By Cecil Willis
The Bible is the world’s most revered Book. In it are tremendous powers. It has the power to transform an individual or a nation. It has the power to wipe away the tears from the weeping eyes of those whose hearts have been torn by sorrow. It has the power to save a soul from death, and to hide a multitude of sins. God, being a rational Being, does nothing without purpose. When He gave us the message of the Bible, He had a very definite purpose in mind. The message of the Bible is called several different things. It is called “the Word” (2 Tim. 4:1-4), “the faith” (Gal. 1:23), “the gospel” (Rom. 1:16), “Christ” (Acts 8:5). But whatever it is called in the Scripture, it refers to the same organized body of religious truth, and it has a divine purpose. The Scripture itself tells us what the purpose of the Bible is. Paul tells us the purpose of the gospel is to save. He says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel is God’s only power to save, and all that are saved will be saved by the gospel. James says the word is able to save your souls: “Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:21).
Yet while we must confess there is tremendous power in the word of God, we must also confess that the power inherent in the Bible is not being utilized. It is being wasted. Men and women are going daily to their graves with their souls lost. Is it the fault of the Bible that this happens? Not at all. For what God does, He does perfectly. He provided a perfect plan of salvation for mankind. Paul declares that “the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). There is ample power in God’s word to save the soul of every person. But since we know that every person is not being saved, there must be something hindering their salvation. Thus we want to point out some of the things that make the Bible void. The Bible is caused not to bring about the effect of which it is capable, because there are hindrances making it of none effect.
The Word Is Snatched Away
The first cause to which we call your attention that makes the Bible of none effect is that the Devil snatches away the word from the heart of those who hear it lest they should believe and be saved. In the Parable of the Sower recorded in Matthew 11 and Luke 8, Jesus speaks of a certain man who went forth to sow seed. Some of the seed fell by the way side, and the birds of the heavens devoured it. Other seed fell upon stony ground, some upon thorny ground, and some upon good ground. Jesus explains this parable so that we do not have to interpret it. He says, “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And those by the way side are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:11, 12).
The seed sown by the wayside should have been buried in fertile soil. Then the birds could not have devoured it. The word of God that is permitted to lie unappropriated in your heart is apt to be snatched away by the Devil that you may not believe and be saved. There are many people who know what the Lord requires of them, but who are hesitant to do it. The impression first made upon their heart by the preaching of the word is gradually weakened until the word of God is taken from them by the Devil, and they do not even put up a struggle with him. Friends, if you have learned what God wants you to do, do not hesitate to do it immediately. Satan has made the word of God of none effect in the lives of many simply because they have been hesitant to put into practice what they had just learned.
Religious division is another thing that makes the word of God of none effect. Jesus recognized that this would be the effect of division. In John 17:21, we read an account of one of the prayers of Jesus. In it He was praying for His disciples. He prayed “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me.” The prayer of Christ indicates that a divided world religiously makes unbelievers of the remainder of the world. I sincerely believe that the division that exists has made infidels of more people than the combined efforts of every infidel that ever lived.
Yet in spite of the prayer of Jesus, and in spite of the fact that He said division will result in unbelief, men continue to thank God that so many different “churches” (i.e. denominations) exist that a man can worship God as he pleases. The civil government should put no restraints upon the manner in which we worship. But God, the Creator of heaven and earth, has put restraints upon the manner in which we should worship Him. You should worship as God pleases, rather than as men please.
The people of the world see no more of Christianity and know no more of Christianity than they see in each of us who profess to be Christians. In denominationalism there are many things that are repulsive to right thinking men, and repugnant to any Bible student. Some see these objective features of denominationalism and suppose that these represent New Testament Christianity. And therefore they reply, “If that is Christianity, you can have it. I do not want any of it.” Therefore denominationalism, or religious division, contributes to the word of God being made none effect. People are being lost who could be saved by the word of God.
Another thing that makes the Bible of none effect is the condition of the heart of those to whom we preach. Not every person reacts to the preaching of the gospel the same. We see examples of this on the day of Pentecost. Some of those present obeyed the gospel when they heard but one sermon. Others were hardened so that they began opposing gospel preachers and those that obeyed the gospel. While God intends that man be saved through the preaching of the gospel, He never undertakes to compel man to obey Him. One often is privileged to speak to people whose hearts are set on finding the truth. One speaks to others whose hearts are so closed that the Lord could not even reach them. Jesus found the inhabitants of Jerusalem to be of this disposition. Near the close of His life, as He gazed upon the city, and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37). There are many today, who like the inhabitants of ancient Jerusalem, could quickly be saved but they will not.
We have no way to pry into the hearts of those who are closed to the preaching of the truth. It has been said that the latch string to your heart hangs on the inside. No preacher can open your heart to the truth unless you are willing for it to be opened. Jesus cannot come into your heart unless you open the door. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). You alone can open the door to your heart that the truth might come in so that you can be saved. If you will not open your heart, the power of the Bible to save you will be made of none effect.
Jesus says there are certain people who fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah when he said “By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand; And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And should turn again, And I should heal them” (Matt. 13:14,15). They had the ability to see and understand, but because of the hardness of their hearts, they would not. I am sorry to say that there are many people today who have the ability and the opportunity to understand and obey the Word of God, but they will not. This makes it impossible for the Bible to have the desired effect in their life. It makes it of none effect, at least in so far as they are concerned.
Traditions of Men
The traditions of men is another thing that makes of none effect the word of God. These doctrines that have had their beginning this side and outside of the New Testament make void the word of God. It is sad when we see people going about very zealously in their efforts to propagate that which cannot save a single soul, but which can take into torment both the teachers and those that hear them. The word of God is able to save you. The doctrines of men can do nothing but cause you to lose your soul. Paul warned the young preacher, Timothy, “Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16). This implies that if he did not take heed to both himself and what he preached, he could lose his own soul, as well as being responsible for the loss of the souls of those that listened to him.
Isaiah also prophesied concerning those who attempted to serve God by the traditions of men. He says “This people honoreth me with their lips; But their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men” (Isa. 29:13, quoted in Matt. 15:8,9). Jesus added another statement before He quoted the passage from Isaiah which we just cited. He said, “And ye have made void the word of God because of your tradition” (Matt. 15:6). The word of God can save the soul of man, but the word of God mixed with the traditions of men cannot save. Bread has the power to sustain life, but intermixed with a bit of poison it takes on the power to destroy life. Mix divine and human doctrines and you destroy the power of God’s word to save. You make it of none effect.
Observing Bad Examples
Most of the hindrances to one’s obedience to the gospel that we have studied thus far have been resident in the hearer of the word. But there are many who give the hypocrisy of professing Christians as their excuse for not becoming Christians. Paul, in Rom. 1:18, speaks of the wrath of God being “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness.” The moral failures of those of us who wear Christ’s name has likely been responsible for the failure of the word to bear fruit in many instances. Jesus places a curse on those who cause others to stumble. He says, “but whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). We must take care that our life is above reproach. We must practice before we preach.
However, I personally am doubtful that these who use the hypocrisy of church members as their excuse for not obeying the gospel are any better off. When a man says he would become a member of the church if there were not so many hypocrites in it, I feel like saying, “Well, come on in, there is always room for one more!” The action of no man should keep me from obeying and serving my Lord.
We should permit the word to have free course in our lives, and it will bring about our salvation. God intended it to save us. Let us not hinder the truth in unrighteousness, lest the wrath of God be revealed against us.
Truth Magazine XIX: 50, pp. 787-789
October 30, 1975