I grew up in the scenic village of Chimborazo, a twisty village nestling on the summit of the second highest peak in Barbados and world famous for its view of the rugged Scotland District and particularly for its view of the cascading terrain sloping away to the foaming, pounding waters of the Atlantic Ocean as it empties its waters at Bathsheba.
In this village was a very old man, and to me who was 7 or 8 years old at the time he seemed to be very ancient, and for some unknown reason God gave him two outstanding gifts. His name was Alkins. And to this day I would testify that he never had a mother, nor a father, nor a sister nor a brother but lived alone in his old house and was my perpetual tormentor. If he had any of the afore-mentioned family I and the entire village knew nothing of them.
At 7 or 8 years old I considered myself something of an athlete. That was until I encountered Alkins.
Alkins would see me racing up and down the village like a frisky young stallion let free to roam and would dare challenge me to a race. He would meet me by a bend in the village and say out loud, "Young Wardie I'll race you from here to my house and who gets there last is a sissy."
I looked at this old man, well into his sixties and decided to take up the challenge.
When I thought he was not set I would shout "All right. Go" and took off like a rocket up the road for his house. I would run at the top of my speed in seconds confident that no sixty-something could beat me at that distance. Alkins would overtake me like the wind blowing past and reach his home long before I got there. With a permanent grin on his face he would chide me for trying and wished me luck next time.
But this was not the reason Alkins came to mind. Alkins had a second gift that was literally out of this world. He could quote scripture like no one on earth. It was as if he had the complete Bible in his head and could quote at will perfectly every verse in the Bible giving you the book, the chapter and the verse to perfection. Ask Alkins to quote Psalm 89 verse 4 and he would instantly say, "Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations." Then jump ahead and ask him to quote Ephesians 3 verse 7 and the immediate reply would be, "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power."
Alkins delighted in tripping up the hot-shot preachers of the district and because, to the villagers, he never lost an argument based on scripture he was highly regarded as a scriptural icon to all. If a preacher argued with Alkins that God was good and merciful, then Alkins would argue the opposite and quote you the scriptures to show the opposite. Alkins knew the scriptures but he never lived a godly life and was known for his drunkenness and his vulgar language.
Alkins came to mind because of my morning's meditation.
I mediated on a lovely and very significant passage of scripture from the Gospel of John and once again was transfixed with the beautify and majesty of this verse, " Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39)
Jesus in this verse was not instructing the Jews to search the scriptures, not one bit for these were the glitterati of the Jewish Bible, these were the Bible scholars, the rabbis and scribes and priests who were hounding Jesus because he dare to heal a cripple on the Sabbath day.
Jesus was here describing this group, he was in fact saying, "You blood-hounds of scriptures, you perpetual searchers of scriptures, you who are known for your knowledge of biblical texts think that by knowing the scriptures you have eternal life..." This is what Jesus was saying.
Like Alkins these Jews thought that because God had given them the Holy Scriptures and they knew the scriptural texts that somehow that fact alone ensured them eternal life. This misconception was based on a Jewish tradition that came from Rabbinic writing that in essence said, "...he that begins to read in the book of the law is obliged to bless after this manner: blessed be he that has chosen us above all nations, and hath given us his law.--And he that finishes blesses after him in this manner: blessed is he who hath given us his law, the law of truth, and has planted "eternal life" in the midst of us." (John Gill's commentary on John 5:39)
The custom of knowing the scriptures and yet not really knowing them is as alive today as it was in the days of Jesus' earthly ministry. There are so many people, and thousands of gospel websites, that can quote scriptures at every turn and yet have never taken time to get to really know the Bible. It is one thing to know what is written and another thing to know it through application and experience in the spirit of obedience and compliance.
I humbly make the claim that religious warfare, i.e. physical fights and quarrels between religions, like for example between Muslims and Christians, derive not from people who truly understand their holy teachings but come from people who pervert their knowledge of their teachings to remove the true knowledge and intention from them.
If Islam is peaceful then it is clear that you do not engender peace by suicide-bombing fellow believers who you consider your enemy. Violence begets violence. Period. The Apostle Peter did not understand that reacting to hostility to Jesus by drawing his sword and cutting off the High Priest servant's ear was not in keeping with the spirit and the word of Jesus' command to "Love your enemy".
Everywhere in Christianity, and other religions, it is people who think they know but clearly they don't who are the troublemakers.
We know of some people who hate people of colour, are deeply racist and bigoted yet would go to church and worship and take communion and carry on as if they are normal Christians.
We know of world leaders, for example former Prime Minister tony Blair, who would lie and dredge up falsehoods to go to war and kill thousands, stand up in public and admit their lying and defend it and yet claim to be God-fearing persons.
We know of CEOs who are prominent communicant members of churches who are living appalling lives, cheating on their spouses, defrauding their companies and all the time lecturing others on morality; until they are found out and brought low.
You do not uphold the values and beliefs you foster by breaking and undermining them. So how come the Jewish clique knew so well the scriptures and in truth knew them not at all?
THEY GAVE PREFERENCE TO THEIR TRADITIONS RATHER THAN GOD'S WORD. This is something that was very noticeable throughout Jesus' ministry. The Jews were happy to save a donkey that had fallen into a well on the Sabbath day but condemn a poor cripple for being healed on that very day. This clique was happy to teach about helping aged parents but when their aged parent needed assistance they cried " Corban" these funds I dedicate to the Lord and avoided giving needed assistance. These people made the word of God of no effect by their traditions.
Ask your church leadership why it does not carry out foot-washing as clearly instructed by Jesus (John 13:12-15) and listen carefully to their answers. Tradition.
Ask the women in your church why they dress the way they do, short skirts, trousers, no hats on heads, etc all in defiance of scripture and listen carefully to their answers. Tradition.
Some churches prevent women or blacks from participating at various levels not because of lack of qualification but because of one thing only. Tradition.
THEY CHANGED SCRIPTURE TO SUIT THEMSELVES. This we know because we have seen it for ourselves in major sects like the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons. You don't like something that is in God's Word and in particular you believe it is too demanding then by all means have it changed to become more reasonable. We want to kill our enemies so look again at the scripture that says love your enemy and see how we can change it so that we can eliminate them with a clear conscience. And what about feeding the hungry for that seems to be taking on their responsibility. Let's revisit that scripture and see if we can starve them because they are irresponsible. And so we proceed until we make void all the hallowed teaching of Holy Writ just like the Jewish clique.
THEY REJECTED MANY THINGS THAT DID NOT FIT THEIR IDEOLOGY. The Jews were schooled to believe that the Messiah would be a super-human military hero who would liberate them from the accursed Romans. When the real, promised, biblical Messiah came in fulfilment of the scripture he was resoundingly rejected.
Today the same thing is happening and people are rejecting the declarations of Holy Scripture because it does not fit with their ideology. Some people still think that Europeans are meant to rule the world. Men are the only ones can do Christian Ministry. The Third World has nothing to contribute to man's progress. Man's existence is meaningless and we should forget about God. Anything that does not fit in with our cherished ideology is regarded as anathema even when the Bible says otherwise.
This then is the nub of our problem; people everywhere think they know when clearly they do not. To know the Bible truly you begin by what is truly most important; by knowing Jesus Christ, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:29)
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013