Robert Wurtz II
“Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2a NKJV)
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” (Acts 2:41 NKJV)
“Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.” (Acts 8:14 NKJV)
“Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.” (Acts 11:1 NKJV)
“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11 NKJV)
“And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6 NKJV)
“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NKJV)
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21 NKJV)
I was listening to a Christian Apologist recently who suggested that appealing to God’s word is a fruitless endeavor when conversing with a so-called atheist. And though I would agree that a battery of scriptures opened up on a sinner is not the preferred route in evangelism, we mustn’t underestimate the power of God’s word in dealing with the lost. No matter how persuasive our arguments or well reasoned our defense, none have the power to effect salvation. The carefully crafted words of men are not the same things as the word of His grace. Only God’s anointed word contains within itself the grace necessary to illuminate a sinner and bring them to salvation. Information that is not based on revelation is ineffectual in dealing with the lost. It is God’s word that contains the light that opens “blinded eyes.”
Sadly, it is all too common for people to move “in the arm of the flesh” when doing ministry. They rely on their own natural talents and abilities to do the work. What a dreadful thing to ponder. Moreover, flesh can only give birth to flesh (as it were). God’s order is that each living creature brings forth after its own kind. The reason God saves man and fills Him with His Spirit is that he/she can bring forth fruit unto God (Romans 7:4). Salvation is of the Lord. It is only when we are guided and moving in the fulness of the Spirit that we can minister as God intended.
I suggest that much of the reason why we have fleshly Christians is that they “became Christians” through fleshly measures. This is not the approach that the apostles took. Paul articulated his attitude towards ministry when he wrote to the Corinthians, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4–5 NKJV) Men who are decent or accomplished speakers generally like to hear themselves talk. That is not a criticism, I think it is a true statement. However, our words are powerless unless we are declaring the word of the Lord.
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14 NKJV)
In the absence of the manifest power of God’s word, ministers generally resort to persuasive words of human wisdom. It sounds good and may even move people, but it cannot change people. Faith doesn’t come by hearing the words of men. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV) The questions become: Do you and I want faith to come or do you and I want to sound eloquent? Do you and I want peoples’ faith to stand in our words or in the power of God’s word? We have to decide and we have to come to terms with this.
Consider the fact that Paul, according to his detractors, was not a good speaker. In fact, his speech was called “contemptible” (2 Cor. 11:10). The Greed word here is often translated as despised. Nevertheless, he was not trained in rhetoric and had no desire to study the topic. Why? There is no power in it. It might have silenced the critics and cynics or it may have gained him the praise of men. But that would have played into the hands of the flesh. Paul resisted that temptation and stayed focused on what he knew worked. Granted, no-one likes to be criticized for their speech. Yet Paul’s chief concern was that he ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit and declared “thus saith the Lord” to the people who heard. That is the only way faith can come. Some hated him and wanted to kill him. Another grew tired and fell out of the window listening. Whatever the peoples’ response it is certain that one cannot do with oratory what can only be accomplished through oracles (1 Peter 4:11).
Receiving the Word
At the beginning of this entry, I took the extraordinary step of listing eight passages of scripture that relate to our topic. The common theme is that of receiving the word of God. In fact, a close examination of each passage suggests that the receiving of the word is the starting point in the walk of faith. Unless a person receives the word of God they cannot be saved.
God’s word has the power to save if it is read with eloquence or monotone. The power is in the word itself. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Too often ministers are looking for new methods or pragmatic solutions to spiritual problems. It will never work. You will keep the people the same way you got them. If they came for the programs they are likely to continue needing programs. If they came and heard the word and gladly received the word then they are on course to do what the saints in the book of Acts did. What was it? They turned the world upside down.
As Paul was preparing to make his exit for eternity he left young Timothy with some parting words, “Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2a NKJV). He didn’t tell him to go to school and learn philosophy so he could debate with the rhetoricians. He wanted Timothy to know where the true power lies.