It is through the Gospel that believers come to honor, exalt and glorify God not only with their minds but also with their affections. The Gospel creates true affection and longing for God.
Geerhardus Vos noted, “Legalism lacks the supreme sense of worship. It obeys but it does not adore,” (Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, p. 231). It is through the Gospel that our Heavenly Father brings His children to delight in Him. John Owen asks, “If the love of a father will not make a child delight in him, what will?”
So, we must not lose sight of our status before God (justification and the forgiveness of sins) or else we will lose our delight in God. The fight to delight is won at Zion not Sinai (Gal. 4:22-31).
Since then true affections are ignited rather than extinguished by biblical truth, it is important to keep in mind the purpose of increasing in the knowledge of biblical truth.
Believers are to increase in the knowledge of the Word of God so that they will increase in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:10) and thus be brought to receive and rest in Christ and walk in Him by faith. To be sure, knowledge without love only leads to arrogance and pride (1 Cor. 8:1; 13:4). But it is equally true that it is impossible to delight in someone that you do not know.
“Legalism lacks the supreme sense of worship. It obeys but it does not adore.”
Christ rebuked the religious people of His day not for searching the Scriptures, but for searching the Scriptures for the wrong reason. Rather than searching the Scriptures to receive Christ, who gives Life, the religious folk of Jesus’ day thought it was the Scriptures that gave them life. In John 5:39-40, Jesus states,
“39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me. 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”
All who are unwilling to come to Jesus for life are left with nothing but a dead letter.
One must read and study the Scriptures with the express design of finding Christ. “Whoever,” John Calvin writes, “shall turn aside from this object, though he may weary himself throughout his whole life in learning, will never attain the knowledge of the truth…,” (Commentary on the Gospel According to John, p. 218).
“We must not lose sight of our status before God (justification and the forgiveness of sins) or else we will lose our delight in God.”
Jesus is the Marrow of the Word, the Substance of all that is revealed in Scripture, whether doctrines, types, prophecies, or promises. Scripture is essentially a witness to Christ (Jn. 5:46; Lk. 24:27; Rom. 1:1-3; 3:21). John, in John 20:31, writes, “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
It is important to always guard against putting your knowledge in the place of Christ. As Marshall warns, “Do not put your knowledge in the place of Christ. If you do, you will lose Christ, because you will be trusting in your knowledge for your salvation. Make sure that as you gain knowledge of the Bible, you are constantly gaining knowledge of Christ, (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p. 196)!
Increasing in the knowledge of the Scriptures, specifically the law and gospel, is vital for the strengthening and health of one’s faith.
As believers increase in the knowledge of the law they become more and more aware of their sinful nature, and therefore are driven to seek more eagerly the forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ (Ps. 32:5; Rom. 3:19-26; 7:7, 24-25; 1 John 1:9).
Moreover, through the law, believers are increasingly made aware of their need to constantly pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that He may more and more renew them into the image of God (1 Cor. 9:24; Phil. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:1-3).
“Jesus is the Marrow of the Word, the Substance of all that is revealed in Scripture…”
“Faith,” Paul writes, “comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ,” (Rom. 10:17). Faith receives Christ and Christ is revealed to us in the Word of God. Thus, if one wishes to obtain the knowledge of Christ, he must seek it from the Scriptures for Christ cannot be properly known in any other way than as He is revealed in the Scriptures.
Walter Marshall writes,
Strive to know the mystery of the Father and the Son, as it is revealed in the Gospel — in which is hidden all the treasures of wisdon and knowledge (Colossians 2:2-3). If you know the gospel you know eternal life; if you do not know the gospel, you know eternal death (Join 17:3; II Corinthians 4:3). You must know that Christ is the end of the Iaw (Romans 10:4). Therefore, diligently strive to know the commands of the law. However, do not do this to gain your salvation by your own good works as you try to keep these commands. Rather, know God’s commands so you will become aware of your inability to keep them.
When you read the word of God, you will also become aware that in your heart you really hate the commands of God. You will see that you are under God’s wrath for breaking his commands, and that it is impossible for you to be saved by your own works. Once you realize all these things, you will run to Christ for safety, and trust only in the free grace of God for your justification. Once you are a Christian, you will continue to run to Christ for the strength to keep the law in your daily Christian life.
Learn how high the standards of God’s law really are. Realize the exact perfection and the spiritual purity they require. The more you know this, the more you will be convinced of your sin. The more you know your sin, the more you will seek Christ for the forgiveness of your sin. You will also seek a more pure heart and a more deeply spiritual obedience. As you come to see that your heart is more sinful than you ever imagined — and that the blood of Christ covers all of your sin – you will enjoy Jesus more than ever! Remember the Scribe who understood the greatness of the command to “love the Lord with all your heart and soul.” Jesus said he was not far from the kingdom of God (Matthew 12:34), (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, pp. 194-195).
And so, a Gospel-driven believer (and church) fills his mind with the truth of God (the law and the Gospel) so that he will come to enjoy Jesus more than ever! As Paul writes, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Again, in 1 Timothy 1:5, Paul writes, “… the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
And so it is our conviction that the heart is crucial through the head. A Gospel-driven believer is given to profound reflection (i.e., the reading, study and meditation of the Word of God) so that the Spirit of God will bring him to a true knowledge of Christ and the obedience that comes from faith, an obedience motivated by gratitude rather than guilt or slavish, stoical duty (i.e., fervent affection; Eph. 1:17; Rom. 1:5; 16:26).