The Spiritual Food of the Believer
R. T. Prechous, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
It was at the beginning of our Lord's ministry that He revealed just how a man could really live. It is not to be by merely eating ordinary bread by which the physical frame is built up, but by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God. This was the secret of spiritual nutrition. But God's gift of the written Word found no better welcome than did the incarnate Word. It has been neglected, rejected and even suppressed, but still it lives. Jesus said, 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away', Luke 21. 33. Peter described the first part of this truth in his second epistle, chapter 3. 10-12. John in his vision expresses similar ideas in Rev. 20. 11 and Rev. 21. 1. But here we have something eternal, imperishable and enduring. When time and earthly substance shall be no more, God's Word will still be in existence throughout the eternal ages. Many in the past have devoted all their energies to the destruction of this holy Book; they have perished, but His Word abideth. Let us consider
1. The Announced Purpose of God's Word
John 20. 31 'But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.' The Bible contains the world's most accurate historical records. It is a unique collection of beautiful poetry, moving drama, reliable prophecies and sound doctrine. Every phase of man's spiritual need is provided for within its pages. But God did not supply this book simply as an historical record, or even as a source of mental enjoyment. His purpose was far greater than that. It was that He Himself may be discovered thereby. It was that by revelation His Son would be seen, and that by faith in Him, men would find salvation from sin, which could not be obtained by any other means. Christ the eternal Word became the incarnate Word is the theme of this wonderful book and why God has not allowed the written Word ever to be destroyed. In bygone days the Scriptures were given progressively to His ancient people, and in the measure in which they were able to understand them, they found the purpose of God in the revelation of His will. Today, the Scriptures are just as efficacious to the believer. In them he discovers that instruction in the will of God must follow acceptance of the salvation of God in Christ. He needs to learn the essential doctrines of the faith, and the methods by which he must live as a son of God by applying these doctrines to his everyday life. In the second place let us consider
2. The Authorship of the Book
2 Peter 1. 21 The Bible differs from all other books, in that, whilst they are the product of the minds of men, being a display of their ideas, discoveries, imaginations and education, the Book of God is in a class by itself, being of divine origin, coming direct from the heart and mind of God. It is true that the Bible came to us by the avenues of human instruments, for it took about forty men, inspired penmen of the Almighty, guided by the Holy Spirit, to complete the task of bringing to the world the will of God in words that could be understood by all who willed to read. Contrary to the teaching of some, God did not rob these penmen of their own personalities, for the human element and the disposition of each man are seen in what he wrote. Moses had quite a different style from Paul. Peter could never have written as Isaiah wrote, yet these men did not express their own thoughts even though they wrote their messages according to their own peculiar characteristics. These holy men were moved - borne along - by the Spirit of God, and what He thus gave, they expressed in words. Furthermore, some of the writers of the Old Testament did not even understand all they wrote, for Peter explains the limitations of these men in the first chapter of his first epistle, vv. 11 and 12. They only knew they were writing for the people of God, the thoughts of God, which would have to be revealed by the Spirit of God. When Paul describes the method of this communication he calls it God-breathed, reminding us what happened when man was first created. It is the breath of God that gives life both to man, and to the Book which has been entrusted to him for guidance and instruction. As God is perfect, so His Book is perfect in construction, perfect in variety, and perfect in revelation. In the third place let us notice
3. The Accomplishments of the Book
2 Tim. 3. 14-16 If we carefully and prayerfully read and digest this passage, we shall find much that will aid us in understanding what the Scriptures are able to do for us, in this day and age, just as they were able to instruct Timothy so long ago. The apostle is warning this spiritual son of his, of the perilous times ahead, and of false teachers who would proclaim false doctrines. Paul invites Timothy to abide in the things learned of him, knowing that the power of these sacred writings has been manifested in his own salvation. Now Paul teaches not only the purpose of the Book and the authorship of the Book but the usefulness of the Book. He says that its use to the believer is fourfold.
1. It is profitable for doctrine - It is a medium for communicating to us dogmatic truths otherwise denied to us. Doctrines of sin, salvation, righteousness, and judgement. All these are included in what Paul calls doctrine.
2. It is profitable for reproof - That is for the refutation of error, and convincing man of the error of his way of life, showing that the reproving power of the Book results from its revealing power. False ideas must be rebuked, refuted, and withstood by the man who would profit by the doctrines of the Book.
3. It is profitable for correction - That is, setting aright ideas which are wrong. The mind is to be instructed in righteousness, that is, the right way of understanding as well as a right way of living. We can only live aright, as we understand aright, the things of God.
4. It is profitable for instruction in righteousness - This is slightly different from our previous thought, for this means discipline. The need of applying what we learn to our conduct before God and before men is stressed
here, not only that we might know the instruction, but that we might do that which is revealed, to the glory of God. The Scriptures are not only the basis of our faith, they are to be rules for practice, and an enablement for teaching others. Let those who are chosen feed the flock of God. Let those who compose the flock see that what they feed on is truly the Word of God, for it alone liveth and abideth for ever.
To grow we must feed. The food must be 'nutritious'. Jesus said 'I have given them thy word ... thy word is truth', John 17. 14-17.