Why Must We Study the Holy Scriptures?
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, June 2, 2002
Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
1 John 5:13
Why must we study the Holy Bible? Several months ago the brilliant paleontologist from Harvard, Professor Stephen Jay Gould, came to the University of California, Davis, to give a lecture. Dr. Gould borrowed a Gideon Bible from his hotel room and took it with him to the lecture hall. During his speech he opened the Bible to Psalm 8 and read verses 3 and 4, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" Then Dr. Gould closed the Bible and said, "This is not an option for a thinking person."
Dr. Gould died a few days ago-without Christ and without eternal life. Throughout his life he mocked God and his Bible. That night he spoke in Davis he held in his hands the only book in the world that could tell him the way of eternal life, but it did him no good. The mighty, the wise, the famous, the princes of this world always mock at God's revealed wisdom.
Why must everyone study the Holy Bible? In John 20 we find the first reason. In verses 30 and 31 John tells us, "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." In other words, the apostle John wrote the gospel for unbelievers that they may know who Jesus is and receive eternal life by believing in his name. So the first reason is that we may receive eternal life.
In 1 John 5:13 we find the second purpose for studying the Bible. John says, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life." The phrase "that you may know you have eternal life" means that we may have full assurance that we have eternal life. So John's gospel was written to unbelievers so that they might trust in Jesus Christ. John's first epistle, as is true of all the epistles, was written to believers who have trusted in Jesus Christ that they may have the certitude that they have eternal life.
These, then, are the two purposes for studying the Bible: that we may have eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ alone, and that we may know that we have eternal life.
How to Have Eternal Life
The Bible is the only book in the world that can tell us how to have eternal life. What is the ultimate problem of man? Eternal death. The Bible tells us that from the moment of our conception we are liable to eternal death because in Adam all have sinned and are dead in trespasses and sins. However, the Bible not only states what our problem is, but it also gives us the solution for it-eternal life. No other book in the whole world will show us the way to eternal life. We are living in a time of information explosion. We are overloaded with knowledge coming from every direction-from books, radio, television, newspapers, magazines, the Internet. But what we need most is the biblical knowledge.
In the gospel of John the apostle tells us who Jesus is in terms of certain selected materials. In John 1:1 he describes him as the eternal Logos, the eternal Word. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Here in the opening verse of his gospel the apostle affirms the deity of Jesus Christ.
In John 1:14 John writes, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." This is speaking about the incarnation of eternal God, the second Person of the Trinity. In verse 18 Jesus is described as monogenÝ¬s Theos-the only begotten God.
In John 1:29 we read that when John the Baptist saw Jesus, it was revealed to him who Jesus really was, and he testified, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" When we read the Old Testament, we find the language of sacrifice. John was declaring, "Here is the acceptable sacrifice-the priest as well as the victim-who alone is competent to take away the sin of the world once and for all by his death."
Who is Jesus? John the Baptist said that Jesus is the one who baptizes us in the Holy Spirit. "I baptize you in water," John declared, "but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit." In John 1:41 the apostle Andrew confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, promised by the Old Testament. In John 1:49 Nathanael confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Israel. In John 4 the Samaritans confessed him as the Savior of the world, and in John 9 the blind man who received his sight confessed him as Lord. Finally, in John 20, doubting Thomas lost his doubt once for all and declared, "Ho Kurios mou kai ho Theos mou-my Lord and my God!
Who do you say Jesus Christ is? The Bible says that if you have not trusted in Jesus Christ yet, you have made God out to be a liar. You may think you are smarter than God, but such thinking only declares that you are in the category of the princes of this world, the Stephen Goulds of this world-people who are arrogant, proud, self-sufficient, and dying. God in his rich mercy has enabled you to hear who Jesus Christ is that you may trust in him, surrender to him, believe into him, and serve him all the days of your life with assurance that you have received eternal life.
The Purpose of the Incarnation
Why did God the Father send the Son into this world? To be the propitiation for our sins, as we read in 1 John 2:2. Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice in our behalf toward God. By Christ's sacrifice the wrath of God has been removed, and now the Father is gracious to us. He justifies us, and is just in doing so because of the atoning sacrifice of his Son.
In 1 John 4:14 Jesus is described as the Savior of the world, and in 1 John 3:16 we are told that he died in our behalf: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." I have believed that truth and trusted in it my whole life. When I was a little boy, I trusted in him and received eternal life. Now I stand here as a man filled with hope and the certitude that I am a child of God. I can do so because Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, died for me.
The apostle Paul said Christ loved him and gave himself for him. King David said, "The Lord is my shepherd." What about you? Can you say "the Lord is my shepherd," and"Christ loved me and gave himself for me"? Death is coming and we can do nothing to stop it. The Bible tells us it is appointed that once man must die and then comes the judgment.
In 1 John 3:5 John writes, "But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins." Many of us may agree that Jesus is the Savior of the world. But how many of us can say with confidence that he died to take away our sins? This is personal faith. In 1 John 3:8 we read, "He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." Our sin, our guilt, our death-it is all taken away by Jesus Christ. When he died on the cross, he destroyed the work of the devil-for us!
In 1 John 1:2 and 5:20 Jesus Christ is described as eternal life. Being a brilliant man, Dr. Stephen Gould understood this; yet he rejected Jesus Christ, he died in his sins. In 1 John 4:9 we read, "This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." There is no other Savior or way to eternal life. Only through Christ can we have eternal life.
In 1 John 1:7 we find an interesting phrase. John writes, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son cleanses us from all our sins." Have you ever thought about the concept of God having blood? Yet it is the blood of Jesus that alone can cleanse us from our sins.
In Romans 4:25 Paul give us the Spirit-inspired theology which says, "[Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." As we said, we all have have two needs: forgiveness of sins and perfect righteousness. Both our needs are taken care of in the life of Jesus Christ.
So John says to those who have trusted in Christ, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." Surprisingly, some people do not like the idea of eternal life. They prefer life in this world to everlasting, unending life with God.
Our Need for Eternal Life
Our lives are coming to an end. The older we get, the faster time flies. As people in this country get older, they start thinking about long-term care insurance, disability, and every other problem they can anticipate. They will do everything to prepare for their future except put their trust in Jesus Christ.
But John says, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." The Bible tells us eternal life is found only in Jesus Christ. He is eternal life, as we read in 1 John 1:2 and 5:20, and, therefore, we cannot have eternal life without connecting with him who is eternal life. Thus, if we mock him, we will have no eternal life, but if we trust in him and become linked with him, we will be given eternal life.
In John 17:1-2 Jesus prayed, "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him." Not only is Jesus eternal life, but he also gives us eternal life. It is the Father's will that the Son give eternal life to all those whom the Father gave to him.
In John 10:28-29 Jesus says he gives everlasting life to his people who are called by his name. We must have it! in fact, if you don't have eternal life, you are not qualified to die. Out of fear you may hope to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, or you may just instruct your doctor to give you a lot of morphine as you near death so that you don't have to deal with the reality of death and judgment. However, if you are not ready to die, the best way to deal with fear of death is to place your trust in Jesus Christ and have eternal life. So Jesus said of his people, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish," and in John 3:16 we read, "God so loved the world that he gave up his only begotten Son that whosoever believes shall not perish." In other words, those who trust in Christ have nothing to fear. They won't go to hell at all. They will never perish.
Some people are uncomfortable with such security. They like to live on the edge of anxiety. But I like to believe in Jesus Christ who said, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." We are in the hand of the Son and of the Father. The triune God is taking care of us, and no one is able to snatch us out of the triune God. What complete and total security we have!
What Is Eternal Life?
The life God gives us is is God's life put into our soul, and because God is eternal, his life is eternal. In John 14:19 Jesus said, "Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live." Jesus died once and will never die again. He died and was buried, and on the third day, according to the Scriptures, God raised him from the dead to live forevermore. The idea here is that because he lives, we will live also. That is eternal life.
In John 4:14 Jesus told the Samaritan woman, "But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." In Colossians 3:3 Paul speaks about this, saying, "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." In other words, God has hidden us and is keeping us as his treasure. No thief can break into him and take us away from him. In verse 4 Paul says, "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
Peter also speaks about eternal life. In 1 Peter 1:3-4 he begins, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade-kept in heaven for you. . . ."
We didn't deserve new birth. We sinned and we died and we deserved hell and damnation. But because of his great mercy, God has given us new birth into a living hope and an eternal inheritance. And in 1 Peter 1:23 we read, "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." This is eternal life.
Eternal life is relational life. It is not something we can receive from Christ and then run away with it. In John 17: "This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." Eternal life relates us to the Father, the Son,and the Holy Spirit. It is a wonderful life that causes us to love and have fellowship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Eternal life is knowledge of and fellowship with the Father and the Son. When we possess it, rather than being anxious, we can be unafraid, bold, and confident in the world. We have fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We can say, "My life is hid with Christ in God. I am grasped by Christ and the Father, and nothing shall snatch me from their hands."
Finally, we must understand that once we have received eternal life from God, we can never lose it. This gives us great assurance that we can never find from the world. True security is found in Jesus Christ alone, and he offers it to us freely.
How to Have Assurance
How, then, does this wonderful assurance of salvation come to us? John says it comes through what is written in the Holy Scriptures. In 1 John 5:13 he states, "I write these things to you . . . so that you may know that you have eternal life."
At the same time that John was writing his epistle, the Gnostic heretics were going about and saying, in effect, "John doesn't know anything, but we do. We know that salvation has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Rather, it is based on the esoteric knowledge we have." (This type of knowledge is called "hollow philosophy" by Paul in his letter to the Colossians.) The Gnostics would say, "Yes, we know that John is speaking about Jesus Christ, saying that he is God/man, one divine Person in two natures, and that he died, making propitiation for sinners, and all those things. John teaches that Jesus came to destroy the devil's work and take away sin. But we know that salvation has nothing to do with Jesus Christ."
Because of these teachings, the people in the church of Ephesus were thrown into certain confusion. After all, the Gnostics were educated people. PGM They were the Stephen Jay Goulds of their day-smart people who functioned as prophets and teachers. How could they be wrong?
John wrote this epistle to help his people so that they could stand on what he had written. I believe in the authority of Scripture. In other words, what John was writing was the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the very testimony of God the Father, which is greater than any other testimony. God himself has spoken in his word through the apostle. These things are written that we may believe in him and have life, and that we may know that we have life.
The Doctrinal Test
If we want to know that we have eternal life, we must apply the tests that the apostle gives in the body of his first epistle. The first test is the doctrinal test. Modern man does not like doctrine, especially doctrine concerning God. Modern man hates God's revelation, yet he loves all kinds of hollow philosophies, psychology, and humanly conceived ideas. For example, I recently heard about a professor who has devoted her life to studying monkeys. She is working hard, studying about them, writing about them, and trying to learn all she can about them. What is her purpose in doing this? So that we can learn from the monkeys how humans can behave!
By nature we hate what God tells us. But God's words are not suggestions. They are doctrine. As the One who created us and in whom we live and move and have our being, God has the right to tell us what to believe and how to act, unless we want to be like monkeys. But the Bible says we were created by God in his image and likeness. We are better than monkeys. That is why we need to study doctrine.
What is the doctrinal test? In 1 John 4:2 we read, "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God." In other words, the first test is the doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus Christ? The divine person, the eternal Son, God became man-one divine Person in two natures. What did he do? He made propitiation for us by taking away our sins. What we think about the person and work of Christ is the first test we must apply to see whether or not we have eternal life.
The Moral Test
The second test is the moral test. We are living at a time when antinomianism flourishes. It is the age of individualism; everyone wants to do his own thing.
But antinomianism is not Christianity. In 1 John 2:3 we read, "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands." In 1 John 2:29 we read, "If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him." So the moral test raises the question: Do you walk in obedience to Jesus Christ?
The Relational Test
The third test is the relational test. Do you love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength? In 1 John 5:3 we read, "This is love for God: to obey his commands." Additionally, do you love your brothers, not in word only, but also in deed? Do you love them deeply? What is your attitude to your brothers? Do you long for their company?
In 1 John 1:3 John says he was proclaiming "what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us." The heretics have always hated the brethren. They walk away from them, and John explains that they walk out because they are of the devil and do not belong to the church. This is the relational test.
Not only must we love God and our brethren, but we must also have the correct attitude toward the world. Are you interested in the ideas and things of the world-in its entertainment, philosophy, psychology and so on? In 1 John 5:5 we read,, "Do not love the world or anything in the world." The world is darkness.
Ask yourself what your attitude is toward the world. Are you part of it, or do you understand that you are not of the world? As Christians, we are in the world but not of it.
Certainty of Assurance
In 1 John 5:13 John says, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." The purpose of John's writing is so that the believers may have assurance of salvation.
The first point we must make from this verse is that it is possible to have the assurance that we are children of God, that we have eternal life, that we are not of the world, and that we have crossed from death unto life.
Some people say it is it is not possible to have assurance of salvation while we are alive. They would say, "Don't seek assurance. It is wrong to claim that you can have it." But the Scripture teaches otherwise. John says he is writing for the specific purpose "that you may know that you have eternal life."
Paul wrote in Romans 8:37-39 about having assurance in this life. What a glorious expression of assurance. "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Again, in 2 Timothy 1:12 Paul wrote, "That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day."
Second, this assurance is for everyone who loves and believes in God. Some churches say that assurance of salvation is only for super-saints, not for the ordinary believers. This is not true. It is for everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ.
Third, it is the duty of every Christian to have assurance of salvation. Some people would say it is presumptuous, but in reality it is our duty as Christians. God is honored when we do all things to make our calling and election sure.
Fourth, John tells us, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." Is John saying that you may know that one day you will have eternal life? No, he said, "so that you may know that you have. . . ." The Greek word is echete, meaning that you have assurance now, in the present. You have eternal life already in your possession. He who believes has eternal life.
Fifth, we must ask why some people don't have assurance of salvation. Some people go around about like zombies-always afraid and anxious. There are certain reasons for that. First, some are depending too much on their feelings. The Bible does not say, "He who feeleth shall be saved." What does it say? "He who believeth shall be saved."
Then there are people who would say, "Well, I am not perfect; therefore, I shouldn't have assurance of salvation." A Christian will not be perfect until death, so forget about that. These people to whom John wrote were not perfect, but they had life. A baby is as alive as an adult. Little faith is faith. Little life is life! In 1 John 2 John said, "I write to you, children. . . .I write to you, young men . . . .I write to you, old men." Even though some believers are spiritual children, they are alive, and they can have certitude of salvation.
Then there are people who read tales of saints. Publishers want to make money, so they publish books with exaggeration so that when you compare these goose-bump-producing stories with your own life, you may think, "Well, I am just an ordinary person; how can I expect to have assurance of salvation?" Don't do that. Read the Bible. That is all you need to do.
Sixth, we must be careful about false assurance. Remember the Pharisee who went to the temple and prayed how great he was? Although he was very certain of his salvation, Jesus Christ says he was not saved at all. We must study the word of God so that we can distinguish between true and false assurance. I have seen people in my pastoral life whose heads were so swollen that they didn't want to listen to anybody. They had already arrived! But in Galatians 6:3 Paul writes, "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions."
Seventh, a true Christian will have the testimony of the Holy Spirit within him. "The Spirit witnesses to our spirits that we are children of God." In other words, the Spirit of God, whom God has given to you and who is God, speaks to your own spirit that you are a child of God. So in 1 John 5:10 he tells us, "Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart."
The Necessity of Assurance
The Westminster Confession tells us assurance of salvation is not the essence of faith; thus, a person can be a Christian and not experience assurance of salvation, and a person will not be lost if he or she does not experience it. However, there are several reasons given why we should seek it. First, when we have assurance, we have the great joy that is described by the apostle Peter as inexpressible and glorious (1 Peter 1:8). Second, we have great peace, which Paul speaks about in Philippians 4:7, saying, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Third, when we have assurance, we are able to endure trials, suffering, and martyrdom in the knowledge that we are children of God, kept by God and going to God. One who does not know whether he is a Christian or not cannot endure trials without complaining and murmuring. Fourth, when we have conviction of our own salvation, we will evangelize our children and others around us. The life of God in our souls will spur us on to seek the salvation of all sinners.
Do You Have Assurance of Salvation?
In the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18, section 1, we read,
Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.
I want the assurance of salvation that alone can fortify me when the hour of death comes. When earth recedes, heaven opens and Christ calls, I want to know that I am going into the very presence of God to live with him forevermore.
What about you? Do you want to be saved? If so, I urge you to listen to the gospel, believe in Jesus Christ. Then you will know for certain that you have eternal life, and you will be able to walk about in this world with confidence and courage as you live in the hope of the glory of God.
May God have mercy on all of us, and may those who have never trusted in him entrust themselves to him this day. God said that he who believes in Jesus Christ has eternal life. May God help those who have trusted in Jesus Christ to live daily in the certitude of this great truth, that they are children of God. Amen.
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Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
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