A statement is made in the word of God of those in the city of Berea where Paul preached on his second missionary journey which ought also to be said of us. It is stated that they searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul claimed the Old Testament Scriptures declared of Christ was really recorded there. When we say that this ought also to be said of us, we do not mean that we must critically listen to the Word of God upon the Sabbath and then daily search to see whether we have not been deceived or whether an attempt has been made to deceive us by a false presentation of the Word of God. We must come to church to be edified, instructed, comforted and admonished and not to look for heresies and false teachings. Rather do we mean when we say that it ought also to be said of us that we search the Scriptures daily that we too have that zeal and interest in the truth that having heard it, we look and turn to the Word of God for a richer and deeper insight.
Little is seen of this today.
Sad to say, yet undeniably true, there is not the interest in the things spiritual that there ought to be. To begin with there is the clamor for shorter and still shorter sermons on the Sabbath. And for many a confessing church member the Bible is left alone all the rest of the week except for a little hasty reading at the table in the evening. In the morning there is not time. We overslept, and the time to be at work is almost here. At noon in the shop or place of work it is dispensed with entirely, and at the evening meal a little time is left and the Bible is opened and read. But then there is no searching of the Scriptures. It is at best, as a rule and there surely are exceptions, superficially read and set aside, as another chore that is finished. Indeed we do not live like the world of Paul’s day. We have our fast-moving life. We are far more the victims of time than were the saints in the first century after Christ’s birth. In those days there were no clocks to punch. Men had more time to themselves and did not need to search the Scriptures after putting in eight hours of work in the shop. Even as in the days of Abraham and David there was abundant time for quiet meditation in the field while performing their daily work, so to a far greater degree than today the saints in Paul’s time could devote hours to such searching of the Scriptures without laying off their job to do so.
However, today it is not simply a case of not having the time and of being swept from this noble activity by time. There is today also that undercurrent of indifference to or at least lessening of interest in the things that are spiritual. The abundant life we live and which the devil uses to that end brings the things of the world so close to us and so easy to grasp that we become filled with them and are loath to let them go in order to search the Scriptures. Our life becomes so full of banquets and programs and what not which we eagerly attend no matter how weary of flesh we may be that every moment that could otherwise be devoted to spiritual things is taken up by things which keep us from personal searching of the Scriptures. Not that banquets and programs themselves are of the devil and that the child of God may not enjoy these. He certainly may. The point we wish to make here is that we are so ready for these things which to a great degree satisfy the flesh rather than the spirit and so ready to find excuse when it comes to searching the Scriptures and being busy with spiritual things. And besides there are so many things which we can find to do instead. What with automobiles and other means of transportation, our radios for entertainment, to mention only two groups of things which are there to attract us away from quiet moments of meditation and searching of the Scriptures, we easily drift along and time for spiritual things is not even sought. Rather do we seek ways and means to avoid it.
To verify the statement that there is a growing indifference and lessening of interest in the searching of the Scriptures we need simply take a look at the membership and attendance of the societies in our churches which were organized for such searching of the Scriptures. The membership lists are growing smaller and smaller; attendance is becoming poorer and poorer. Some congregations and denominations which formerly had flourishing societies now cannot even boast of a society at all. Large congregations very often have no more members than medium sized and even small congregations. There are exceptions here likewise and local conditions such as a scattered congregation in a region where the weather makes attendance impossible also have to be taken into consideration. But here again the zeal wherewith we seek excuses and grounds for maintaining that we cannot attend is not to be praised. Or let us make it even more to the point. When we are snowbound or prevented by the things God has brought our way (and not by the impossibilities we managed to prepare by our own seeking of the world) what do we do when we cannot attend services for divine worship? Do we sleep the time away or do we then search the Scriptures? For what do we have enthusiasm or lack of enthusiasm in such an instance? Or to approach the matter from a different angle, how much of God’s Word would we study if we were not (or are not) a member of Men’s Society, Ladies Society or Young People’s Society? It may perhaps be said in all safety and without fear of contradiction that for most of us the only searching of the Scriptures that we perform is performed in our society or else in the course of preparing for Society.
Out Societies a Valuable Means to This End.
One of the nicest and most profitable ways to search the Scriptures is just exactly in these Societies. Here again as was the case with the Sunday School, as we have seen, the argument is raised that this is not official instruction in the truth and for that reason it has little value or at least to remain outside its membership and activity is not a serious thing simply because it is unofficial. Yet we would have you consider with us that our societies are of great value and are not to be taken lightly or despised.
When you ask, “What is the value of these societies which are organized for the study of God’s Word?” it must be borne in mind that things have value according to their ability to serve us. The value of a thing is not to be determined by the price a man places upon it. Not infrequently do we say that we do not want to purchase a thing at a certain price because it is not worth that much to us. On the other hand, when we need a thing desperately or desire it intensely, we will pay almost any price if we only have the money for it. When your child is in need of a blood transfusion, you do not ask the cost, nor if he needs a costly and rare drug such as penicillin or the like. The value of these things are way beyond the price man places upon them. Their value lies in their ability to serve us by healing and restoring to health. Similarly the price of a pound of butter today is far greater than it was before the war, but the nutritional value of that butter is the same. It has the same nourishment and food value at forty cents a pound as it has at ninety cents a pound.
When now we ask ourselves what the value is of our societies wherein God’s Word is studied, then our answer must be that they serve us in a special way. That special service they render to us is that they serve the increase of our spiritual knowledge. Their value does not lie in the fact that they give us something to do that night, or in the case of the Young People’s Societies that they keep them off the streets, the dance floor and the movies. Their value lies in the fact that through them we increase in the knowledge of the truth.
That knowledge in turn serves the strengthening of our faith and the increase of our hope for the realization of all God’s promises to us. And in this way it also helps us to grow in the fear of the Lord. As we search the Word of God and behold the marvelous works that He has performed for us in Christ, our faith and confidence in Him as the God of our salvation grows. As we search the Scriptures and behold the unwavering faithfulness of God to His covenant and all His promises to us, by His grace and the work of His Spirit as He blesses that search to our hearts, we grow in the confidence of a complete realization of all these promises in the Day of Christ. And we begin also to look, to long and hope for that day when all shall be realized. The more we search the Scriptures and come in contact with these promises in Christ and we delve a little more deeply into the meaning and significance of these things which are promised, the new man who is heir of all things begins to long and yearn more intensely for the full realization of all that has been promised him.
This all, of course, is not simply due to our searching of the Scriptures. Unless God blesses the search to our hearts we remain spiritually cold to the truth and we harden ourselves against it. But God does bless such efforts on our part. He blesses it to us as well as the preaching of the Word on the Sabbath. Find a text in Scripture if you can that teaches that only the preaching of the Word is blessed to the hearts of God’s people. You cannot. Does Jude not exhort the church members to build themselves up in the most holy faith? And what of your reading of God’s Word at the table, is it not blessed when properly done? In deed it is God who blesses it unto our hearts and not simply our work of searching the Scriptures that is the reason why through it we are strengthened in our faith. But the fact also remains that God uses His Word thus only when it is read and studied. He who attends his society faithfully, studying his lesson carefully does receive a blessing beyond that which he receives in the Ministry of the Word on the Sabbath and beyond that of those who only attend divine services of worship and &re not active in such society life.
In the times wherein we are living there is an abundant room, as far as the need is concerned, for searching the Scriptures together in a society organized for this activity. The need is not less great today than it was in Paul’s or David’s time. The need is greater, for today there is more distortion and false presentation of the truth of God’s Word than ever before. It is well for us, even as the church of Berea, that we search diligently the Scriptures that we may not be found embracing the lie or even be inclined to leave the truth as we have it for the lie which we have heard and which appeals to the flesh.
Societies are a wonderful means to this end and serve this end in a very unique and profitable way. This we hope to discuss in a following issue. One misses something important when he ignores temporarily or permanently this means of searching the Scriptures.