The Unchanging Word
I suppose that if one were to choose one word that embraces what is happening around us, and across the world, at this present time and in the last twenty years, that word would be “change.” Maps [are] changing—nations are being born—the exploration of the starry universe opens a new world. Neighborhoods change—governments change—circumstances of life change. In this world of change we need something to hold on to—something that is permanent and unchangeable. Something solid and firm on which we can stand. Some place where we can rest our thoughts and feel that we have laid hold of the Truth which nothing can change.
Now the Apostle Peter has a good sentence for such a time as this. “All flesh (this is men and women of course) is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.” Now, there is nothing wrong with the flesh as such, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with the glory of man as monuments and buildings and achievements and oratory; but as the text says “the grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away.” What man does, no matter how great it is or how highly praised it is, this ultimately passes. Something new takes its place, and then this too passes. Great empires come and then they go. Fortunes are built up, and then they go. Reputations are achieved, and then they disappear. But the Bible says “The Word of the Lord abideth forever.”
We come now to this wonderful phrase—“The Word of the Lord.” Let’s take this idea of the Word, and let me say a very simple thing about it. This comes to us from the outside. What do we mean by that? Well, I’ve got a lot of thoughts in my mind that are created within me, and reactions are within me, and affections are within me, and memory is within me. Hope is within me, but a “word” comes to me from the outside. When you open a newspaper this is a newswriter speaking to you or an editor speaking to you. When I open a book this is the author speaking to me—they are speaking to me, and when some one who is with me or calls me on the phone and addresses me, this is a word from without. How limited we would be if we never read anything and never heard anything. How many millions of words you and I have heard that we don’t even remember or want to remember? How many thousands of pages have we read that we have forgotten? How many books have we in our library which once we read and we never intend to read again? Why is this? Well, there isn’t anything new there for us. The author has been dead for years—he doesn’t know my need. So, these words come and go. There is nothing duller and staler than a newspaper 48 hours old. Books are written, read and forgotten. Radio messages are heard, and then they disappear into oblivion. Now you have this wonderful text—“But the Word of the Lord abideth for ever.”
The First Epistle of Peter, chapter one, contains those great truths which support the idea and confirm it, and make it necessary that in the Bible we have the Eternal Word of God. The New Testament is the only record of the greatest, the most important and revolutionary event in human history. This is the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This event transformed world history. This event is what gave hope to men. This is what God sent Christ into the world for. This is the purpose of the Incarnation. This concerns the very Son of God Who became a man, and did two great things for us apart from others. He died for us, and rose again for us.
Now let us look at verse 2 of 1 Peter. Verse 2 says, “unto the sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ.” Verse 3—“Resurrection from the dead.” Have you ever noticed that in the Apostles’ Creed this is emphasized five times? Crucified under Pontius Pilate—dead—buried—the third day He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead. Verse 11 “when it testified the sufferings of Christ.” Verse 19 “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
I have been reading lately, again, a life of Emerson, the greatest essayist America ever had. Emerson was a Unitarian minister. In his early days he came to the conclusion that he could no longer serve the Lord’s Supper. He had no use, he said, for any such a thing as a sacrifice, and he did not like the very symbol of blood. So he went to his officers and asked them if they would concur with him and eliminate the Lord’s Supper from their regular service. Unitarians though they were, they said “No. This belongs in our service.” Then Emerson said, “I will resign,” and he preached a famous sermon lasting one hour and a quarter on why he was resigning. He could not tolerate the sight of the Table of our Lord.
Beloved, while your death, and mine, is of no significance at all, our lives are, our words are, our work is; but our death is of no significance. There is nothing particularly ethical about our death, we’re just going to die. There was nothing significant about the death of Napoleon Bonaparte. He was just finished—he died. But the death of the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to 143 times in the New Testament. This is central! This is basic! This is of preeminent importance! This is the only way into the presence of God. This is the only means by which sins can be forgiven! He, Jesus, died for us! Socrates died, but not for me. Caesar was stabbed, but not for me. Lincoln was shot, but not for me. But for me, a poor sinner like me, Jesus died. This is an ethical event, and this Bible is the only record of it. Without it, the Bible, we would not know that God had done anything for us.
Then he speaks of the Resurrection, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This is the defeat of the last enemy. This is the victory of the Son of God over the grave and over death. There is no founder of any religion in America, no cult, no founder of any world religion who ever died because he loved people and rose again from the dead.
During the French Revolution a philosopher went to Robespierre, and he said, “You know, I’ve a new religion and I think it’s just what men need, but I can’t get attention. I know if France knew what this religion was I could sweep this country with it. No one seems to pay any attention. I wonder if you could tell me how I can get the people to look at this new religion I’ve created.” Robespierre replied, “I’ll tell you how to do it. You get yourself crucified because you love the French nation, and on the third day rise from the dead and I am sure you will get the attention of the people of France.” The man walked away—he wasn’t going to die for anybody, and if he did he would still be in the grave.
Here are these two great, glorious facts, by which men are washed clean from sin, and by which they have a hope of the life to come. There is nothing else in all the world to compare with that event. I was told the other day in a conference (and I’m going to check on this, but I know it is correct) that an article recently appeared by a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, in which he said it is ridiculous that only Jesus can save men. I am astonished at this because the Justice is not [Jewish], he is a Gentile. One thing I know—there is only one begotten Son of God, only one sacrifice acceptable to God by which we are reconciled to Him. Only one glorious resurrection from the dead, and this Bible is the record of it. No wonder the Word of God abides forever. I need this; I embrace it; I must have it; I believe it, and I’m going into eternity with it.
Secondly, what about the present? The past is over even though it reaches us. What about today, my need for today? Look at verse 23—“being born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.” This is new birth.
I am grateful for my father and mother and for the background they gave me; for the Christian home in which I was brought up. But you know they gave birth to just a plain natural son who showed his sinful nature, I am told, even when he was only nine months old. Just like anybody else, without God and without hope in the world. My father and mother are in Heaven, but they couldn’t give me anything to get me into Heaven. This had to come from God. By natural life I am born a natural man, doomed to die. I need a new life. You don’t get it in college, you don’t get it in a music school, you don’t get it in a lovely home, you don’t get it with a big salary—you get it by an act of God, being born again of incorruptible seed. This is divine life—eternal life. This is something that will carry me through this life into Glory, with Christ the Head and you and I members of His body, Who has breathed into us the very life of God and given us a new birth. This is one thing for the present, and how desperately men need this. Then I read something else here—I read this wonderful, glorious word “Salvation.” Verse 5: “who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” Verse 9: “receiving the end of your faith (which is present tense) the salvation of your soul.” Verse 10: “of which salvation and the grace that should come unto you.” “Salvation” is just the noun form of “save,” and from what does God save us? He saves us from every destructive power, from every evil thing, from the power of sin that we may be the children of God. He saves from the power of thinking sin; the power of loving sin; the power of acting in sin; from the fear and the power of death. He takes us to be with Himself. He saves us from every antagonistic force out of Hell and from the Devil. This is salvation. You have the word “new birth,” you have the idea of “salvation.”
You have more here—let me give you one more in the present tense. Verse 8: “who having not seen we love (present tense).” Have you ever told the Lord you love Him? You read the Gospels through and you often see Jesus loved this one and that one. Have you ever noticed that no one said they loved the Lord Jesus until you come down to the last chapter of John and Jesus actually had to ask Peter—“Peter, do you love Me?” I’m sure they did love Him, but I’m also sure that they were very hesitant to say so. “Whom having not seen we love.” This is the first and great commandment—to love the Lord our God.
The love of God brings great joy, and as Christians we ought to be joyful and radiant. You remember the words of our Lord “These things have I spoken unto you that My joy might be in you, and that your joy might be full.” He said this on Thursday night of Holy Week when He was about to be betrayed, denied, falsely accused, spat upon, beaten, chastised and crucified. He had joy in the darkest hour of life, and so may you and I.
Present tense—the love for God, freedom from sin, new birth by the power of the Holy Spirit, and overflowing joy. But what about the future? What do you hope for? How many of our hopes are gone? A father hopes his boy may follow in his business and the boy gets killed in the War. A dear young Christian has a hope chest, she’s engaged and hopes to be married at a certain time, and her intended suddenly comes down with a fatal disease and dies—this is a dead hope. All of us have some dead hopes. But the hope of the resurrection, the hope of being with the Lord is a living hope. This is what He says, “I will come again and receive you unto Myself that where I am there ye may be also.” This is because He, Jesus, has done something—I have not earned it. He has begotten us again into a living hope and it doesn’t say by my goodness, or my parents’ goodness, or by church membership. He has begotten us unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He rose—you and I will rise, if we are in Christ. He is in Glory—we will be in Glory. He is in resurrection power—we will be in resurrection power. He is there forever—we will be there forever. This is the future, and this is the only living hope.
Outside of all this we are living on a precipice of an abyss, as far as the world is concerned. These are desperate days with revolutions, and wars, and upheavals on the increase. Our hope is not in a government as such, it is not in the League of Nations or the United Nations; or in a new philosophy, or world peace. Your hope and my hope is in the risen Lord Jesus Christ—and He is coming again! He will bring righteousness on the earth, and then we will have the kind of a world men dream of. But we do have trials. The Bible doesn’t say that the moment we’re born again everything is going to be a paradise on Earth. Verse 13 says “gird up your loins, be sober—and hope to the end for the grace that is brought unto you at the revelation or the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
Let us go back to our text—“the Word of the Lord abideth for ever.” Why? Because it contains the record of the greatest event in the history of man, by which you and I are forgiven and our hope is quickened in resurrection. Secondly, because from this Word we have the assurance of an abundant overflowing life of joy, victory over sin, love for God and love for one another. Thirdly, this is the Book of Hope. There are many books written about the future—but what does man know about the future? Nothing, except as he knows it from the Word of God, for God knoweth all things. You and I have no idea of what a day will bring forth, but God knows. And now, through Christ, we have the assurance of our being raised from the dead and beholding the Lord in His Glory. “Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know when He shall appear then shall we be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” The Bible says we are begotten again by this word of truth. Are you begotten again? Do you have the new birth? In this dying world do you have the life of Christ in your soul? This you may have by simply telling the Risen Lord you repent of your sin and believe in your heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, and receive Him as your Lord and Saviour. May it be that your name, too, is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.