Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How I need to learn

Preachers and theological teachers encounter two great problems every day.

The first problem is to think of God without doing so on our knees.

Should we handle sacred Scripture without depending upon its very author as we seek to understand it? It is possible, but always harmful, to think upon the being, persons, and wonderful works of the triune God, and not be so awestruck that we breathlessly cry:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Rom. 11:33-36)

Possible, of course, but inevitably harmful. This disposition of the heart is not merely desirable, it is essential. Scripture should subdue us, move us, and thrill us. Do you not find that when God and his works are spoken of in Scripture there is an atmosphere of adoration and praise? Should I then think great thoughts about God and not worship him?

The second problem is to speak of God without doing so, so to speak, on our knees. We ought to feel our insufficiency and not merely assent to it. Sometimes I know that I assent to this truth but have acted as if I was sufficient for the task. I need to remind myself that only the gospel by the power of the Spirit can bring the dead to life and build up the living. Can you ever be a competent exegete and expositor without being a deeply prayerful man?

I have found the brief prayer of Charles Hodge helpful:
"Teach me, that I may teach others also."
And that of Hilary of Poitiers
We look to Thy support for the first trembling steps of this undertaking, to Thy aid that it may gain strength and prosper. We look to Thee to give us the fellowship of that Spirit who guided the prophets and apostles, that we may take their words in the sense in which they spoke and assign its right shade of meaning to every utterance.
(Quoted in Douglas F. Kelly, Systematic Theology Volume One, p. 50)

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