- Psalm 19
- 1 Peter 1:13-25
Us who grew up in modern times will find it hard to imagine life without electricity: no running water in our homes, no fridges, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, TV’s, computers, air-conditioners … How annoying is it to have only one powerpoint in a room of older homes while we need ten for all the conveniences which depends on electricity. One thing we can say about electricity, is that life was literally darker without it.
The Bible describes the world before the coming of Christ also as a dark place; not literally dark, but spiritually dark. John puts it this way:
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. (John 1:5, 9)
Peter in the second chapter, referring the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, of his first letter says God “called you out of darkness into his wonderful night.”
The Word of God
Everything about it is excellent
Life without the Word of God, both the Word as the Son of God, and the Word, the Bible is a life of darkness. In Psalm 19 we read, “The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Read those verse again and you will understand everything about the Word of God is excellent: it is perfect, reviving the soul; it is trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, they are sure, altogether righteous, more precious than gold, sweeter than honey, and in keeping God’s Word there is great reward.
Paul endorses by saying it is
“able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15)
“…all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2Timothy 3:17)
Without the Word everything else is horrible
There was a time in the history of the church, that it was considered a crime for a member of the church to read to the word of God. In cases where there were copies of the Bible, uneducated people couldn’t read it because it was in Latin. There are recorded cases of parishes with a priest who couldn’t read, or did not even have a copy of the Word of God to have someone else read it. Ordinary churchgoers were then left to believe that strict observance of the seven sacraments of the church of Rome would put them in the right relationship with God.
People like Wycliffe who translated the Scriptures were declared heretics and excommunicated from the church. He died in 1384, and about 150 years after his death his bones were exhumed and burned to ashes.
So, what was the church of God like without the Word? In one word: dark! Not only for members of the church, but for those who were ordained in the offices. Moral depravity was rampant, and theological teaching was absent and without life-giving truth. People believed what they were told without the Scripture to test the teaching.
Financial gain was important for the church to build cathedrals, and to support the priesthood. Indulgences were introduced, making people believe that their sins were forgiven on account of the amount of financial support they give to the church. What further kept people from freedom was the belief that souls could be prayed and bought out of purgatory – all without any Biblical foundation. The average churchgoer lived in fear for a vengeful God who had nothing but punishment for the sinner. Not having the promises of the Word of God to read for themselves, they had to rely on the absolution of the priest as their middleman between them and God.
To make things ever worse, because the message of the church was that its government was above and over the civil governments, disobedience to the state also meant disobedience to the church. It also meant that civil leaders were appointed by the church. Society was held in fear of a revengeful God who served his punishment through the church who did not hesitate to burn people at the stake. Thousands upon thousands died, not because they believed in the Bible and Jesus Christ, but because they dared oppose the authority of the church, even if it meant that they ate any thing else but fish on a Friday!
How God uses the Word
We now have to go to the words of 1Peter 1:
… since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God… (1 Peter 1:22–23)
Peter here connects with what he had already written in verses 10-12. He referred to the work of the prophets as recorded in the Bible, the word of God. What did these prophets research and write about? “The Spirit of Christ in them was pointing” to the “sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” which became “the Gospel preached” by people “by the Holy Sprit”. Peter says in verse 25, “This is the word that was preached to you.”
These sufferings of Christ are the “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”, which He gave to “redeem” us “from the empty way of life.” This word is the truth: “You have obeyed the truth.”
So, what happens in the normal scheme of things is that God uses people whom He calls to preach the Word, which is from God, driven by the Holy Spirit. This word is the truth. All in the Psalms and the prophets were pointing to Jesus Christ and his redeeming work. The simple, but treasured message of the Gospel is about Jesus Christ who came into this world to set the sinner free by grace. His blood is more precious than gold or silver which cannot save and will count for nothing when we appear at the judgement throne before God. “Through Him you believe in God.” Why is this so important? Because only He gives new life! “God raised Him from the dead and glorified Him.” The only way to heaven is by faith in Him who redeemed the lost by his blood, by taking their punishment as his own, to die the death they should have died, to raise victoriously from the grave, so that they who believe in Him will live with Him into all eternity.
The redemption God provided for us is complete. Being dead in our trespasses we would not have the capacity to change ourselves to believe and make what Jesus has done for us our own. So, the next miracle happens:
“… you have been born again, … through the living and abiding word of God. The word of the Lord stands forever, and this is the word that was preached to you.”
The Spirit of God who once breathed to Word into existence uses this word about Jesus Christ and his life-giving grace to sinner, uses the Word the bring about life from above. What this new birth makes us children of God. John also referred to this in his Gospel:
But to all who did receive Him, who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)
Paul puts in these terms:
But God … made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:4–6)
Listen to this wonderful word of grace and hope:
He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (1 Peter 1:3–4)
No paying of indulgences, no purgatory, no ongoing moneys, no ongoing life-wrenching fair. Its grace, free grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The truth of this Gospel sets us free! It is through the Word of God, brought about by the Holy Spirit, speaking about Jesus Christ, that we believe:
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
Now we understand the cry of the reformers: the Word alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, all for the glory of God alone.
A holy life
If salvation is ultimately for the glory of God, it speaks for itself that our lives should forth his glory. As his “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” we are called to live holy lives, because God is holy. One of the main ingredients of the diet of the Christian to live to the glory of God, is to
“… like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”
Why? “We have tasted that the Lord is good.”
My friend, allow me to say that your spiritual life, if not rooted in the Word of God, and your walk in the Lord, if not daily fed by the spiritual milk of the Word of God, is most probably almost dead. I say this because it’s the truth based on the Word itself. As children of the Reformation we have to go back to where it all started: a rediscovery of the Scriptures. Don’t allow your walk in the Lord to be lifeless because your study of God’s Word is wanting. It is by this Word that you will be able to stand against the onslaught of the enemy. The Word is after all, in our battle against evil, the only weapon of offence; all the other things are for defence (Ephesians 6). May God help us. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 2 November 2014