Q.112: How do we know the Word of God?
A. We are commanded to hear, read, and search the Scriptures.
2Timothy 3:14-17; Acts 17:11; 1Timothy 4:13
“14You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (NASB).
Paul’s disciple Timothy had a godly mother and grandmother who cared for him enough to teach him what the Bible said (2Timothy 1:5; 3:15). At that time, the only Scripture they had available to them was the Old Testament, but Timothy was taught from the Old Testament nonetheless. His mother and grandmother read to him and probably had him memorize large portions of Scripture, much like how we have our children memorize things like the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23.
Why do we have our children memorize Scripture? We have them memorize Scripture so that they can have it in their minds and in their hearts for when they need it most. “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11; NASB). When we are confronted with temptation, it is good for us to have memorized the word of God so that we can remember it and not sin.
When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, Satan tried to convince Jesus to do what he wanted Him to do by quoting improperly interpreted Scripture to Him. Jesus, having memorized Scripture Himself, was able to respond with correctly interpreted Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11). If we want to be like Jesus and not sin, we need to treasure God’s word in our hearts. We need to memorize Scripture.
Timothy’s mother and grandmother likely used other methods to train him in the word. It is likely that he was shown how to search the Scriptures to see if the things he was being taught were true. After all, Paul wrote to him: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2Timothy 3:16-17; NASB). Timothy needed to know how to search “all Scripture.” We also have other examples of godly men and women searching the Scriptures to see if they were being taught truth.
“Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (NASB).
The church at Berea were considered “noble-minded” by Luke, the author of Acts, because “they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether [the things the apostles were teaching them] were so.” No one is expected to just take the teachings of a man at face-value. We must believe only those religious teachings that line up with the word of God. If it does not line up with God’s word, it is not true.
Why do we need to test truth claims with the Bible? God’s word is the final authority on all matters to do with faith and obedience (LBCF 1677/1689, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1). If we want to know what we should believe about God, the Christian life, and the church, we must read the Bible. If we want to know how to obey God and glorify Him, we must read the Bible. This does not mean we cannot trust what men say about God to be true, but God expects us to take what we learn about Him from men and compare it to the Bible to make sure it is the truth.
Of course, Timothy could not have learned to search the Scriptures if he had not first read Scripture. Many of our children are learning to read. But do we know why we have historically placed such an emphasis on literacy in Western societies? In the 16th century, a man named Martin Luther translated the New Testament into the language of his people. It was the first time since the Latin Vulgate, at the beginning of the Middle Ages, that the entire New Testament had been translated into the common language.
Luther was so eager to see how the people of his country were learning from this New Testament that he went on a tour of his native Saxony. To his surprise, most of them had not even begun to read his translation of the New Testament. The reason: most of the people of Saxony could not read! Appalled, Luther wrote to the princes of Saxony and told them that they had a duty to God to educate the people so that they could read God’s word. This was the beginning of the modern education movement. We need to learn to read so that we can read God’s word.
It’s not just important that we learn how to read God’s word. It’s important that we start to read it regularly. Our church has started a Bible reading campaign this year and many of our members are taking part in it. We are encouraging parents to read the Bible with their families every night. Each of our members is encouraged, regardless of the reading plan they use, to “cherish the word of God,” “teach [their] children the word of God,” and “engage in regular Bible reading.” It is very important that we read the Bible regularly.
“Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (NASB).
Even if our children can’t read, yet, or if they can’t read well, they can still hear the word of God. They can hear the word of God in their homes, they can recite to themselves the passages we have them memorize, and they can sit under the preached word at church. At SJCC, when our pastor gets up to preach, we read a passage of the Bible, first. Then, he explains what we’ve just read. This is a perfect time for our children to hear the word of God.
Also, as their parents, we all know how to read and yet we come every week to hear the word of God. Why do we come to hear the word of God preached if we can just read it? God speaks to us in a special way when we come to hear His word proclaimed on the Lord’s Day. It is very important that we be attentive in these times. We can listen, take notes, and discuss our families’ questions about the sermon when we get home. These things are very important for our relationships with God. As we grow in our knowledge of God, we will grow in our relationship with Him, too.
Meditate on Scripture
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.” (NASB).
According to Psalm 1, the righteous man meditates on God’s law day and night. If we want to be like the righteous man, we ought to meditate on God’s law ourselves. The Scripture we memorize, the Scripture we search, the Scripture we read, and the Scripture we hear… upon these things we are called to meditate day and night.
In meditating on God’s word, we will have effectively stored it up as treasure in our hearts. We will find ourselves thinking about, talking about, and even singing about God’s word throughout the day. As we learn to think, speak, and do the things written in God’s word, we will draw closer to Him and be less and less inclined toward sin. These are the things Paul wanted Timothy to dwell on as he ministered to the church of God at Ephesus.