After more than 45 years in the ministry, and having preached more than 5,000 sermons, I would like to say something to preachers, Sunday School teachers, and Christian authors, about the use of Scripture. Simply put, I use more Scripture now in my preaching, teaching, and writings, and I encourage others to do the same, for a simply reason. The realization came to me some years ago that God has exalted His Word above His name. The Psalmist wrote, “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” (Psalm 138:2) While God gives individuals a message, that message must not simply allude to God’s Word, but must magnify it. What better way to magnify the Word of God than to repeat it often as it is being expounded?
When I was a young man serving in the US Army, 19 years old, I was given a set of books by Oliver B. Greene. This former evangelist, and Bible teacher of the 20th century was greatly used of God to win many souls to the Saviour. His books are easy to read, and full of Scripture. I remember being frustrated at how many Scriptures Mr. Green used in his books. I thought to myself, “Why not just read the Bible.” It seemed like a waste of paper, time, and money, to reread so much Scripture in order to get to his thoughts about the passage he was commenting on.
In the years since, I have come to appreciate, and emulate his practice of using many passages of Scripture, for several reasons.
First, God honors His Word, and the emphasis is upon the Word of the Lord. No matter how insightful and profound a person might be in unfolding the meaning of a passage of Scripture, what God has said will be blessed most of all. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Rev. 1:3)
Second, the Bible is one of the greatest gifts of God to humanity, and a precious lasting legacy from one generation to the next. One day, while traveling through Norway, in the providence of God, a man named Clarence Macartney stepped into a Norwegian Lutheran Church. He heard the following words being sung to the music of that great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
“God’s Word is our great heritage,
And shall be ours forever;
To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way.
In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant while worlds endure,
We keep its teachings pure
Throughout all generations.”
Because God’s Word is the great heritage of Christians, it should be quoted frequently whenever its truths are communicated.
Third, when the Word of God is appealed to frequently, it is harder to teach doctrinal error. There is a modern day technique, which is used by questionable prophetic teachers, and health and wealth gospel teachers, of appealing to a passage of Scripture in support of a point being made. When the Scripture is actually quoted, the passage does not support what is being asserted.
Fourth, the more the Word of God is presented, the more lovely it becomes to the heart. The more the Bible is quoted, or cited, verbally, or in writing, the more the heart desires it.
“Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.”
A. Katherine Hankey, 1866
The world is made better when Scripture is found extensively in every form of literature. It is said that when the militant atheist Thomas Paine showed Benjamin Franklin the manuscript of The Age of Reason, Franklin advised him not to publish it, saying, “The world is bad enough with the Bible; what would it be without it?” With each passing generation, in the secular world, the words of William Shakespeare, John Milton, and Henry David Thoreua are read less and less. In the spiritual world, the words of the greatest commentators such as Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, and Andrew Murray are read less and less. But the Word of God lives and abides forever.
Therefore, let the Church be patient with pastors, Sunday School teachers, professors, and Christian authors that appeal much to Scripture in their presentations. God will honor their labors as He makes His Word more attractive to the new heart. Let the Scripture be stated first, and then let the sense of the text be given. After this, may the Holy Spirit cause God’s people to understand the Scripture, and love it more. (Ezra 8:8)