God's Word of Life

In John 6:63, Jesus Christ emphasised how important is God’s Word: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” Christ here says the Holy Spirit imparts life to us and God’s Word is spirit and life. The Word of God is not dead or lifeless. Our false interpretations and false theological theories about the Word of God are dead and lifeless, but true interpretations of the Word are not.

The Word of God is living and active in its original God-intended meanings. This is why you can have a preacher who is not born again, mention certain true aspects of the Gospel from the written Word of God and have unsaved listeners turn in saving faith to Jesus Christ through the workings of the Holy Spirit. The Word is living and saving even though the preacher is spiritually lifeless.

In Matthew 4:4, Christ said that God’s Word is more important to us than even food: “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’.” Christians should not worship the cover, paper and ink of the Bible. But they should have awe or reverence for the Words of God recorded in the Bible. Ezra 9:4, 10:3, Isaiah 66:2 and 5 refer to trembling in relation to the Word of God. Isaiah 66:2 records the Lord said: “…But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Harris, Archer and Waltke say the word “tremble” in the above four listed verses means “awe or reverence” in relation to the Word of God (page 322). We reverence His Word because He has spoken it. In Psalm 138:2, God says He has exalted His Word even above His own Name: “…for You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” God’s Name represents His character in all its attributes.

Psalm 119:161-162 refers to standing in awe of God’s Word and His Word being a great treasure: “Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word. I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure.”

In Psalm 119:119 and 167, the God-inspired writer said he loved the testimonies of God’s Word. In Psalm 119:47, 48 and 127, God led the Psalm-writer to declare he loved God’s commandments. In 119:159, the writer says he loved the precepts of God’s Word. “Precepts” here refers to “the responsibilities that God places on His people”. [1] Those who say we are committing the sin of Bible-worship if we love God’s Word, are wrong.

It is sinful to treat the Bible as a lucky charm. Also, we should not bow down and worship the Bible. But we should love the Word of God which is recorded in the Bible. Psalm 119:132 refers to loving God’s name. It is not a sin to love either God’s Name or His Word.

 

Jesus’ attitude to the Old Testament Word

 

In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus stated: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or 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.” Here Jesus taught that every word found in the original Hebrew Old Testament was inspired by God. In relation to this, note:

 

         In verse 17, Christ referred to the whole Old Testament as “the Law or the Prophets.” The same expression is used in Matthew 7:12, 22:40, Luke 16:16 and Romans 3:21. Matthew 11:13 refers to “the prophets and the law”. In Luke 24:44, Christ spoke of the whole Old Testament as “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms”. Also, observe in John 10:34, 1 Corinthians 14:21 and 14:34, Jesus and then Paul referred to verses in Psalms, Isaiah and Genesis as being a part of the Law. In a more specific sense, only the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy contain the Law of Moses. But in some contexts in a broader sense, all the Old Testament is referred to as “the Law”. So because Matthew 5:17 refers to the broader “the Law or the Prophets”, Christ is referring to the whole Old Testament in Matthew 5:18 when He mentions “the Law”.

         In Greek, the word “jot” in Matthew 5:18 is “iota” and means “the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet (corresponding to the ‘yod’ of the Hebrew alphabet)”. [2] If you look at a list of the Hebrew alphabet, it is easy to see why “yodh” is by far the smallest letter. The word “tittle” in Matthew 5:18 in Greek is “keraia” which is defined as “a part of the letter of the alphabet [3] or “a serif”. [4] A serif is a fine line at the end of letters. For example, the Hebrew letter called “beth” differs from the Hebrew letter “kahf” only by a small extension of the beth at the lower right-hand part of the letter. Let us compare to English. An “e” is formed by adding only a tiny stroke or serif to a “c”. But note this tiny alteration would greatly change the meaning of a word which had its “c” altered to a “e”. For example, “case” would become “ease”.[5] By using the word “jot” and “tittle”, Christ was saying every word in the originally written Hebrew Old Testament is inspired by God.[6]

 

God’s absolute sovereignty over His written Word

 

God’s power to achieve what He says is seen, for example, when Jesus said in Matthew 26:13 about a woman who had anointed Him with perfume: “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Jesus’ words here reveal God would sovereignly make sure what writings were preserved as His Books of the Old and New Testaments. Despite the wrong decisions and attitudes of many church councils, bishops, theologians and other church leaders in earlier centuries, God has sovereignly overseen the gathering and preservation of the various totally inspired Books of the Scriptures.

Simplicity in Christ versus being sinfully simple

 

In 2 Corinthians 1:12 and 11:3, Paul refers to a godly simplicity in Christ. It is also good to have a simple loving trust in God and Jesus Christ.

But note Proverbs 1:32, 7:7, 9:13, 9:16, 14:15, 14:18, 22:3, 27:12 and Romans 16:18 refer to a sinful form of being simple. In Hebrew, the word “simple” is “peti” in these verses and means “naÔve, foolish”. [7] As we see in Proverbs 7:6-27 and 9:13-18, being simple in a simple sense relates to compromising with sin and being foolish in an ungodly sense.

Proverbs 14:15 reveals another sign of the sinfully simple is believing every word we are told: “The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps.” Many churchgoers are like this. They accept as being revelations from the Holy Spirit whatever they read in books, hear on tapes, hear in sermons and are told by other churchgoers without testing these by the Scriptures. They follow every wind of doctrine (see Ephesians 4:14). They are not like the prudent people who Proverbs 14:15 says consider their steps well.

In Romans 16:18, Paul warns us of churchgoers who do not really serve Jesus Christ as Lord and who deceive the sinfully simple with fine-sounding words and flattery: “For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.”

 

Be inspired by true testimonies but avoid fables

 

It is good to be inspired by testimonies of God miraculously working in people’s lives. Such testimonies are often practical revelations of God’s wonderful character. But we must also be very careful when listening to or reading testimonies.

Testimonies are sometimes used in preaching and in books to give supposed credibility to various unbiblical teachings and practices. Among some churchgoers in the early Christian centuries, some testimonies about miracles became oral traditions which were used by the Devil to deceive later generations. I have heard some modern Charismatic preachers use testimonies of miracles which they claimed occurred previously in their own ministries in order to gain supposed credibility for their own unbiblical “whacko” teachings and their focus on emptying the wallets of their listeners.

Testimonies about miraculous events supporting unscriptural ideas are called fables. In the New Testament, the word “fable” is used in 1 Timothy 1:4, 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:4, Titus 1:14 and 2 Peter 1:16. In Greek, the word “fable” is “muthos” which means “a legendary story or account, normally about supernatural beings, events or cultural heroes, and in the New Testament always with an unfavourable connotation”. [8]

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4, Paul prophesied a future time or times when many churchgoers would not like sound Biblical doctrine would be turned aside by false teachers to religious fables. In other words, Paul predicted by the Holy Spirit that in the future many churchgoers would focus on dramatic testimonies about miracles which would teach things contrary to the Scriptures. Paul did not oppose casting out demons, angelic visitations, healings, miracles and revelations of the Holy Spirit. But he did oppose any testimony about these things which suggested anything contrary to the sound doctrines of the Word of God.

Most modern preachers of miraculous fables or miraculous testimonies which support unscriptural ideas and practices, make fun of those who emphasise the importance of sound Biblical doctrine. But note in 2 Timothy 4:3, Paul identifies such opposers of sound doctrines as false teachers.

In Titus 1:9, Paul emphasised the importance of church leaders preaching sound Biblical doctrine: “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” In 1 Timothy 4:6, Paul stated one of the qualities of being a good minister is following good doctrine: “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.”

In Titus 1:14, Paul warned the Apostle Titus to not listen to testimonies about miraculous events and supernatural beings which suggested unbiblical ideas: “not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.” Paul here linked such fables with man-made religious commandments. The history of the church records many examples of miraculous fables being used to support man-made religious laws.

In 2 Peter 1:16, Peter insists he and the other Apostles did not follow cleverly devised fables or false miraculous testimonies when preaching about Jesus Christ: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”

Below is an example of a religious fable or unbiblical miraculous testimony sent to me by letter:

“My names are OLUBUMI… - I went for all night in…MINISTRIES. I went earlier than I was supposed. This was about 9.30 p.m. Then I decided to go and wait at a house nearby. A tree was at the front of the house and five big heads appeared. In fact, they were supernatural beings, their eyes shining as torch light. My body became weak and my penis vanished. That hour, I went to Bishop’s house and reported the matter…The service started around 11.30 p.m. It was 2.15 a.m. that Bishop layed his hands on my penis. I thank God that up to date my penis is moving. Jesus, you are a great healer.” The above is the type of ridiculous fables that even some born-again Christians are accepting at present.

 

Churches must emphasise both the written Word and the Holy Spirit

 

There are two extremes all Christians must avoid. The first involves focussing only on studying the Bible and ignoring the wonderful workings of God the Holy Spirit. Churchgoers who do this usually are overly-intellectual and merely know God’s truth mentally without them evidencing signs of knowing Him personally and of having His Holy Spirit transforming their lives. Such people end up like the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers mentioned in Acts 17:18-21. These people wasted their lives just debating and listening to various ideas.

The second extreme occurs when Christians focus only or mainly on what they think the Holy Spirit is saying and doing. They have little interest in studying and meditating on the teachings of the written Word of God. They rarely study the Bible themselves and rely merely on what they hear at Sunday services. Such churchgoers mostly end up imagining the Holy Spirit is guiding them to do things which are unbiblical. Or they mistake the activities of the flesh or demons for what the Holy Spirit is doing.

Sadly, many of these latter churchgoers are like Eastern mystics or spiritualfruitloops”. They are like the immature believers spoken of in Ephesians 4:14: “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” Such immature believers are easily blown about by every new wind of doctrine or church fad.

In 1994, the Christian statistical researcher George Barna found that 70% of Americans claimed they “consistently allow (their) lives to be guided by the Holy Spirit.” [9] But note Gallup Polls stated that in 1988 only 33% of Americans said sex before marriage is always wrong. [10] In 1988, only 43% of American churchgoers said premarital sex was always wrong. [11] Therefore this tragically means roughly 37% of Americans around the late 1980’s and early 1990’s were religious “fruitcakes” or “Holy Ghost” swingers who imagined that contrary to His written Word, the Holy Spirit had guided them that sex before marriage is right.

These so-called “Christians” were like many Gnostics in the early Church period who claimed to be led by the Holy Spirit and to know Jesus Christ but who believed God approved of their sexual immoralities. These Gnostics quoted only those Bible verses which suited themselves. They did not test their so-called “revelations by the Holy Spirit” by the Word of God interpreted in context and in agreement with verses on similar topics.

I have met many godly American Christians who show signs of being consistently guided by the Holy Spirit. But sadly there are too many who claim to be led by the Holy Spirit but who are instead led by unbiblical “revelations” and the wicked standards of the world. The same applies to various degrees to many supposed Christians in other countries.

Acts 13:4-12 shows the sound teaching of God’s Word is not separated from marvellous manifestations of His miracle-working power. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul here was an instrument of God in relation to the miraculous temporary blinding of a sinful occultist. This miracle encouraged the Roman proconsul to turn to the Lord Jesus. But note as Acts 13:12 says, the proconsul associated the miracle with the good Biblical teaching Paul and Barnabus had shared with Him: “Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.”

 

Two wrong extremes

 

There have two extremes in the Church throughout the centuries:

 

         There have been many who have wrongly thought that faith in God and Jesus Christ involved just mentally believing truths about Him found in the Bible and/or in church creeds.

         Others have falsely taught faith in God and Jesus Christ involved just having a personal mystical or spiritual experience of God and His Word. Existentialists like Soren Kierkegaard and some mystics of the Middle Ages have fallen into this error.

 

 

Believing Gospel truths and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit

 

When we take 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and Acts 17:2-3 together, we see the perfect Biblical balance between the importance of experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit and hearing the absolute truths of the Gospel. In 1 Thessalonians 1:5, Paul said: “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance…” Note here Paul emphasised the crucial nature of the Gospel being given “in the Holy Spirit”.

In Acts 17:2-3, Luke gives a second account of Paul’s same preaching of the Gospel to the Thessalonians: “Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’” In the original Greek, the word “reasoned” here is a form of the word “dialegomai” which means “discuss, conduct a discussion” [12] or “to argue about differences of opinion” or “to dispute with others”. [13] In the original Greek, “explaining” is a form of the word “dianoigo” which means “explain, interpret” [14] or “to explain something which has been previously hidden or obscure”. [15] In Greek, the word “demonstrating” is a form of the word “paratithemi” which in the context of Acts 17:3 means “setting subjects before one’s hearers by way of argument and proof [16] or “demonstrate, point out”. [17]

The definitions of these Greek words show Paul discussed, disputed, explained and presented proof from the Scriptures in his preaching of the Gospel to unbelievers at Thessalonica. Paul did not believe the Gospel was only related to some type of personal mystical experience of God by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 and Hebrews 2:3-4 stress the importance of the Gospel being presented in the power of the Holy Spirit. [18] But note Acts 19:8-9 shows Paul thoroughly explained or argued the things of the kingdom of God to unbelievers at Ephesus: “And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.” The word “reasoning” used twice here is a form of the word “dialegomai” defined earlier.

Acts 28:23 shows that Paul used the Scriptures as his source of absolute truth about Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom: “So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.” The enormous emphasis the Apostles Paul and Peter had on the Scriptures as the basis of their preaching can be seen in Acts 24:14, Romans 1:1-2, 15:4, 1 Peter 1:20-21 and 2 Peter 3:15-16. Note also Christ's focus on the preaching of the Scriptures (see Luke 24:25-27 and 24:44-45).

For a person to receive eternal life, there must be both a supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit and faith in the Words of Jesus Christ spoken Himself or through His Apostles and other Biblical authors.

 

Victory through the Word

 

Psalm 119:9-11 reveals one of the keys to victory over sin is knowing God’s Word: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

 

Modern non-Christians benefiting from previous Christian reforms

 

So many proud arrogant non-Christians in Western countries think they are so clever in abandoning Christianity and many of the teachings of the Bible about homosexuality, sex outside marriage, divorce, abortion and so on.

But they fail to realise that many of the practices which they cling to come from the Bible. For example, the idea that the poor, needy, widows and orphans need to be supported by those who are better off is a teaching of the Old and New Testaments. Ancient pagans did not have this type of emphasis. The Muslims, Communists, Socialists and others in later times merely imitated this Bible practice.

In the 400’s B.C., the Council of Athens in Greece used to grant pensions to disabled persons. This is evident in Lysias’ writing “On the Refusal of a Pension to the Invalid”. Lysias (approx. 459-380 B.C.) was a Greek orator.

But note about 1000 years earlier, God instructed Moses to command the Israelites to give one tenth of their income every third year to provide for needy Israelites (see Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and 26:12-15). Also in Deuteronomy 15:7-8, God commanded the Israelites to do something which was revolutionary in the whole world at the time: “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.” God gave similar commands through Moses in Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:35-38 and Deuteronomy 23:17-20.

The present opposition to gladiators, infanticide, paedophilia and incest has its foundations in the Bible. In ancient times, many pagan nations at different times tolerated or even promoted these wicked practices to varying degrees. Another thing begun by Christianity was hospitals.

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.         Explain what the following verses teach about God’s Word:

 

a)             John 6:63,

b)             Matthew 4:4,

c)             Isaiah 66:2,

d)             Psalm 138:2,

e)             Psalm 119:161-162,

f)              Psalm 119:47, 48 and 127 and

g)             Psalm 119:159.

 

2.         Explain what Jesus taught about the Old Testament in Matthew 5:17-18.

3.         What does it mean to be sinfully simple?

4.         Explain what are fables which Paul condemns in 1 Timothy 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:4 and Titus 1:14.

5.         Think of some examples of testimonies which you have heard given by other Christians which seem to be unbiblical fables.

6.         Explain the two wrong examples of:

a)             focussing on the Word but ignoring the Holy Spirit and

b)             focussing on the Holy Spirit but having little interest in studying and meditating on the written Word of God.

 

7.         Explain how 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and Acts 17:2-3 reveal the perfect Biblical balance between the importance of having a personal experience of God and hearing the absolute truths of the Gospel.

 


 

[1] Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 732.

[2] Louw and Nida, page 393.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Bauer, page 428.

[5] Burkitt offers an alternative interpretation of “tittle”. He suggests it refers to the Hebrew letter “wahw”. Note that both “yodh” and “wahw” were often omitted in Hebrew and Aramaic texts (David Hill, “The Gospel of Matthew”, page 118). If Burkitt is correct, this means Christ was saying even the two most unimportant Hebrew letters found in the words of the Old Testament are crucial and inspired by God.

[6] Note the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament was quoted by New Testament writers. We can only take those parts of it quoted in the New Testament as being fully inspired. The rest of it must be taken as only a translation.

[7] Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 743.

[8] Louw and Nida, page 390.

[9] George Barna, “The Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators”, Word Publishing, Dallas, 1996, page 67.

[10] G. Gallup and J. Castelli, “The People’s Religion”, Macmillan, New York, 1989, page 76.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Bauer, page 185.

[13] Vine, page 509.

[14] Bauer, page 187.

[15] Louw and Nida, page 405.

[16] Vine, page 22.

[17] Bauer, page 623.

[18] 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 says: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

 

 


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