What purpose does the ministry of the word serve? The Bible is the written word of God and from it we learn that the early church was served through the ministry of writing. The New Testament church as we see from the letters they received were to live according to the word of God. However, the written and recorded ministry of the word does more than simply provide laws and instructions for believers to follow. Anyone who reads God’s word will see that God’s word will speak about God’s word, in other words, when we read the word of God we can read about what the word of God can accomplish. For instance, the word of God is able to make one wise to salvation (2 Tim 3:15), it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1). When we speak about the power of the Gospel we are speaking about the power of God’s word. The word of God is the power which makes us complete and equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:17), it is also the means by which we can know and understand and be encouraged that by using God’s word lives will be changed. If I can put this another way, the words of God are more powerful than ours and since we are the product of God’s word we understand that the power to live this life is God’s power in us.
Why we cannot adopt another way
The aim of this message would be for Christians to recover their trust in the knowledge of God’s word. God speaks so that we can understand and He speaks about His word in His word so that we would know what the word of God can do. However, there is no doubting the ever-increasing desire and felt need among many today for something other than the word. There is a reason for why a picture can paint a thousand words, it is because a picture cannot convey true meaning, it does not have the means to interpret itself like the word of God can, and yet the desire for images has replaced the desire for the word of God, people would rather watch than listen.
The prevalent mode of communication in the Bible is the word of God and if we say that the word of God has no power then we are saying that God has no power (John 1:1). The aim of entertainment is very different from exposition (the means by which we come to understand the word of God through being taught). Entertainment seeks to make things simple for the mind but intense for the emotions and many who desire the same effect when listening to the word of God will often determine the validity of what they hear based on how they are moved emotionally. The word of God is truth and truth has emotional power, but it also has transformative power over our emotions as they too have been corrupted by sin.
One of the reasons why the church introduced pictures and the like is because they felt that illiterate people would benefit from them, that it would help them to understand the Bible. However, this move is a bit like saying that the church was addressing those things which God forgot to instruct us on. Any representation of God simply cannot convey the important truths that we must know about God, whereas the word of God can. Therefore, we should never exchange the word of God for another instrument, however much we seek to help people, we are not wiser than God. God is represented in the Bread and Wine but we should remember that these are God-given representations and they are not without explanation.
The instrument of change
The word of God is powerful, His words are used as an instrument of change and the moment His words are used incorrectly they cease to be His words. God has commanded His people to never alter His word, it should never be added to or subtracted from and it is to be taught and defended (Deut 4:2; 12:32; Rev 22:18-19). Since God’s word is powerful, we know that this is the case because God works through His word and knowing this will prevent us from departing from the word of God for other instruments and encourage us to trust in His power as we speak the word of God to others.
The sufficiency of scripture is a way of explaining that the word of God can create the change in us that the word of God speaks about. Biblical exposition makes clear the teaching of scripture and this means that the logical implications of scripture have the same authority and power. In other words, the meaning of God’s word is powerful and this is experienced in the heart and mind of the person listening to the word of God. We are able to bring glory to God by living in accordance with the word of God, God works in us through His word which works powerfully in us enabling us to bring glory to God. The purpose of the word of God is experienced in the change we go through when we listen and obey, and when we have, we recognise that this motivation has come to us from God and His word working powerfully in us.
Failing to connect
Trusting God comes down to believing His word and then acting upon it. The reason why this fails to happen in so many cases and why that failure is not recognised is because of the personal filters people have knowingly and unknowingly when listening to the word of God. When a person develops an arbitrary means of valuing what they hear, that same gauge comes into play when listening to the word of God. For instance, if what is heard doesn’t appear to be applicable to how you currently understand the situation, the word of God can be quickly dismissed. In other words, we do not see the connection between our situation and the word of God that the one teaching the word of God is making. A simple example of this would be the following, stealing is wrong and not working the number of hours you are paid to work each day is a form of stealing, therefore, not working a full day when you are paid to is wrong because it’s a form of stealing. Those who fail to see this simple and logical connection will not feel convicted when being late for work or leaving early, yet the connection is correction.
What we learn by spelling out the process is that many believers may not believe that they are actually dismissing the word of God because they do not see the same logical implications. To put this another way, when the implicit is made explicit many hearing the word of God can feel that the teacher has moved from teaching the word of God to meddling in their lives. It’s one thing to talk about Demas and his departure from the faith but the moment those logical implications are applied those listening to the message, the teaching is considered to be fine up to a point but the moment it gets personal it is rejected. Therefore time spent on the exposition of these implications from the word of God is necessary for the christian life, however much a christian is dismissive of them through not seeing the same implications for themselves.
When this is understood, we can see why it is possible to address so many things that the word of God doesn’t speak about directly. The Bible has nothing to say about Facebook, but it has plenty to say about identity which has a clear connection to Facebook. The Bible mentions nothing about tanning salons or gyms but it does have quite a bit to say about beauty and strength. The word of God is able to speak into every area because of the special revelation it provides, therefore, the man at the gym who boasts in his strength is warned not to, but he must rather boast in the Lord, the professor who works in the university who could boast so easily in his knowledge is warned against do such a thing, rather he is to boast in the Lord.
When we see and understand the implications of the word of God we can see how why many are struggling to trust and why many others are encouraged and committed to trusting all the more.
There is a difference between knowing when we are hearing the word of God and knowing much about the word of God we hear. God’s word explains God’s word and because of this, we are able to know what His word accomplishes. When we have learnt about the power of the word and are convinced by it, we are encouraged and assured. What follows, is that Christians gain a confidence to speak the word of God because God’s power is at work in the specific words of scripture and the logical implications of those words. Those who see the importance of this will understand why so much time must be spent on thinking through the logical implications and applications of the word of God for today’s world. It’s not that we need to say something different, but rather understand how the word of God speaks directly into lives as well as technology or culture or the many other areas of live in this world.
When this doesn’t happen, what follows is that people will begin to trust in something else as a means of influence to create the changes that they believe need to take place. What this means for followers of Christ is that we need to know the word of God and about the word of God for our trust in the word to be what it should be.