Christians must be people of the book, people of the Word of God or we cannot truly call ourselves followers of Christ. We cannot know God without God’s Word. We cannot be transformed without the Word of God. It is the “implanted word which is able to save your souls”(James 1:21).
Our happiness rests in knowing the Word of God:
Blessed is the man …
[Whose] delight is in the law of the LORD,
And on his law he meditates day and night.
But too many Christians know little of the Word of God. Too often Christians think that an hour on Sunday will sustain them for a week. No one would think one glass of water would suffice for a week, or one meal a month would keep them alive. Too many Christians fall to the Devil’s temptation. When the Devil tempted Christ in the wilderness, he first tempted Christ to make bread from stones. But Christ refused and quoted the Scripture Man shall not live by bread alone, But by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4.
Yet, too often Christians are zealous for the bread which keeps their skin wrapped around their bones and yet ignore “the true bread from heaven” (John 6:33).
If you look at your life and see yourself stumbling about, perhaps it is because you have no light on your path, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
Consider the power of the Word of God.
God Works by Word. God works in Creation by means of his Word. Creation, itself, begins when God speaks: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:3). And the universe continues by that same power, “[H]e upholds all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 11:3).
And when the day comes for resurrection and judgment, it too will be announced by the word of God, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).
When God has dealt with human beings, he has always done so by words.
Before the Fall, God commanded Adam in the garden by words (Genesis 2:16). When God sought Adam after the Fall, God sought him with words (Genesis 3:9). When God brought judgment upon creation, the serpent, the woman and man, God did so with words (Genesis 3:14). When God called Abraham, he called with words (Genesis 12:1). When God called Moses from the bush, he called Moses by means of words (Exodus 3:4). When God established his covenant with Israel he did so with words from the mountain (Exodus 20:1). And when God called His people to repentance, he sent prophets who spoke (Hebrews 1:1). When the Holy Spirit comes upon the primitive Church, He causes them to speak (Acts 2:2-4). We know these things, because God caused His words to be taken down and kept in written words (See, e.g., Jeremiah 36:2).
We have the words of God kept in writing, “The Scripture”. And we call the collection of these writings in our book, the “Bible (which simply means “book”).
God Saves by His Word
The whole of the Christian exists and progresses by means of this book; without the words of God in this book we can expect no change in the human heart.
First, the Christian life begins with the words of Scripture. When Peter stands on Pentecost to address the crowd, he preaches to them. Peter’s words have come to us and Scripture and Peter quotes and alludes to the Old Testament Scripture. The church grew by “those who received his word” (Acts 2:41). Again, in Acts 4, we read the effects of another sermon, “But many of those who heard the word believed” (Acts 4:4). The Ethiopian servant of Queen Candace came to saving faith from reading the prophet Isaiah and hearing the explanation from Philip (Acts 7:26-38).
Paul explains that it is the proclaim of the Gospel, the good news from God, that one comes to salvation: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:13-16.
God Transforms by His Word
This initial act of coming to saving faith marks the beginning of a process of transformation, for we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10). Jesus specifically commands that those who are his disciples must be taught to obey the content of Christ’s instruction, “[M]ake disciples …teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-19). Paul commands Timothy to preach the word of God, “reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). It is the Scriptures, “which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15b-17).
There is no one exempt from the need for God’s Word. Every person and all of life must be conformed to God’s Word. Under Old Covenant, everyone was to know the word of God.
The king of Israel was commanded to copy out the law of God and to read so that he would be God-honoring king:
“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.” Deuteronomy 17:18-20.
And the very same Word of God must be used to conform life of a child: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruct, and forsake not your mother’s teaching”(Proverbs 1:8); “My son if you receive my words” (Proverbs 2:1). All of human life is to be conformed to this wisdom of God, “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice” (Proverbs 1:20).
The Word of God Heard Leads to Faith
We know that the Christian life rests upon faith: “[W]ithout faith is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6); “for by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). What then is the start of such faith? “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Thus, the Word of God must be taught, preached and heard (1 Corinthians 1:17; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 4:11 & 15).
The Word of God Read Changes
People Daniel knew of God’s will by reading the words of the prophet Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2). The King was required to read the law of God year by year (Deuteronomy 17:9). Jesus assumes that the Scripture was read, even by his opponents (Matthew 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:6, et cetera). The Ethiopian was reading Isaiah (Acts 9:28). Jesus read the Scripture to those in synagogue (Luke 4:16).
Paul commands Timothy to “devote yourself to public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13). Paul goes to explain what flows from such reading of Scripture (exhortation, teaching, obedience, progress) which results in “Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers”(1 Timothy 4:16).
The reading of the Word of God makes possible the work of the Word of God. You will not be changed by the Word of God unless and until you take in the Word of God. The Psalmist prays, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law”( Psalm 119:18).
The Word of God Memorized Protects From Sin
“I have stored up your word in my heart” (Psalm 119:11) prays the Psalmist. But note the effect of treasuring, “that I might not sin against you.” The Word of God stored in one’s heart because the stuff which transforms our heart.
Mediating Upon the Word of God Changes the Heart
The Psalmist prays, Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:33-37
How does the Psalmist come to know understand the law of God? By prayer and meditation. He prays, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). He meditates and delights upon the law of the Lord: In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Psalm 119:14-16
The Word of God Brings Hope
We will never change unless we have hope, hope is the means which draws us on from where we are to where God would have us to be. Just as the Word of God heard results in faith, so the Word of God known produces hope: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Christian Fellowship is Speaking the Word of God
Too many Christians confuse “fellowship” with normal human friendship. Now friendship is a great blessing, but we must not confuse it with fellowship. The fellowship produced by the Spirit “speak[s] the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:16). It derives from “the word Christ dwell[ing] in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). It shows itself how we act, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
The Word of God Obeyed Brings Blessing
As we have seen, Jesus commands that his disciples be taught to obey his words (Matthew 28:18-20). As King, Christ could have demanded such obedience without a thought to us. Yet, he is a gracious King, a King of unbounded joy and so in giving himself he gives joy. The Westminster Shorter Catechism famously begins with question and answer: What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. The catechism then tells us that the source of knowledge for how to glorify and enjoy God is found only in the Scripture.
The Word of God alone has the power to make the transformation we need and seek:
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11.
Look to that last verse, “in keeping them there is great reward.” Obedience to the Scripture is no burden but rather the joy of salvation. Obedience is not some “work” added to faith, but rather the joy which flows from faith: Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. Psalm 119:1-7.
Too many Christians are weak and lame, because they know so little of God’s Word. We have no reason to believe that we will be changed, that we will have the love, joy & peace of the Spirit’s work without the Word of God treasured in our hearts. Too often Christians seem to desire God’s fiercest judgment, a famine of the Word of God (Amos 8:11); rather than God’s dearest blessing, God speaking. You think a wife wicked and foolish to leave a lavish gift from her husband unopened and unnoticed. And yet the bride of Christ is too often wicked and foolish by leaving the Word of Christ unknown. May we understand the joy and open and strength which flows from knowing the Scripture. May we stir up one-another to know and treasure the Scripture.