9. Bible Taught or Spirit Taught?
It may shock some readers to suggest that there is a difference between being Bible taught and being Spirit taught. Nevertheless it is so.
It is altogether possible to be instructed in the rudiments of the faith and still have no real understanding of the whole thing. And it is possible to go on to become expert in Bible doctrine and not have spiritual illumination, with the result that a veil remains over the mind, preventing it from apprehending the truth in its spiritual essence.
Most of us are acquainted with churches that teach the Bible to their children from their tenderest years, give them long instruction in the catechism, drill them further in pastor's classes, and still never produce in them a living Christianity nor a virile godliness. Their members show no evidence of having passed from death to life. None of the earmarks of salvation so plainly indicated in the Scriptures are found among them. Their religious lives are correct and reasonably moral, but wholly mechanical and altogether lacking in radiance. They wear their faith as persons in mourning once wore black arm bands to show their love and respect for the departed.
Such persons cannot be dismissed as hypocrites. Many of them are pathetically serious about it all. They are simply blind. From lack of the vital Spirit they are forced to get along with the outward shell of faith, while all the time their deep hearts are starving for spiritual reality and they do not know what is wrong with them.
This difference between the religion of creed and the religion of the Spirit is well set plainly by the saintly Thomas in a tender little prayer to his Lord: "The children of Israel in time past said to Moses, 'Speak you with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.' Not so, Lord, not so, I urgently request You; but rather with the prophet Samuel, I humbly and earnestly entreat, 'Speak, Lord; for your servant hears.' Let not Moses speak to me, nor any of the prophets, but rather do You speak, 0 Lord God, the inspirer, enlightener of all the prophets; for You alone without them can perfectly instruct me, but they without You can profit nothing. They indeed may utter words, but they cannot give the Spirit. Most beautifully do they speak, but if You be silent, they inflame not the heart. They teach the letter, but You openest the sense; they bring forth mysteries, but You unlockest the meaning of sealed things. . . They work only outwardly, but You instructest and enlightenest the heart. . . They cry aloud with words, but You impartest understanding to the hearing."
It would be hard to wrap it up better than that. The same thing has been said variously by others; however, the most familiar saying probably is, "The Scriptures, to be understood, must be read with the same Spirit that originally inspired them." No one denies this, but even such a statement will go over the heads of those who hear it unless the Holy Spirit inflames the heart.
The charge often made against us by Liberals, that we are "bibliolaters," is probably not true in the same sense as meant by our detractors; but candor and self-analysis will force us to admit that there is often too much truth in their charge. Among religious persons of unquestioned orthodoxy there is sometimes found a dull dependence upon the letter of the text without the faintest understanding of its spirit. That truth is in its essence spiritual must constantly be kept before our minds if we would know the truth indeed. Jesus Christ is Himself the Truth, and He cannot be confined to mere words even though, as we ardently believe, He has Himself inspired the words. That which is spiritual cannot be shut in by ink or fenced in by type and paper. The best a book can do is to give us the letter of truth. If we ever receive more than this, it must be by the Holy Spirit who gives it. The great need of the hour among persons spiritually hungry is twofold: First, to know the Scriptures, apart from which no saving truth will be vouchsafed by our Lord; the second, to be enlightened by the Spirit, apart from whom the Scriptures will not be understood.
From The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
Root of the Righteous - A.W. Tozer
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.