"They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them...If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead." Luke 16:30-31.
God's Church is in desperate need of a revival of our commitment to His Word. We are far too focused on things like worship styles, programs, methods and turning the Gospel message into a self-help theory. While I believe that things like worship and programs are worthy discussions to have and are certainly worth our attention the basis of our lives both personally and corporately must be the Word of God. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. While there are many, many takeaways from this story the one thing that jumped off the pages to me was Jesus' statement, through the mouth of Abraham, regarding the sufficiency of God's Word. Miracles, signs and wonders are all wonderful confirmations of the one proclaiming God's truth, but the real transformative power lies in God's truth contained and distributed in His Word.
Now, before anyone takes off in the wrong direction and begins to turn the Bible into an object of worship (idolatry) let me offer my definition of God's Word.
God's Word = God's truth revealed through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.
Throughout human history God has communicated His Word in different ways. At the beginning we see God revealing His truth verbally. He spoke to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and the other fore-bearers of our faith. He also spoke to His people through the prophets. From the time of Moses God also communicated His truth in the written word telling inspired men of God to "write these things down" so that they might be preserved for future generations of God's people. Finally, God communicated His truth through the living word; Jesus Christ. Through His Son we have the greatest self-revelation of God in all of history. Of course, Christ rose from the grave and ascended into heaven to take His rightful place at the side of God the Father but He also delivered to us the Holy Spirit, without whom we cannot come to a full understanding of God's truth. Today we enjoy all three modes of God's Word. There are still those who proclaim the Gospel verbally speaking "Thus says the Lord." We have the complete Scriptural revelation of God's truth in the Bible and we also enjoy the gift of the Holy Spirit. The question becomes, "What are we going to do with God's Word?"
To begin with we need to understand that there are some very stiff consequences to rejecting God's Word. The rich man, in Luke 16, traded God's truth for man's wisdom and found himself in hell which is described as a place of torment and agony. In Acts 13 we see why this is. Paul and Barnabas have been proclaiming the word of God and some people rather dislike it and try to shut them up. In verse 46 we have this; Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. People often get the idea that God sends people to hell, this is not what the Bible reveals to us at all. Yes, God has prepared hell for those who refuse His offer of salvation but it is a rejection of the Gospel coupled with sin that lands people in hell. When we reject God's Word we are rejecting the only truth that, when acted upon, can deliver us from hell. In essence, if we say that God's Word is not good enough for us we are also saying that His heaven is not good enough for us either.
Isaiah, who had plenty to say, also reveals the danger of rejecting God's Word. In chapter 5 verse 24 the prophet (who Jesus says we're supposed to listen to) says;
Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble and dry grass collapses into the flame, so there root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust;
Isaiah is speaking to God's people and telling them that God's judgment is coming. Why?
For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
These people, Israel, whom God chose among the nations to be the receivers of His Word looked to God and said, "Thanks but no thanks" and cast His Word aside. In the book of Amos we see the same thing. Amos was called to minister during a time of prosperity and military strength. Things were looking good in both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah yet something was missing. Amos 2:11 says, And you commanded the prophets saying, "You shall not prophesy!" Remember, the prophets were one of the ways that God distributed His truth and His people didn't want to hear it. Thus, in 8:11 God says, "Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord, "When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord." Guess what? After the last prophet spoke around the time of the captivity of Israel, there was a four hundred year silence from God. For four hundred years they didn't hear from God until a man named John the Baptist came on the scene. We have the option of taking God's Word and placing it on the shelf and asking Him not to speak...and He won't. There are serious consequences to rejecting the Word of God.
While there are consequences to rejecting the Word there are also some wonderful benefits to listening to it and acting upon it. James 1:18 tells us that; In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. In God's grand plan the way He decided to distribute His truth is through His Word and by the truth found in His Word we, who believe, are brought forth from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His Son. The key, on our part, is our action. James continues and says, But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves...but one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides in it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does (James 1:22,25). When we hear God's truth about our sinful state and His offer of salvation and by faith ask Him to apply His grace and righteousness to us, we will receive salvation and be blessed. Paul reiterates this point in Romans 1:16-17, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith...
Where can we find the truth of God's standard and the good news of salvation but in His Word? If we look in other places we may find some of man's wisdom and opinion but we will not find the truth of God.
Finally, we need to understand the absolute necessity of committing ourselves to God's Word in regard to our life in Christ. Peter writes, Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation (1 Peter 2:1-2). When babies are born they have one solitary source of nutrition and sustenance, their mother's milk. No child ever came out of the womb and when offered their mother's breast spoke up and said, "No thanks, I'm going to go grab a cheeseburger instead." As followers of Christ our source of spiritual nutrition is the Word of God. Remember the words of Jesus, "Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." If a child rejects their mother's milk they will soon waste away to nothing and friends, there are many Christians and churches that are starving due to lack of spiritual nutrition!
The consequences of rejecting God's word are severe and the blessings are manifold. We must take time today and recommit ourselves to the Word of God, to being "people of the book." We can look around and see where our rejection of the Word has gotten us. We are more concerned with being relevant than being true. We do battle, not with the forces of evil, but with each other over which worship style is "correct." There is disunity among God's people and we are slipping ever further away from God's will because we have cut the mooring line of God's Word and are drifting in rough seas free from the anchor of God. Will you make a commitment to God's Word as your guide, authority, the lamp for your feet and the light for your path? We have Moses, the Prophets and the New Covenant let us listen to them.