God's people have always been a people of the Book. He intends for them to live it and to teach it. Around 1400 B.C. Moses taught the centrality of the Law to Israel in these words: "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the door-posts of your house and on your gates" (Deut. 6:6-9). About 458 B.C., as Judah returned from captivity, the need for this focus had not diminished, "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel" (Ezra 7:10). About midway through this millennium of history, Daved penned Psalm 119, his great anthem of praise for and trust in the Word of God.

For all it's beauty and power, God had designed the Law not to save but "to bring us (the Jews) to Christ" (Gal. 3:24), for "by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the Law of Moses" (Acts 13:39). How much more should God's people treasure Christ's "better covenant...established on better promises" (Heb. 8:6).

James makes this point very clearly by saying that we are to "receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" (Jas. 1:21). Let me explore three areas suggested by this passage.

The Word: How It's Designed: 1 Pet. 1:22-25 reveals that God designates the Word in several ways. It is the Truth which purifies (v. 22), the Seed which is incorruptible and through which we are begotten again (v. 23; cf. Lk. 8:11), and the Gospel designed to be preached in all the world (v. 25).

What It Does: James said this Word has the power to save our souls (cf. Mk. 16:15f; Rom. 1:16). It can give life (Jno. 20:30f) to those dead in sin (Eph. 2:1), and freedom (Jno. 8:32) to those who are enslaved to it (Jno. 8:34). For the Christian, it fills every need and completes every lack (2 Tim. 3:16,17). It gives comfort and hope to weary saint souls (Rom. 15:4). And finally it will judge saint and sinner alike in the last day (Jno. 12:48).

Who It's For: In a word -- everyone. It's for male and female. Young, old, and in between. It's for every tribe, race, and nationality. It speaks to the rich and the poor. There is neither class nor caste to which it does not apply. Thrones have hungered for it; prison cells have panted after it. No mountain height nor ocean depth where souls abide is free from the need for it.

It Is Complete: Just as the sacrifice of Jesus was made "once-for-all (Heb. 9:12; 10:10), so the good news of it was delivered "once-for-all (Jude 3). It is the perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1:25), and provides "everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of" Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:3).

It "thoroughly equips" the servant of God "for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:17). To tamper with the Word in any fashion -- is deadly (1 Cor. 4:6; cf. Rev. 22:18).

The Word Taught: "Behold, a sower went out to sow" (Matt. 13:3). Seed must be planted. God does not offer salvation apart from this planting -- this preaching -- of the Word. Of course, this runs counter to the teaching of direct operation of the Holy Spirit advocates.

There is not one Bible passage which teaches that the Holy Spirit saves sinners by directly working a miracle on their hearts. Even in the few Bible instances of conversion which involved miracles, God still required the sinners to hear and obey His Word. For example, Jesus appeared directly to Saul, but told him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do" (Acts 9:6). In the city, Ananias came and told Saul to be baptized and wash away his sins (Acts 22:16). In the case of Cornelius, an angel appeared to him, but he told the centurion, "Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved" (Acts 11:13,14).

Clearly, God does not by-pass His Word in saving sinners. What I really want to say in this point is this: every Christian has a responsibility to teach the gospel. God decrees that His people, who have themselves drunk deeply at the fountain of His Word, shall take the gospel to others. Whatever duty sinners have to seek God does not nullify a Christian's obligation to take the gospel to the lost.

The Word Received: Receiving the Word can be done only by meekness; pride, which is essentially self-trust, is an impediment to trusting God. It is the "poor of spirit" who receive the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). Humility entails a willingness to study as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). Humility will not pick and choose among God's truth, but accept all of it (Jas. 2:10). Humility will give up error (Acts 19:19) and obey truth. Once the Pentecostians had "gladly received" the word, they were baptized (Acts 2:40f).

Beloved readers, does the precious Word of God hold a central place in your lives?

By Jim Ward in Lost River Bulletin, Vol. 54, No. 9, May 12, 2004.

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