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Tonight we’re going to proclaim Psalm 19:12–14, which are the last three verses of the psalm. These words are a prayer of David and they are a prayer that we have been praying ourselves for several years. We’ve been quite surprised at some of the answers because it begins with “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.” And I look back and I’m amazed at the number of secret faults in me that God brought to light since we began to pray this. So we’ll pray it through and then we’ll invite you to join us in praying the last verse.
“Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”
All right. Now, we’re going to get you to join us in the last verse. All right, now this is a prayer. Don’t pray it if you don’t mean it because God will take you at your word. We’ll say the words phrase by phrase and you say them after us. All right?
“Let the words of my mouth / and the meditation of my heart / be acceptable in your sight, / O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”
Now we’ll let you say it once more, this time together with us. All right. Are you ready?
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”
God bless you.
Now we’re going to turn to the theme for this evening’s session which is “The Authority and the Power of God’s Word.”
In my previous session I pointed out to you that there are two different ways in which the title “the Word of God” is applied. It’s applied to the Bible and it’s applied to Jesus Christ; each of them is called the Word of God. This brings out the fact that there is a complete identity between Jesus and the Bible. The Bible is God’s written word, Jesus is God’s personal word. If we really want to be rightly related to Jesus, we have to be rightly related to the Bible. We cannot be rightly related to Jesus but wrongly related to the Bible. So this evening I want to deal with this theme which is obviously of great importance, the authority and the power of God’s Word.
To begin with the issue of authority, if you stop and consider it you’ll realize that the word authority comes from the word author. In other words, the authority of any work is the authority of the author; it’s the author who gives authority to whatever he produces. So we need to know who is the author of the Bible, who is the author of Scripture? The Bible clearly answers this question in 2 Timothy 3:16. It says:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
So if you want to be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work, the source of it all is Scripture. And Paul says all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. The Greek word is “God-breathed.” And the word for breath and the word for spirit are identical. So, it means all Scripture is inbreathed by the Spirit of God. In other words, the authority behind all Scripture is the authority of the Holy Spirit. He is ultimately the author. He used many different channels and many different instruments but behind them all is the authority of the Holy Spirit who is God Himself.
So when we confront the Scripture we confront the authority of God Himself.
Now it says all Scripture is inspired, not some. Some people would weed out the passages they consider inspired from those they don’t consider really authoritative. But that is not in line with Scripture because the Holy Spirit Himself says all Scripture is inspired by God and all Scripture is profitable. In other words, there’s no books that you can leave out and say they’re not important. Books like Ezra and Nehemiah are very important. The Song of Songs is very important. The prophet Nahum is very important. Don’t just focus on a few well known passages of Scripture and think that they are all that matters because that is not correct.
And if you want to be equipped, you have to be equipped by the whole Scripture. It will take you many years but it’s progressive. You can move on from strength to strength as you meditate on and study and apply the Word of God. And remember that Jesus said building on His foundations is hearing and doing the Word of God. Not just hearing, but hearing and doing.
And then as regards the interpretation of Scripture, there is only one authorized interpreter and that is the author. Out there somewhere you can find quite a number of books that have my name on them, I’m the author. If you’re not quite certain what they mean, I’m the best person to consult because I know what I meant. I may not have said it as clearly as I should have done but I do know what I meant. And if you want to know what any passage of Scripture means, consult the author. He’s the only one who is authorized to interpret Scripture.
Peter says in 2 Peter 1:20–21:
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation...”
No individual can say, “I know this is what it means.” The only one that’s authorized to interpret is the Holy Spirit. And then he goes on:
“...for prophecy never came by the will of man but holy men of God spoke as they were moved [or borne along] by the Holy Spirit.”
Again Peter points out what Paul has pointed out, the authority behind the Scripture, the source of inspiration is the Holy Spirit.
Now you might say, and very reasonably, “But the men that wrote the Bible were in many cases very weak and fallible. And the Bible even records a lot of their sins.” I think that’s a mark of the Bible’s accuracy that it records the sins of the people who wrote it. A lot of people today would hush up their sins and not expose them and try to present themselves as infallible. No author of the Bible does that. Even David who was the author of most of the psalms, his serious sins are recorded for all to read.
So then, how can the Bible be infallible if the people that wrote it were fallible? There’s a beautiful answer given to that question in Psalm 12:6, one simple verse. Psalm 12:6:
The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
That’s a little picture of how people used to purify metal. They would build a furnace of clay, light a fire in it and then put the metal there to be purified. So you’ve got three things in that picture. You’ve got the furnace of clay, which is the human instrument, just clay. You’ve got the fire which is the Holy Spirit which purifies the silver, which is the message. So that tells us how fallible men and women can be the channels to produce an inspired and an authoritative Word of God. Let me say that again. The clay is the human vessel. The fire is the Holy Spirit. The silver purified seven times, absolutely pure, is the message of God.
And the number seven in the Bible links us to two things, the Holy Spirit and perfection. And perfection is by the Holy Spirit.
So, the Bible, though it came through vessels of clay weak, fallible, sinful men and women has been purified seven times by the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is totally reliable.
Now we need to consider the attitude of Jesus Himself toward the Bible because for us who are His disciples, He is the pattern. How did He relate to the Bible? We looked at a Scripture this morning but we’ll look at it again in John chapter 10, John chapter 10, verse 35. We don’t need to look at other verses, just that. John 10:35:
Jesus said, and it’s in the context of a discussion with the Jewish leaders that we don’t need to go into...
“If He [that is God] call them ‘gods’ to whom the Word of God came and the Scripture cannot be broken...”
And I pointed out this morning but I’ll say it again, there Jesus gives to the Bible the two titles which His followers have used most ever since, the Word of God and the Scripture. When it says the Bible is the Word of God it means it proceeds from God. It didn’t proceed from man, it came from heaven, from God. And when it says the Scripture it means that which has been recorded in writing. God said many things which are not recorded in writing but those that are recorded in the Scripture, in the Bible, are recorded for our special benefit. They contain all the things we need to know for our salvation.
So that was the attitude of Jesus summed up in that phrase that we looked at this morning but it will be good to repeat it: “The Scripture cannot be broken.” Nothing can express the authority of Scripture more completely than that simple phrase “it cannot be broken.”
I would like to invite you to do again this evening what we did this morning, repeat those words with me.
The Scripture cannot be broken.
Say it once more.
The Scripture cannot be broken.
And now remember, God holds you accountable for what you’ve said, because He’ll expect you to accept the authority of Scripture in every area of your life.
Now let’s look at how Jesus Himself used Scripture. Here again He’s a pattern. We’ll turn to Matthew, the 4th chapter, and we’ll look at something that happened when Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. Matthew chapter 4, but we need to begin at the end of chapter 3. Chapter 3 at the end records how Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan.
“And when He came up from the water the Spirit of God [the Holy Spirit] descended like a dove upon Him and remained upon Him.”
Notice that, it’s important. The Holy Spirit remained on Him. The Holy Spirit has descended on some of us at various times but He hasn’t always remained on us because we have said and done things that He couldn’t remain on. Jesus never said or did anything that grieved the Holy Spirit or caused that dove to fly away.
“And then a voice came from heaven, the voice of God the Father: ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’”
Now you might think, and I might think, well, after that Jesus was going to have a really easy time. He had the endorsement of both the Father and the Spirit, and the prophet John the Baptist. But that’s not so. The next thing that happened was He found Himself in the wilderness fasting for forty days and being tempted by Satan. And so, please don’t imagine that God’s blessing will always make life easy for you. In fact, in a certain sense, it may make life more difficult. Because Satan much more strongly opposes those whom God has anointed.
And in Luke’s gospel, we won’t turn there, it says that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness but at the end of the forty days He came out in the power of the Holy Spirit. Those are two different things. One thing is to be led by the Spirit, it’s another thing to move and operate in the power of the Spirit. And Jesus did not do that until He’d had His conflict with Satan and won.
And in some degree or other, that will apply to each of us. We will have to overcome temptation and opposition in order to move in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, when the tempter came to Him in Matthew 4, Satan, the first thing he tempted Him to do was to doubt. And that’s nearly always the initial approach of Satan. He will not immediately deny the Word of God, he’ll question it. He’ll cause you to doubt it. This has worked so many times in church history that he never has had to find another tactic, because it always seems to work. But don’t let it work with you. So you notice the first thing that Satan said to Jesus in chapter 4 of Matthew, verse 3:
“Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.’”
Now, God had just spoken from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son.” But Satan was challenging Him to doubt what He’d heard from God. “If you are the Son of God, then do something to prove it. Make these stones bread.”
“But Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, man shall not live by bread alone...’”
Incidentally, it’s interesting all the three answers that Jesus gave to Satan are all taken from one book, the book of Deuteronomy. And it’s interesting, too, that neither Jesus nor the devil ever questioned the authority of the book of Deuteronomy. So, why waste your time doing it?
So that’s how Jesus dealt with temptation. It’s very, very important. He dealt with temptation by meeting it from the written Word of God. “It is written.” Don’t think that you are clever enough to argue with the devil, he’s much cleverer than you are. He’s been in this business a long, long time. Don’t try to convince him with your arguments, meet him with the Scripture. Each time Jesus was tempted, this is what He said, “It is written... it is written... it is written.” And whenever Jesus said that, Satan changed the subject. He knew he had no answer to the Scripture. So, don’t be tempted into trying to overcome Satan with your philosophy or with your theology. Just answer him with the written word of God.
You see, Jesus didn’t make the mistake that Eve had made. If you go back to the beginning of human history in Genesis 3, the first few verses, it says:
“Now the serpent [who was Satan in bodily form] was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’”
What did he tempt her to do first? To doubt, that’s right. And when you doubt, the next step is disbelief and the next step is disobedience. Remember that. Don’t entertain doubt.
Well, Eve made the mistake of thinking that she could meet the devil on his level so she gave him an answer, “Well, we may eat of every tree,” she didn’t want to acknowledge that there were any restrictions, “except the tree in the middle of the garden,” which was the tree of life. And concerning that she said, “God has said, ‘You shall not touch it nor eat of it, lest you die.’” And notice the devil’s answer:
“The serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’”
That’s what he’s coming at. He begins by questioning, but he goes on to deny. And if you study church history for the last hundred years or more, you’ll find that wherever Satan has persuaded theologians, or preachers or whoever it may be, to question the Scripture, he has always brought them to the point where they actually deny it. Don’t start on that slippery downward path. The Scripture is authoritative. It’s the word of God, accept it. Live by it. Answer the devil with it. He cannot answer the written Word of God.
In Ephesians 6:17 Paul says:
“Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God...”
And you probably know there are two Greek words for word. One is logos, the other is rhema. Logos is the total, eternal counsel of God; rhema is a spoken word of God. And that’s the word that’s used in Ephesians 6:17, taking the sword of the Spirit, which is the rhema, the spoken Word of God. And when you have to meet the devil, you have to meet him by speaking the Word of God.
The Bible will not protect you if it’s just in your bookshelf, or even if it’s just on your bedside table. It only works when you quote it. You have to take it in your mouth and say it for yourself. And then it becomes a sharp, pointed sword from which the devil backs off. He has no answer for it.
Now let’s look also at what Jesus says about the authority of the written Word of God. You remember what I said? The word Scripture means God’s Word in writing. And Jesus said in Matthew 5:17–18:
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the prophets.”
And that was the Jewish way of speaking about what we call the Old Testament, the Law and the prophets.
“I did not come to destroy but to fulfill; for assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law till all is fulfilled.”
Now, the words jot and tittle, jot in modern Hebrew, yood (phonetic), is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. And a tittle is just a little curve put on a letter in writing to distinguish it from a similar letter. So, those are the two smallest items in written Scripture’s text. And Jesus said not one of them will ever pass away. This clearly indicates that Jesus acknowledged the absolute authority of the written Word of God. He wasn’t talking about the spoken Word of God at that point because the words jot and tittle only apply to that which is in writing. So Jesus absolutely endorsed the total authority of the written Word of God.
And then a little further on, quite near the end of His ministry, in Matthew 22, He was dealing with the Sadducees who were the liberals of that day, the people that did not accept the authority of all Scripture. In fact, they only accepted the authority of the first five books, the Pentateuch. And they were challenging the teaching that there will be a resurrection of the dead. They came to Jesus with a smart question, but this is how Jesus answered them in Matthew 22:31–32:
“But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ God is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Notice how Jesus applied that Scripture. Those words were written by Moses about fourteen centuries earlier. They were actually words spoken by the Lord direct to Moses. But Jesus didn’t speak about them as something that was said to Moses fourteen centuries ago. This is very powerful. He said, “Have you not read what was spoken to you by God?” You see? The Scripture is never out of date. It’s never just the record of human cleverness, it is God. And even if it was written three thousand years ago it’s still God speaking to you today. That’s the authority of Scripture as Jesus understood it.
Now we need to consider also how the life of Jesus fulfilled the Scripture. If you go through the New Testament you’ll find that in eighteen different places it says something happened in the life of Jesus “that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” In other words, not merely did He believe the Scripture, not merely did He proclaim the Scripture but He obeyed the Scripture. His whole life was the outworking of Scripture.
You can take various aspects of His life but we’ll just take four. His birth, His human life, His death and His resurrection. Concerning all of those, the Scripture says it took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Jesus could not in any way have more strongly endorsed the authority of Scripture than that.
Now let’s turn to the New Testament. What is the authority behind the New Testament? You’ll be surprised to learn it’s the same that’s behind the Old Testament. Let’s look at two passages in which Jesus spoke to His disciples. In John 14:25–26, Jesus is taking leave of His disciples, He’s preparing them for the fact that He’s going to leave. And He says:
“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the helper, the Holy Spirit...”
That’s the title of the Holy Spirit. The Helper. Sometimes He’s called the comforter.
“...the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
So the authority behind the writings of the apostles is the authority of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus said He’ll do two things: Whatever I didn’t teach you, He will teach you; and whatever I said that you might have forgotten, He will bring to your remembrance. So the record of the gospels does not depend on human memory, it depends on the truth of the Holy Spirit.
And then again in John 16:12–14, the same thing is brought out. Jesus says to His disciples:
“I still have many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come...”
And let me point out that Jesus breaks the laws of grammar to emphasize that the Holy Spirit is not an it but a he. I can’t go into that because it’s too complicated but according to Greek grammar He should have said it. And He didn’t, He said he. In other words, please understand the Holy Spirit is not just an it, He’s a he, He’s a person. You need to relate to Him as a person.
“When He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak from Himself but whatever He hears He will speak. And He will tell you things to come.”
So again Jesus says, whatever teaching you need that you have not yet received, it will come to you by the Holy Spirit.
Then He says:
“He will not speak of Himself [or from Himself], but whatever He hears He will speak. And He will tell you things to come.”
And then the next verse:
“He will glorify me for He will take of what is mine and declare it to you.”
And let me point out to you that’s another extremely important mark of the Holy Spirit, He always glorifies Jesus. And if you ever are confronted by spiritual manifestations that do not glorify Jesus but give glory to a man or in some other direction, you can be sure that it’s not the Holy Spirit. Because the supreme ministry of the Holy Spirit is to reveal and to glorify Jesus. That’s one good way of testing the spirits. The Bible says we are to test the spirits. And you can test if a thing is from the Holy Spirit. One sure test is it will glorify Jesus. If it doesn’t—it may sound very good; it may sound very spiritual; it may be uttered in a loud, resounding voice; but it isn’t from the Holy Spirit because He will not glorify anyone but Jesus. And the moment human personalities begin to take glory to themselves the Holy Spirit says, “Sorry, but I have to leave. You can carry on but I won’t be here.” That’s how many, many ministries have gone astray in living memory... my living memory, which extends a lot further than some of yours. I could not count the number of ministries that have ended in ruin because men took the glory which the Holy Spirit will only give to Jesus. I want to tell you I’m very, very conscious of that myself. I’m continually examining myself, “Am I giving the glory to Jesus or am I trying to persuade people that Derek Prince is someone important?” Derek Prince is a sinner saved by the grace of God.
Now, let’s go on to a really interesting and important theme which is the nature of God’s Word. This is very, very interesting. In Hebrews 4:12 we get a kind of analysis of the nature of the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12:
“For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword...”
You’ll notice it’s compared again to the sword.
“...piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
So the Word of God is not dead, it’s not just black marks on white paper, it’s not just sounds that come from a preacher’s mouth; it’s alive, it’s living, and wherever it comes it brings life. The Word of God is alive and powerful. Thank God it is powerful. It’s more powerful than all the lies with which Satan has filled the world. The Word of God is the ultimate answer.
And then it says:
“...piercing even to the division of soul and spirit...”
This is very interesting, I must not get sidetracked on it. But, the Bible reveals that man is a triune being: spirit, soul and body—a triune being created in the likeness of a triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But, the only way we can learn to distinguish between the soul and the spirit is by the Word of God. It’s the only instrument that’s sharp enough to penetrate and separate what is soulish from what is spiritual. It’s very important because if you study the New Testament, and we don’t have time to go there, you’ll find that the soulish in many ways is in opposition to the spiritual. In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul says the soulish man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are spiritually discerned. So, it’s important that we learn to distinguish between what is spiritual and what is soulish. But only the Word of God can do that.
It can also divide between the joints and the marrow. So the Scripture can penetrate where no surgeon’s scalpel can penetrate and no psychiatrist’s probing can penetrate. It’s the only thing that takes us right into the very depths of human personality.
And then it says:
“...it’s a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart.”
To discern means to analyze, to see into the very nature of something. And somebody said years ago when I was a young believer, and it’s always stuck with me, “Remember, when you’re reading your Bible your Bible is also reading you.” It’s a two way transaction. It was so vivid to me because I started to read the Bible simply as a professional philosopher treating it as a work of God. But as I went on reading, and I found it very dreary and only my determination that no book would ever defeat me kept me reading, I began to feel quite different about myself. I thought up to that time I really had the answer to everything. Philosophy could provide a solution to everything. But as I went on reading the Bible I became less and less self-confident. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I thought I was getting old before my time, although I wasn’t even twenty-five at the time. I didn’t realize while I was reading the Bible, the Bible was reading me. And at the end I felt like Belshazzar at his feast when the writing appeared on the wall, “You’ve been weighed in the balances and found wanting.” My self-conceit, my pride, my arrogance, my intellectual assurance, all began to wilt before the Scripture. And yet, I didn’t believe it at the time but it was still doing its work. So, bear that in mind, when you read your Bible your Bible is also reading you.
Now let’s turn also to 1 Thessalonians for a moment, just for one further aspect of what the Bible will do. 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Paul is writing to the believers in Thessalonica who had responded in a wonderful way to the message of the gospel. He says:
“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men but as it is in truth the Word of God which also effectively works in you who believe.”
You understand that what the Bible will do in you depends in part on how you receive it. If you merely receive it as the word of God, it will not work its full work in you as a word of man, I’m sorry as a word of man. But, if you receive it as the Word of God, it works effectively in you.
And when you read your Bible, take time now and then to say to the Lord, “I believe this is your Word. I receive it as your Word, let it work in me everything you’ve sent it to do, in every area of my being—spirit, soul and body—because I believe it.”
And then we need to see a remarkable statement that Peter made in 2 Peter chapter 1, one of the most remarkable statements, I think, anywhere in Scripture. Just verses 3 and 4 of 2 Peter 1. And it’s in the middle of a sentence. The apostles wrote rather long sentences. I think Paul wrote the longest but Peter came up with some pretty long ones, too. In English we usually have to divide them up. So, I’m not going to go back into the beginning of this sentence, I’m going to start in the middle.
“...His divine power [that’s God’s divine power] has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue...”
That’s an amazing statement. It says God’s divine, omnipotent power has already given to us everything we’re ever going to need! You might respond, “Well, God, I don’t seem to have it, where is it?” And the next verse tells you:
“...by which has been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
So how has God given to us all things that we need for life and godliness? Where are they? They’re in the promises. I like this little sentence that I’ve coined, “The provision is in the promises.” Would you say that with me? “The provision is in the promises.” So, if you want to receive all that God has provided for you, you have to receive it through His promises because in them is everything you’re going to need.
But it also comes through the knowledge of Jesus because the Scripture reveals Jesus. And the amazing statement—if this weren’t so clearly written in the Bible I wouldn’t dare to say it—is that through partaking of the promises we can be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Now, we need to be very careful because there’s a kind of teaching which I won’t name but many of you would know the name of it, which is very fashionable today, which teaches that if you go on long enough and do the right things you can become a god. I’m sure some of you have encountered that teaching. In fact, let me tell you it’s called New Age. I used to use the phrase New Age, I said a new age is coming. Then they stole it from me and I had to think of something else! So I said the Kingdom of God is going to be established on earth. Jesus is going to establish His kingdom—and that they don’t like!
But anyhow, the New Age, incorporating a lot of Hindu philosophy and so on, teaches that if you go on long enough—and incidentally, the Mormons teach the same. They don’t say it publicly at first but it’s there, that you can become a god. I want to tell you, that is obviously false and I’ll tell you one basic reason. God is uncreated, we are created. And the created can never become uncreated. It’s a deception. But we can become partakers of the nature of God as we receive and apply the promises.
I always think of Jacob’s ladder. You probably remember the dream he had. He was out in the desert by himself and he went to sleep pillowed on a stone. How many of you would like to use a stone for a pillow? Well, I’ll tell you, when I was in the Sudan amongst the Hadandua (phonetic) in the northern Sudan, I found they did use stones for pillows. I watched a Sudani one day, he took a long stone with a rather sharp edge, put it on the ground and put the back of his head on the stone and happily went to sleep. So, it is possible but most of you wouldn’t enjoy it. But Jacob was sleeping with his head on a stone. I heard somebody say once, “I’d be willing to sleep with my head on a stone if I could have what Jacob had after that!” Because, he had a vision, a dream of a ladder reaching to heaven. The foot was on the earth, the top of the ladder was in heaven and the angels of God were ascending and descending. Jesus Himself was at the top of the ladder and He spoke.
But I think of the Bible, in a sense, like Jacob’s ladder. You see, every promise is one rung on the ladder. And every time you appropriate a new promise you go one step higher. And ultimately, it will take you to heaven. So, don’t ever neglect your Bible. It’s the key to your well being, the key to your success. It’s the most precious gift that God has ever given us. And let’s bear in mind as we have so many Bibles today and we discuss whether we’ll use this translation or that translation, or whether we want it illustrated or with notes, let’s remember that there are millions and millions and millions of people in the world today who have never once opened a Bible. They don’t have any choice. And let’s remember another thing, that in the past, in previous centuries, men and women laid down their lives in sacrifice to preserve the Bible for you and me. So let’s treat it with reverence. Let’s be respectful to the Bible because it is the way that God comes into our lives.
Now I want to deal in closing this particular section with something exciting which I only have a short while to deal with. That is the effects of God’s Word. Paul said to the Thessalonians it works effectively in you because you believe it. So I want to point out to you eight effects that God’s Word can have in your life. These are things that God’s Word will do for you and for me.
We’ll turn, first of all, to Romans chapter 10 and verse 17. Actually, I can quote it without looking at it, but... Romans 10:17:
“So then, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
Now, that is a wonderful Scripture because I lay in hospital for one year on end in the deserts of North Africa with a skin disease that the doctors couldn’t heal in that climate. They eventually called it chronic eczema. And actually, they don’t have a cure for that disease even today. I had just newly become a Christian and I kept saying to myself, “I know if I had faith God would heal me.” But the next thing I always said was, “But I don’t have faith.” And there I was in what John Bunyan calls the slough of despond, the valley of despair. I don’t have faith.
And then one day a brilliant ray of light shone into that dark valley and it came from Romans 10:17:
“So then, faith comes...”
If you don’t have it, you can get it. You don’t need to stay without it. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.
And faith is coming to many of you even now while you’re hearing the Word of God. You know that in the time of the New Testament the majority of the people who read, read out loud, even if they were to themselves. For instance, the Ethiopian eunuch was in his chariot reading the prophet Isaiah and Philip heard him read, although he was reading to himself. And there’s something to be said about reading out loud. Because when you hear yourself read, faith comes, you see?
All right. That’s the number one product of the Scripture.
Number two is it produces the new birth. It’s by the Word of God that we are born again. James 1:18, speaking about God says:
“Of His own will He brought us forth by the Word of Truth [that’s the Bible], that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”
Of His own will. You know why God did it? Because He decided to do it. We don’t get any further explanation than that. When you get back to the beginning of everything, it all starts with God’s decision. God decided to bring forth a people for Himself and He decided it would be brought forth by the Word of God, by the Scripture. And that’s what brought you and me to know God, to become a new creation, the people of God. It was by the Word of God.
Then in 1 Peter He goes on in the same theme. 1 Peter 2:22–23:
“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, in sincere love of the brethren love one another fervently with a pure heart.”
Notice how you purify your soul? By obeying the truth. Not by hearing the truth but by obeying it. And what will be the result? The result will be sincere love.
And then Peter goes on:
“...having been born again...”
Notice that “having been born again.”
“...not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible.”
What is the incorruptible seed?
“...through the Word of God which lives and abides forever.”
So it’s the seed of God’s Word received into the heart by faith that produces the new birth. The seed is incorruptible, the life it produces is incorruptible. The nature of the seed determines the nature of the life that comes from it. If you plant an apple pit you don’t get an orange tree. The nature of the seed determines the nature of the life. The Word of God is incorruptible and the life it produces is incorruptible. It’s divine, it’s holy, it’s eternal.
And then once you’ve been born again what you need is nourishment. And the marvelous thing is that God’s Word has provided suitable nourishment for every stage of spiritual growth. When you’re just a little spiritual baby you need milk and that’s what Peter says in the next chapter of 1 Peter, in verse 2. 1 Peter 2:2:
“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.”
So once you’re born again you should have a very healthy appetite for the Word of God. And there are many of us here tonight, I’m sure, that could testify when we were born again the one thing we wanted to do was read the Bible. We were born healthy infants with a healthy appetite for the one thing that could really nourish us.
But then as we grow up we need things like bread. We don’t need to turn there, Jesus said to Satan when he tempted Him to make bread out of stones:
“Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
So, God’s Word is not only milk, it’s also bread.
But as we grow up we need more solid food and this also is provided. In Hebrews 5 the writer of Hebrews is writing to Jewish people who had a knowledge of the Scripture from their background. He’s telling them what God might wish to say to some of us, “Because of all you know, you should be doing better than you are.” He said, “You’ve got the knowledge of the Scripture but you’re not using it. I’ll just read these words in Hebrews 5:12:
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you’ve come to need milk and not solid food.”
What was the evidence? They couldn’t digest more than the very simplest, basic truths.
“For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness; for he is a baby. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age [or mature]; that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
You understand? To mature you have to exercise your senses. You have to practice. You have to apply the Word of God, you have to use it to recognize the situations that you’re in, the forces that you’re dealing with. That’s the way to maturity. If you never really seriously apply the Word of God, if you don’t live by the Word of God, you will never become mature, you’ll never be able to take more than milk or maybe a little bread. But solid food is only for those who have practiced, who have exercised, who have applied the Word diligently, regularly in their lives.
So that’s the third result of the Word of God, it’s spiritual nourishment.
The fourth result is mental illumination. I want to turn to Psalm 119, a familiar verse to many, I’m sure. Psalm 119:130. The psalmist is speaking to God and he says:
“The entrance of your words gives light. It gives understanding to the simple.”
So, the entrance of God’s Word into our minds and into our hearts gives light. It’s different from education. Education is not light. You can be educated and totally in the dark. How do I know? Because I was. Highly educated and totally in the dark until the light of the Word of God shone into my life. So, remember, education is not light.
Years ago I was dealing with African students in East Africa whose one ambition was to get education. I wrote a little tract for them once called “You are seeking education but are you also finding wisdom?” I pointed out wisdom and education are not the same. In this tract I pointed out something which has shocked some people, most of the trouble in the world is caused by educated fools. Theodore Roosevelt, former president of the United States, once said this: He said, “If a man is a thief he’ll steal a railroad car [or a carriage or a compartment], but if you educate the same man he’ll steal the whole railroad.” So, please bear in mind education is a useful thing but it is not light. In fact, as I say, some of the most educated minds are in the deepest darkness. It’s only the entrance of God’s Word that gives light.
And then God’s Word provides physical healing. And I say this out of my own personal experience. Let’s turn to Psalm 107 for a moment. Reading from verse 17 through verse 20:
“Fools... [That’s the people in the other church, that’s never you and me!] Fools, because of their transgression and because of their iniquities were afflicted.”
Did it ever occur to you that some of us are afflicted because we’ve been leading a wrong life? I’ve heard so many people come for healing to me. Very rarely do they ever suggest that the source of their problem is their wrong living. But it says fools because of their iniquities are afflicted.]
“Their soul abhorred all manner of food and they drew near to the gates of death. [They were at the point of death. The doctor could do no more for them. Then it says:] Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble. [My comment on that is people often leave it very late to pray. They were at death’s door and it suddenly occurred to them it might help to pray. And what did God do? Listen:] He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”
Notice three things that God does when He sends His Word: He saves, He heals and He delivers. The three great acts of God’s mercy—saving from sin, healing from sickness and delivering from demon power—He accomplishes primarily through His Word.
Some of you, I know this from experience, you’re looking to find some preacher who will lay hands on you and pray for you and you’ll be healed. Well, may it happen. But I know, because many people come to me, they think if I pray for them they’ll be healed. But they aren’t. And in fact, I’ve come to the place where I’m a little bit concerned because I see they’re really looking to Brother Prince, not to the Lord. And let me tell you, without any preacher you can be healed if you’ll receive God’s Word, for He sent His Word, healed them, delivered them from their distresses.
And then there comes my favorite verse which is what got me out of hospital when no medication would do it, Proverbs 4:20, 21 and 22. I quote it in the Old King James Version because that’s how it came to me.
“My son, attend to my words, incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes, keep them in the midst of thine heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh.”
God’s words, he says, will be health to all our flesh.
Now there I was, I’d been about seven months in hospital. The doctors were not healing me and I was saying, “If only I had faith I knew God would heal me.” Then I got that Scripture, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” I began to hope and then I began to look through the Scripture again with a new hope. But you see, I had a problem. I’d been a professional philosopher and the job of philosophers is to make simple things complicated. That’s when they get elected. So, I couldn’t take the Word of God in its simplicity. I read promise after promise about God healing but I thought that only means He heals my soul. He’s not really interested in my body, that’s just corrupt, it’s going to die anyhow. Bless the Lord, O my soul, forgiveth all mine iniquities, healeth all thy diseases, I said that’s only my soul’s diseases. But when I got to Proverbs 4:20–22, I couldn’t get around it. God says His words are life to those that find them and health to all their flesh. And I said not even a philosopher can make flesh mean anything but flesh. Health to my whole physical body. And then I looked in the margin and the alternative reading for health was medicine. I happened to be what the army called a medical orderly. I said how do people take their medicine? The answer is three times daily after meals. I said that’s what I’ll do. I can’t go into the details but over a period of three or four months I took God’s Word as my medicine three times daily after every meal and it gave me complete and permanent healing and health in one of the most unhealthy climates in the world, the Sudan.
So, I’ll tell you, brothers and sisters, it works.
Now, let’s come to just three more results of the Word of God, very quickly. The next one is victory over sin and Satan. Psalm 119:9 and 11:
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to your Word.”
And then again in verse 11:
“Your Word have I hidden [or stored up] in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Many, many of our young people today really question whether it’s possible to lead a pure life. Most of their educators will tell them it isn’t. They’ll recommend what they call safe sex, which is never safe. But the Bible says a young man who gives attention to his way, according to the Word of God, can lead a pure life.
And I thank God when I worked amongst African young people I saw those words fulfilled time and time again. They were made pure and they led clean lives because they gave heed to the Word of God.
And you’ll remember that we looked in Matthew 4 when Jesus encountered Satan, He only met him with one weapon: “It is written.”
And then again, and we’re going very quickly now, in Ephesians 5:25–27:
“Husbands, love your wives...”
Just let me tell you husbands, that’s not a suggestion, it’s a command.
“Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
How will Jesus provide Himself with a bride who is holy and without blemish? Through the washing of water by the Word of God. The Word of God sanctifies us, it cleanses us.
John said of Jesus, this is He who came by water and by blood. Not by water only but by blood. By the blood of His sacrifice He redeems us but by the water of His Word He cleanses and sanctifies us. We need both. We’re redeemed by the blood that we might be cleansed by the Word.
And finally, James says, and we won’t turn there, but in his epistle, chapter 1, verses 23–25, the Bible is a spiritual mirror. When you look into it, it doesn’t show you your physical appearance, it shows you what you’re really like inside. James points out when you look in a mirror and see there’s something wrong, the sensible thing to do is tend to it. If your hair is out of order, you brush it. If your face is dirty, you wash it. You act on what you see in the mirror. And James says you need to do that when you look in the mirror of the Word of God. You need to see your spiritual self in it and act on whatever it shows you that you need to do.
So let me just recapitulate that and close. Eight effects of God’s Word.
- It produces faith.
- It’s the seed of the new birth.
- It’s spiritual nourishment.
- It produces mental illumination.
- It provides physical healing.
- It makes possible victory over sin and Satan.
- It provides cleansing and holiness.
- And, it is a spiritual mirror. Amen.