically, that is, defend what you believe following cogent logical arguments, than you are able to prove what you believe from the Bible. I know some of you share this concern with me.
It all boils down to this: do we really know what the Bible says and where? Can we quote the Bible properly, that is correctly and in a way that applies to the need at hand? If not, we really don’t know our Bibles.
If we don’t know our Bibles, we are missing something.
God Himself impresses upon us how important it is to know what is said in the Bible. This is true in different ways.
First, for our spiritual growth. Listen to Job: “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food,” Job 23:12. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby, if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious,” I Peter 2:23.
Second, for dealing with life’s problems. How often are we disappointed, fearful, questioning, maybe even rebellious. We need to open the Bible and hear what God has to say in such circumstances. Of this Jeremiah speaks: “Thy words were found and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart; for I am called by thy name O Lord God of hosts,” Jeremiah 15:16.
Third, for sanctification. Just consider, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word,” Psalm 119:9. Similarly, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another,” I Peter 1:22.
Fourth, for avoiding error. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge I will also reject thee seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children,” Hosea 4:6. Jesus delivered a similar reproof, “Ye do err, not knowing the scripture, nor the power of God,” Matt. 22:29. Ignorance of Scripture leads one into error.
Finally, the knowledge of the Scripture is necessary for a person to be established in the truth. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” II Tim. 3:16.
One conclusion is obvious: there is great spiritual benefit from knowing the Bible. The reason for this is that God works through His Word, not apart from it.
OBTAINING THAT KNOWLEDGE
There are two ways that this important knowledge is obtained. The one is through the teaching of others, that is, you are given this knowledge by someone teaching you. The other is that you do your own studying and reflecting and in this way obtain knowledge of the Bible for yourself.
It is wonderful when it can be said of you as Paul said of Timothy, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou has learned them, and that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” II Tim. 3:14, 15. Most of you young people have had this kind of training since you were very young. Your parents read the Bible and discussed it at home. You were taken to church and Sunday School when very young. You eventually attended catechism and a Christian school. You now add young people’s society to this list. You have been taught the truths of God’s Word all along.
How do you respond to this? Do you say, I know that Bible, I have had to read it ever since who knows when? And can you really quote the Bible, look up passages when you desire it, find them, use them in the different ways mentioned above? Do you remember the passages memorized in grade school and high school? Can you recall the texts learned in catechism? Are they part of your life? I think this is the area of lack. It is not that we have not learned them at one time; rather, they fail to remain part of our working vocabulary so to speak.
In this connection, I would like to give a suggestion.
It is tremendously useful to compile a small notebook containing Scripture texts that prove different points. One can arrange this according to the general division of doctrinal proofs and practical proofs. Within the two divisions, you can file alphabetically. For example, in doctrinal proofs you, can arrange it this way: atonement; creation, grace (particular and common), trinity, virgin birth. Practical proofs can be arranged: dancing, drinking, drugs, movies, sports, war. Within each entry, you include a few important proof texts,written out, along with the reference to where it is found in the Bible. Under these texts, summarize in three to five points the pertinent arguments that follow from the Scriptural texts. As you go along, this notebook will increase in size and importance.
The advantages of compiling a small notebook is that you can refer to it in a hurry (usually when you need some “proofs” you are in a hurry), and you can use it for reflection in your personal devotions. In this way you increase in your understanding, and the texts become more and more part of your memory for recall at any time.
From my experience, it is hard to motivate young people to begin such a project. I suppose it is just too much bother. We are all extremely lazy. Maybe this suggestion will help. Why not do this together within the framework of your young people’s society. This leads me to my purpose of writing this article now. We stand at the beginning of our new society year. The usual question arises, how can we make our society more interesting? Here is one suggestion.
This could be done on a regular basis as Bible study. I’m convinced that it takes more time than trying to squeeze this in as an after-recess or program period. You could do this each week, or if the society would rather study a Bible portion weekly, do this once a month for variety.
The idea is to have a certain subject set ahead of time. The society is told that the next meeting will be occupied with discussing Scriptural proof and a Scriptural defense of, for example, the trinity. Each member is expected to look up ahead of time certain texts which he feels best defines the doctrine of the trinity. He can use Rev. Hoeksema’s dogmatics for texts, he can use our Reformed confessions, all contain many references to Scripture. A large part of the time will be taken by looking up the suggested texts. After some consideration, decide together which ones prove it best. Agree on about three or four of these and write them down in your notebook, or on a scratch copy. This then would be followed by the question, how can we best explain to someone who either rejects this truth or doesn’t know anything about it, what is involved? This too will come by discussion. After such discussion state the four or five points that express best the line of reasoning, drawn from the Bible texts and the teachings of our Reformed confessions. These too can be entered into the notebook.
This will increase our interest in society as well as help us come to a better understanding of the truth and enable us to defend it.
You will find that such a notebook, if developed carefully and used regularly, will be a real treasure.
The key is systematic development of different doctrinal and practical subjects. This must then be followed by daily reflection and further pondering.
INCLUDE YOUR BIBLE
It might be worth mentioning that in order to do this, you should also have your own Bible. All of you have a Bible, whether it has a fancy binding or not. You should select one Bible which you consider to be your working Bible. It is just that, a working Bible. You should feel free to write in it, underline passages, make notes in the margin. Read the same Bible and use the same one for society and church. It will help you to fix the passages in your mind. By using the same Bible, you become more familiar with it.
Personally, I like the idea that people take their own Bibles to church, society, catechism, and Sunday school. It really becomes part of you and no book is a greater “friend” than your own Bible.
Consider this idea prayerfully.
We must appeal to Scripture.
It is the only standard of truth.
It is truth from beginning to end.
We believe in God, the Author.
We believe it is His Word.
Make sure you know what it says and are able to use it in your daily life. There is much more meaning if you are not only able to summarize what the Bible teaches, but also prove it from the very Word of God.
May this God bless us in our study of His Word during this society season. Continue to appeal to Scripture.