Many years ago when I was in preacher-training school one of my instructors would often begin class with the statement that we were going to “ransack our Bibles” as we studied that day. This was interesting since the word “ransack,” in typical usage, denotes going through something hurriedly and destructively. The image of burglars literally tearing up a house in search of valuables immediately comes to mind. This is not a pleasant picture, and we may wonder if such a word is appropriate to describe our approach to the scriptures.
It is certain that there are some whose methods do constitute a ransacking of the scriptures in the typical sense of this word. They literally tear the scriptures apart, cherry-picking the verses or phrases that best fit their man-made doctrines, while leaving the rest of scripture lying strewn about them like so much excess baggage. In so doing they turn an orderly and unified book into a disjointed collection of favorite sayings. This kind of ransacked Bible is the source of the many religious practices, now present in the world, for which there is no “Thus says the Lord.”
On the other hand, is there another way to look at this word that would make it an acceptable description of how to study the scriptures? The answer to this question is, “Yes, there is!” As my former instructor used this word, he simply meant that we would leave no stone unturned in our search for the truth from God’s word. He was profoundly dedicated to proclaiming “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27), and this was one way in which he impressed this principle on his students. He taught us that we must search all of the scriptures to know God’s will on any subject. Only when we had consulted all that the Lord revealed on that subject could we say with certainty that we knew what He intended for us to believe and practice.
Recently I had a conversation with a long-time gospel preacher about one of my favorite verses of scripture. That verse is Acts 17:11, which says of the people of Berea, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” This verse speaks of a fundamental principle of Christian life. We do not take anyone’s word for anything he might proclaim in God’s name. We listen, and then compare what he says to what God’s word says. If it agrees, then we can accept it and follow it. If it does not agree, then we must reject it. This verse is particularly significant because the Bereans were fact-checking none other than Paul the apostle!
As we talked about this verse, however, my preacher friend pointed out that in the Norwegian translation of the New Testament the word “examined” is translated “ransacked”. So in the Norwegian, it says the Bereans ransacked the scriptures daily! The power of that imagery is amazing. The Bereans literally left no stone unturned as they consulted the scriptures to verify the message that Paul preached to them. I am certain that my former instructor would have relished knowing that his signature phrase was more than a catchy way of describing dedicated Bible study.
So then, it is appropriate to speak of a ransacked Bible, and this phrase should accurately describe the way in which each of us approaches the scriptures. To do so, however, we have to pick up our Bibles, open them, and take the time necessary to know the whole purpose of God. A closed Bible cannot be a ransacked Bible.
In the spirit of the Christians in Berea, we must thoroughly examine the scriptures every day in order to verify that we have been taught the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. How about it? Do you have a ransacked Bible?