God Has Spoken

The Rule of Faith and Life

       In early 2008 some of my college roommates and I spent our Spring Break hiking through a beautiful section of the Appalachian Trail. During our first night in the mountains of western North Carolina the biting cold awakened me. I still remember my discomfort and uncontrollable shivering, but I recall more vividly the brilliant view that delighted my eyes and heart in the morning’s early hours. I had never seen such brilliance in a night sky. As I gazed into the cloudless heavens, thousands of stars gleamed in stark contrast against the blackest canopy imaginable. Those glorious celestial bodies were singing their wordless song in unique beauty that night, declaring from the heavens the glory of their Creator who alone knows their number and calls each by name (Ps. 19:1-4, 147:4).

That scene was just one part of a vast creation that ceaselessly displays the goodness, wisdom, and power of God (WCF 1.1). Such beauty and glory, however, cannot change the heart. In fact, apart from the regenerating work of God’s Spirit, sinful man will be condemned and without excuse, due in part to the testimony of these mute witnesses. How wonderful that in His great kindness the Lord has spoken, personally and powerfully revealing something far more glorious than all creation put together: Himself.

When you open your Bible and read the ancient stories God has preserved for His people, you will not find the same stunning view that I did in that cold March night. What you will find is the Truth of God written in ink, standing unchangingly as the only rule of faith and life (WCF 1.2). The Apostle Peter exhorted his fellow believers to cherish the prophetic Word, which we all must “heed as a light that shines in a dark place” (2 Pet 1:19). It is vital that God’s people remain firmly and faithfully committed to His written, inspired Word. This article will examine some basic reasons why Christians must be people of God’s book and what kind of lives we should live as a result.

The Authority of the Word of God

God has the eternal, divine, inherent right to tell His creatures what to believe and how to live. He does not derive His authority from any external source, He asks permission from no one, and has never consulted a counselor to help Him make decisions (Is. 40:13-14). Hebrews 6:13 teaches us that when He wanted to confirm His promise to Abraham, God swore by Himself. There was and is no higher court of appeal, for “God’s Word is the ultimate authority, and as such it can be authorized only by itself.”[1] The Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, declared as He prayed to the Father, “Your Word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). Therefore, God’s written Word stands as the fixed and absolute standard by which we judge all things. This is why the Westminster Confession refers to Scripture as the “supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are determined” (WCF 1.10). All other words and opinions are secondary.

In contrast, the words of man are nothing in themselves compared to the Words of God. The prophet Jeremiah provided a graphic description of this difference during his tearful and controversial ministry in Judah. “‘The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?’ says the LORD” (Jer 23:28). Chaff is as weightless as it is worthless, good for nothing except being driven away by the wind or burned with fire (Ps. 1:4, Lk. 3:17). But wheat has weight, substance, worth, usefulness. It nourishes the needy, sustains the weak, and fills the hungry. So too does God’s Word. It is not like the dream that fades as soon as the head leaves the pillow, but rather that which stands forever settled in the heavens (Ps. 119:89).

 Our Need for the Word of God

As sinful creatures in a world subjected to futility, we face a host of needs every single day. We need food and drink, clothing, shelter, transportation, health, breath, and light. These things are vital for vibrant living, but none of them begin to approach our need for the Word of God. The Bible abounds with imagery of how necessary God’s Word is to His people. The eminent saint Job knew this, for he said, “I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). It is as needful for the sinner trekking through this world of darkness as a light is for the hiker on a treacherous path on a moonless night (Ps. 119:105). If you have ever been hopelessly lost, then you will know how precious those words are that point you in the right direction. God’s true and authoritative Word directs His children as surely as the Pillar of Cloud guided Israel by day and the Fire by night. This guidance that God’s Word provides is a certain aid for those who ask. In any and every situation, the desperate sinner can turn to the Word for wisdom, and “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” (Is. 30:21, cf Prov 6:22-23).

Our gracious God has provided both written Scripture and public proclamation, inviting us to stand and look for the old paths where the good way is. There He promises that we will find rest for our souls. How sad that so frequently we respond as the people in Jeremiah’s day, saying “We will not listen” (Jer. 6:16-17). So many of the sorrows of life flow from the folly of not heeding the Word of the living God. Are we not so often like the crowds of Jesus’ day, who flocked to Him to fill their bellies, seeking after food that perishes (Jn. 6:27)? When He offered them His flesh to eat and His blood to drink, the vast majority left in bewilderment and unbelief. By the grace of God, however, some stayed, for they knew that Jesus possessed the Words of eternal life (Jn 6:67-68). How about you? Do you find the need for the Words of eternal life more pressing than all your earthly necessities? Are God’s Words to you more precious than all your worldly possessions (Ps. 119:127)? Here we are entirely dependent upon the Holy Spirit to stir up our affections and to give light to our eyes. Only then will we be able to see the wondrous things from His law (Ps. 119:18).

The Effect of the Word of God 

Every humble soul committed to the authority and necessity of the Word of God will experience the gracious influences of His work in their lives. The Holy Spirit has been pleased to use the Word as His primary means for imparting wisdom unto life and for life. As the product of the Spirit’s inspiration, the Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 3:15-17). Elsewhere we learn that saving faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). While man spends his days turning the earth inside out looking for shiny pieces of metal to enrich himself, God has a treasure trove of wisdom free for the taking unto eternal life (Job 28).

The wisdom of God’s Word holds great benefit for the present life as well. A faithful student of the Word will find that divine revelation provides more understanding than many teachers (Ps. 119:99). Seeking wisdom and understanding will yield the Spirit’s blessing of walking in right paths and avoiding devastation (Prov. 4:11, 26-27). The most precious blessing of the Word’s wisdom is that it is the directory into a life of joyful communion with the One who is the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. As Paul instructed Timothy, the nourishing effect of that Word brings sinners into a close acquaintance with “the promise of life which now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:6-8). Dear friend, the proof of true wisdom is to hear the sayings of the Lord, to do them, and to build your house upon the rock of His truth (Mt. 7:24-25).

The Requirement of the Word of God

We have considered the authority, necessity, and gracious fruit of wisdom that the Word of God produces in the heart of a believer. We now turn to consider what this Word requires of its readers. The first and the most fundamental requirement of God’s Word is the response of faith. The Lord of glory looks with great kindness and care upon those who are humble, contrite of heart, and who tremble at His Word (Is. 66:2). This means that our posture as those reading the Word of God is one of humble belief, inquiry and reverent investigation, not arrogant presumption. The great theologian Anselm once wrote, “I believe that I might understand.” He knew that to attain any true knowledge, he needed the faith-filled fear of God as the starting point (Prov 1:7).

We cannot stop there, however, for while God’s people are saved by faith alone, true faith will never remain alone. James teaches that faith without the works of obedience is a dead, disingenuous sham (Jas. 2:17). Faith leads to the works of obedience in a Christian as surely as breath leads to life and growth in a newborn baby. A life of faith enabled obedience to God in Christ is a life of true fruitfulness to His praise and glory (Phil. 1:11, 2 Pet 1:8-11).

Obedience is the proof of life for a believer, but what is the heart of obedience? What motivates and sustains a life in the service of God? The answer is love. “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 10:12). A Word and Spirit driven Christianity is not based upon outward profession, but “only faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6), and there is no better way to live. Are you daily reading this precious Word? Is this what you found your lives upon as individuals and/or as families? Oh, do not be like the fool of Proverbs 1 who would not heed and whose complacency destroys him. Instead, listen, dwell in safety, and walk in the path of the righteous which grows ever brighter unto that great day (Prov. 1:29-33, 4:18).

God’s people must remain firmly and faithfully committed to His written, inspired Word. His Word attests to its own divine authority and meets us precisely where we need it most. His blessed truth fills our foolish hearts with wisdom and dark minds with light, calling us to respond in faith, obedience, and love. As glorious as the stars are, they cannot do this. They remain silently suspended in the unsearchable expanse, beckoning to us in celestial sign language to look past them with the eyes of faith to the glory and grace of their Creator. But we do not know sign language. What a blessing, therefore, that He has preserved and propagated His Word. Dear friends, take heed, hear, believe, and live, for God has spoken.

[1] Greg Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Publishing, 1998), 199-200.