2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction…
It is common to urge upon men a study of the Bible as a matter of duty — a part of the "thou shalt" of God; and also as a matter of worship — the other part of prayer and praise. While it is fortunate that we have a book which can lay the claim of duty upon us, and still more fortunate that we have a book worthy to be incorporated into our worship, there are other aspects in which the Bible offers itself, which might be called its advantages. Set aside now the fact that it is a religious book, and all religious considerations, and regard it simply as a book to be studied, and there is no book the study of which brings so many advantages as the Bible, because there is no other one book that embraces so many departments of truth and knowledge or treats them in so wise a way.
I. Look at it as A BOOK OF HISTORY. The Bible begins with the creation out of chaos, and ends with humanity lifted into the heavens, and the whole mighty sweep is history. But the great advantage of studying history through the Bible is that we thus follow the main current of human progress in all the ages; we are tracing an idea, a principle, a force, and that the greatest the world has ever felt.
II. LOOK AT IT AS A BOOK OF POLITICAL SCIENCE. A study of the Hebrew Commonwealth is valuable because it shows how close and real is the relation of the nation to God, and how vital is righteousness and fidelity to God. We have in the Bible the finest illustration of patriotism to be found in all history. There was no individualism, there was no communism, but a happy balance between man as an individual and as a member of the race, such as we find in nature. We are individuals; we are also members of the race, and both exist in God. A true nation is a true expression of this threefold fact. Nowhere is it so clearly set forth as in the Hebrew Commonwealth. Its institutions, also, are well worth studying. The details of life are treated sacredly. A Divine emphasis is laid upon trivial matters of well-being. Filth and contagious diseases are an abomination in the sight of God. Health is well pleasing to God. Family, property, personal rights, sex are guarded by Divine sanctions.
III. LOOK AT IT AS A BOOK OF BIOGRAPHY. "The proper study of mankind is man." The Bible is permanently a book of biographies. It is a book of religious history, but the history is always turning on a man. It is a book of religion, but the religion is that of real life, and of separate men. When men of great natures move through great scenes, and do great deeds, or when they unfold qualities and traits that are fine and rare and strong, then we have the materials for biography. By such a standard the Bible is most rich in this material for study.
IV. LOOK AT IT AS A BOOK OF LITERATURE. Dr. Johnson once read the Book of Ruth to a company of literary infidels. "What a charming idyl!" they said. "Where did you find it?" There are four fields of literature in which the Bible rises higher than all other books — ethics, religious poetry, religious vision, and the drama in its high sense as a discussion of human life. The Proverbs and Book of Ecclesiastes are the wisest, aptest, most varied, and best expressed maxims of practical life ever made, and outweigh in value all others taken together. The Psalms, considered simply as expressions of religious feeling, find no rival. They touch every mood, sink to all depths, rise to all heights; they are as free and natural as the winds, and cover human nature as it weeps and struggles and hopes and rejoices. The prophetic utterances are not only unique, but are fuller of passion, sublimer in expression, bolder in imagery, loftier in conception, than anything to be found in profane literature. And they have this unique quality: they are the products of an actual experience, and not mere creations of the imagination. They have also this transcendent value — one that should make them dear to every thoughtful man: they are expressions of patriotism, and contain the philosophy of national life as existing in God.
V. Look at it as a book FULL OF UNDEVELOPED FORCES AND TRUTHS. I mean the opposite of the common assertion that it is an exhausted book. I mean it in a sense that excludes it from being classed with other books called sacred. I admit that there are a few books which seem to hold within themselves truths capable of infinite expansion, and to touch truths not yet realised. Such are some of the great philosophies and poems and essays; but, after studying them awhile, the sense of finiteness begins to gather about them; we come to limitations, to boundaries; there is a solid firmament above, and the truths run round the world and not into endless heavens; we detect faults; we feel the weakness of a human personality; we say, "Thou hast seen far, but not the end, nor the whole." It is not so when we read the Bible. One reason why some men reject it or pass it by is that it so quickly carries them beyond their depth and outruns their conception. And one reason why other men delight in it, and write books upon books about it, is that it brings the infinite and the mysterious within reach, enkindling their imaginations and stirring their spirits by the outlooks thus gained. I spoke of the Bible as a book of undeveloped spiritual forces. I mean that we find in it those facts and laws and truths which are working out the destiny of man. They are spread out in a ]ire; they are uttered in words. The parables of Christ — if we but knew it — contain the history of the world and of mankind for all eternity. The Sermon on the Mount states the laws by which human society progresses, and will reach its goal of perfection. The acts of Christ's life illustrate or reveal how this material world is immersed in the real world of the spirit, where the miraculous becomes natural. The whole life of Christ is simply a true life — perfectly obedient to God, wholly sacrificed for man, duty itself, love itself, lost and so found, Divine and human, and claiming a oneness for humanity with itself in God. I anticipate the day when the Bible will stand higher in the estimate of men than ever before. It will not be blindly worshipped as in the past, but it will be more intelligently read. It is not a book of the past, but of the future. As we move up toward it we shall find that it reflects the world on its pages, and that it contains the true order of human life. Meanwhile, it is not amiss for us to study the Decalogue for social guidance; the Beautitudes for guides in daily life; and Christ, in all the light and mystery of His being and character, as the Way, the Truth, and the Life — the way through this tangled world, the truth in this world of perplexity, the life in this world where all things else perish and pass away.
(T. T. Munger, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: