Brethren Archive

Bible Study

by Henry Elson

Notes of an introduction to an address.

IN seeking to ascertain the precise meaning of any Biblical word or term, two things at least are necessary, and these two things are to be used in view of a third, which third thing, being of first importance, I will mention first.  It is this: the distinct recognition on our part of the place and power of the Holy Spirit in communicating unto us knowledge of God, knowledge of His will, knowledge of Divine things generally, by means of the Scriptures.  I wish for myself, as also for others, a deeper sense and a fuller recognition of the Person, office, and work of the Holy Spirit as the only Perfect Communicator of Divine truth from God to our spirits.  It is of particular importance in a day like the present for us to have this in remembrance.
We are living in a time when the mind of man is being exalted to the highest pinnacle; the intellectual power and ability of man is made so much of in some circles as to be almost worshipped.  In view of this, it becomes Christians to remember that the intellect of man cannot by itself attain unto the knowledge of Divine things.  I am not under-rating for a moment man's intellect; but great as it is, wonderful as is its capacity, it is distinctly limited.
Turn to 1 Corinthians 2. 9, 10, which sets forth the truth upon this point: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him.  But God hath revealed them unto us through His Spirit."  "Unto us"—there we see the subjects of the revelation.  "Unto us GOD revealed them"—there we have the source of the revelation: God.  "Unto us God revealed them through the Spirit"—there we have the medium, and the power of the revelation—the Spirit.  Why through the Spirit?  "For"—that is, because—"the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."  Having complete knowledge, having perfect knowledge, He has also ability to communicate that which He knows.  But is it complete knowledge? Is there not something in the deep recesses of the Divine mind or heart that the Spirit does not search and know?  Not one thing, for “the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."  And, therefore, having fulness of knowledge and Divine ability, He can communicate what He knows; He becomes the medium of communication from God to spiritual persons.
Now, the illustration of this is seen in the verse that follows: "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?  Even so, the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God."  So that from this, we see that the Spirit of God occupies a similar place in regard to a spiritual person to that which the spirit of a man occupies in regard to the natural man.  The spirit is the highest part of man's complex being; it is that element of man which is the seat of knowledge, the seat of intellectual power and ability; it is that which has mental capacity, being formed so by the Creator, to acquire and to exercise understanding.  And yet the extent to which the intellectual part of man can go in the way of acquiring knowledge is distinctly limited.  God has drawn the circle in which human intellect can move.  In that sphere, which God has given to it, from centre to circumference, the intellect of man can move; but beyond that line of demarcation, it cannot go.  There is a region into which man cannot penetrate, a region indicated by those words, "The deep things of God."  Human intellect cannot penetrate into that region, because the deep things of God none knoweth save the Spirit of God.  And if He alone knows, He alone can communicate.  Apart from the Spirit of God, there is absolutely no knowledge of spiritual things.
Now I submit that in our reading of the Scriptures generally, as well as in matters of detail, such as the understanding of the force of particular words and terms found in them, we must go upon the line here indicated.  There must be a distinct recognition of the office and work of the Holy Spirit as here brought before us.  That will make us self-empty; that will make us dependent; at the same time, it will not make us presumptuous in the way of setting aside means that God has given us to be employed in connection with the Holy Spirit.  I believe we can see the two principles of God's sovereignty and man's accountability in this connection.  And whilst we want to have definite apprehension in our souls of the fact that we can have no spiritual light, no spiritual knowledge apart from the almighty Spirit of God, yet that will not make us careless and indifferent as to the proper use of means through which the Spirit of God will work to communicate His light and truth.
And that brings us to the two things just suggested as being necessary to the accurate and clear understanding of any word or term found in Holy Scripture.  The first is this: a reference to the particular word or term in the original language.  We all know, even the youngest Christian amongst us, that the Old Testament came from God to men in the Hebrew language; (Except a comparatively small portion written in Syriac.) and the New Testament came from God to men in the Greek language.  It is necessary for an accurate understanding of any particular word to refer to the word in the language in which it came from God, the original language which was the vehicle of inspiration.  I do not think any of us need be discouraged at the thought of difficulty attached to this, for whilst I know it is not in the power of all to pursue an enquiry in this way, yet it is becoming increasingly easy for many to do so.  And I say this in the hope of stirring up in the hearts of younger brethren in Christ, who, I hope, will be presently coming to the front, the desire to deal with the things of God and the Word of God thoroughly; because we shall not have the right kind of teaching, in its clearness, and definiteness, if this is neglected, and especially would I urge this, as it is becoming increasingly easy for those who have a heart for it to refer to any particular word in the original language of Holy Scripture.  Young's Analytical Concordance has been a valuable help to myself in this respect.  It enables one to refer to any word in the original language of Scripture.  Cruden's Concordance is only helpful so far as our Authorized Version is concerned.  It is common knowledge that the Authorized Version gives us sometimes quite a number of different English words to stand for one and the same word in the original; and, on the other hand, one English word in the Authorized Version sometimes represents several different Hebrew or Greek words, as the case may be.  That being so, if we are not very careful in the use of Cruden, it will not be a help, but a hindrance, to us, and will cause us to miss the mark, for the one word in English that we may be looking at may represent half a dozen different words in the original language, having perhaps different meanings or different shades of meaning; but such books as Strong's Concordance or Young's Concordance refer us to the original language, and in this way we may be helped to understand what the word means in its primary—that is, its first and simple sense; we have then got a foundation.
The next thing to do (this is the second thing I referred to) is to trace from the beginning to the end of the Scriptures, the particular word we may be enquiring into in its occurrences, noting its use or uses, its application or applications.  By the time we have done that, and even as we proceed in our investigation, in dependence upon the Spirit of God, we shall be in a better position to understand the subject in hand, whatever it may be.
We can apply this method of procedure to any subject which comes before us in the revelation of God.  Now that is simple.  Let Christians try to carry it out.  I know what it is to go upon these lines; I know the help it has been to me, and, therefore, I want to pass it on to others.  Being in the fellowship means having things in common.  If you know something that has been helpful to you, pass it on to others; that is a practical expression of being in a community.
"Needed Truth"  V. 9  1897

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