By Charles H. Welch
God has spoken. He has given us His Word. He does not however present us with a book which we have neither read, examined, nor proved and then demand our acceptance. That would make faith irrational, and turn it into gross superstition. He commands us to ‘search’, and He commends those who do. The believers in Berea were commended by the apostle, who said:
There is a superficial resemblance between Acts 17:11 and John 7:52 which reads ‘Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet’. This shows that it is possible to search the Scriptures with a prejudiced mind, for Jonah was of Galilee (2 Kings 14:25). Prejudice is as blinding as ignorance, and the Jews were not too ready to admit Jonah among the prophets; not because they could not believe the record of the whale; they swallowed greater and more prodigious stories than that, but because Jonah went to the Gentiles. It may be for this reason that the Saviour gave Jonah the definite title ‘The prophet’ (Matt. 12:39). Many believers search the Scriptures, but in all their searching they have not found the truth, and the reason may be that they do not, like the Bereans, receive the Word with all readiness of mind. This ‘readiness’ of mind is very essential, and without it, the search becomes a meaningless and fruitless labour.
In John 5:39 A.V. we read ‘Search the scriptures’, an imperative, but in the R.V. we read ‘Ye search the scriptures’, an indicative. There is considerable difference of opinion over the propriety of this rendering. Dr. John Lightfoot, speaking on this text, refers to the extraordinary zeal exhibited by the Scribes, and the earlier Massorets in their searching of the Scriptures. They computed the number of occurrences of every Hebrew letter. They knew the middle word of every book, they tabulated phrases, such as ‘And God said’; their labours in this matter are almost unbelievable.
To these men, the Saviour did not say ‘Search the Scriptures’, He said ‘Ye do search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life’. This taken apart from its context, might express a profound truth -- but the next utterance of the Saviour reveals the hollowness of all this toil ‘And they are they which testify of Me, and ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life’. An illustration of this attitude of mind is found in Matthew 2. When Herod the king demanded of the scribes where Christ should be born, we do not read that they asked for time in order to look the matter up; they replied immediately, and apparently without reference to the book itself, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet’, But They Never Went To See. That was left for the ignorant shepherds to do! We too must be on our guard. True Bereans will most certainly ‘search to see’, but no true Berean will be satisfied with the mere letter of the Word. Unless our search leads ever and always to Christ, revealing Him in one or more of the glories of His Person and Work, the patent of nobility so blessedly extended to the Bereans of old will never be ours.