By Mike Willis
Each of us owns a copy of a book which is known as the “Holy Bible.” Some of us have spent a considerable chunk of money in order to purchase a copy of the Bible. But, what for? Have we merely purchased a decorative book to lay on a coffee table? Have we purchased a color-coordinated piece to take to worship services with us? Or, have we a copy of the Bible for the express purpose of learning God’s revelation to man?
One wonders just which is the reason that people have a Bible when he- sees manifestations of the ignorance of the Bible among those purporting to be Christians. Large numbers of us could not name the books of the Old Testament. Others could not pick out the non-biblical book from the following list: Zechariah, Hezekiah, Zephaniah, Haggai and Malachi. Because of the vast amount of spiritual ignorance among us, the number of ashdodic phrases which we hear at worship services continues to grow. Someone says, “I am a Church of Christer” or “He is a Church of Christ preacher.” Such expressions manifest the influence of denominational expressions upon our own thought patterns.
The Privilege of Having A Bible
We need to consider the blessed privilege we have in being able to own and use a Bible. Many ages in the past were such that the average man could not afford to own a Bible; other ages made it a capital offense to own such a book. But we live in such an age that owning a Bible is something available to all of us. Yet, man takes this privilege for granted.
God has given us a revelation, not to benefit God, but to benefit man. God is not made better by giving to man a revelation. The entire purpose of God revealing Himself to man was to direct man in this life and to make it possible for him to live forever in heaven after death. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psa. 119:105). We need to meditate on the fact that our Bibles are given to us by God to meet our needs. Consequently, we need to treat the Bible with respect due to the fact that it is from God. We need to crave any knowledge which we can gain thereby. Like David, we should say, “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psa. 119:97). We need to personally learn God’s word and to labor to impart knowledge of God to others.
Our Moral Responsibility to Know God’s Word
Inasmuch as God has given a special revelation to man, He expects man not only to treat that revelation with respect but to know it. Man has made a moral decision when he decides not to study God’s word. The book of Hosea shows God’s attitude toward us when we allow ourselves to reject or neglect God’s law. The fourth chapter opens with God bringing a legal charge against Israel: “Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a controversy (RIB: case at law; lawsuit) with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land” (4:1). There was no reason for Israel to lack knowledge of God; God had given a revelation to them. Yet, they had no appreciation for God’s law: “I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing” (8:12).
Instead of being disciples of the word of the Lord, the Israelites chased after the idols and committed spiritual adultery against the Lord. “They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the Lord” (5:4). Chasing after the idols and pursuing immorality, Israel had no use for God’s revealed word. Hence, the knowledge of the Lord passed out of the land. Consequently, the judgment of the Lord came upon Israel: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (4:6).
Seeing the attitude of God toward Israel for their allowing the revelation of God to be neglected and rejected, we should have no trouble understanding our need to constantly study God’s revealed word. God’s inspired revelation which was once given only to the Jews has now been directed to all men; we are possessors of divine revelation designed to give us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). We stand in exactly the same position in this respect as Israel of old stood.
Lessons Taken From This Text
Understanding the fact that we possess a revelation just as Israel did and have a moral responsibility for learning and obeying that revelation just as Israel did, let us draw some lessons from this text:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou has forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children (4:6).
Consider the following thoughts based on these facts and this text:
1. True religion is based on knowledge of God’s word. Idolatry, superstition and modern denominationalism all thrive when people do not know the revealed word of God. Divine religion is based on the knowledge of God’s word; it cannot exist where men are ignorant of God’s word. Man must know the truth to be free from sin (Jn. 8:32). Saving faith comes through the hearing of the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Hence, the Christian religion is a taught religion (Jn. 6:44-45) and cannot exist where men are ignorant of God’s word.
Furthermore, a religion which is based on emotionalism is not divine religion. I have witnessed people shouting “Ilove you, Jesus” at the top of their voices who could not find John 3:16 in their Bibles to save their lives. Emotionalism which is void of the knowledge of the word of God is not the Christian religion. Divine religion exists and thrives in direct proportion to man’s knowledge of the word of God.
2. The rejection of God’s revelation is a moral decision. If a man does not know the word of God today, he does not know it because he does not want to know it. The word of God is known to man and easily assessible; a man can purchase a Bible for a little over a dollar at many local markets. The man who does not know the word of God does not want to know the word of God. Notice the text: “because thou hast rejected knowledge:” Man does not know the word of God today because he has rejected and neglected God’s divine word. He has chosen to worship materialism, entertainment, society, etc. and has rejected the word of God (cf. 2 Thess. 2:10).
3. Spiritual ignorance is God-offending. One cannot read Hosea 4:6 without noticing how offended God was that Israel had allowed themselves to become ignorant of God’s holy revelation. The same principle is true today. Jesus said, “He that is of God heareth God’s word: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (Jn. 8:47). Again, He said, “He that receiveth you received me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me” (Mt. 10:40). Hence, the man who does not have enough interest to receive the evangelist and the gospel has rejected God. He has offended God!
4. Spiritual ignorance is destructive. Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (4:6). Spiritual ignorance destroys the souls of men. Those who do not have the love of truth in their hearts will perish (2 Thess. 2:10). When men do not know the proper way to worship God, the conditions which they must meet to obtain God’s grace in salvation, and the nature, work, and organization of the New Testament church, New Testament Christianity cannot exist. In a similar fashion, a group which has historically known these truths can depart from these truths and cease to be God’s people when spiritual ignorance exists. Inevitably, in such cases, an apostasy will come which destroys the church. Consider the lesson from history drawn from the Christian Church. The Christian Church formerly stood identified with New Testament Christianity. After the departure from the revelation of God in introducing instrumental music into the worship of the church, the way to digression was quickly traversed. Today the Christian Church people have no concept of New Testament Christianity, the New Testament church (its nature, mission, worship, organization, etc.), and other aspects of the Lord’s church. Some among them no longer respect the Scriptures as God’s inspired and infallible revelation. Spiritual ignorance has destroyed this people and will destroy any other group of people who neglect or reject the study of God’s word.
5. Spiritual ignorance affects others. This same text in Hosea says, “seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (4:6). Sometimes men seem to think that spiritual ignorance only affects the man who is willingly refusing to obey God’s word. That is not so. Consider how it affects the children. I have seen cases where some Christian fell away from grace. I knew that they knew enough about God’s word that should they ever decide to straighten up their lives that they would return to Bible worship. In the meantime, however, their children grew up without the knowledge of the Lord being planted in their minds. These children cannot recognize the difference in the worship of God as revealed in the New Testament and that which is devised by men. Consequently, they likely never will study God’s word and learn the truth.
Jesus said it like this: “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Mt. 15:13-14). Yes, spiritual ignorance does affect others. It affects our children, friends, and whoever else might follow us down the road to spiritual damnation.
There are some among us who apparently do not believe that spiritual ignorance affects others. For example, when I talk to some brethren, they think that these preachers in the Christian Church and liberal churches are going to be lost because of their participation in instrumental music, church sponsored recreation, the sponsoring church arrangement, etc. However, they do not believe the members of those congregations will be doomed because they are ignorant of this being sinful. Somehow, the grace of God is imagined to extend to cover those who are ignorant of the sins which they are committing. Yet, the word of God teaches otherwise. The Bible teaches that spiritual ignorance affects those around us as they are led into following our wrong example into spiritual damnation.
Seeing the grievous problems which come upon us when we ignore and neglect God’s revelation, let us resolve to work to learn the word of God and to teach others what God expects of us. Let us “buy the truth and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23). Let us go into all the world with the message of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us do our part to spread the word of God that “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).
Truth Magazine XXII: 39, pp. 627-629
October 5, 1978