The Need of the Bible School – John C. Jernigan

A few weeks ago I posted an article by F. J. Lee, the 2nd General Overseer of the Church of God, on the need for ministerial training (see here). This is Heritage week and we are celebrating Church of God educational institutions. John C. Jernigan published this article in the August 5, 1922 Church of God Evangel urging ministers to take advantage of the training at Bible Training School (now Lee University) Jernigan served the church as General Overseer from 1944-1948.

After spending six months in the Church of God Bible Training School at Cleveland, Tenn., I feel impressed to give it a boost through the Evangel from a Bible standpoint.

There are many people who do not believe in going to school to study for the ministry. They say, “Open your mouth and let the Lord fill it.” Yes, that is good, for without the help of the Lord we would be failures. I notice, however, that a good many of these people who depend altogether on the Lord to fill their mouths, generally tell the same old thing over and over. If the Lord were filling their mouths all the time, He would sometimes put new things in their mouths.

Some say the Holy Ghost will teach you all things. That is also good, and without this great teacher we would not get very far, but before He will teach us we must give Him a chance.  When I was in the Bible School, the Holy Ghost was our greatest teacher. Every morning we would kneel in prayer and ask God for wisdom and knowledge and that He would lead us into the deep things of God’s Word. After doing all this, we did not sit down on the stool of do nothing and say, “Lord you have promised to give us wisdom.” No, we had obeyed the Word thus far and we thought it best to continue to obey, so we would go to our desks and do as Paul told Timothy to do: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Timothy was a great man of God and full of the Holy Ghost and had known the Holy Scriptures from a child, but still Paul could see the need of him studying God’s Word that God’s approval might be on his work.

Some people get it into their minds that if they study a subject before they preach on it that God will not bless them and it will not amount to anything after it is preached. Now, if you have this idea, just stop and think a minute and let the Bible change your mind. The Bible says study.  Why study? So that God’s approval may be on your work. We cannot live up to all the Bible without studying.

Another great thing that studying will do, it will keep us from being ashamed to preach God’s Word. There is hardly anything more embarrassing than to be before a congregation of intelligent people and not know anything to say. Were you ever caught in this kind of trap and wondered why the Lord did not fill your mouth? You had not obeyed the Word where it says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God.”

The Word also says, “Rightly dividing the word of truth.” God’s approval cannot be on your work very much if you do not rightly divide His Word. To be able to rightly divide it, we must study.  When I first began to read the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, it seemed to me that they crossed each other. I wondered about the 16th chapter of Mark, where Jesus gave the apostles the signs.  Looking at it in one way made me think that He gave them the signs the first time He appeared to them, but from another view it seemed that they were the last words He ever spoke to them.  When I came to myself, I saw that it had to be rightly divided, and the way to rightly divide it was by study.

I have tried both ways. I have preached on new subjects without studying them very much; then I have studied subjects thoroughly before preaching, and I find that I get more inspiration and have God’s approval to a greater extent when I have studied out my subject before preaching on it. The reason for this is that I had obeyed God’s Word.

You may say that you believe in studying the Bible but you don’t believe in having a teacher.  Beloved, the Church of God takes the whole Bible, and the Bible says, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers” (1 Cor. 12:28).  It did not say the apostles and prophets would be the teachers, but the teachers are separate God-called people to teach His Word.  No, it did not say school teachers but, before a teacher can discharge his duty, he must have someone to teach.  These teachers are in the Church, and they are to teach the ways of the Lord; therefore, I believe it is God’s plan to have a Bible School where a teacher can instruct and help young men and women in their preparation for the work of the Lord.

We find that Paul left Titus on the Island of Crete to ordain elders in every city.  He told him what kind of man it would take to fill the office of a bishop (Titus 1:5-9).  Notice verse 9: “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”  As he hath been taught—this signifies that these Bishops have been taught. Taught what? The faithful Word.  I do not say there was a school on Crete, but these men had been taught the Word somewhere. Perhaps, Titus himself called them together and taught them the Word; it doesn’t make much difference who taught them. Why were they taught?  “That he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayer.”  If the people of today could see the need of being taught before trying to convince the gainsayers, [they would] come to the Bible School and be taught the faithful Word and a better way to present it to the public, and we would not have so many gainsayers.

No doubt many people have been hindered because someone tried to convince them who didn’t know how and they were, therefore, disgusted and turned against holiness and are fighting the way today.  Oh, how we need to be taught, not only the Word, but how to present it and how to conduct ourselves before the public.

Daniel was a great man of God and stayed close to Him but yet he needed to study.  “In the first year of his reign, I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem”  (Dan. 9:2).

I have heard it said that if anyone were called to preach they could preach whether they knew any Bible or not.  They can tell what the Lord has done for them and may win a few souls that way, but the time has come that we must give chapter and verse to convince the gainsayer.  What the Church of God needs is men who will take Paul’s advice, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2).  But before we can preach the Word, we must do as he has already said—study.

Studying will not only help us in preaching but in many other ways.  Notice what Paul told Timothy, “And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim3:15).  You may never expect to preach, but if you expect to live for Jesus, if would be a great help to you to attend the Bible School.  It will make you wise unto salvation and strong in the Lord.  You will be more established in God’s Word and the devil won’t have half the chance to lead you astray with some false doctrine.  You will be a more noble Christian that you have ever been.

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).  Many of the people at Thessalonica received the Word, but they did not study the Word like they ought to.  They had salvation and were noble, but the brethren at Berea were more noble.  There is such a thing as being noble and then getting more noble.  I am sure we all want to be more noble.  If we do, let us search the Scriptures as they did at Berea.