By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
It’s the WORD or nothing!
In Part 1 of this sermon series which I preached last week we looked at how easily we can fall into the trap of paying more attention to the benefits of the Word than the Word itself. In our conclusion, we noted that the mission of the Word in our Life is to make us God-like–something far too important to be subordinated to any other interests even if they are derived from/ tied to the word.
Today, we turn our attention to the pedigree and indispensable role of the word as seen in the Gospel of John in general and of Jesus’ words in John 6 in particular.
In the Gospel of John, we have an intimate encounter with the Word in which the central and fundamental role of the Word in our salvation is emphasized throughout. This word is said to have been "In the beginning … and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that hath been made" (John 1:1-3).
The Word is God come down to us! The Word is grander than anything the human mind can conceive. From the minutest organism barely visible to the human eye to the mighty spirit beings of the unseen spirit world, the Word has the patent rights to all creation. He brought all things into being out of nothing! Take anti-God bigotry out, and the scientists who study ‘nature’ have no basis to argue that there’s no God. The majesty, orderliness and intricacy of the creation they come face to face with in their research works applaud an artistic super intelligent Planner and Creator.
But there’s a shake-up afoot in the world of science. An increasing number of scientists are coming round to the understanding that the universe was intelligently designed by a supremely Intelligent Being, as opposed to Charles Darwin’s Evolution hypothesis which they denounce as illogical and a less plausible explanation for the existence of the universe. Werner von Braun, the father of space science, observed: "The vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science" (Lee Strobel The Case For A Creator, p. 273 quoted from Carl Thomas’ "Gone Bananas”, World Sept. 7, 2002).
David unmasked those God-denying ‘intellectuals’ thousands of years ago when he attributed their ‘theory’ to their essential corrupt nature bereft of Divine light: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good" (Ps. 53:1, 14:1).
Under the sheer weight of incontrovertible research findings, many scientists now concede that it takes more faith to believe in evolution than to believe that an intelligent Creator designed the universe. Belief in the existence of a supreme Creator who created life and the universe as a whole is a matter of common sense.
But as believers we are way beyond this elementary level of understanding which has eluded most of the world’s intelligentsia whom "the god of this world" has blinded them to an obvious truth (2 Cor. 4:3-4).
The WORD has Tabernacled among Us largely Incognito!
It’s an unprecedented happening that calls for euphoria and fanfare, but even fewer people notice it. The All-powerful Word, the Creator, has taken up residence among mortal men. Yet despite His incomparable awesome power, it’s a mystery that the majority of people tend not to accept Him. The reason? They fail to believe the testimony of truth given about Him as the Light in a world shrouded in darkness. But then the mystery is not too deep a mystery. Who will believe just a man’s testimony about the Word who created all things without seeing anything phenomenal nor transcendental to blow his mind?
The power of the Word, however, is in believing the Word, not in wanting Him to prove Himself first. Thus the Johannine account proceeds:
"In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.
"And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
"The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
"He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
"That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
"He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.
"He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
"But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name:
"Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:4-13).
The power of the Word is seen in believing and doing the Word. The world is filled with suffering, poverty, pain and death. As believers, we often have sceptics ‘complain’ to us, ‘if there is truly a loving and caring God, why is the world in such a bad shape? Why doesn’t He just straighten things out?’
Instead of believing His Word, people ‘dare’ God to prove that He really exists. That is not how God works. As He did at creation, God does nothing apart from His Word: "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth" (Ps. 33:6).
God is not obliged to prove Himself; His existence and eternal power are clearly evident in the physical creation and cannot be denied by any sincere person (Rom. 1:19-20; Acts 17:26-28). It’s man who’s obliged believe His Word. If all the world would believe His Word, they would surely see the power of the Word at work in their lives. He says to humanity in Isa. 45:22: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else".
How much of the world has positively responded to this call and in what spirit? Yet they challenge God, ‘if you are there …!’
Beloved, the Word of God is meant to be believed and obeyed, and He will prove Himself capable and mighty. Jesus answered His critics in John 7:16-17:
"My teaching is not Mine, but His that sent Me.
"If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God, or whether I speak from Myself" (RV).
Thus it’s those who believe in the Word who immediately experience the incredible power of the Word to change their fundamental nature to one filled with the essence of God, while still in their ‘natural’ human environment: "… as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God".
It was for this purpose that "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth" (John 1:14 RV).
Linked to the this salvation work of the Word is the overall purpose of John’s Gospel, stating that "Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30-31).
It’s the Word or nothing. The Word is the life-blood of our salvation. So, do you accept the Word for what it’s worth or you want God to prove Himself first? Do you believe it, do it and live it? The power of the Word is witnessed in believing and acting on it. Divine power will flow from it to you making you a totally transformed person who reflects the character, power and glory of God.
The WORD, our Eternal Life
So, going back to John chapter 6, would the crowds who saw the WORD miraculously feed them with five loaves of bread and two fish heed Christ’s admonition not to labour for perishable bread at the expense of obeying the eternal Word of life?
To catch up on the story, the food-enamoured Jews, in response to Christ’s admonition, ask Him: "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" (John 6:28).
Christ replies them: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent" (v. 29).
But they still haven’t got it. So they ask again: "What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat" (vv. 30-31).
There! It’s food they are preoccupied with; they seek instant gratification and really do not care about what Jesus is asking them to believe or do!
The same attitude can lure you from the Word. Because man is carnal, what naturally attract and occupy the senses are the things that bring him pleasure and gratification. Romans 8:5 states it without a shadow of contradiction: "… those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit" (ESV).
Clearly then, the believer ought not to focus his mind on the things of the flesh, but like Job he must value the Word more than his "necessary food" or any other worldly satisfaction for that matter. (See Job 23:12). Without such an attitude, it’s only natural for the Word to seem less valuable to you in your desire to have your immediate pressing wants and needs fulfilled.
Generally speaking, this is how all unregenerate mankind behave towards Word, and the Jews are no exception. To embrace the Word as more valuable than anything else takes the intervention of a power higher than man. Thus in the Jesus’ subsequent dialogue with the Jews He makes it clear that although the Word gives eternal life, it’s only a privileged few who see Him. This is because:
- Whereas man craves for physical things, what God gives is the Word, "the true bread from heaven", which gives the superior blessing of eternal life (vv. 32-33).
- Even though man finds the prospect of eternal life attractive, he lacks the will power to believe the Word that gives this life (vv. 34-36).
- It’s only those chosen by the Father who are able to come to the Word. Once they come, the Word readily accepts them so as to fulfill His Father’s will to give them "everlasting life" which He will consummate on "the last day" when He changes their mortal body to a spiritual immortal body (vv. 37-40; cp Rom. 8:23; I Cor. 15:50-54; 2 Cor. 5:1-5).
- People find it even harder and illogical to accept that Jesus the Messiah, who has known human relatives, is the Word, "the true bread from heaven" (vv. 41-42). However, this only indicates that such ones have not been drawn to the Word by the Father who is the Teacher of all who come to the Word, although no human, including the elect, has visibly seen the Father (vv. 43-46).
- As people express doubts, the Word more strongly insists on His categorical claims, some bizarre to the ear: "I am the Bread of Life" from heaven. In contrast to the short earthy life physical food gives, I give eternal life to any man who eats of this Bread. The Bread I give is My flesh, and I invite the whole world to feast on it in exchange for life’ (vv. 47-51).
- People are positively confused about what the Word is all about: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (v. 52).
- The Word does not retreat in the face of man’s increasing doubts. He counters them with greater vehemence ("verily, verily") and elucidation of His role in man’s salvation. In the process He makes more ‘absurd’ claims: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever" (vv. 53-58).
- The claims of the Word seem so improbable that even many of His supposed disciples find His claims—even the less difficult ones—unacceptable and offensive, yet those very claims are "Spirit and life". Again, the culprit is the flesh which helps in no way to discern truth–a fact the Word knows about each one of the ‘doubters’ He encounters(in the synagogue/church and elsewhere, 59) right from the beginning unless that fellow has been drawn by the Father (vv. 60-65).
- The disciples of the Word who find it difficult to accept His claims no longer follow Him; they turn their backs on Him (v. 66).
- The Word has a core following who confirm their acceptance of His claims because they know Who HE IS: "Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God" (vv. 67-69).
- It’s not impossible for a pretender, a child of the devil, to infiltrate the core followers of the Word only to betray Him at a future time (vv. 70-71).
Certainly, it’s only those chosen by the Father who can permanently believe and obey the Word.
Of course, with the events of Calvary and our knowledge of figurative language in scripture we can better appreciate Jesus’ message in John 6 than His original hearers. We, for example, now understand that the "flesh" and "blood" of Jesus represents His sacrificial death by which He paid the ransom for our sins (Matt. 20:28) and reconciled us to God (Rom. 5:10). But the fact remains that human behaviour towards God’s Word has not changed since the days of Jesus’ earthly life and long before that.
So then, everyone will fit in somewhere in the narrative: are you one of those too obsessed
with the necessities of life to care about believing and acting on the word? Martha, unlike
her sister Mary, was such, and the Lord reprimanded her: "Martha, Martha, you are anxious
and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good
portion, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42 ESV).
Or are you one of those who, on finding some aspects of God’s Word illogical or difficult to believe, are put off? Do some portions of scripture offend you because you consider them to be downright improbable? On the other hand, are you like Peter and the rest of the apostles who saw beyond the ordinary and saw the Word as divine, larger than life and life-giving? Or are you just a pretender who tags along with the Word among those who earnestly follow Him only to betray Him at a later date?
You alone, having had an encounter with the Word in various ways, can give an honest answer. But whichever way you answer, aspire to be a Peter and the rest of the 10 faithful apostles: Value the Word more than anything else in this life—because the Word alone has eternal life. The bottom line is to be a doer of the word now that the Word has come to you. Next week I will show you exactly what to do to be a doer of the Word. God bless you.