[‘encouragement’, ‘exhortation’, for life and ministry]
Dear beloved friends and fellow-workers,
God is at work! Last month I showed you that God the creator and sustainer of the universe is constantly at work in his common grace and in his saving grace. He continues to uphold the universe, and to use humans in their everyday lives to do his providential care of the world, though, of course he also does this without our help! Calvin described God’s sovereign providence in these words ‘the universal activity of God whereby all creatures, as they are sustained, thus derive the energy to do anything at all’.
The perpetual sovereign providence of God is fundamental to Biblical faith, and so to our daily lives as humans, as believers, and as ministers.
Christ is also at work ruling, loving, building, sanctifying and enabling his people, and working through his ministers. He enables gospel ministry:
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me [Col 1:28,29].
Indeed, God, Father, Son, and Spirit are at work every time any believer uses a gift for the common good of the church.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines [I Cor 12:4-7,11].
This month our focus is the power of the word of God, the Bible:
God is powerful, so his words are powerful!
God is powerful, so his word, the Bible, is also powerful!
This is so important. If the Bible was just true, but not powerful, then we would have to make it work. If the Bible was authoritative, but not powerful, then we would have to make it work.
But one of the main claims of the Bible about itself is the power of God’s words!
There are few greater encouragements in ministry than that of knowing the power of God’s words to achieve God’s purpose in God’s people and in God’s world.
God created by his words:
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth … For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm [Ps 33:6,9, NIV11].
The Old Testament law has transforming power:
The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart [Ps 19:7.8].
Old Testament history demonstrates the power of God’s promises:
You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed [Josh 23:14].
God’s covenant blessings and curses shape the history of God’s people:
However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you [Deut 28:15].
Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors? [Zech 1:5,6].
God used his words in and then from Jeremiah’s mouth to shape the destiny of nations:
Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.’ The word of the LORD came to me: ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘I see the branch of an almond tree,’ I replied. The LORD said to me, ‘You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled’ [Jer 1:9-12].
‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’ [Jer23:29].
God’s word achieves God’s purposes:
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it [Is 55:10,11].
We find the same theme in Jesus’ teaching in John 8 and his prayer in John 17:
Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ [Jn 8:31,32].
‘Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth’ [Jn 17:17].
Similarly in the parable of the soils in Mark 4:
The farmer sows the word … Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown [Mk 4:14,20].
Peter writes of the power of God’s word:
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you [1 Pet 1:13-25].
And Paul tells the Ephesian elders:
Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified [Acts 20:32].
So! Praise and thank God for his powerful word! His powerful word is working in your life! His powerful word is working from your lips in your conversations, and in your preaching and teaching. His powerful word is at work in your congregation, as your people teach and encourage each other from the Bible. His powerful word is at work in evangelism, as people hear the Scriptures, read them, receive them, and trust in Christ.
God himself is still speaking his ancient words; our powerful God is still speaking his ancient powerful words! Do you remember what Jesus said to the Sadducees?
But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? [Matt 22:31,32].
Or how the writer of Hebrews introduces Psalm 95? ‘As the Holy Spirit says …’ [Heb 3:7].
Every time the Bible is read, taught, preached, spoken and remembered, our gracious and powerful God continues to speak his ancient powerful words! Praise him! Trust his mighty power in his mighty words!
Here is a prayer for everyday use:
‘Heavenly Father, I praise you for your powerful words in the Scriptures. Please speak these words into my life, through my lips, in our church, in our ministry, and in our world, and so bring people to faith in Christ, and maturity in Christ. In his name I pray. Amen.’
With warmest good wishes and prayers for you. May you know and see God’s powerful Scriptures at work within you and through you in the lives of others.
Calvin, Institutes, 2. 4. 2, 311. ↑
You can follow up this theme at https://peteradam.org/god-is-present-and-speaks-through-the-bible-god-is-present-and-speaks-through-the-preacher/ ↑