John Chrysostom (347-407) was the Charles Spurgeon of the fourth and early fifth centuries, if you will. He served as deacon and then pastor of the church in Syrian Antioch where he honed his preaching skills over a period of about eleven years. By the grace of God in Christ, he became known as an outstanding interpreter of the Scripture, an orator, and as a wise shepherd of the people. But he was not one to be a preacher of the word only, he was also a zealous doer. He taught that sound doctrine and sound living are inseparable, and that if we divide these two we obscure the gospel and diminish the glory of Christ.
Accordingly, he regularly led the people under his care to saturate their lives in the word of Christ, and to pray for the power to walk in his ways. Consider, for example, this wise plea: “Listen carefully to me, I entreat you…Procure books that will be medicines for the soul…At least get a copy of the New Testament, the Apostle’s epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If you encounter grief, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take from them comfort for your trouble, whether it be loss, or death, or bereavement over the loss of relations. Don’t simply dive into them. Swim in them. Keep them constantly in your mind. The cause of all evils is the failure to know the Scriptures well” (in Christopher A. Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, Intervarsity, 1998, 88).
This counsel might seem overstated, especially the last line, but I don’t think it is and here’s why. The Word of our God is the medicine of our souls. God created us and he knows our design. He knows how we can fulfill our life’s purpose and achieve eternal joy and why. He knows what ails us and why. He knows how to solve every difficulty and heal every kind of disease. He knows how to deliver from suffering and when to let suffering remain for his glory and our good.
Our God and Father is wise beyond comprehension, and his Word is the means by which he reveals his will, wisdom, and ways. Therefore, when we dive into his Word, swim in it, marinate in it, explore it, seek to understand it, and strive to apply it to the difficulties and evils we are facing, it becomes a healing balm for our suffering souls. When we ignore his Word, we ignore his wisdom, light, and life, and we naturally bear the consequences of our actions. If we knew the Scriptures well, if we knew the wisdom of the all-wise God well, we would indeed avoid countless evils.
Over the years I’ve heard people say that they have gone to the Bible but felt that it didn’t relate to their daily lives and difficulties. I can understand this sentiment, but I think they feel this way because they’re simply looking at the ocean of God’s wisdom rather than diving into it. We must do more than observe our Father’s Word: we must dive in and swim, we must pursue his wisdom as though it’s healing water and living treasure, for that’s what it is.
So I pray that we’ll listen to the wisdom of our long-departed friend, John Chrysostom, and dive deep into the Word of God today.