It’s not that we think the Apostle Peter sat down one day and said, “I believe I will write something for the Bible.”
He most definitely did not say, “I believe I will write the Word of God.”
In fact, most likely he did not even decide, “I shall now write something of lasting benefit for the church.”
All the epistles seem to have addressed particular situations being faced by certain Christians at the time of the writing. The apostles were telling how to deal with opposition, temptation, inner conflict, false teachers, and such. The counsel they ended up delivering was so solid that over the years God’s people elevated them to the status of scripture.
How they came to be part of the Bible itself is a subject for another day. Today, the issue is what the Apostle Peter said about God’s Word in the portion of Scripture which we also call “God’s Word.”
One more word about that.
To call something “God’s Word” does not mean we believe God dropped it out of Heaven full-grown with no human instrumentation any more than calling a preacher “God’s Man” means we think he was immaculately conceived in some celestial vacuum somewhere.
God uses people to get His message to others.
In the passage before us are four great uses of the Word of God, as revealed in that Word.
1) The Word of God is the seed of the new birth.
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God” (I Peter 1:23).
Every life begins with a seed. Plant life does, animal life does, human life does, and so does spiritual life.
As a child in a West Virginia mining camp, I was excited when my parents built a small chicken coop behind our mountainside house and bought a few hens. Not only would we have fresh eggs, but more importantly to a child, the chickens were endlessly fascinating.
One day I asked my mother why we didn’t have the hens “set” some of the eggs so we could have baby chicks. I had seen enough from my grandfather’s Alabama farm to know the process. Her answer, however, completely baffled me.
“There’s no rooster,” she said. “It wouldn’t work.”
What possible contribution a rooster could make to the process of chick-making escaped me. And mom wasn’t saying.
The rooster brings the seed.
The next time you encounter a lost friend without the spiritual background to understand the gospel message, remember to plant the seed.
Get him into the Word.
Buy him or her a New Testament or even a Gospel of John. Ask them to read it with an open mind and heart on a daily basis. The Lord will create faith in their hearts through that Word. (Romans 10:17 says that very thing.)
Over the centuries, missionaries have told of coming upon remote villages where practically the entire population had become Christians through someone bringing a copy of the Scripture, possibly even a portion of it, into their midst. They read it, believed and obeyed.
“Preach the Word,” Paul told Pastor Timothy (II Tim. 4:2).
2) The Word of God is the means of new growth.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (I Peter 2:2-3).
While this passage does not actually say “word” in the Greek, as the KJV translates it (“the sincere milk of the word”), the context shows this is the point Peter is making. What milk means to an infant, the Word of God means to a believer who would grow in Christ.
We take physical growth for granted. A child eats and sleeps, learns to walk and then to run, and he/she grows. The genes kick in right on schedule and in time the infant becomes a toddler. The process continues into adulthood. It’s so natural and happens so effortlessly, we seldom give it thought–until we run into a case where the child’s body has malfunctioned and the growth process shut down.
Spiritual growth should not be taken for granted. Believers in Christ must be intentional about getting proper nourishment from the Word and doing the various disciplines that produce growth. This involves, but is not limited to, prayer and giving and obedience in every realm of life.
The writer of Hebrews said to his/her audience, “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food. Anyone who lives on milk is still an infant…” (Hebrews 5:11-14).
The point here is that these believers were off their schedule. They should have matured by this time, but, like a great percentage of those who sit in the typical church on Sunday mornings, they had not left the kindergarten stage of faith.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ….” (II Peter 3:18).
Knowing the Scriptures is not the only discipline that leads to spiritual growth, but growth is impossible without a firm determination to stay in that Word.
My wife and I recall when our two sons were in their mid-teens and growing at phenomenal rates. Now that our oldest grandson is 15, we see the same process repeating itself. This week, when his father picked him up from school, Grant asked if they could stop at a fast food place. He ate three double-cheeseburgers in one sitting, and then an hour later, ate a full supper with the family. It’s what we expect from healthy, growing boys. Any parent delights to see children with good appetites.
3) The Word of God is the basis for new blessings.
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brethren, love one another deeply, from the heart” (I Peter 1:22).
Normally when pastors and teachers counsel believers about “purifying yourself,” we speak in terms of confessing sins (I John 1:9). However, before there can be a confession of sin we must know God’s standard. It is found only in the Word.
Unless we have learned what God wants, we will have no way of knowing whether we have lived up or fallen short.
Jesus said, “Now you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). Later, he prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
One startling truth that every young believer encounters is the uncleanness within himself. Jesus said, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean” (Matthew 15:19-20) As the old comic character Pogo is often quoted as saying, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We are our own problem.
We need regular purifying. The cleansing agent God uses is His word.
By obeying God’s truth we become pure, Peter says. As a result, we are able to demonstrate a pure love toward others. Without that cleansing, the heart is impure and the love emanating from it will be tainted, too.
There is too much tainted love in this world; we don’t need any more.
4) The Word of God is the content of our preaching.
“And this is the word that was preached to you” (I Peter 1:25).
Pastors and teachers sometimes struggle with this. We know we are to proclaim God’s word, that this alone is our message. However, that Word intermingles within our minds and souls with our own personal thoughts, histories, opinions, prejudices, and convictions to the point that the twisted strands are sometimes hard to separate.
Many a preacher has stood in the pulpit and preached his convictions, but not the Word. We will grant that he was sincere in so doing, but grossly in error.
Many a teacher has proclaimed her opinions and prejudices but not the Word. Likewise, she may have meant well, but she was wrong to do this.
Paul said, “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord” (II Corinthians 4:5).
That’s the plan. But it’s easier said than done. It requires constant vigilance and an openness to the criticism of others who see what we do not.
In the paragraphs above, I used illustrations from my own life. I spoke of my childhood in a mining camp and of my grandson’s ravenous appetite.
These were merely illustrations of Scriptural truths. In no way was I attempting to preach my stories, my opinions, my convictions.
The distinction is critical.
In the Deep South, for generations pastors stood behind sacred pulpits and preached segregation of the races and even implied a subjugation of the Black race. They were reflecting their culture, not preaching the Word. A century earlier, many were justifying slavery by the Bible. I’ve known of preachers condemning labor unions as unscriptural.
Many from the more fundamentalist segment of the Christian Church used to preach about the length of women’s hair and the placement of their hemlines. Certain musical instruments were of the devil. Early on, radios and televisions were demonized by many preachers.
The wonder is that the church has survived our preaching!
Charles Haddon Spurgeon used to say that the pastor must not limit the proclamation of the Word to the portion he himself has attained. After all, he’s preaching to himself, too.
That sounds right, but it’s so open to abuse. The danger comes when the minister begins to excuse his laxity and laziness with a “do as I say, not as I do” lameness.
It doesn’t fly.
It has to mean something to be a preacher and teacher of God’s Word. And that surely means the person is expected to be mature in Christ and to be making an honest attempt to live the teachings of Scripture.
Then and only then can he open the Word and preach all that is found therein.
“Good music is music that is written better than it can be played.” I often attribute that to Ruth Bell Graham, but cannot find where she said (or wrote) it. Nevertheless, it makes a great point.
The Christian life is like this. So long as we are trapped inside this body and assigned to existence in this fallen world, we will carry out the teachings of our Lord imperfectly. But we must not let that stop us from giving it our best effort. After all, we have the promise of the Lord that the Holy Spirit will pick up the slack and be our strength when we get serious about obeying Him.
Consider this a call for God’s people to get serious about His Word.