Letter 11: The Word of God

My Dear______,

It is impossible to lay too much stress upon the importance and value of the Word of God. Love for it, indeed, should be a characteristic of every believer; and it were not too much to say that our growth in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is largely connected with it. Take for example Psalm 119, and you will see how it is bound up with every phase of the spiritual life of the psalmist. Some of his expressions might well humble us, as they reveal to us the place the Word occupied in his affections. He says, "I will delight myself in Thy statutes: I will not forget Thy Word"; again, "Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors"; and again, "I will delight myself in Thy commandments, which I have loved" (vv. 16, 24, 47). In still stronger language he exclaims, "O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day"; and once more, "I love Thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold" (vv. 97, 127). Job, in like manner says, "I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (23: 12). And from that time to this the same characteristic has ever been found in all earnest, devout, and spiritual minds. I propose then to bring before you in this letter some of the many aspects in which the Word of God is presented, in relation to the believer.

1. It is the instrumentality of the new birth. "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth." (jas. 1: 18). "Being bom again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Peter 1: 23). Our Lord teaches the same truth when He says that iia man must be bom of water and the Spirit" (John 3) ; for water is a well-known symbol of the Word.

2. As it is the instrumentality of the new birth, so is it also the proper aliment for the new nature. St. Peter thus says: "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby," (many copies add, "up to salvation"); "if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (1 Peter 2: 2, 3). Again we are told that "man doth not live by bread only, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live" (Deut. 8: 3; Matt. 4: 4). The Word therefore is the suited food and sustenance for the spiritual life, the means of our nourishment and strength in Christ, as we journey on through the wilderness, waiting for the Lord's return, or to depart and be with Himself, which is far better. I say in Christ, because, as you know, Christ Himself is our food, both as the manna and the old corn of the land, and indeed, to go further back, as the lamb roast with fire (Exodus 12) ; but then it is only in the word of God that He is unfolded to us thus in these several characters. If we would collect the manna for our daily use, we have to roam through the gospels and epistles, where we find Him especially presented to us in this aspect--as a humbled Christ in incarnation; and then, if I would feed upon Him as the old corn of the land, upon a glorified Christ, I am led to the epistles (e.g., Col. 3; Phil. 3, etc.) which present Him as such to our souls. The Scriptures therefore are the green pastures into which the Good Shepherd would lead His flock.

3. It is our only guide. "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). So, when Joshua was about to lead Israel into Canaan, the Lord said unto him, "Only be thou strong and very courageous that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses My servant cormmanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Joshua 1: 7, 8). So in the New Testament, as well as in the Old, the Word of God is everywhere indicated as our only guide as we pass through this tangled scene.

"Pillar of fire, through watches dark,
And radiant cloud by day;
When waves would whelm our tossing bark,
Our anchor and our stay."

(See Acts 20: 32; 2 Thess. 3: 14; 2 Tim. 3: 15-17; 2 Peter 1: 15; 1 John 2: 27; Jude 3, etc.)

4. It is our means of defence against the temptations and wiles of Satan; hence it is called the sword of the Spirit (Ephes. 6: 17). We thus see in the temptation of our blessed Lord that it was His only weapon. To all the allurements which Satan presented to His soul--and he assailed Him through every avenue of approach, and in every character--He replied, "It is written." From first to last, He never expressed a thought of His own, but rested for His defence entirely and alone upon the Word of God. Satan consequently was utterly powerless; he could not advance a single step; but, defeated at every point, he had to retire baffled and overcome. And he is as powerless today as then, when encountered in the same way. He cannot touch an obedient, dependent man. Would that every young believer, indeed all, whether young or old, might always bear it in mind!

5. It is the only standard of doctrine or practice. We have therefore to test everything presented to us by the Word. Thus in the letters to the seven churches we find in every case, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches." They and their practices were alike to be measured by this infallible standard. In like manner, the apostle Paul continually reminds those to whom he writes of their responsibility of gauging everything by what he had taught. (See, for example, Galatians 1: 8, 9; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; 2 Thess. 2: 15; 3: 14.)

6. It is the means of our practical holiness. Our Lord thus prays, when He presented His own before the Father: "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth". (John 17: 17). It is only indeed by constant application of the Word to ourselves, our walk, and our ways, that we are increasingly separated from evil; just as it is by the application of the Word through the Spirit that the Lord, as our Advocate with the Father, washes the feet of His own. This is the work which He in His grace has undertaken for us; but we must never forget the responsibility on our side of continually judging ourselves by the Word in the presence of God. How many a trial and chastening would be spared us if we were more faithful in this particular! "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (1 Cor. 11: 31). Thus the psalmist asks, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?" And the answer is, "By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word" (Ps. 119: 9). Again he says, "By the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer" (Ps. 17: 4). For it is only from the Scripture that we learn the will of God; and by the application of the Word in the power of the Spirit we are separated, on the one side, from that which is contrary to His mind, and we are brought, on the other, into conformity with it; and this being a constant process, we are ever attaining increasing holiness, the perfection of which is only found in the glorified Christ at God's right hand.

7. Last of all, I would remind you of the value which the Lord sets upon obedience to the Word. Take, for instance, the familiar scripture, "If any man love Me, he will keep My Word: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14: 23). See how large a blessing is made dependent upon our keeping His Word; for it should never be overlooked that the love of the Father in this passage, and the Father and the Son coming to make their abode with us, are entirely conditional. Again, in the next chapter, He says, "If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love" 15:10). Once more, not to multiply citations, at the very close of the inspired record He says, "Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (Rev. 22: 7). Thus He not only expects us to prize and treasure up the communications which He has deigned to make to us; but He also counts upon our hearts to delight in obedience to every Word that has proceeded out of His mouth; yea, He has made obedience to be the highest expression of our love. "If ye love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14: 15).

From this rapid outline of some of the uses, and some of our responsibilities in respect of the Word of God, you will at least recognize its supreme importance to the believer. Allow me, then, to make one or two practical observations which may be helpful to you and other young Christians. First of all, you will see the necessity of being familiar with the Scriptures. For instance, I could not repel a temptation, as the Saviour did, unless I were acquainted with the scripture wherewith to meet it. In like manner, there might be many cases in which I should be led astray simply from not knowing that the Lord had revealed His mind in His Word. One of the first obligations, therefore, of the believer is to study the Word of God. "My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding" (Prov. 2: 1-6). In this spirit you must search and systematically study the Scriptures, if you would be "throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3: 17). I do not say, Read no other book; but I do say, Make the Bible your chief companion, and confine yourself as much as possible to those books which help you to understand it; for it should be the chief aim of every believer to be thoroughly conversant with the mind and will of God. Secondly, let me counsel you, if you read much, to meditate more. "The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting" (Prov. 12: 27). He finds his pleasure in the chase, and once finding, obtaining, he is satisfied. It is thus with many in reading the Word. Their delight is in the acquisition of truth; and in this they rest, and thereby lose the blessing. In the scripture already cited, the Lord said to Joshua, "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night" (See also Ps. 1: 2; 119: 97; Prov: 22:17, 18; 1 Tim. 4: 15, etc). For it is in meditation in the presence of the Lord that the sweetness, beauty, and power of the Word are unfolded to us. Never, therefore, lose an opportunity for meditation on the scripture you may read. And, lastly, always remember your entire dependence upon the Spirit of God for the understanding of the Word. "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Cor. 2: 11, 12).

If you thus read the Scriptures, you will be led daily into increasing acquaintance with the truth, and thereby be drawn into closer fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ

Believe me, dear ______,

Yours affectionately in Christ,

E.D.