Psalm 119:34 “Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.”
People who are not Christians don’t understand the Bible. We observe that fact, and hear that complaint constantly. The apostle Paul himself supplies the reason for that, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). So our basic problem is not the old-fashioned language of the King James Version. How much that has been emphasised in the last forty years as publishing houses and professors have told ordinary Christian folk that they could not possibly understand the antiquated language of the Authorised Version (which every working-class Christian knew and loved). “If only you had a Bible in contemporary English ordinary people would understand it,” they said. Would that it were so! In fact there is less memorisation and knowledge of the Bible at the end of the century than fifty years ago. The modern translation movement has failed to live up to its promise of making the Bible known to so-called ordinary people. The reason for this failure is that it had not faced up to the reality of unbelievers’ underlying hostility to the Word of God. That was the heart of the problem of biblical ignorance, not the occasional antiquated language of the Bible.
To understand the Scriptures it certainly must help to know the background to the Old and New Testaments, the customs and way of life and geographic setting of the people whom you meet in its pages. There were certain circumstances which gave rise to the writing of each biblical passage where certain situations are being addressed by the writers. There is no question that you will better comprehend the Bible if you are aware of those factors. There are different kinds of literature in the Word of God. It is a library of 66 books in which there is history, prophecy, poetry, apocalyptic, wisdom literature, letters and so on. Men become quickly aware of those various kinds of writings. A psalm is different from the book of Acts which is different again from the last one in the New Testament, the book of Revelation. The Bible also contains genealogies, love poetry and parables. It applies human language to God and speaks of his hands and feet – we call this anthropomorphism. Very quickly everyone who reads the scriptures comes to understand this, as men are aware when they read a daily paper that cartoons differ from advertisements, and editorial comment differs from sports coverage. Give people credit for some literary common sense. There are a number of fine Study Bibles which will quickly explain such things, and grasping them is not man’s vast problem. The apostle Paul is not talking about that kind of academic comprehension when he says that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God.
I don’t want to minimise the importance of good hermeneutics. We were recently in Israel, and there you come across muddled Christians and congregations who have blended together aspects of the old and new covenants. They are not quite Christian nor are they Jewish. They would certainly be helped by a better grasp of the relationship of the two testaments. Let me begin by setting out five principles for understanding how the Old Testament is related to New Testament (I have taken these insights from Alec Motyer).
1. Understand the Relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament.
There are five ways in which the unity of the two testaments can be seen:-
1. The New Testament confirms the Old Testament. “Someone is going to come who will bruise the serpent’s head,” says God in Genesis 3. He will be a man, the seed of the woman, and his name will be ‘Immanuel,’ ‘the Lord our righteousness,’ ‘the arm of the Lord’, and even ‘God’ himself (Psalm 45:6), and ‘Lord’ (Malachi 3:1). How can this possibly be? When the Son of God is manifest in Bethlehem at the opening of the New Testament the confirmation of these Old Testament promises begins to be unfolded. The Bible is a book that provides the answers at the back.
2. The New Testament finalizes the Old Testament. The pattern in the Bible is very consistent. God acts in sheer grace and delivers a nondescript race of nobodies and chooses them to be his own people. He spends so much time, attention and affection focused upon them that he requires from them in return new life. He spells this out in the ten commandments. His grace has been shown to them in redeeming them from Egypt, and now they carry certain responsibilities. They must have no other gods but him, and not stoop to worshipping idols, and so on. His laws are also about their relationship with one another. He is not giving them a system of works which can merit their salvation but rather a pattern of life as those who have received a free redemption by the blood of a substitute. That same pattern is displayed in the New Testament in many of the letters of the apostle Paul. He first declares to his readers the great mercies which God has shown to his people and then in his closing chapters he tells them what manner of folk they ought to be. The Old prototype was preparation for the New perfection, and that is characterised a new radicalness of living. No longer are there food laws or feasts or commandments forbidding such fussy details as mixed materials. That was acceptable in the childhood phase of their status, but now the Son of God has come to this world and all Christian conduct is new. The finality of the work of Christ’s sacrifice ends the whole Levitical paraphernalia and opens for the believer a new path to God through trusting in Jesus Christ.
3. The New Testament depends upon the Old Testament. In many cases it simply assumes the total truth of what has been revealed in the first 39 books of the Bible. The earth has been created by God: man and woman are made in God’s image but ruined during a period of probation by their disobedience: God is one being, almighty, just, righteous, gracious, pitiful. He sustains all the universe. He controls the affairs of men and nations guiding this universe to its ultimate destination. He sends leanness to his people when they persistently defy him, but revives them when they call upon him. All this is presumed by the Lord Jesus and the writers of the 27 books of the New Testament. They do not need to go on repeating what God has so clearly revealed in the Old Testament.
4. The New Testament reaffirms the Old Testament. There were times when God intervened, judged and condemned a defiant and evil people. The Egyptians were judged with plagues, the Canaanites were exterminated, the Israelites themselves perished in the wilderness. In the New Testament such actions are never repudiated as cruel fictions. The Lord Jesus assumes without question that God goes on exercising such moral authority over the world today. In matters of wilful murder (Luke 13:1-3) or accidental calamities (vv.4&5) Jesus taught that God is in complete charge of events. The children of Israel died before they reached the promised land, and Paul says tersely, “God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did” (I Cors. 10:5&6). The New Testament reaffirms those judgements, and also the Old Testament blessings. The repentant people who obeyed the prophet Jonah and avoided the wrath of God will in the day of judgment rise and condemn the disobedient people of Jesus’ generation.
5. The New Testament completes the Old Testament. The Bible is formed like a stalactite as layer after layer of truth is built up to make the shaped, focused and strong sword of the Spirit. There is in divine revelation increasing illumination until the Son of God appears who is the brightness of God’s glory. That the Lord is one God is clearly declared in the Old Testament, but it is not until the incarnation of Jehovah Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that the fact that there are three persons of the Godhead is wholly revealed. The pointers found in the Old Testament are completed by the New Testament’s fullness. Again, what lies beyond the grave is initially a shadowy subject in the Old Testament, with a few basic ideas emerging such as that we will not be annihilated and that there will be some sort of judgment and separation. Then the Lord Jesus speaks, and the subject of life after death opens up. He rises from the dead and we are born again to a living hope of resurrected bodies ourselves. We learn of the bifurcation of the destinies of all men; heaven’s glories are revealed and the woes of hell are made known – mainly from the lips of the Lord Jesus himself.
So there are those five ways in which the relationship between the two testaments can be understood. These basic attitudes have their importance and no one can begrudge that. I was once in Kenya and met some members of a large African cult which had gone back to the Old Testament for what it believed and practised. One of the reasons for this was that the New Testament had first been translated into its language, and not for another twenty years did the Old Testament appear. In the tribe’s judgment this meant that the Old Testament was more important than the New. They could also more easily understand its history and life, and so very quickly they came to insist upon circumcision, accepted polygamy and forms of animal sacrifice in spite of all the New Testament’s teaching to the contrary. So it is important to know clearly the relationship of the two testaments.
However, we insist that though good hermeneutics (the science of understanding the various literary compositions of the Scriptures) is necessary for us to grasp what the Bible teaches, and a proper awareness of the relationship of the two testaments is very important, these truths by themselves cannot give sinners a true understanding of the Bible. Men can know the original languages, the literary genres, the figures of speech, and the grammatical-historical approach of the different writers far more thoroughly than some true believers in the Lord Jesus. Men can carefully read the texts of the Bible in their context and in the light of the analogy of faith so as to explain to you their meaning and still not understand the Scriptures themselves. The psalmist in our text prays that God will give him understanding, conscious that without that divine enabling the Bible will be a closed book to him. There are five necessary keys for an understanding of Scripture (and here I have freely borrowed from some insights of E.W.Johnson of Calvary Baptist Church, Pine Bluff, Arkansas).
2. Know the Keys to Understand the Message of the Bible.
A] God must be accepted as He is.
You ask a student how they came to choose to study French at university, and they will often tell you of their last years in school, and how there was a French teacher who made the subject come alive, and how they began to love everything about France. They then began to think as they felt and they felt as they thought. The Bible contains a message, and in it God is telling us about himself, and the great issue is this, are we in sympathy with what he has to say to us or are we at war with it?
The basic concept of God that is revealed in the Bible is that he is holy. God the Spirit is not called the loving Spirit (though he is that) but the Holy Spirit. E.W.Johnson helpfully defines that holiness as ‘God’s dedication to his own glory.’ If we are to know God then we must be similarly dedicated. We can have other dedications to our family, friends and vocations, but supremely we say, “For to me to live is Christ.” There is no higher dedication than that. We respect all men, but our chief end is not the good of man. The glory of God is our great aim. Some preachers have read the plea for justice in the Old Testament prophets and have made so much of this that their Christianity has become humanism. It has made God subservient to man, and that is humanistic fundamentalism. The supreme end of man is to glorify and enjoy God, where man is caught up in the blessedness of the Lord and the hope of the beatific vision.
Men can have great learning, know the biblical languages, be well read in ancient history, grasp the basic principles of Scripture interpretation and yet miss this. Unless a man sees God as he is in his holiness, sovereignty, and glory he remains as a child, yes, worse than a child, a fool.
B] Man is the special creature he is.
To understand the Bible we must bow before what God says about himself, but we must also submit to what God says about ourselves. What is man? Are we the product of evolution, the result of potencies and potentialities in some original lump which over vast aeons have developed until man is what he is now? Do the principles which brought us into being lie in ourselves? Is man simply a naked ape, a tool-making animal or a fire-utilizing monkey? Is man simply a creature whose brain has been developed much larger for his body size than other animals? Is man simply an animal who has evolved a capacity of language, hence of rational thought?
Or is man the special creation of God, made by an act of God upon the divinely gathered dust of the earth? The living God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and it is to that inflatus or inspiritus he owes his immortal soul, so that he will live as long as the High Eternal One shall live. Why is it that man cannot live off material things alone, like sheep gazing down all their lives at the next mouthful of food? Unique God-created man lives by spiritual sustenance, by some words that have come down from above from the lips of his Creator. Man can have so much of the glories of this world, its delights and stimuli, and yet be starving to death existing in the vestibule of hell as Judas did. All life stands up and declares that man is soul. He isn’t an animal trying to pull himself upward and getting nowhere as far as his character is concerned. Morally we are not one step further than Atilla the Hun. Materially yes: ethically no.
This earth is the tiniest speck that floats on the eternal vision of God. Man is a micro bionic entity clinging to this planet for one brief life. But the Eternal Mind is interested in our fears and cries. When we reach out to him he focuses upon us in pity. God became man and in one undivided person died upon a Roman cross in order that God might be just and the justifier of those who would believe in him. No one can read the Bible with understanding unless man is seen in the marvel of what he is, a special creation with an inbreathed soul. He is not an animal clawing his way up, but someone made in the image and likeness of God utterly fallen into the life of the rebel in need of sovereign mercy and blood atonement. This brings us to our third key.
C] Sin is Exceedingly Sinful.
See how man selects what he will think about. Death is the great reality of our futures. Every day we live is one less from our allotted span. There is a ratchet on the wheel of time so that it moves only one way. Even the terminally ill man will put the thought of death from him. The vital functions are failing but his thoughts brush death from his mind. As with death so too with God, all men knowing him but clamping down on that knowledge in their hostility. They will not have God in any of their thoughts. That is the essence of sin. “Who are you to tell me what to think about?” That is the voice of sin, and it is your voice that speaks those words.
The Son of God came in all his purity and love to this world and spoke as no other man has ever spoken, and did what no other had ever done. Yet men nailed him to a cross until he was dead. That was an event in history but it is also a revelation of a continuing history of never-ceasing events. He whose head was continually hit, who was spat upon, and lashed and left to suffer hanging on Golgotha is he who has suffered the whips and spears and hammered nails of man’s sin since the fall in Eden.
Sin is heinous not merely because of what is done, but because of whom you are doing it to. “Against thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sights,” David acknowledged in the 51st Psalm. The assault on the infinite Glory brings with it the infinite penalty of hell. Our past is irretrievable; our present is continually changing, and there is always the anticipation of the future. But what will it be when the memory of our past will be only regrets, and when there will be no better future to anticipate, and our experience of the present is the naked flame of God’s holiness and a burning conscience, and a darkness that is felt?
D] Salvation is by the Death of Christ Alone.
When our first parents sinned they were conscious of their nakedness and shame, but God acted in mercy and made coats of skins and clothed them (Gen.3:21). You can take wool from a sheep’s back and not have to take its life, but you cannot take the skin from an animal without shedding its blood. The animal must die for us to take its skin. Why did God choose this type of covering? Is not the Bible full of typical things? Surely the blood shed in Eden to provide a covering for guilty man is a type of that blood which would be shed at Calvary to cover the sin of man.
The gospel of Christ is not God giving every man a square deal. The cross was no satisfaction of a debt God owed to man. The rationale of the cross must be seen as pure mercy, and mercy that is mercy indeed must be sovereign mercy. It must arise from the heart of the one who is really merciful. If mercy is in anywise a satisfaction of debt, it is not mercy. But the substitutionary death of Christ is mercy all, immense and free, finding out a company of sinners more than any man can number and discharging them from every obligation they owe to God. Every liability of the bride has been taken by the bridegroom.
“Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”
That is the gospel, and unless men know it they cannot read the Bible with appreciation. And unless men know sin they cannot know the gospel. And unless men know God, they cannot know sin. And when men know sin, they will know the hell which in its infinitude of horror is alone a punishment which is commensurate with the crime of sin. This, the gospel, is the master key which unlocks the sacred oracles to the mind of man. But there is one more key to understanding the Scriptures, and that is that,
E] God’s Sovereign Work in our Lives can Alone Enable us to See.
Fifteen years ago Pastor E.W.Johnson gave this testimony of how God sought and found him in a little book he privately published called “Questions Concerning the Bible.” I am moved by this account each time I read it. He says these words:-
Many years ago Sovereign Grace found a young man. The Lord in His ways of saving mercy showed in awakening grace the danger from sin which threatened the soul of this young man. This 20 year old did not know at that time in his life what the Calvinists called restraining grace, but he sensed in his heart that the Lord was holding back the forces of evil in his soul, and if the Lord turned him loose in his sin, he would be dragged down into the utmost depths of sin.
The young man sought in every way to cast off his fears, but the fears dogged him still. In an inebriation on the Saturday night of that week in hell, as it were, when he was for a time in his thoughts among the damned, the young man had some mental relief from his fears through the effects of the alcohol. The fears subsided for a brief time, but Grace was good in His electing mercy and did not release the young man to the demons which sought his soul. He slept that night because of the drunken stupor. On the morrow however, the old fears were awaiting him, and more dreadful than before.
The young man was invited that day to enjoy a home-cooked meal with a neighbour, the young man’s parents being away those days. The neighbour was a godly man. In the conversations of that day there was a kind of peace on the heart of the youth, but he was not saved and he knew it. He stayed on through the afternoon, and remained an uninvited guest for the evening meal, and then on into the night, until he knew he must be going. The streetcars would quit running at midnight, and he had to make a transfer to reach the place where he was staying.
And so he left. Caught a streetcar. Had not ridden more than about 6 blocks until the demonic forces were upon him, more dreadfully than ever before. They continued to press upon his soul the fear that his soul would be utterly taken over to its ruin in sin. The devils were so confident in their delight and glee. They pressed him thus until the streetcar came to the place of transfer. They continued unabated while he waited for the other streetcar. They vaunted over his soul as he sat among but few on that lonely and dark, spiritually speaking, night, near the midnight hour. Until finally the young man could take it no longer. He made a decision to seek the salvation of his soul.
Peace came with this decision, but he knew that he was not saved. He went to the place where he was staying. A kindly old lady had given him a New Testament some years before, as she had sought to speak to him about his soul. He had not read the New Testament, but he had kept it because he was intellectually curious about books on various subjects. He took out this Testament. He hardly knew where to read, but thought he would begin at Paul’s writing. He had some little knowledge of the Bible, for he had been reared in a home where church and Sunday school attendance were expected of the children.
He knew that the first of Paul’s letters was the Roman epistle. He began there and read down to where Paul said:
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful, who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
The young man was now a believer. He knew beyond reasonable doubt that his fears were not due to a disturbed mind which had been too long in its studies. He knew that gnawing dread that God might turn him over to demonic forces, which would find things in his own heart which they could take hold of and drag him down into utter criminality.
He fell at the feet of Him whom he later came to speak of as Sovereign Mercy. What he said in his prayer, he does not remember. This is the only part of that night’s experience that he does not remember. He thinks he might have said, “I surrender,” but really he does not remember what he said. He only knows that as he knelt, a condemned sinner, really knelt before the Lord, sincerely seeking deliverance from his sin, a Glory swept over his soul which seemed almost physical in its reality.
He was tired but refreshed in this beauty. He read that night from the New Testament until in fatigue he could read no longer. He fell asleep, the first sober sleep he had known for a week, saved and thankful. The next day he read on through the New Testament. He went up town and purchased an entire Bible. Began with Genesis and read through Malachi. He could hardly lay it down.
Did he understand what he was reading? Not too well. Why did he continue this reading? It was the savour of God which he discerned therein. The glory which was in the sacred pages answered to the glory which was in his heart, and he delighted in that glory. Many years have now passed. The young man is now an old man, old in years, but younger in the strength of the Lord. He reads the Bible with better understanding now. He seems to have acquired a better grasp of the terms, an understanding of which is essential to an understanding of the Bible, but he still delights in the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ, as that glory is reflected in the sacred pages.
Without this key – the work of sovereign grace in the soul of man – the master key – the gospel of Christ – will never be found of man. “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” Psalm 119:18.
So these five keys are the way we come to understand the Bible:- God must be accepted as he is: man is the special creature he is: sin is exceeding sinful: salvation is by the death of Christ alone: God’s sovereign work in our lives can alone enable us to see. In other words God gives us understanding through God the Holy Spirit. That does not rule out the need for study, or having a good grasp of the relationship of the Old and New Testaments, or knowing the rules of interpretation. As we think about what we are readin g, and seek seriously to understand the Bible the Spirit gives us understanding. God blesses diligence not laziness. But only through the divine gift of illumination shall we be able to see what the warnings and promises of God are to ourselves. Only by the Spirit’s help can we answer these basic questions – What does this passage tell me about God? What does it tell me about man? What is all this showing me and saying to me about myself and my own life?
3. Gain Understanding Through the Christian Community.
In this section I have taken some insights of J.I.Packer in a 1980 book which was called “Under God’s Word” in the UK and “Beyond the Battle for the Bible” in the USA. I am thinking of those words of Paul to the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Cols.3:16). We learn corporately, and within the church. Christ has given gifts to every Christian to minister to one another and to receive ministry from one another. There are truths we can learn only through other people. There is that mysterious influence one Christian has over another which comes by the word of Christ dwelling in us richly. I took a course at Westminster Seminary on the theme of sanctification taught by John Murray and an entire lecture was on the theme of ‘Corporate Sanctification,’ what later became known as ‘body ministry.’ Its insistence was that one of the means of grace was the ministry of one Christian to another. Professor Murray drew our attention to many of the ‘one another’ verses in the New Testament – “counsel one another,” “help one another,” “pray for one another,” “submit to one another,” and so on. Think how “Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos, and invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). If Apollos had been a loner he would have clung to his errors for long years further. Packer says, “Many of us are at a disadvantage here; we have had it so drummed into us that the only sure way to learn God’s will from the Bible is to go off with it into a solitary place and dig into it on our own so that we cannot easily accept that the interchanges of church fellowship, both institutional and informal, are the main channels of entry into spiritual understanding.” The chief means is by teaching and admonishing one another wisely. We all have personality problems and offbeat ideas and blinkered prejudices, and there is nothing like the fellowship of an ordinary church to sort us out.
We are not being asked to surrender our judgment to anyone else. Heavy shepherds want to dominate bleating sheep. We are to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (I Thess.5:21). We preachers must not get away with anything that departs from the Bible’s plain meaning, no matter how long we have been in the pastorate. “I speak as to sensible men; judge for yourselves what I say” (I Cor.10:15).
If, then, we are to become men of understanding in company with a growing congregation there are clear implications. First, to sit under the best ministry we can get. We should take most seriously what truth we are going to hear week by week, and notice in considering joining a congregation what place they give to the sermon. Is it the climactic aspect of the worship, when God addresses us? Pray for the preacher, and listen, not to criticize, but to learn. Second, let preachers themselves attend each year the best conferences for experiential religion. There are a few ministers who go to conferences only as speakers to other preachers, as if they are saying, “I can teach you but you have nothing to give to me.” W.H.Auden talks about people saying, “we would rather be ruined than changed.” If Christians are to love one another with pure hearts fervently, preachers must be exemplary in learning from all men, and certainly towards their brethren. Conferences will open windows, remove blinkers, challenge prejudices and elevate us to see over the tops of some of the ruts we are in. This is also one of the reasons that candidates for the ministry benefit from attending theological seminaries. They sit under experienced men who have gifts and wisdom, some of whom even have an inspirational ministry. Third, we should all meet with gospel Christians outside our own denominations and localities. The kingdom of God is far greater than our experience of it.
There are three great benefits that will come from seeking to understand the Bible from the structures of the whole body of Christ in space and time.
First, we will be delivered from the tyranny of being chained to our own grasp of truth. “All our minds are narrower than we think, and blind spots and obsessions abound in them like bees in clover. Personal Bible study is always to some extent patchy and incomplete, for there is so much in each passage that we fail to see. We are unbalanced too; those most interested in ideas focus on doctrine and forget ethics, those most interested in people focus on service and forget doctrine. We need the discipline of learning from the saints, past and present to counterbalance our lopsidedness and to help us break out of our present thoughts into a larger visions and a riper wisdom.” [J.I.Packer]
Second, we will be delivered from being tied to our own time. C.S.Lewis has that famous phrase, ‘chronological snobbery.’ I studied Biblical Studies at Cardiff University. You would have thought from all those lecturers that people had commented about the Bible only during this century. That was a naive cultural conceit. The best way to puncture it is to get back to the really big men; reading the classics which in God’s providence they left us will soon cut us down to size, and bring us a great deal of ageless wisdom in the bargain. “So (for instance) if you want to understand the dimensions of sin and grace, you really must read Augustine. If you want to get the measure of the world of faith, you really must read Calvin. If you want insights into the life of sanctification, you really must read the Puritans – Owen, Sibbes, Brooks, Gurnall, Bunyan, Baxter and company. If you want to appreciate the heights and might of God’s work in revival, you really must read Jonathan Edwards” (J.I.Packer). It is a tyranny to be tied to one’s own time and cut off from the wealth of the past – even if you are not conscious of it as a tyranny. Keep regular company with yesterday’s great teachers.
Thirdly, we will be delivered from the tyranny of our own heritage. I began my Christian life in the 1950’s in a Baptist chapel in the Rhymney valley in south Wales. We started a Christian Union in school, and invited all the local ministers to preach. One lunch-time the speaker was very enthusiastic about the ecumenical movement. “What would you give up to have one united church?” he asked. “You Baptists … how many of you are Baptists?” I half raised my hand and looked around. Every single boy had raised his hand. The only experiential religious churches in that valley were the Baptist churches. Then I went to summer camps and discovered the Welsh Presbyterians who were camp officers, and the Plymouth Brethren. At University the discovery were the English Anglicans. I remember asking the future Bishop Colin Buchanan on a summer mission, “and you have Prayer Meetings in your churches?” From then it was an ever growing exposure, to three years in the USA and American Presbyterianism and Dutch Reformed attitudes and Scotland through John Murray. None was perfect but all were more right than wrong. I have had a wider exposure than most and it has been a long pilgrimage, and today I hope they have all made their contribution in some balance in my own heart. I hope I have been enriched by this ransacking the traditional wealth of all the international body of Christ. I believe it is all shrinking as communication draws us all closer. I don’t know whether that is altogether good. I deplore the monochrome hyper-church.
John Wesley expressed his desire for understanding thus: “I am a creature of a day…I want to know one thing, the way to heaven…God himself has condescended to teach the way…He was written it down in a book. O give me that book: at any price give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me…I sit down alone: only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book: for this end, to find the way to heaven…Does anything appear dark and intricate? I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights…I then search after and consider parallel passages…I mediate thereon…If any doubts still remain, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God: and then the writings whereby, being dead, they yet speak. And what thus I learn, that I teach.” Go thou and do likewise.
30 May 1999 Geoff Thomas