And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:  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)!
Some may out of false piety downplay the importance of God-honoring books in the Christian life, but when in prison Paul urged Timothy to bring “the books” (2 Tim. 4:13). As The 19th Century’s “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, comments,
He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He has had wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up in the third heaven, and had heard things unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He has written a major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every Christian, ‘Give thyself to reading.’ The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves he has no brains of his own (2).
Since we have been commanded by God to “Rightly Divide the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), this is a privilege we can’t afford to ignore! Great preachers of the past and present agree! Again I quote from C.H. Spurgeon who 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 (3).
Warren Wiersbe, a 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 (4).
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. Newton to Hooke, 5 Feb. 1676; Corres 1, 416.
2. Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon #542, “Paul – His Cloak and His Books”
3. Charles H. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries (reprint, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1969), 1.
4. Warren W. Wiersbe, A Basic Library for Bible Students (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), 7-8.