Studies in Christian Living

Studies in Christian Living

Dr. James Naismith

The Word of God is as essential for the spiritual life of the believer as his daily food is for his physical life. Since the spiritual takes precedence over the physical, it is right that the Christian, like Job (23:12), should esteem the words of His mouth more than his necessary food. Studying the Scriptures is therefore vital for Christian living.

Passages For Special Study

Psalm 119

This Psalm, well known as the longest chapter in the Bible, is also remarkable for the fact that, with only a few exceptions, each of its 176 verses mentions and is concerned with the Word of God. Of course the Psalmist—who, it has been suggested, was Daniel (and it is interesting to study it in the background of Daniel’s life)—had only a part of the Old Testament to draw upon—and how much he valued it! How much more should we value the whole canon of Scripture—both Old and New Testaments! As we study the Psalm, we should note: first, different terms used for the Word of God, e.g. word(s) —spoken by God Himself, His personal message; statutes—God’s enactments and decrees, emphasizing especially their unalterable and abiding quality; they stand, for ever sure; testimonies—bearing witness to God’s person, character and works, and to His Son (John 5:39); precepts:—divine instruction to His people; commandments—given by the fiat of the Almighty and demanding our obedience; law—revealing God’s will for man’s life; etc. Second, the characteristics of God’s Word. The Psalmist has found it to be good (39), wonderful (129), sweet to taste (103), upright, right, righteous (137, 75, 106, etc.), faithful (86, 138), true (160), very pure (140), founded, settled, and enduring for ever (89, 152, 160) etc. Third, the blessings and value of God’s Word—e.g. life-giving, quickening (25, 37, 50, etc.), cleansing (9), delighting, rejoicing (14, 16, 24, 111, etc.), counselling (24), comforting (50, 52, 76), strengthening (28), keeping from sin (11), upholding (116), helping (175), etc. Four, our response and responsibility to God’s Word. Its influence on us—as on the Psalmist—should be seen in every part of our being and every department of our lives: e.g. the mind—learn (7, 71, 73), be taught (12, 26, etc.), meditate (15, 23, 48, 97 - “All the day”, 148 —at night, etc.), understand (27, 34), consider, (95), etc.; the memory—remember (52), not forget (16, 61, etc.); the will—keep (2, 4 - diligently, 44 —continually, 69 —with the whole heart, etc.), observe (34); the eyes—opened to behold wondrous things (18); the heart—hide the Word in (11), incline to (36, 112), keep and observe with the whole heart (34, 69), love (47, 48, etc.), delight and rejoice in (16, 14 etc.) long for (20, etc.); the hands—lift up to (48); the lips—declare (13), sing (54), speak (46); the feet — walk in (1, 3), direct ways to (5), order steps by (133), turn to (59), run the way of (32), lamp and light to feet and path (105).

2 Timothy 3:14-17

At at time when the characteristics of the “last days,” described earlier in this chapter, are becoming increasingly evident around us, and in a world where tribulation and persecution are still the lot of those who devote their lives to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, the exhortation of these verses comes with force to our hearts as it did to Timothy’s. “Continue” writes the departing Apostle (see ch. 4:6) to one who is left to carry on the work of God. “Continue” repeats the Holy Spirit to us who in our day have the same responsibility — continue in the truths we have been taught and the ways we have learned, from the Sacred Writings, the Word of God, the foundation of our lives. There are two reasons why we should continue: First, The Origin of the Scriptures. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Human penmen wrote with divine authority and under divine direction. These are not merely the writings of men, but have come to us from God Himself. Second, The Object of the Scriptures. Their primary object (15) is to “make wise unto salvation,” to instruct us in the truth of salvation and to lead us to receive and enjoy it “through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Their further object (16) is to direct and guide our lives. The fourfold purpose stated in this verse can be divided into doctrinal — positive, teaching the truth (“doctrine”), and negative, correcting error (“reproof”) —and practical — negative, setting us right when wrong (“correction”), and positive, training and leading us in the right way (“instruction in righteousness”). Their ultimate object (17) is to completely equip and perfectly train us to do God’s will.

Suggested Outline of Study

The Bible

First, Its Origin and Nature. In addition to 2 Timothy 3:16, already considered, read 2 Peter 1:21. While these verses, of course, apply to the Old Testament, they are just as true of the New Testament. “Inspiration” is the means whereby “holy men of God,” infused by the breath of God, wrote in obedience to God’s command, clothing the truth of God in their own language and with their own personality, but kept by God from all error in presenting it. Thus, the styles of Paul and Peter can be readily distinguished; yet both were equally moved by the Holy Ghost.

Second, Its Central Theme. The Lord Jesus Christ is the subject of both Old and New Testaments (John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 44). In all our reading and study of the Scriptures, we should look especially for what they testify of Him. Thus, in the Old Testament we can discern the figures (law), feelings (Psalms), and foretellings (prophets) of Christ; while the New Testament presents the facts (Gospels), faith (Acts and Epistles) and fulness (Revelation) of Christ. “When we look within Thy Word, shew Thyself to us, O Lord; in its pages may we see that every lesson points to Thee.”

Third, Its Value. In addition to the passages already considered, Psalm 19:7-11 should be examined. The value of the Scriptures can be seen in the many illustrations of themselves which they present to us. For example: seed — imparting life (1 Pet. 2:1-3; Luke 4:4; Deut. 8:3; Job 23:12; Jer. 15:16); light — illuminating and directing life (Ps. 119:105); water — cleansing life (Eph. 5:17; Heb. 4:12); fire (Jer. 23:29); hammer (Jer. 23:29). As we study these illustrations and look for others, let us consider their practical implications and apply these lessons to ourselves in our reading and studying of the Word of God. For example, do we not only ingest (read), but digest and absorb (study) and assimilate (apply) the “sincere milk of the Word”? Do we “walk in the light,” allowing the Scriptures to direct our path? Do we take heed to the Word and allow the “water of the Word” to cleanse our way? And, as we look into the mirror of God’s Word, are we doers as well as hearers?

Principles of Bible Study

The consequences of hurriedly eating one or two small snacks of food daily without having a substantial meal, would all too soon be evident in our lives — in stunted growth, loss of weight, impaired health, and diminished resistance to disease. Many Christians have only one, or at most two, hurried snacks of spiritual food daily — more to salve their consciences than to satisfy their souls; it is not surprising that their spiritual health and growth are affected and that they show increased susceptibility to the devil’s poisons. In the physical realm, however, the results would be just as serious, even if several substantial meals were taken in the day, if none of the good food were digested, absorbed and assimilated. So, in the spiritual, it is necessary to do more than hurriedly read the Word of God. We should all be students of the Word and should observe certain important principles in our study: Read. The first essential is to read —read regularly and repeatedly (Dr. Campbell Morgan read a book forty or fifty times before he expounded it); read carefully and prayerfully; read with pen and paper at hand, noting what we learn as we read. Meditate. Seven times in the 119th Psalm the Psalmist states his practice of meditation (15, 23, etc.). We should emulate his example (see also Ps. 1:2; Josh. 1:8). Learn. We read and study God’s Word to learn about God and His Son, His character and purposes, and His will for our lives. The Spirit of God is our teacher (John 14:26; 16:13-15; 1 John 2:27), and only in dependence on Him can we be taught aright the truth of God (see Ps. 25:4, 5, 9, 119:12, etc.). Compare Scripture with Scripture (1 Cor. 2:13), remembering that the Scriptures cannot contradict themselves. Other portions of the Word of God will shed light on any passage we study. We should therefore “search the Scriptures” to learn their meaning. The marginal references in our Bibles, and a good concordance will often guide us to appropriate passages for reference. Memorize (Ps. 119:16, 52). It is good to have a store of God’s Word from which we can draw in our study and also in the varied circumstances of life. (Psa. 119:11; see also our Lord’s use of the book of Deuteronomy in His temptation in the wilderness, Matt. 4). Apply, practise, obey, keep (Josh. 1:7, 8; Ps. 119:1, 2, etc.; Jas. 1:22; 1 John 2:3-5). We should not think of the Bible simply as a textbook of divine truth to be learned, but as God’s Word to be obeyed. Speak (Ps. 51:13; 119:46). God instructs us in His truth that we pass on to others what we have learned. As we read His word, let us pray, “Lord speak to me that I may speak in living echoes of Thy tone.”

Let us conclude our study by considering examples, recorded in both Old and New Testaments, of men who heard and heeded God’s word —e.g. Abraham and Moses before there was any written Word, David as recorded in the Psalms, Peter and Paul (think of their references to the Old Testament in their sermons and writings), and supremely, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose ear was wakened morning by morning to hear God’s voice, and who used God’s Word in time of temptation and so frequently in His teaching (Isa. 50:4, 5; Matt. 4:1-11; 5:27, 31, 38; 12:3-8, 39-41; 13:14-16, etc. Luke 24:27, 44, 45).

Correction

There were two unfortunate omissions in Dr. Naismith’s article that appeared in the January issue under the title Studies in Christian Living, and which dealt with the matter of how best to study the Holy Scriptures.

In the paragraph dealing with the value of the Word of God, some of the references were confused. The correct references are as follows:

“After seed — imparting life (I Pet. 1:23-25. Luke 8:11. James 1:18); food (I Pet. 2:1-3 etc.). Three lines farther on, in relation to water —cleansing life, the reference should be (Eph. 5:26. Psa. 119:9, 11) followed by mirror — revealing life (James 1:22-25); sword (Eph. 6:17).”

We regret that these errors occured and would suggest that this correction be added to the bottom of this excellent paper. —Ed.