“Sanctify them in the truth: Your Word is truth” (John 17:17)
One of the most amazing characteristics of the Bible is its ability to transform our characters. John Knox, the Scottish reformer, was struck by this fact when he visited Calvin’s Geneva in the 1550s. After more than a year spent in the city, he declared that it was ‘the most perfect school of Christ since the days of the apostles.’ Knox was fairly widely travelled but, in his estimate, he had been to no other city where public life had been so deeply affected by the Bible, especially in the areas of education and social welfare.
Jesus certainly makes it clear that Bible-reading is the primary instrument for life-change. In his prayer in John 17, He asks God to ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.’ God’s way of transforming us into His likeness is through the medium of the truth contained in His word. This means that God changes and equips us for ministry through the study of the Scriptures, which ‘sanctify’ us or set us apart for His special purposes.
It is important that we remember that our sanctification, which includes equipping us for every good work, takes place as we read and study the Bible. It is vital that we understand this because there are sections of the Christian church today which place the emphasis elsewhere. They tell you that if you want to be properly prepared for service to God, then what you really need is a special experience – something like ecstatic tongues or a feeling of overwhelming power. But our basic need, as Jesus reminds us, is not for some experience that makes us feel strong: it is for the truth. If we are to be sanctified or ‘fitted out’ for ministry, we do not need some unusual spiritual experience; what we really need is a deeper knowledge and influence of the word of God upon our souls.
When people tell us that we need an experience of power, what they forget is that is that if we are Christians, then the Holy Spirit is already dwelling in us. The Spirit who energized the creation (Genesis 1:2) is already present in us. However, the Spirit alone is not enough to sanctify us. His power is detonated when we hear and receive the word of God – the truth. Our problem is not that we are missing God’s power; rather, it’s that we are ignorant of what God wants us to do and how we are meant to be doing it. Our need, therefore, is to study and receive the Bible so that we are sanctified by the truth.
If this is so, then the great need of our church is to encourage each other to read the Bible individually and with one another so that every member will be fully equipped for whatever God has in store for us.