Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

One of my favorite quotes is from Sir Isaac Newton, discoverer of the Law of Gravity. He said, “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Newton saw farther than anyone had before, because he learned from those who had gone before him. Just imagine, if all anyone knew was the knowledge he accumulated on his own! There would be no electricity, no light bulb, no telephone, no computers, no cars, no airplanes, no space shuttles, etc. But because men learned from those who had gone before, these inventions and many more were possible. Sadly, many preachers like to work in a vacuum, gleaning nothing from the God-gifted men who have gone before them. God has especially equipped the Body of Christ with teachers, evangelist, and pastors. I thank God for men like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Newton, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and a host of others, who are, without a doubt, God’s gifts to the Church! By studying the writings of these gifted men, we are enabled to “stand on their shoulders.”
Ephesians 4:11-13 says,

[11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; [12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [13] Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

I don’t think that what Paul said in Ephesians 4 applies only to those living in our generation with us today. Nor do I believe that it only applies to those in the same location. The church universal is much larger than our local congregation. It extends to all those saints, past and present, from east to west that have placed their hope in Christ and His sacrificial atonement alone! Therefore, the teachers, evangelists, and pastors from whom we have the privilege of learning stretch across the 2,000 years of church history (chronologically) and from pole to pole(geographically)!

Since we have been commanded by God to Rightly Divide the Word of Truth (II Timothy 2:15), this is a privilege we can’t afford to ignore! Great preachers of the past and present agree:

The 19th Century’s “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Haddon Spurgeon said,

In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition. . . . It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.

Warren Wiersbe, modern day expositor, has written similarly,

My books are my tools, and I use them. I cannot afford to be a book collector; neither the budget nor the diminishing shelf space . . . permits such a luxury…. I enjoy my library. Each book is a friend that converses with and teaches me. Better to have fewer of the best books than to clutter your shelves with volumes that cannot serve you well. Above all, love your books, use them, and dedicate all you learn to the service of Jesus Christ.

So, allow me to exhort you (not as one who has seen farther, but as one who is still trying to climb higher to view and worship the majesty of our Glorious God), study the Scriptures for they are the final revelation of God! However, don’t neglect to read the works of the God-gifted men from the past and present, for by climbing on their shoulders you may be able to see farther than you ever have before!


  1. This is sound advice for every Christian!

    We can learn from many men in Church History (even if we disagree with them in one fashion or the other – we use discernment and the Word of God to point us to the truth)

    Thank you for this post Steve.

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