Tuesday, January 01, 2013

When the WORD Comes With Power

[W]hen the WORD comes with power,
it seizes hold of the heart and conscience.
They give way before it and leave a place for it,
where it sets up its throne
and becomes their Lord and Master.

J.C. Philpot*

God is essentially invisible. "He dwells in the light which no man can approach unto, Whom no man has seen, nor can see." (1 Tim. 6:16) When, therefore, He would make himself known to the sons of men, it must be by His works or by His Words. 

The first way of making His power and glory known is beautifully unfolded in Psalm 19— 

"The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world." 

This is the testimony which God gave of Himself to the Gentile world, but which, through the depravity of man's heart, has been universally misunderstood, perverted and abused, as the Apostle speaks— 

"Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Rom. 1:19-21)

The secret spring whence this flows, and the eternal foundation on which this rests, is the incarnation of God's dear Son. He is "The Word"—The Word emphatically, originally, essentially; and so called not only because He is the express image of the Father, as The Word is the image of the thought, but because He has declared or made Him known, as our uttered word makes our thoughts known. John therefore bare witness of him— 

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." 

Had there, then, been no incarnate Word, there would have been no revealed Word; and had there been no revealed Word, there would have been no written Word; for all that was revealed was not necessarily written, as John was bidden to seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not. (Rev. 10:4.) And as without the incarnate Word there would have been no revealed or written Word—so the power of the written Word is derived from the power of the incarnate Word.

God's witness by His works, then, being insufficient, and failing, so to speak, through the depravity of man's heart, He has revealed Himself by and in his Word—in those precious Scriptures which we hold in our hands, and the power of which some of us have felt in our hearts. 

It is, then, of this power of the written Word that we have now to speak. But when we speak of the power of the Word of God we do not mean thereby to convey the idea that it possesses any power of its own, any actual, original, innate force, which acts of itself on the heart and conscience. The Word of God is but the instrument of a higher and distinct power, even the power of that Holy and eternal Spirit, the revealer and testifier of Jesus, by Whose express and immediate inspiration it was written.

The power of an instrument is the power of him who uses it. This is true literally. The strength of the sword is in the hand of him who wields it. A child may take up a warrior's sword, but can he use it as a warrior? If, then, the Word of God is "quick (or living, as the word means) and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword," it is because he wields it of Whom it is said, "You are the most handsome of all. Gracious words stream from your lips. God himself has blessed you forever. Put on your sword, O mighty warrior! You are so glorious, so majestic!" (Psalm 45:2,3) John, therefore, saw him in vision, as one "out of whose mouth went a sharp two-edged sword," (Rev. 1:16) both to pierce the hearts of His people and to smite the nations. (Rev. 19:13)

So with the Word which He wields. "Where the word of a king is there is power." (Eccles. 8:4) And why? Because it is the word of the king. Another may speak the word, but it has no power because he who speaks it has no power to execute it. When "the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as you have said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate; let nothing fail of all that you have spoken," (Esther 6:10) it was done. The man whom the king delighted to honor was honored. (Esther 6:10, 11) When again the king said, "Hang him thereon," it was done—"So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai." (Esther 7:9, 10) Here were life and death in the power of the tongue. (Prov. 28:21) 

Thus we ascribe no power to the Word itself, but to the power of Him who speaks it. The Apostle therefore says of his speech and preaching that it was "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power;" (1 Cor. 2:4) and of his gospel, that is, the Gospel which he knew, felt, and preached, that it came unto the Thessalonians "not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance." (1 Thess. 1:5) 

Twice had David heard, that is on two solemn and special occasions, "that power belongs unto God." (Psalm 62:11) To understand and explain this power passes our comprehension. It may be and is felt, and its effects seen and known, but "the thunder of His power who can understand?" (Job 26:14) When God said, "Let there be light," light burst forth at His creative fiat. But who can understand or explain how light came? Yet it could be seen when it filled the future creation with its bright effulgence.

But now let us consider the exercise and display of this power in its first movements upon the heart. Man being dead in sin, needs an almighty power to make him alive unto God; for what communion can there be between a dead soul and a living God? This, then, is the first display of the power of the Word of God in the hands of the eternal Spirit. "You has He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." (Eph. 2:1) 

And how? By the Word. "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures." (Jas. 1:18) So testifies Peter—"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever." (1 Pet. 1:23) What James calls "begetting" Peter terms "being born again;" and this corresponds with what the Lord himself declared to Nicodemus—"Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) 

Almost similar is the language of John himself as taken, doubtless, from his divine Master—"Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man—but of God." (John 1:13) So in his first epistle—"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and every one that loves Him that begat loves Him also that is begotten of Him." (1 John 5:1)....

It is sufficient for us to know that the mighty change whereby a sinner passes from death unto life, (1 John 3:14) is "delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son," (Col. 1:13) is by the power of the Word of God upon his soul....

As... we know nothing of divine truth but through the written Word and cannot by any wisdom of our own, even with that Word in our hands, attain to a saving knowledge of these divine realities—it is equally plain that they must be revealed to us by a spiritual and supernatural power.

This is clearly and beautifully unfolded by the Apostle in 1 Cor. 2....

"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us." (1 Cor. 2:12)....

[K]nowledge is communicated by the Holy Spirit to the heart through the written Word... and we believe that the experience of every child of God will bear testimony to what we now advance....

That the Word of God comes into the heart and conscience in and by regeneration, with a new and hitherto unfelt power. How carelessly, how ignorantly, how formally, if we read it at all, did we read the Word of God in the days of our unregeneracy. What little heed we paid to the Word preached, if we heard it at all. What thorough darkness and death wrapped us up, so that nothing of a spiritual, eternal nature touched, moved, or stirred us either with hope or fear. But at a certain, never-to-be-forgotten time, a power, we could not tell how or why, was put into the Word and it fell upon our hearts, as a sound from heaven—as the very voice of God to our conscience. 

The Word of God laid hold of us as the Word of God; it was no longer the word of man, a dry, uninteresting, almost if not wholly hated book; but it got, we could not explain how, so into the very inside of us—armed with authority and power as a message from God.

But here let us guard ourselves. It is not always the exact words, or indeed any word of Scripture which lays hold of the conscience; but it is in every case the Truth contained in the Scriptures. Eternity, judgment to come, the justice of God, His all-searching eye, His almighty hand, His universal presence, from which there is no escape—these, and other similar truths which fall with such weight upon the quickened sinner's conscience, are all revealed in and only known by the Scripture. The Truth of God is, therefore, the Word of God, as the Word of God is the Truth of God....

The light, life, and power, which attended the Truth as it fell upon the conscience gave the Word a place in our hearts. And we shall always find that the place which the Word has in the heart is in proportion to the light and power which attended its first entrance....

[W]hen the word comes with power, it seizes hold of the heart and conscience. They give way before it and leave a place for it, where it sets up its throne and becomes their Lord and Master.

*Adapted and excerpted for blog posting from "The Authority & Power of the Word upon the Heart," by J.C. Philpot, posted in its entirety at: http://www.gracegems.org/20/word_of_god1.htm