Ye do err...
Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. Mt. 22:29
It is essential that we know the Scriptures. We are living in a day awash with information. It used to be that statisticians had to deal with the problem of the paucity of information and how to extract the probability of an event happening given very few data points. Now the problem is exactly the opposite. Today they struggle with how to handle the seemingly infinite amount of data and sort through it all. We are told that whereas in past centuries the growth in human knowledge was linear, now it is exponential. It used to double every century, now it is doubling every 13 months, and we are told that it will soon double every 12 hours. We are drowning in knowledge.
But all the data and information in the world can hardly be compared to the voice of God. That voice comes to us in the Scriptures. When you open the Bible, you are hearing the voice of God. Now there are a lot of people today who are encouraging you to look within, to hear God’s quiet voice in your heart. But that is dangerous and even deadly when you try to do that apart from the word of God in the Bible. The fact of the matter is that you can never be sure that what you are hearing in your heart is God speaking or heartburn from eating too much pizza the night before. But when we open the Bible, we can be absolutely sure that we are hearing God speak to us.
If you’ve paid much attention to the news lately, you will probably have heard the complaints about “fake news.” Both liberals and conservatives complain about it, and both are probably guilty of it. But that’s the problem with so much information (along with the fact that it is often disseminated by sinners with agendas). You not only get the truth, you also get fake news. How do you discern between the two? Sometimes, it’s impossible. You and I just don’t have the resources to follow up on every story that we hear or even to verify if it’s true. But we can never doubt that when God speaks, we are hearing truth.
And he is still speaking. In the context (Mt. 22:32), our Lord quotes Exodus 3:6. He prefaced the quotation by saying, “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying. . .” (31)? When God first spoke those words, he spoke them to Moses. But fifteen hundred years later, our Lord says that God was speaking to them in those words. Even so, God is still speaking to you and me in the Bible, both Old and New Testament. It is still true that “the word of God is quick [living], and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
Knowing God’s word is important for a rich and deep experience of God in prayer. In Tim Keller’s book on prayer, he warns about the danger of defining prayer in terms of our needs and feelings and ideas. In particular, he warns about the danger of prayer that is untethered from the word of God. We cannot truly know who we are praying to unless we have opened our Bibles and learned about the God who is presented to us in those pages. Nor can we know really how to talk to God apart from hearing him speak to us first. He gives this great illustration of how children learn to talk. They learn to talk by hearing their parents talk to them. And the more parents talk to their infant children, the better grasp on language they will have. Even so, we can never really learn to truly talk to God unless we have first heard him talk to us. And the place where we hear him talk to us is in the Scriptures. Prayer is so important, and I am more and more convinced of this. You will never grow in grace or bring forth much fruit for God in your life apart from a life of prayer. But you will never get off the ground in terms of prayer unless you are first a student of the word of God in the Scriptures. We must pray. And therefore we must know the Scriptures.
Knowing God’s word is also important for knowing how we are to live in this world and what God expects from us. In other words, Scripture is essential for holiness. Remember what the apostle Paul told his protégé Timothy: “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” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Remember what our Lord said to his disciples in the upper room: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (Jn. 15:3). How does God prune and cleanse us so that we bring forth more fruit? By the word that he has spoken to us. Or remember our Lord’s high priestly prayer: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). There it is. Our Lord prayed for it, and therefore we can be sure that it is only through the avenue of the truth – found in God’s word – that we can be truly sanctified.
I need hardly say that knowing the Scriptures does not mean merely to fill our heads with information. The Sadducees did that and the Pharisees also. But they still did not know it because its truth did not enter into their hearts. The truth of the Scriptures never resonated with them. We ought therefore not only to labor after a knowledge of God’s word, but so to know it that we can say with David of God’s words, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10).