THE WRITTEN WORD: WHAT DID JESUS, THE APOSTLES, AND THE PSALMISTS SAY ABOUT THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD?
For the Word of the Lord is living and active. Sharper than a double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all of creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account. Hebrews 4:12-13
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Luke 21:33
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11
I have felt the sharp blade of the double edge sword of truth, which is the word, pierce my flesh and soul many, many times. It has served to expose and excise sin and deceit from my heart, and it has sliced the chains of sin and oppression off of my soul. It has exposed the wickedness of my sinful flesh, and it has lifted up my spirit and set my feet upon a rock and made my footsteps firm (Psalm 40). This word, given to man from God himself, is life, truth and power, and as 1 Peter 1:25-26 says, men and their glory will fade away and die, but the word of the Lord will endure forever..
Unfortunately, there is a trend in many evangelical circles to minimize and denigrate the written word of God, and to replace it with what is called “new wine.” This alleged new wine are supposed revelations from God, that are considered to be equal to or actually superior to scripture. I have heard it said by these charlatans that scripture was really for the past, but their new revelations are for today. This clearly contradicts everything that Jesus, Paul, Peter and the Psalmists said about the eternal nature of scripture.
Unlike the God-breathed written word, the people pouring out this new wine did not walk and talk with Jesus; they did not hear Him preach and teach for 3 years; they did not travel broken and dusty roads with Him, and they did not watch Him suffer, die, and rise again – nor did Jesus appear to them in blazing light, blinding and humbling them until they understood the true nature of God’s calling…that everything is a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. Yet these deceivers act as if their words have the same inherent power, which of course allows them to gain the fame, wealth, legitimacy and power that they are really seeking. Not surprisingly this new wine rarely lines up with the written word of God…but there is just enough Christian language mixed in to fool those who don’t truly know and love the truth. But because they emanate from the foolish heart of man rather then God…they will fade away like grass and burn, along with those who speak them( 2 Peter 2:1-19, Jude 1:3-7, Revelation 21:6-8, and Revelation 22:15).
Every sermon we hear, every video we watch, and every word we speak must line up clearly with the unchanging word of God in order to be true, right, edifying and just in the sight of the one and only God, who lives and reigns in Heaven and by whom we will one day be judged. I am going to go through New Testament scriptures and several Psalms, which define or discuss the written word of God, which we are all called to eat, drink, and breathe as we follow God into eternity…
Matthew 4:1-4 One of the most instructive passages about the power and purpose of the written Word of God is contained in the beginning of Matthew 4, where Jesus is starving (that is an understatement) after fasting for forty (40) days in the desert. He is approached by Satan who offers Him bread. Jesus, filled with strength, not from food or any temporal thing, but by the Spirit of the living God, tells Satan that man does not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Even in a moment of what had to have been absolute physical agony, Jesus fixed His eyes on the eternal, and He spoke unchanging truth. The word of God is true, everlasting food which will never run out and which will never spoil. When tempted, Jesus did not come up with some wise and pithy new saying with which to battle Satan. Instead, each time He was tempted, He wielded the unchanging Word of God, and He wielded it as a sharp sword. We must do the same as we face the lies and temptations of the evil one in our lives.
Matthew 13:1-23 In the parable of the sower, the “seed” that is sowed per verse 19, is the word of God (see also Luke 8:11). The word, placed deep in our hearts, is what grows and bears fruit to the glory of God the Father (John 15) …if we do not allow the troubles and cares of this foolish, temporary world to pollute the soil of our hearts. We are all called to truly study and know the written word in order to make sure that our soil is good and fertile, lest the deceiver come and snatch away the seed through fear, the cares and troubles of this world, or the desire for wealth. If our seed grows deep roots, not only will we bear fruit above ground, but we will also be able to withstand the trials and tribulations that will come on all those who truly know and love Jesus Christ.
Matthew 24:35 Heaven and Earth will pass away, but the word of God will never ever pass away.
Mark 2:1-3 When the crowds of people gathered around Jesus, before He healed them or did anything else, He preached the word.
Luke 8:19-21 When Jesus was told by a certain crowd that His mother and brothers were outside looking for Him, Jesus said that His mother and His brothers are those who hear the word of God and obey it.
This clearly sets forth the fact that those who want to become a part of God’s eternal family must both hear and practice the word of God. Saying a little prayer of belief doesn’t cut it. Obedience, not as works, but because we truly know and love Jesus Christ and have made Him the Lord of our life, is what counts. The flesh counts for nothing while the spirit counts for everything.
John 1:1-18 There is both a written word and living Word, and while this writing is focusing on the written word, it is important to understand that Jesus Christ is the living Word. The living Word and the written word are inseparable, and they bring life and light to all who pursue them.
John 4:46-53 A nobleman came to Jesus to have his child healed. Unlike most people, this man did not need signs and wonders to believe Jesus (verse 48). Jesus spoke a word to this man that his son would live, and the man believed that what Jesus said was true, and he went on his way – and sure enough, his child was healed at the exact moment that Jesus spoke.
We must also develop such a simple and beautiful faith, that when we read the words of Jesus and His apostles, we receive them, believe them, and obey them without doubt or fear.
John 6:63, Jesus says that the Spirit that gives life and the flesh profits nothing. He then goes on to state that the words He speaks are “spirit and life.”
This verse epitomizes what the God who made all things (see John 1:1-18) thinks of the written Word…they are spirit and they are life from Heaven. If we truly want to find life on this earth we will relentlessly study the words of Jesus.
John 6:68 Peter tells Jesus that He(Jesus) has the words of eternal life…and indeed He does.
John 8:31-32 Jesus told some of His followers that if they remain in His word, they are truly His disciples. By obeying His word, they will remain in the truth, and the truth will set them free.
Jesus Himself is telling all of us that His words are truth and that they lead to freedom – yet we all so willingly and lazily leave the word on our bedside table and pick up “Christian” books written by men or waste our time on watching sports. (Jesus thankfully, says college football is worth it though 🙂 ). The point of this isn’t legalism. The point is to fill our hearts more frequently with that which is eternal, so that we are prepared for both the troubles to come on this planet, and the joy we will feel when we stand face-to-face with Jesus.
John 8:42-43 Jesus tells some of the Jews who are questioning Him that if God were truly their Father, then they would love Jesus because they would recognize that He came from God. Yet they did not understand Jesus because they cannot bear to hear His word, which is truth.
It is heartbreaking to see how so many mega churches today gloss over the hard yet saving words of Jesus in order to focus on positive, happy scriptures(which they twist to preach financial prosperity and temporal success) along with their own unbiblical revelations. All of this simply feeds the flesh of the attendees – along with the bank accounts and pride of the pastors. The tough yet life giving words of Jesus (and Paul) are necessary to save the souls of men, rather than simply medicating them temporarily with the words their flesh longs to hear. Since Jesus boldly rebuked the Pharisees, so we should rebuke and turn away from all of those leaders who don’t truly cherish the word of God in full, but simply use God to build false, temporal kingdoms for themselves.
John 8:51 Jesus says that if a man keeps His word, that man will never taste death.
John 8:55 Jesus states that He knows the Father and He keeps His word.
Even Jesus, while on this planet, was subject to the word and diligently obeyed it.
John 14:23-26 In this beautiful and deeply moving passage, Jesus says that if a man truly loves Him he will keep His commands (which are His words), and if he obey His commands, then the Father will also love him and they will both come and make their homes with him. Conversely, he who does not love Jesus does not keep His words, and the words of Jesus come directly from the Father. Jesus then goes on to state that, once He is back in Heaven with His Father, He will send us the Holy Spirit to teach us all things.
This is a very powerful passage because it tells us in clear language how we can know if we truly love Jesus – by obeying His commands. Jesus reiterates this point by saying that we cannot possibly love Him if we do not obey His commands. And the glorious benefit of obeying His commands is that both He and the Father God, the Ancient of Days, who is one with Jesus, will come and make their homes with…me??…small, simple and foolish me!! What a wonderful God we serve.
John 15:3 Jesus tells His disciples that they already clean because of the word that Jesus has spoken to them.
The word cleanses our souls, washing it clean (see also, Ephesians 5:25-27, which instructs husbands to love their wives by, among other things, washing them with the word).
John 15:7 Jesus tells His disciples that if they remain in Him and His words remain in them, they can ask whatever they wish and it shall be given to them.
Often in America, our selfish minds focus on the second part of this passage, and not the first part. If we truly remain in Jesus and His words remain in us, then the things that we ask of Him will be in accordance with His will, and He will do them.
John 17:6-8 Jesus tells the Father that the men who were given to Him by the Father have kept His word and that they believed that Jesus was from the Father because Jesus gave them the words which the Father had given to Him, and they received those words.
This passage emphasizes the importance of accepting all of the words that come from Jesus no matter how harsh they seem, if we truly want to be His disciples. Many followers abandoned Jesus when He said that they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood because they didn’t understand that Jesus was making a spiritual metaphor (John 6:53-65). We must trust the words of Jesus at all times and in all things, even if they don’t make sense to our flesh. That is why Jesus sent us the Spirit to teach us all things (John 14:26). We must ask the Spirit to help us understand the words that don’t make sense, and to help us live the words that do make sense but are impossible to achieve without the Spirit doing the work.
John 17:14-19 When speaking to the Father about the disciples, and noting that they were not of this world just as Jesus was not of this world, Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth.” Then Jesus prays that they, like Jesus, may be sanctified by the truth.
All of mankind searches for truth, but according to the one and only God, absolute and perfect truth is found in one place, His word, which we all have easy access to via computer, our telephones, and bookstores. Let us fill ourselves with this truth. I strongly believe that when we stand before Jesus at the end of days, much will be required of us, because unlike all previous generations, much (the easily accessible word) was given to us all.
Acts 17:11 In this passage Luke notes that the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians because, not only did they receive the word with great eagerness, but they also took the time and exerted the effort to test even the words of the great Paul with the scriptures to see if they were true.
We all MUST do the same thing with every single word we hear from a teacher or pastor.
In Acts 20:17-32 As Paul is leaving the Ephesians elders on his march toward certain death, he warns them about false teachers who will rise up from amongst the brothers, and he commend them to God…and to the word.
This passage is interesting, because Paul does not just commend them to God in prayer but he also reminds them that God has given them a tool to use in order to stay on the path toward Jesus, and that tool, which is also a sword, is the word.
In Romans 10:5-17, Paul states that the word is near us, it is in our mouths and is in our hearts. This is the word of faith which we all preach. He then goes on to state that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead then we will be saved. For it is with the heart that one believes unto righteousness and it is with the mouth that confession is made unto salvation. For the scriptures says that whoever believes in Him will not be ashamed.
This passage defines what it means to be saved more clearly than any other section or verse that I have ever seen. I love that Paul says that the word is all around the Roman brothers – it is near them, in their mouths, and in their hearts. He then defines salvation by stating that if we confess that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our hearts that He was raised from the dead, and if we are not afraid to speak this in public, then we will be saved. We should not be ashamed of either the written or the living Word if we truly believe deep within our hearts that Jesus is Lord. If we really believe that the God of Heaven of Earth stepped off His throne to come down to this Earth in order to live and then die for us in such a brutal fashion, and if we have made Him Lord of our lives, we will not be ashamed to proclaim His name as He leads us by His Holy Spirit into eternity.
2 Corinthians 4:1-7 Since we have a ministry through God’s mercy, we must not lose heart. For we have renounced the secret things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but expressing the truth honorably to every man and before the sight of God -for God has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. I love how Paul wraps up this passage in verses 5-7, when he makes it clear that we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord and ourselves as servants for Jesus’ sake (listen up mega church pastors and evangelists!).
This passage emphasizes the need for preaching the word of God clearly and truthfully, without trying to manipulate people in order to obtain power and money. The whole point of preaching the word is to lift up Jesus Christ as Lord, and all who teach and preach, as humble servants.
Ephesians 6:17 We are to take up the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.
Philippians 2:12-16 Paul instructs the believers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling and to be blameless in this wicked generation, holding out the word of life to others, so that Paul may rejoice with them on the day of Christ.
We are all called to hold out the word of life to the people God puts in front of us. Otherwise, they will indeed taste eternal death. We must all know this word, and pray that the Holy Spirit will give us the boldness to declare it with gentleness and power through the Holy Spirit. There is no other life other then that which is in Christ Jesus, whom he has revealed to us through His eternal word.
Colossians 1:4-6 Paul states that he has heard about the faith and love of the Colossian believers, which has sprung up in them from the hope which is laid up for them in Heaven and which they have learned about through the word of the truth, which is the Gospel. Paul says that his word, which has come to all the world, does not fail to bring forth fruit.
Paul emphasized that “hope” is found in the word of truth, which is the Gospel of Christ, and he states that, if we share it with others, it will bear fruit. And as Jesus said in John 15, He wants all of us to bear fruit to the glory of God the Father.
Colossians 1:24-25 Paul states that his sufferings and servant hood for the church are his commission from God – which is to fulfill the word of God.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly in all wisdom, teaching, and admonishing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
What a beautiful passage this is, instructing us all on how to handle the word, and describing the peace, gentleness and truth that will flow out of it if we truly clothe ourselves with it.
1 Thessalonians 1:8 Paul commends the Thessalonians for having a reputation for spreading the word of the Lord everywhere they travel.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-13 Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, and he told them that he thanked God that, when they received the word of God from him, they accepted it, not as the word of men but as it truly is, the word of God, which effectively works in those who believe.
2 Thessalonians 3:1 Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray for him and his companions that the word of the Lord may quickly spread and be glorified just as it was amongst them.
1 Timothy 4:13-16 Paul exhorts Timothy to give careful attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine (understanding of the word). He is told to be careful in both his life and his doctrine, for in doing so he will save both himself and his hearers.
Clearly, this passage is stating that being lazy, careless and selfish with the word can cost both our hearers and ourselves our souls. God’s words are what they are. We should never, ever manipulate them for our own benefit.
1 Timothy 5:17 Timothy is told to honor the elders, and especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. Paul considers those who work hard studying the word, holding it out to others, and ensuring that that the truth is not polluted or corrupted, as honorable and worthy of respect. Truth is very important to Paul, as it was to Jesus, and that is why the Bereans were commended in Acts 17. All of us must do this as well in order to avoid being deceived.
It is sad how many times I have heard believers say that we should not worry about doctrine, but should simply focus on how nice, happy and forgiving Jesus is. Jesus is love, but He is also power, and one day He will pour out His wrath without mercy on those who have rejected Him as He truly is. He will come with an iron scepter (See Revelation 19:11-end) crushing his foes. Never forget who Jesus is… He is love….but He is also a wrathful avenger who, in the proper season, will show no mercy.
1 Timothy 6:3-4 Anyone who does not consent to the word of our Lord Jesus Christ and Godly doctrine is conceited and knows nothing.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who needs not be ashamed, and who rightly divides the word of truth.
2 Timothy 3:15-17 Paul states that, since childhood, Timothy has known the Holy scriptures which are able to make us wise unto salvation with a faith that is in Jesus. He then states that all scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness so that the man of God may be complete, and thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 4:1-4 Timothy is charged by Paul before God and Jesus Christ, to preach the word and to be ready to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all patience and teaching. For a time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, but will gather around themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and will turn to myths. This is exactly what is going on today, as we see in teachings spreading all over the country and in popular books such as the “Circle Maker,” where a man takes a stand against God, demanding that God give him exactly what he wants – and how he wants it. This is pure foolishness and rebellion, and is completely contrary to sound doctrine. However, that is exactly why men love it. It does not require us to take up our cross and to follow Jesus in humility, gentleness, and obedience. Instead, we tell God what we want and if He doesn’t give it to us, then He really isn’t a good God. That is why Satan often slips in and does give us what our flesh wants, so that our eyes stay off of sound doctrine, and instead, focus and remain on ourselves.
Titus 1:1-3 Paul tells Titus that the knowledge of the truth leads to Godliness, not to power and temporal success. He also emphasizes that God’s word has been revealed to mankind through preaching.
Today, we actually have Bibles in our homes, on our computers, and on our phones, yet we rarely read them. In those days, people gladly travelled from town to town on foot, carrying the letters of Paul and the other apostles from one church to another, eagerly sharing the word of truth with the brothers. Those letters were truly were considered the words of God and the people were hungry for them and they were precious to them. Are they precious to us?
Titus 1:7-9 An overseer in Christ must be blameless, not a drunkard or greedy, but holding firmly to the trustworthy word so that he may exhort others with sound doctrine and convince those who oppose him.
Titus 2:3-8 We should all be reverent, self-controlled, and obedient in all things so that the word of God may not be dishonored.
If we claim to be followers of Christ, and we love the word, we must be very careful with our lives lest we dishonor the word of God by our actions.
Hebrews 4:12-13 As I noted in the introduction to this writing, the word of the Lord truly is a sharp double-edged sword which lays bare everything before the one to whom we must all give an account.
***I often find that people react to the word of truth with defensiveness and pride since it often contradicts the western way of life and the upper-middle class Christianity that so many of us enjoy. However, God already sees the deep things of the heart and I would much rather be pierced with the truth now while I am on this earth so that I can repent and change my ways, then wait until I stand naked before the living God who sees and knows every single thing, and be told that I rejected the truth in order to live a more comfortable and respectable life on this planet. May we all hold our lives up to the mirror that is the word, and ask the Holy Spirit to show us every single action and belief that we need to change so that we can honor God in all things while there is still time.
Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed by the word of God so that the things that are seen are not made out of things that are visible.
This passage shows just how powerful the word of God is – it was spoken and everything we have ever seen or known came into existence. Incidentally, Satan will be defeated – not by a sword – but by the very breath of God’s mouth (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
James 1:16-18 The Father of lights brought us forth with the word of truth that we should be the first fruits of His creatures.
James 1:21-2 Lay aside all wickedness and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your soul. Be doers of the word and not just hearers – those who do the word will be blessed in all of their deeds.
1 Peter 1:22-25 Since your soul has been purified by obedience to the truth through the Spirit, love one another deeply from the heart, for we have all been born again, not from perishable seed, but by imperishable seed through the word of God, which lives and abides forever. For all men are like grass and their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of God endures forever.
I often wonder why I waste so much time on things that are going to burn, such as sports and HGTV, when there is a book that holds words that will remain forever. I don’t want to read this book out of guilt, but I want to read it because I want to know this great and wonderful God who lives and reigns and who made a beautiful earth for me to enjoy. This same God came down from his throne in heaven and died brutally on a cross so that I could live and be with Him…in His home…forever.
1 Peter 2:1-3 Desire the pure milk of the word, because by it we grow in Christ.
1 Peter 2:7-8 Jesus is precious to those who believe, but to those who are disobedient they stumble because they are disobedient to the word to which they were appointed.
Peter is stating that we are ALL appointed to obey the word, yet most of the world ignores it.
2 Peter 3:5-7 Scoffers who come in the last days will question the truth of God, willingly ignoring that by the word of God the heavens, the earth and the waters were formed. And by that same word the heavens and earth are being reserved for fire being kept for the Day of Judgment and the destruction of the ungodly.
Peter is stating that, while the word created the earth and everything that is in it, that same word will come and destroy those who reject God and His words.
1 John 2:3-6 We know that we truly know God if we keep His word and if we keep His word, we will have the love of God perfected in us. On the contrary, whoever claims to know Jesus, but does not keep His word is a liar and the truth is not in him.
Do we really love Jesus or do we just say that we love Him? If we truly love Him with our heart and not just our mouths…then we will obey His words with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit
Revelation 3:7-13 Only two of the seven churches are commended by Jesus in Revelation 2 and 3. The one that receives the most praise is Philadelphia, and they are commended for keeping His word and for not denying His name.
If we, today, have a hard time keeping God’s word and being unashamed of His name when we have everything, how will we do when we face trials and persecutions? All of us should ask the Holy Spirit that question, and we should plead with Him to transform our hearts.
Revelation 6:9-11 Under the alter in Heaven, John saw those slain for the word of God and for the testimony they held. They were given a white robe symbolizing cleanliness before God. In Revelation 20:4-5, John saw those same people who, as it turns out, were beheaded for their witness of Jesus and the word of God. They refused to worship the beast and his image and thus, Jesus raised them to eternal life where they will reign with Christ for a thousand years.
The true testimony of Jesus is what we are all called to give…and despite the cost to us on this earth someday, we will receive an eternal reward in Heaven at the end of days, which can never perish, spoil or fade away.
Psalm 1:1-3 David teaches us to meditate on the law of the Lord day and night. If we do so, we will be like a fruit-bearing tree planted by the rivers of water…and all we do shall prosper. Conversely, the contemplatives and christian mystics are now teaching believers to clear their minds of everything and/or vainly repeat spiritual phrases over and over again in direct contradiction to Matthew 6:7. (Psalm 63:6 says to meditate on God; Psalm 77:12 says to meditate on His great deeds; Psalm 119:15, 23,48,97,99, and 148 say to meditate on His precepts). No where does the word tell us to clear our minds and meditate on nothing. The Hindus and Buddhists(transcendental meditation) do recommend and practice these techniques, in order to be in touch with their favorite demons, masquerading as gods.
I have written about this scripture before, since the Lord used it to awaken me from the dead many years ago. If we do not worry about what others are doing, and we do not listen to the words of men, but instead meditate on the law of God day and night, we will prosper and flourish like a tree planted by a river…and the written word of God is that river, which feeds and refreshes us day after day after day.
Psalm 12:6 The words of the Lord are pure, like silver tried in an earthen furnace, refined seven times.
Psalm 19:7-9 The law of the Lord is perfect; the statutes of the Lord are right; the commandments of the Lord are pure…they are to be more desired than gold, and by keeping them comes great reward.
Psalm 33:4 The word of the Lord is upright, and by the word of the Lord the heavens were made.
Psalm 40:8 I delight to do your will, oh God your law is inside of me.
Psalm 119 This is a powerful 176 verse Psalm that spends most of its words describing the beauty, power, and value of the written word of God. The most well known passage is perhaps verses 9-11, which states something to the effect of, how can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to God’s word. I have treasured the word in my heart that I might not sin against God. Psalm 119 goes on to describe the written word of God as pure and true, as a lamp, and as more valuable than fine silver and gold.
I personally, have had both the wealth of the world and the treasures of God at one time or another, and at this point in life, only having the treasures found in the written word, I will take that over earthly treasures any day. May we all seek the face of God relentlessly, not in books or through the words of other men, but in the gift of the written word, given to us by the hands and mouth of God himself.
From The Narrowing Path: Amen!