The Character of Scripture (3) – The Bible and Practical Life13 min read
Scripture’s Metaphors/Comparisons of Itself – The Bible and Practical Life
The Bible is full of many types of illustrations, meant to convey spiritual truth in a way that physical beings can relate to. Several metaphors are used of Scripture, and most of them relate to things in life that are utterly essential. These metaphors touch areas of life such as the food we grow by, the tools we function with, and the privileges we rejoice in. Never doubt, dear believer, the radical change this book is capable of bringing to your life. Conversely, never doubt the destruction that neglect of this book is capable of bringing to your life. Scripture is immensely practical.
Scripture is a seed: it bears fruit. The Lord used this metaphor in the parable of the sower, found in Luke 8 and Matthew 13. In that parable, His point was to convey differing responses to the Word of God – illustrated by different growth patterns of different soils. In this parable, any problem was never with the seed, but always with the soil. Thus, if the soil was hardened, shallow, or contaminated; it would hinder the growth of the seed. There was only one soil which bore meaningful fruit; even then, there were differing levels of fruitfulness. Believers are the meaningful-fruit bearers: this comes about by the Word of God. Praise God we received the Word at all! But there is a second matter: how much fruit will we bear for God? Technically, there is as much potential as the Word of God allows for; the factor that hinders us is self. May we ever pursue maximum effect from the Word. After all, its very purpose is to make us pleasing to God. But how much will we please Him? Such a question must remain unanswered, because it is a daily decision that demands a response to the Word – both by immersion in it and obedience to it.
Scripture is milk: it nourishes. Infants, when first born, are on a “mission” to grow with high progress. Such requires their constant desire for milk. It is, in fact, destructive for this to be hindered. In terms of the Christian life, Scripture is our “milk” until “we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at the full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ; in order that we may be no longer babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of teaching… but, holding the truth in love, we may grow up into him in all things, who is the head, the Christ.” Collectively, our goal as believers is ultimate spiritual maturity. This comes by constant attention, not to the things of “immaturity,” that is, the things of our former days, but rather that element which causes hastened growth. Thus, spirituality without saturation in the Scriptures cannot but have little depth. On the other hand, to be immersed in that which causes swift growth, there will be growth to tremendous extents. Spiritual “giants” only ever started as spiritual “infants” who made growth in the things of God their priority and focus. “As newborn babes desire earnestly the pure mental milk of the word, that by it you may grow up to salvation, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2, Darby).
Scripture is solid food: it matures. Though Scripture uses milk positively as a metaphor for itself, it also uses milk negatively, in contrast to “solid food.” While everyone is supposed to be infant-like in their desire for the Word, believers should not long be immature in the understanding of spiritual things. It is just like faith: though it always maintains a child-like aspect, it is never supposed to be childish. To the point, then, Hebrews 5 has this to say:
“We have many things to say [about Christ], and [they are] hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull of hearing. For when presently you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14).
In other words, Scripture is meant to mature the believer so that he comprehends well the things and purposes of God. 1 Corinthians 2 tells us that there is truth “freely given to us of God.” This, revealed in Scripture, is our privilege and responsibility to embrace and understand. There are many things that have to be worked through and struggled with, but this is the characteristic of Scripture that brings spiritual “senses exercised to discern.” Such is what God aims for with His Word. He brought us into a position of sonship so that we could interact maturely with spiritual things. Yet how many are satisfied practically with the basics or perhaps even unfounded clichés? Likely a majority. May we never be satisfied with the basics, but be keen in discernment of deep truth by means of “exercise” in the Word.
Scripture is water: it cleanses. This theme is seen in Ephesians 5, where the Lord is described as cleaning His Church by “the bath of water with the Word.” Scripture in action is the agent by which God removes impurity from His people. This is immensely straightforward. Do you have sin in your life? There is a solution in the Word that has yet to be applied. Many subscribe to the senseless cliché, “I am not a Bible student; I just love Jesus and try to obey Him.” Fine, but will you be like Him? Then the Word must become part of your heart and soul. Christian character and fruitfulness are inseparable to abiding in Christ (John 15). “Without Me you can do nothing.” He also said, “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” In addition to that, he correlated abiding in Him with His words abiding in the disciple. Evidently, the embedding of Scripture in the soul (when the soul enjoys and applies it) is tantamount (equivalent) to abiding in Christ. We have the desperate need to be cleansed. We have had a once-for-all cleansing by His blood; we need a continual cleansing by His Word (John 13). If it is not by the Word it will not be by anything else.
Scripture is a mirror: it reflects. James, the advocate for true and undefiled religion, has this to say about Scripture:
“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: For he looks at himself, and goes his way, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:23-25)
While several would read into Scripture pictures of the human life that conform to how they see things, Scripture always presents a view of humanity that shows its need for divine improvement. It is usually ruthless, because it is always accurate. We cannot afford to miss a true perspective of God and a true perspective of self. In Him is all sufficiency and worth; in self is all weakness and unprofitability. May we never forget to be honest with Scripture, allowing its true point to be made when speaking to us. Truly it must expose the needs of the soul before it can fill it with the fullness of Christ. Do you want an accurate perspective toward your spiritual progress? Here, have a mirror.
Scripture is a lamp: it guides. This metaphor is found in Psalm 119:105 – “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” A similar thought it expressed in Proverbs 6:23 – “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” Whether as a guide for immediate decisions (a lamp to my feet) or a guide for ultimate life direction (a light to my path), Scripture is the Christian’s handbook. While it does not contain God’s specific will for our lives, it gives God’s prescriptive will for our everyday walk. It is in this everyday walk that true spirituality rises or falls. To this, Scripture is our guide, and it never fails to perform.
Scripture is a sword: it pierces. This comparison is made in two places, each with two differing emphases. One is in Ephesians 6, in which the Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit. The other is in Hebrews 4, in which the Word of God is that which pierces through the most closely aligned entities, exposing even the subtlest nuances of the heart (cf. Revelation 1:16). One passage emphasizes the edge of the sword for battle. The other emphasizes the tip of the sword for precision and power. One passage emphasizes our use of the Scriptures. The other emphasizes its own vitality and power to impact the deepest parts of man. Whether addressing the schemes of the devil or the needs of the heart, Scripture cuts to the root of the matter and changes things. The devil wins and the heart is overcome only because we have sheathed the Sword. May we ever allow the Word to change self first, then use it to change things around us. It is active. It is powerful. It is the weapon of God’s Spirit. How can it not be effective?
Scripture is a fire and a hammer: it consumes and demolishes. In Jeremiah 23, after God addresses false prophets, He restates a timeless principle: “he that has my word, let him speak my word faithfully.” Comparing the false prophecies with the truth, He asks, “What is the chaff to the wheat? Is not My Word like a fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” In other words, He was exposing the worthless messages of the impostors for what they were: empty. On the other hand, His Word had proven itself in majestic force. As a fire it consumed every false way that stood against it; as a hammer it crushed every objection that stood in its way. A similar vein runs through the New Testament: “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:25). If Christianity really believed in the sufficiency of Scripture and the authority of Scripture it would be structured far differently than it is today. Man’s word has been allowed to coexist with God’s, and this has created Christianized psychology, Christianized philosophy, Christianized politics, and even Christianized paganism. These ideas have stood in opposition to the Word of God which stands on its own with complete sufficiency. We need to unleash the Word against man’s false messages and theories; it will prove itself to consume and demolish every false way. What false ways of man have we subscribed to? It is time to unleash the fire, it is time to unleash the hammer, that will destroy anything that is not of God.
Scripture is gold: it enriches. Psalm 19 contains this and the next comparison: “More to be desired are [the Judgments of the Lord] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” This first one concerning gold places Scripture in a rank of its own. It is not only more desirable than gold, but the best quality of gold. Spiritual reality (found in Scripture) is true value to the Christian. Even the most basic of physical needs are secondary to the Christian:
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:31-33).
If we are not to think about life’s necessities, how much less life’s dainties? Get into the book that teaches what true value is. “Unto you, therefore, who believe, HE IS PRECIOUS.” This book that teaches us of Him is our greatest possession. Any “fine gold” that we can attain will never touch the value of the humble enjoyment of Scripture. We may have possessions that catch the eye, but are we rich toward God? Do we see ourselves as rich in God?
Scripture is honey: it delights. This metaphor focuses, not on true value, but on true pleasure. In the meal offering, there was to be no honey, illustrating that the sweetness of the Lord Jesus was not based on human estimation. So with honey here, we learn that man’s sources of pleasure count as nothing in the Christian’s eyes. His delight rather lies in words of life that flow from God’s mouth. Rather than anticipating the drop of honey from its comb, the believer deliberates for a gem of truth from God’s Word. The world only has superficial joy. It has entertainment rather than enjoyment. It has amusement in which the mind is limp, rather than intelligent worship that is rooted in reality. The world spends the life of its victim and leaves him empty, but Scripture enlivens its reader and enriches him. The options are clear, but it takes a spiritual mind to choose the best one.
Scripture is purified silver: it endures. “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. You shall keep them, O LORD, You will preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Psalm 12:6-7). This final metaphor in our list confirms our need to appreciate all that has gone before. Not only does Scripture help us in all the above practical ways, but it helps us every time! Because it is not tainted in the slightest by man’s influence or ideals, it remains a constant and even infinite source of spiritual instruction and enablement. Because it is thoroughly of God, it is thoroughly like Him – eternal, consistent, and powerful. If Scripture was not free from contamination in its totality, it would be a book that had the same potential as a psychology textbook. But it is thoroughly purged, by design, from man’s wisdom; thus it has the permanent potential which we so enjoy today. So then, in every aspect of Scripture, it is God-like in that aspect and permanently so. This can be your sure foundation: the Word of God!
A question remains, then. This is the Bible, and it does all these things for you. Do you believe it? Do you love it? Do you live it?