14-3 OUR ATTITUDE TO LEARNING BIBLE TRUTH
It is quite possible to
study all the basic Bible doctrines and yet still fail to appreciate
the personal reality of their message. This fact can be very distressing
for those who use a manual like this for the instruction of others who
then seem to fail to grasp the principles covered.
There was much genuine
response to the preaching of the Gospel in the first century. People
"gladly received" the Gospel and were therefore
baptized (Acts 2:41). Without a heartfelt response to the message
- an "affectionate belief", as Robert Roberts often described
it - there is no point in baptism. Those who receive it solely
because of pressure from their partner or parents are unlikely to stay
the course. Seeing we are interested in bringing people to salvation
rather than in the number of baptisms, it is worth taking time in our
preaching of the Gospel to ensure that our converts come to baptism
with the right attitude.
Those at Berea "received
the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily"
to check out what Paul was preaching (Acts 17:11). This manual
- indeed any human literature - is only an attempt to accurately reflect
Bible teaching. For there to be a true response to the Gospel,
there must be a mind sensitive to the Word, truly desiring to search
Scripture on a personal level. This is something which the preacher
of the Gospel cannot necessarily bring about; we can only draw
attention to the relevant Bible passages. The believers at Rome
"obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered"
unto them, before they were baptized (Rom. 6:17).
Those who stubbornly persist
in the ways of the flesh will never be able to properly grasp the true
message of the Gospel; they will end up having "a form of
godliness, but denying the power thereof...ever learning, and never
able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:1-7). We
will never understand what we do not want to. If we have no real
love of righteousness, no true desire to bring our lives under God's
control, we will never be able to "come to the knowledge of the
truth", despite all our Bible reading; our study will just
be an academic exercise.
There are several examples
of people reading Scripture, but in a way not reading it. This
is a disease which we are all prone to. The Jews at the time of
Christ appeared to have a great zeal for God's word; they trusted
in the Old Testament writings as being inspired (John 5:45; Acts
6:11); they knew that through studying these Scriptures they could
have hope of eternal life (John 5:39), and every week they publicly
read them (Acts 15:21). In addition, some of them closely studied
these passages during the week. However, they totally failed to
grasp the real significance of these Scriptures, in that they pointed
forward to Christ. Jesus told them plainly: "Search the
Scriptures...for had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for
he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye
believe my words? (You) hear not Moses and the prophets" (John
5:39,46,47; Luke 16:29-31).
We can imagine the Jews'
indignation: 'But we do read the Bible! We do
believe it!' But, because of their closed-minded attitude, effectively
they did not - they read, but they did not understand; they looked,
but they did not see. There are truly none so blind as those who
do not want to see. At all stages in our spiritual development
we must be on our guard against this.