Image: Charles Hodge (1797-1878)
In light of an invitation to address this topic in a conference next week, I have been giving thought of late to the theme of God’s Word as an ordinary means of grace.
Our Baptist Catechism, based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, teaches (Q 94):
The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
This indicates the sense that the Word (its reading and its preaching) is an ordinance of both conversion and edification. This twofold purpose recalls Psalm 19:7 (emphasis added):
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
In his three volume Systematic Theology, the “Old Princeton” theologian Charles Hodge (1797-1878) devotes an extended section to the Word of God as a means of grace (see Volume III, chapter XX, pp. 466-484). At one point, he reflects on the fact that without the reading and hearing of God’s Word even a regenerate soul would be at a loss:
Even a regenerated soul without any truth before it, would be in blank darkness. It would be in the state of a regenerated infant; or in the state of an unborn infant in relation to the external world; having eyes and ears, but nothing to call its faculties of sight and hearing into exercise.
The Bible, therefore, is essential to the conscious existence of the divine life in the soul and to all its rational exercises. The Christian can no more live without the Bible, than his body can live without food. The Word of God is milk and strong meat, it is as water to the thirsty, it is honey and the honeycomb (478-479).
If we are to grow in Christ, we need the “intake” of His Word. We need to read the Bible privately and to hear it read corporately. We need also to hear it taught and preached among his people.
May the Lord use his Word as a means of grace to convert souls and to make wise the simple.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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