For whatsoever things were written aforetime - This refers not only to the quotation from the 69th Psalm, but to all the Old Testament scriptures; for it can be to no other scriptures that the apostle alludes. And, from what he says here of them, we learn that God had not intended them merely for those generations in which they were first delivered, but for the instruction of all the succeeding generations of mankind. That we, through patience and comfort of the scriptures - that we, through those remarkable examples of patience exhibited by the saints and followers of God, whose history is given in those scriptures, and the comfort which they derived from God in their patient endurance of sufferings brought upon them through their faithful attachment to truth and righteousness, might have hope that we shall be upheld and blessed as they were, and our sufferings become the means of our greater advances in faith and holiness, and consequently our hope of eternal glory be the more confirmed. Some think that the word παρακλησις, which we translate comfort, should be rendered exhortation; but there is certainly no need here to leave the usual acceptation of the term, as the word comfort makes a regular and consistent sense with the rest of the verse.
For whatsoever things - This is a “general” observation which struck the mind of the apostle, from the particular case which he had just specified. He had just made use of a striking passage in the Psalms to his purpose. The thought seems suddenly to have occurred to him that “all” the Old Testament was admirably adapted to express Christian duties and doctrine, and he therefore turned aside from his direct argument to express this sentiment. It should be read as a parenthesis.
Were written aforetime - That is, in ancient times; in the Old Testament.
For our learning - For our “teaching” or instruction. Not that this was the “only” purpose of the writings of the Old Testament, to instruct Christians; but that all the Old Testament might be useful “now” in illustrating and enforcing the doctrines and duties of piety toward God and man.
Through patience - This does not mean, as our translation might seem to suppose, patience “of the Scriptures,” but it means that by patiently enduring sufferings, in connection with the consolation which the Scriptures furnish, we might have hope. The “tendency” of patience, the apostle tells us Romans 5:4, is to produce “hope;” see the notes at this place.
And comfort of the Scriptures - By means of the consolation which the writings of the Old Testament furnish. The word rendered “comfort” means also “exhortation” or “admonition.” If this is its meaning here, it refers to the admonitions which the Scriptures suggest, instructions which they impart, and the exhortations to patience in trials. If it means “comfort,” then the reference is to the examples of the saints in affliction; to their recorded expressions of confidence in God in their trials, as of Job, Daniel, David, etc. Which is the precise meaning of the word here, it is not easy to determine.
Might have hope - Note, Romans 5:4. We may learn here,
(1)That afflictions may prove to be a great blessing.
(2)that their proper tendency is to produce “hope.”
(3)that the way to find support in afflictions is to go to the Bible.
By the example of the ancient saints, by the expression of their confidence in God, by their patience, “we” may learn to suffer, and may not only be “instructed,” but may find “comfort” in all our trials; see the example of Paul himself in 2 Corinthians 1:2-11.
To win the prize for which they strove,—a chaplet of perishable flowers, bestowed amid the applause of the multitude,—was considered the highest honor. If so much could be endured, so much self-denial practiced, in the hope of gaining so worthless a prize, which only one at best could obtain, how much greater should be the sacrifice, how much more willing the self-denial, for an incorruptible crown, and for everlasting life! CD 28.1
There is work for us to do—stern, earnest work. All our habits, tastes, and inclinations must be educated in harmony with the laws of life and health. By this means we may secure the very best physical conditions, and have mental clearness to discern between the evil and the good.—Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 25, 1890 CD 28.2Read in context »
The word of God is the most perfect educational book in our world. Yet in our colleges and schools, books produced by human intellect have been presented for the study of our students, and the Book of books, which God has given to men to be an infallible guide, has been made a secondary matter. Human productions have been used as most essential and the word of God has been studied simply to give flavor to other studies. Isaiah describes the scenes of heaven's glory that were presented to him, in most vivid language. All through this book he pictures glorious things that are to be revealed to others. Ezekiel writes: “The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him. And I looked, and behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And everyone had four faces, and everyone had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot; and they sparkled like the color of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.” The book of Ezekiel is deeply instructive. FE 394.1
The Bible is designed of God to be the book by which the understanding may be disciplined, the soul guided and directed. To live in the world and yet to be not of the world, is a problem that many professed Christians have never worked out in their practical life. Enlargement of mind will come to a nation only as men return to their allegiance to God. The world is flooded with books on general information, and men apply their minds in searching uninspired histories; but they neglect the most wonderful book that can give them the most correct ideas and ample understanding.—The Review and Herald, February 25, 1896. FE 395.1Read in context »