January 30, 2024

God’s Word at Work in Us

Sinclair Ferguson
God’s Word at Work in Us

The Bible does more than tell us what to do. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word is at work in us, shaping us day by day into the likeness of Christ. Today, Sinclair Ferguson explains the importance of viewing the Bible rightly.


Yesterday, we were talking about one of the best ways to think about the Bible in terms of the words that Moses used and the Lord Jesus used. It is “the mouth of God.” Paul thought about it that way too. He said that it was the “God-breathed” Word. And when Paul speaks that way, he’s really saying to us not that the Bible is inspiring—although in many parts it is inspiring—but rather that God has spoken to us, that His words are carried to us by the Holy Spirit. And as God says to Jeremiah, He has put His words into the mouths of those who wrote the Scriptures in order that we may hear God’s voice.

So although the Bible was written by different men at different times, they were carried along, as Peter says, by the Holy Spirit. And that’s why John Calvin says in his Institutes that actually, we should give the Scriptures the same reverence we give to God. Not because the Scriptures are God, but because the Scriptures are the mouth of God, the Word of God. And as God’s Word that’s full of God’s promises, it directs us in God’s will. And most of all, it shows us God’s Son. It’s given to us chiefly in order to make us like Jesus.

I’ve spoken before about the way in which Isaiah says “morning by morning” he listened to the voice of his heavenly Father and treasured up his Father’s words. And if you read the Gospels, it’s very striking that although Jesus never had a Bible of His own, it’s very clear that He had treasured up Scripture. And my own conviction is that He probably knew the whole of the Old Testament by heart. He wanted the Scriptures to shape His life in obedience to His Father. He wanted to mine the Scriptures for equipment in order to be able to instruct and teach others. He wanted to live by every word that came out of the mouth of God. And He believed in the absolute authority of Scripture. And that’s why it was said of Him that He spoke with authority and not as the scribes did.

I owe a very great debt to the man who was my minister when I was in my teens. But when he noticed I’d come to believe that the Bible was fully inspired and finally authoritative, he took me aside one day and he said, “How you view these issues doesn’t really affect the way you preach.” And I had heard very few people preach at that point in my Christian life, so I wasn’t able to debate him on the basis of personal evidence, but I’d become convinced he couldn’t possibly be right and that it must affect the way people preach. But I couldn’t point to other preachers and say, “Listen to their preaching, and you’ll be able to tell the difference.”

But then in my later years as a teenager, I did hear other preachers. And even as a teenager, I could tell the difference. Only when and where the Scriptures are believed as absolutely reliable will we hear the kind of preaching that God intends us to hear. That’s why it’s so important to be under a ministry where the Word of God is believed to have come from the mouth of God. That explains the authority of the preaching, the fullness of the preaching, and the benefit of the preaching.

And only then do we begin to understand what Paul was speaking about when he wrote to the Thessalonians and said, “I’m so glad that you received the word of God not as the word of men, although it had come through men, but as it really is: the word of God.” And then he added something I think is very significant. He said, “You received it as the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” And that’s the big difference.

Many Christians believe that reading the Bible and hearing the preaching of the Bible is simply a matter of the Bible telling you what to do, and then you go and do it. But where the Bible is believed to be the living Word of God, we begin to experience what Paul is speaking about here. It’s not just that we do the work that the Scriptures tell us to perform. It’s that the exposition of the Word does the work on us. It works in us. It transforms us. It shapes us to be more like Jesus. That’s why we need to believe in the authority of Scripture, and that’s why we need to place our lives under a ministry of the Word that shares that conviction, in order that the Word will do its own work in us.

I wonder if that’s your experience too? I hope so.