The Word of God, Powerful and Sufficient
Read Isaiah 55:6-11. "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth, forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, (but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I send it." Here in the inimitable language of inspiration the prophet states a very fundamental principle concerning the word of God, for in substance he affirms of it that it is powerful and sufficient to accomplish all that God desires in His dealings with men. The nature of this and some two or three subsequent articles will be to consider the implications of that principle.
A failure to abide in the sufficiency of the word of God and to recognize its power has always characterized man. The nations of men described by Paul in Rom. 1:21-28 are pictured as gradually departing from God and finally being regarded by Him as reprobate because they "exchanged the truth of God for a lie" and "did not like to retain God in their knowledge." Israel did not enter Canaan because they failed to honor this principle; and, their desire for a king which ultimately resulted in their downfall was a direct result of their failing to abide in the power and sufficiency of God's word. The early church failed also in this matter and the falling away which finally culminated in the rise of Roman Catholicism was the fruit of their folly.
This present generation follows in the same pattern as those which have gone before. The problems which presently confront us on every hand are but the symptoms of the real disease, which is a failure to have the right attitude toward the word of God, and its power and sufficiency. Ours is the most modern age that the world has known; our culture seems to demand that certain arbitrary standards be adhered unto; prosperity elevates the standard of living and the false security begotten of riches is engrafted in many, hence, there is an ever increasing emphasis on the materialistic aspect of life. The church is affected by this for an emphasis on the material necessitates a moving away from the spiritual (Mt. 6:31-33) and consequently a moving away from the word and its power and sufficiency. We, thus, move toward a state of conformity with the world and with worldly wisdom and ideas. We see this manifested in many ways. For, instance, many times money is wasted to no good purpose on elaborate buildings designed to attract the attention of the worldly minded rather than simply to expedite the work of the church. The influx of the elements of the "social gospel" into the budgets of the churches as well as the adopting of worldly principles on moral issues (social drinking, etc.) are also manifestations of this trend.
Since the disease producing these symptoms is a failure to abide in the power and, sufficiency of the word of God, these articles shall be designed to call your attention to this all important point. We shall note the power and sufficiency of the word in creation; in conversion; in the disciplining of the individual Christian, and finally its power to keep the church pure.
While this first point is more for illustrative purposes it is significant to note that the word of God was powerful and sufficient in the creation of the worlds. For the scripture says, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made from things which do appear" (Heb. 11:3, cf. also Jno. 1:1-3). How long it was before the creative voice of God broke the silence of eternity and issued forth in the creation of the heavens and earth is not known, neither is it important. But there came that occasion, when, in the language of David, " . . He spake and it was done, he commanded and it stood fast" (Psa. 33:9). And not only was that word able to create this universe, but it is also the omnipotent command by reason of which all things are presently upheld (cf. Heb. 1:3). Moreover, we are instructed, by Peter, that, " . . . the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved into fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (cf. 2 Pet. 3:1-7). Hence, the word of God was powerful and sufficient to create the worlds; to uphold them at this present time; and shall finally bring them to naught, when God sees fit for time to be no more. If the question is here asked as to why the word of God is so powerful in the physical realm; I answer that it is by reason of the nature of God who spoke it. For indeed, if God is all powerful, then certainly for him to speak and thus accomplish His desires in the physical realm need present no problem.
I move now to that division of this lesson which shall be of more importance to us as attention is now directed to the power and sufficiency of God in conversion. One has but to read the following passages (Psa. 19:7; Rom. 1:16-17; Jas. 1:21) to understand that the word of God is perfect unto the converting of the soul; that it is God's power unto salvation, and that receiving it in meekness will result in securing the safety of the soul. But we are not required to accept this at face value for we are abundantly supplied with examples in the New Testament. For instance, consider Paul's labors in the city of Corinth. Here, in a city that was so evil that it had become a synonym for the term "wickedness" itself, Paul came to, labor in the cause of the master. He came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom but had determined to know nothing save Christ and Him crucified (cf. I Cor. 2:1-5). He contented himself with preaching the fundamental principles of the gospel and the glad story of redemption in Christ (cf. I Cor. 15:1-4). The result of this was that many of the Corinthians heard and were baptized (cf, Acts 18:1-8). That their conversion was genuine and from the heart is sustained by his description of them in I Cor. 6:9-11, where he contrasts their former life in sin with their present state in Christ. The word of God was powerful and sufficient to effect their conversion, and to cause them to turn from idolatry and wickedncss and to serve the living God through the will of His Son.
There are now some questions to be answered. First, some are moved to inquire as to why the word is so powerful in this respect. In answer, I suggest that it is because God has designed it to be adapted to the nature of man in such a way that it appeals unto all the factors involved in conversion. Man is possessed of intellect, emotions, and will. The intellect evaluates the testimony and evidence presented in the gospel and either accepts or rejects. Once that testimony is accepted, the emotions are touched by those elements of the gospel designed to arouse them (the promises of God; the story of the cross), and these two factors will induce us to conform our will unto His, the result of which is conversion of the. individual.
The second question is that which asks why all are not converted. In answer to this, appeal is made to the old adage which says, "The same sun which softens wax will harden clay." The working of the gospel is much the same way. There are those who are so hardened by the deceitfulness of sin that the gospel has no effect on them. On the other hand there are others which can be moved by the principles of God's righteousness as revealed in the gospel. Hence, some are converted and others go on their way to perdition. Certainly we understand that the condition of the heart determines the receptiveness to the gospel message. The parable of the sower definitely teaches this (Mt. 13:19; 18:23). When, by the preaching of the gospel we can cause men to see their need of the savior, and instill within them a desire to serve Him, then we can lead them to the Lord. This can be accomplished only by teaching them the word of God. Hence, Paul teaches that not many wise men after the flesh will be called; and that others having no love for the truth will believe lies unto their own damnation (I Cor. 1:26; 2 Th. 2:1-12). It is not that God does not want them to obey; neither is it that God will not receive them. Rather, it is simply that the only drawing power that God has will not touch them by reason of the condition of their heart. We, therefore, would do well to consider the example of Ezra, for he had prepared his heart to seek, to do, and to teach the law of God. We would also do well to imitate the example of Samuel as he said, "Speak Lord, thy servant heareth."
With these things in mind then, is it any wonder that we despair at times when some even amongst the brethren want preachers to "water down" the preaching of the gospel in order to make it appealing unto those with whom it possesses no appeal in its purity. We manifest a supreme lack of wisdom when we will withhold from preaching the whole counsel of God in order to make the gospel popular with those to whom it is not popular in the form in which it fell from the lips of inspired men. That word is designed to call those who want to serve the Lord and to exclude those who do not. To labor Linder any other principle will thwart the purpose of God. A failure on our part to realize this and to thus "sugar coat" the gospel will not result in genuine confessions but rather in half converted members. It will bring within the membership of the church a soil which will become fertile ground in which the seeds of digression will germinate into the fruits of departure. Let us, therefore, cease to rely upon the elements of the social gospel and our display of material wealth in order to draw people to the Lord and return once again to the preaching of that word which is both powerful and sufficient to accomplish God's purposes in the affairs of men.
Truth Magazine V:5, pp. 21-22