Monday, December 7, 2009

IV. Means of Grace: Power of God

The previous installment demonstrated that the Bible was a beneficial instrument in the hand of the Spirit. Although God could use any means and transform man immediately, He choose to work conviction, conversion, growth, fellowship, sanctification--indeed, salvation as a whole--within the context of the Bible. The Spirit and the Word go together. Thus, to have more of the Spirit is to have more of the Bible.

However, having more of the Bible does not boil down to simply knowing more facts about it, but, like that prophet of old, Ezekiel, we need to consume it into our spiritual bodies (Ez. 3:3). It should move beyond mental assent or even factual acceptance to a heart-felt zeal and motivation. The Word of God is our honey, milk, bread and meat (Ps. 119:103, 1 Pet. 2:1-3, Is. 55:2, 3a, Heb. 5:12ff.). As a matter of fact, our dependence upon the Word of God is our dependence upon the Word of Christ, for the two are one. We cannot live without Christ and His Word. Physical eating is necessary for physical living; spiritual eating is necessary for spiritual living. Feeding upon Christ is so closely associated with the Word, that to eat the Word is to eat Christ. Jesus declares as much:

"Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you...Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"...[Christ said] It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:52ff).

This means that any other method used by men or Christians to build up the Body of Christ, but bypasses this fundamental truth, is defective and contrary to Christ. Contrary to the Roman Catholic and Lutheran dogmas in which the physical eating of the elements in the Lord's Supper brings spiritual vitality, the Bible declares that the Spirit, through the Word received by faith alone, communicates the life of Christ. Christ declared that it is not the physical act that brings life but that His words bring life. Neither the Sacraments per se nor any other physical act brings spirit and life but only the Words of Christ.

Of course, all of the means, including the Word, depend ultimately upon the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Yet to create and sustain that union with Christ, one must believe in Christ as portrayed in the promises of the Word. For whatsoever is not done in faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). So, when we pray, fast, fellowship or worship-whatsoever we do--we cling to Christ as found in the Word. He is not separated from the Word, but, as demonstrated previously, is so closely related to it, by the work of the Spirit, that the Word is called milk, honey, bread and even life.

These truths alone should spur us to greater depth of knowledge and breadth of practice. The Bible is the bedrock of our life, yielding a framework of action, a direction in life, and motivation unto holiness. This truth should be instilled in our children so that they might value the Word highly and to hide it in their hearts (Deut.4:9ff.). Why would we wish to have less of the Word? We are sure to eat three meals a day (besides snacks and dessert), or to exercise our bodies, but we don't think twice about how we can arrange our time to hear, read, memorize, study, proclaim and practice the life-giving Word.

Perhaps we don't fully comprehend its power in our lives. Perhaps we are ignorant of how necessary it is for our Christian walk. To receive the Sacraments we need to discern the Christ of the Bible; to pray in faith we need to recognize God's will in the Scriptures; to hide the Word in our hearts we need to know the Bible as we know our car manuals; to lead our families and children we need to accept our duties as expounded in the Word; to fellowship with one another we need the confidence that unity is based upon the Scriptures. Every facet of our life should be hemmed in and supported by, nay energized by, that food which is sweeter than honey, more fulfilling than milk and taster than a fillet-mignon.

Perhaps we don't feel up to the task of feeding upon the Word. One may not be quick on his feet; another may take days to digest what he heard; still others may feel slow and ignorant. These may be true, but God knows what our frailties and weaknesses are and He knows we can learn from His Word. He gives us helps to expound the Word in teachings and actions. Friends, family and church officers are part of that Family given to us. Yet it is especially the minister who is the head chief (under Christ) in God's kitchen: it is his duty to prepare nutritious and tasty meals from that lovely and fruitful garden of the Word. His office is most important in the Household of God because his duty and responsibilities are intimately tied to the Word of God.

If you want to grow, mature and fortify your soul, you need that weak and beggarly vessel of God. Ephesians 4:12ff. explicitly declares this truth. If you wish to grow from the Word, then you must take seriously those whose specialty is that Word. Thus, Catechism classes, Sunday School, and Bible Studies (and any other means to achieve more of Christ & His Word) have been the mainstay of many churches. We would do well to use these times--or make new times (lunch, breakfast, special meetings, etc.)--to aid our learning and living out of the Bible.

The Bible does not come down from heaven onto our laps and through the miracle of osmosis generate spiritual maturity and perseverance. Rather, the power of God is manifested through imperfect vessels, especially ministers. And of the many tasks of the minister in bringing the Word of Christ to His people (counseling, teaching, writing, living, etc.), preaching is one of the most potent and important tasks.

[Next: The Foolishness of God]

Understanding the Means of Grace Series:

I.   What Are They?
II.  Passion for the Word
III. Benefits of the Word
IV. Power of God
V.  Foolishness of God
VI. What is a Sacrament?
VII.The Initiatory Rite

No comments: