We find exactly the same thing in 2 Corinthians 12:12. Paul is speaking: “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.” In other words, these were given so that those who looked on could say, “These men are God’s appointees. His blessing rests on them. And what they do, they do in God’s name.” When Peter and John and the other apostles spoke, saying, “Jesus Christ did so-and-so and taught so-and-so,” the early Christians could receive that as an authentic record and interpretation of Jesus’ life and rightly devote themselves to studying it. They studied this teaching and tested it against the Old Testament.
We live in a different age, of course. We live thousands of years after this teaching. Peter is not with us. James was martyred. John has died. So have all the others. Even Paul, who came along later, has gone. How is it possible for us to focus on the apostolic teaching? The answer is obvious. These men gave us the New Testament. This is the deposit of their teaching. When it came time to collect the books that were to become our New Testament, the criterion by which that was done was whether they came from the apostles or bore the apostolic blessing. Moreover, the fact that we have our New Testament is a fulfillment of what Jesus Christ said He would do through these apostles. In order for us to copy the New Testament church at this point, as we should, we are to study the book these men have left us. It is in the New Testament that the authentic teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be found.
Let’s put that in terms easy to understand: a Spirit-filled church is always going to be a Bible-studying church. Those two things go together. There have been periods in history when the Bible has fallen on hard times and been neglected by God’s people. These have been dry ages for the church. There have also been periods when the Bible was not always readily available, sometimes because of political pressures. Sometimes even church officials kept the Bible from God’s people. Nevertheless, wherever the church has been greatly blessed, where the Spirit of God has come upon God’s people and the Gospel has gone forth in great power and people have responded to it, these have always been ages in which the Bible has been studied carefully. Why? It is because the closer men and women come to God, the closer they want to get to where He speaks to their hearts; and that is in the Bible.
What is true of the church is true for individuals also. If you are Spirit-filled, then you will be drawn to this Book. If you are not drawn to this Book—if you do not really want to study it, if you say, “Well, you know, I look at the Bible from time to time, but it seems rather boring to me: it never really does much for me”—if that is the case, you ought to question whether you are really born again. Or if you are born again, you at least ought to question whether you are filled by the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit, whose chief task is to bear witness to Jesus Christ, inevitably draws the people of God to Jesus through the Scriptures.
This means, among other things, that evangelical, Spirit-filled, Bible-oriented churches should offer many ways for people to get to know the Bible. It must be done through the preaching. In fact, that is the preacher’s chief task: to expound the Word of God. He is to study it and then teach it to others. It may be done through Bible classes and home Bible studies. We are going to see that the early Christians worshiped in their homes. So I am sure they studied the Bible in their homes. If we had been there, we would have said, “They’re having home Bible studies.”