Frequently the statement is made that the Bible is a dead letter. In an effort to prove this statement 2 Cor. 3:6 is sometimes quoted: "...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." Even a casual look at this passage reveals that nothing is said about the word being a dead letter, but rather that "the letter killeth." The first part of the same verse says the New Testament is not of the letter, but of the spirit. "Who hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." Further identifying "the letter" which kills it is called the "ministration of death" in verse 7. "But if the ministration of death written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?" (2 Cor. 3:7,8). The letter that kills is, then, the law of Moses based on the ten commandments that were "written and engraven in stones." (Exo. 31:18; 32:15,16,19; 34:1,4,29).

We do not believe that any of the Bible is a "dead letter," especially the "ministration of the spirit." Of course "the letter which killeth," the Old Testament law, has been done away (Col. 2:14), but it still is not a "dead letter." "For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4:12). "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Rom. 1:16).


God's word has always been powerful. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." (Gen. 1:1-3). God merely said, "Let there be light," and light came into existence. From the rest of the account of creation it is clear that everything was created merely by the word of God. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God." (Heb. 11:3). It was indeed a powerful word that could bring into being this world with all that is in it.


But God did not always speak His word directly. Many times He spoke through Moses and the prophets. The Book of Exodus is filled with examples of His word being spoken by Moses. It was God's word spoken by Moses that brought the terrible plagues upon the Egyptians. It was God's word spoken through Moses that caused the Red Sea to divide and let the Israelites escape from the army of Pharaoh, and then brought the sea together again to destroy the Egyptians. God's word was still powerful when delivered by Moses and other prophets.


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made." "And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." "...grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." ( Jno. 1:1-3,14,17).

From these verses we can clearly see that Jesus was the "Word made flesh." Did the word of God in this form have power? Many incidents in the life of Christ show emphatically that it had not lost its power. The Word who in the beginning had made the sea was able after being "made flesh" to calm the storm tossed sea and still the winds. "And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." (Mk. 4:39). The demons were also subject to this powerful Word. In Lk. 8:26-36 we have the story of the Gadarene demoniac out of whom Jesus cast the Legion of unclean spirits. They meekly obeyed His command and departed into a herd of swine. The man in whom they had been was found "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind." The "Word made flesh" even had enough power to raise Lazarus after he had been dead four days. Jesus merely said, "Lazarus, come forth." (Jno. 11:43).


But the Word did not remain flesh long. Only 33 or 34 years did Jesus live here on earth. Did God's word cease to have power when Jesus ascended back to God? In prayer to God near the end of His earthly life Jesus said concerning His disciples: "I have given them thy word." (Jno. 17:14." In Lk. 10:17 the power in this word is mentioned. "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us through thy name." Another of the many examples of the power that was in the word of God as spoken by the apostles is found in Acts 3:1-8. As Peter and John started into the temple a beggar asked an alms of them. "Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee; In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping, and praising God."


Peter has well expressed the attitude of the apostles while they were alive here on earth. "Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth...Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance." (2 Pet. 1:12-15). He further said: "This second epistle, beloved, I write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by the way of remembrance." (2 Pet. 3:1). The apostle Paul said: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." (1 Cor. 14:37). From these Scriptures it is clear that the apostles and other inspired men who wrote the New Testament were delivering the same word of God which they delivered orally while they were alive.

Has God's word lost its power since it is in written form? Does a man's word lose its power when written down? Which is more binding: an oral agreement or a written agreement? When Jesus was here on earth and was tempted of Satan in the wilderness even though He was the Word made flesh He answered every temptation with, "It is written..." (Matt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-13). If the written word loses its power why did Jesus use it, and why was the devil repelled by it?

The passage quoted at the beginning of this article (Heb. 4:12) asserts that the word is "quick and powerful." The American Revised Version says, "living and active." Since the Bible is the word of God (2 Pet. 1:12-15; 3:1; 1 Cor. 14:37), then it is by no means a dead letter. Another passage quoted at the first of this article is Romans 1:16. Here the gospel is described as "the power of God unto salvation." The Greek word from which "power" is translated is the same word from which our word "dynamite" is derived. Since the gospel is the New Testament message, we see again that God's written word is very powerful. No, the word of God did not lose its power when it was written. It is now God's power to save -- the only power He uses to save men's souls.

By - Elam B. Kuykendall

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