The Living and Abiding Word of God2
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 1:22-2:3).
People often ask me, “Sam, why do you stress God’s Word so emphatically? Why do you preach the Bible the way you do?” Or again, why are you unlikely ever to hear me speak without reference to Scripture? Why do I not employ drama or other forms of modern entertainment in my efforts to communicate with people? Is it because I have a big head? Have I been bewitched by all my education? Is it due to intellectual arrogance? Do I simply lack emotions and feelings? Or perhaps I just enjoy the sound of my voice? No!
I preach and teach the way I do and devote my life to the study of God’s Word because of what Peter says about it here in this paragraph. He is not the only one to speak of the power and purpose of God’s word in this way, but this is certainly one of the more pointed declarations of what the Word of God is and what it does and why we absolutely must ground our very lives in its truths.
I want us to take note of no fewer than 7 things about God’s Word. We’ll look at the first two in this article.
However, before I say anything about the characteristics of God’s Word, let’s not skip over the critically important fact that is in, indeed, the Word of God. It is God’s Word, not man’s word, not human speculation. We would be in an utterly helpless, hopeless, and spiritually pathetic condition if left to our own thoughts and agendas and wisdom.
Let’s never forget that what Scripture says, God says. It is the transcript of divine speech. Paul, in addressing the Thessalonians, applauded them because “when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 2:13).
When Peter speaks here of the Word of God he probably has in mind both the spoken word and the written word, both preaching and Scripture. We know he has in view the spoken word because he refers to it explicitly in v. 25 as the “good news that was preached to you.” But he also had in mind the written Scriptures, as is clear from his citation of Isaiah 40 in vv. 23-24 (see also 2 Peter 1:19-21 and 2 Peter 3:15-16).
(1) The first thing we see is that God’s word is imperishable (v. 23).
The idea of something being imperishable is profoundly important to Peter, especially in chapter one of his letter. In 1 Peter 1:3-4 he says that our inheritance is “imperishable” (not subject to corruption or decay or defilement). Although the word itself is not in 1:6-7, Peter’s point is that our faith is not perishable even though it passes through the fire of testing. We read in 1:18-19 that the ransom price by which we are set free from sin, the blood of Christ, is “imperishable” (unlike silver and gold). In 1:23 he declares that we have been born again of an “imperishable” seed, namely, the Word of God. It is imperishable as contrasted with the grass and flowers that blossom for a season but soon fade away and lose their capacity to enthrall us or satisfy us, both physically and aesthetically.
The gospel message will never die or suffer decay. The written Word that contains this message will never die or suffer decay, notwithstanding all the objections thrown at it by critics and Christ-deniers.
(2) The second thing Peter tells us about God’s word is that it is living and abiding (v. 23).
It is “living” because it has the power to impart life. It is “abiding” because the life it imparts is permanent and sustained and never dies.
The contrast is not between the Word of God and literal grass and flowers. The latter are cited as representative or symbolic of anything and everything in which we put our confidence: things that are flashy and exciting and bring initial joy, but over time fade and diminish and lose their capacity to guide us and satisfy our souls, such as strength, power, wealth, beauty, fame, etc.
Experts study sociological dynamics and trends in order to set the agenda for how we should do church and organize our ministries. With all due respect to sociology, in ten years studies will show that what used to work is now passé and ineffective. And through it all the Word of God will have remained true and unchanging and ever powerful.
Experts study psychological factors that supposedly govern human behavior and provide us with sure-fire formulas for better living and emotional and mental health. With all due respect to psychology, in ten years new studies and additional research will overturn and veto what was earlier believed to be true, perhaps even offering advice entirely opposite to what we were given years before. And through it all the Word of God will have remained true and unchanging and ever powerful.
Experts study philosophy and political theory and economic trends and church growth models and community dynamics and principles that govern interpersonal relationships. And with all due respect to the brilliance of such men and the short term help they bring us, in ten years the pendulum will have swung back and we will be told to ignore earlier discoveries and to embrace yet another theory of what makes life work and what enhances the testimony of the church and what will serve to improve our physical and spiritual welfare. And through it all the Word of God will have remained true and unchanging and ever powerful.
Why? Because the truths that God has revealed in his Word do not change.
The price of gold may rise and fall. The stock market may be bullish or bearish. Your physical appearance will improve and disintegrate. The loyalty of friends will come and go. Earthly fame will last but for a season. And through it all, the truths and principles and life-giving power of God’s Word will remain.
Let it be the anchor for your soul. Let it be the rock on which you stand. Let it be the compass to guide you through trials and tragic times. Let it govern your choices and renew your heart and restore your joy and ground your hope. Build your life on its moral principles. Embrace its ethical and moral norms. Believe what it says about the nature of God. Believe what it says about the nature of mankind.