I received a call, ‘Brother Martin, my daughter is going through a rough time with a divorce. Would you come and share with her?’ After talking with the daughter I soon found there was another need. As I was about the leave the mother said, ‘Brother Martin, I hear believers talk about how alive the Bible is for them, but its not that way for me.’
I knew this lady loved the Lord. What I was about to share would become a life changer for her; ‘Sister, you need to stop reading the Bible like a newspaper to gather information. If you would began reading your Bible like you were looking into the eyes of God, it would come alive for you.’ Then I gave her a Scripture to look at. Hebrews 4:12,13 says,
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
The very next day I received a call from this dear sister, “Brother Martin, the Bible has come alive for me!”
The above incident happened about twenty-five years ago. I’m relating the story from memory. Over the many years I’ve often shared this story and this maxim. It has become a life changer for many. But this isn’t some new revelation. It is a truth that belongs to all God’s children. It has to do with an awesome way that the Lord speaks into our lives. What many don’t realize is that the Bible is God’s primary speaking place. The Bible is a book of life. It unfolds around the Son of God.
What prevents the Bible from becoming a living book to many has to do with attitude. We of a western mindset often study the Scriptures to acquire knowledge. We relish in intellectual simulation. We often have scholastics in view. And so we analyze the Bible and love quoting the Scriptures to prove our points of doctrine. It’s not that all these things are necessarily wrong. However, it is easy to miss the very heart of what the sacred writings are about.
God’s ancient people didn’t study the Scriptures for intellectual stimulation or merely to acquire information. To them the study of God’s Word was the highest form of worship. They studied the Scriptures to draw near to God. The sages had a saying that when people are studying the Scriptures they must never ever be disturbed because the Shekinah is passing among them. [The Shekinah speaks of God's divine presence.]
Concerning God’s Son, the prophet Isaiah laid it out:
On that day the deaf will hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. The afflicted also will increase their gladness in the LORD, and the needy of mankind will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 29:18,19)
Then we have this from Jesus:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40 NASB) — Testify [martureo] To bear witness. Moses and all the prophets bore witness to Jesus as Messiah. —
The short side is to understand that Jesus Christ Himself is the ‘Master Key to the Bible.’ Set aside Jesus and the Bible becomes just another book. The Bible wraps around Jesus like a garment. Learn to clothe your life with the Word of God and you’ll always live in victory regardless of the circumstances about you.
It is David who gives the prophetic insight into how the Bible enfolds and unfolds with Jesus. Jesus is the alpha and the omega of life. Listen:
Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; My ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.” (Psalms 40:6-8 NASB)
— This is a Messianic prophecy. The word ‘scroll’ in Hebrew, megallah, means ‘volume’ or ‘writing’ or ‘roll’. This Scripture is quoted in Hebrews. (Heb10:7-9) The Greek for ‘scroll’, kephalis, speaks of the head of the rod and the spindle around which the scrolls were rolled. Thus we have that Jesus is the center around which all the sacred scrolls are wrapped. —
Do you remember the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? Jesus joined with them without revealing who He was. The Lord then speaks to them through the writings of Moses and the prophets. Listen:
“And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27)
— To begin with Moses meant He began with the book of Genesis and then walked them through all the prophets. What was their response? When Jesus vanished they said,
“Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32 NASB)
There you have it. The Lord meets with us in the Scriptures. He opens our hearts and minds to behold the treasures of our salvation in Christ. Jesus is a personal Savior. He speaks to us in personal ways. And His primary speaking place will always be the Bible.
So, what I shared with the lady was not anything new. It has to do with what Augustine called…
The doctrine of the ‘internal testimony of the Holy Spirit’ goes back to Augustine and to other early Church theologians. It is part of the evangelical perspective of the Scriptures. This doctrine sets forth certain things in particular.
- That the Bible is self-authenticating; that the Scriptures bear witness to their own authority; that the Holy Spirit both awakens and deals deeply with the human heart through the use of Scripture.
- That the Bible has been shaped by God as a meeting place between God and man. Where Paul says, “All Scripture is inspired by God,” he is including the thought of the Scriptures being an oikos (dwelling place) of God.
- That the reader must become open and honest hearted before God without preconditions; meaning it is dishonest to try to make the Scriptures mean something that they don’t mean.
The internal testimony revolves around the witness of righteousness and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Heb 11:4)
If any man is willing to do His [God’s] will, he shall know of the teaching [reality of the gospel] whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.” (John 7:17)
There are several Scriptures where the internal testimony is set forth. Cf. Isa. 29:11-14, 18,19; Jer 1:11,12; 1Co. 2:9,10,14-16; 2 Co 3:15-18.
Warnings against unprincipled men
In addition to the internal testimony, every believer needs to be aware of how the enemy tries to distort the truths of God. The apostle Peter gave a caution and a warning with regard to ‘unprincipled’ men. Unprincipled men include the false prophet and the false teacher.
Peter knew that Paul had been given awesome insights into the work of Christ and into His kingdom. (Keep in mind that Paul had been caught up to the third heaven. Cf. 2Co12:1-4) Peter also knew that some of what Paul had been permitted to share could be twisted into distortions of the truth.
Listen and take to heart Peter’s warning:
…and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2Pe 3:15-18)
Carried away [sunapago] – Idea of being led astray; beguiled.
Unprincipled men [athesmos] – kjv has ‘wicked men’. These are deceivers who lead into error.
Paul spoke of these men: “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2Tim3:13)
Guiding Principles for studying God’s Word
Here are some principles for studying the Bible that should be kept in mind —
Principle #1 – It is important to understand that the Bible has a story to be told to all people. God communicates to us in terms we can best relate to. Much of the Bible is analogical in nature. (Shepherd/sheep, body of Christ, building upon a rock, etc.)
Principle #2 – All study should be done in a framework of coming to know God and with a special view to the work of Christ. When this framework is followed the outcome will be Scripture clarity.
Consider these portions:
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:2-3 NASB)
Then we have this from Jesus:
‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:44-47 NASB)
Principle #3 - Understand that revelation is the general pattern of the Bible. Therefore most doctrines found in the Old Testament do not come into maturity until they are brought into the New Testament. This does not mean there are no mature doctrines in the Old Testament. It means we must keep Christ at the center of our theology. Augustine said, ‘Distinguish the times and you will harmonize the Scriptures.’
Principle #4 – ‘Believe in order to understand.’ Augustine taught that love is a form of spiritual intuition necessary for a deeper apprehension of Scriptures. He also taught that the obscure passage must yield to the clear passage, and that no Scripture is to be interpreted so as to conflict with other Scripture. Then we have this adage, ‘Where the Bible is silent we are to be silent.’
Well, thats enough for today.
The only question left is, ‘Have you been looking into the eyes of God lately?’
Here is a special song for your meditation. Listen with your heart. ‘Revelation Song.’
Love in Christ Jesus,