(In the coming weeks, we will be republishing the extracts of a sermon preached by Pastor Prabhudas Koshy during the 4thMissionary Conference (June 23-27, 2014).
Will it surprise you that some of the worst attacks on God’s Word have come from within the church? When non-churchgoers, who make no claim on the Christian faith, attack or despise the Bible, we could “turn a blind eye” without being unduly perturbed. But when those who call themselves Christians – even leaders and pastors of churches – disregard, disrespect and detest the truths of the Bible, the Bible and the church at large are under severe attack! In times like these, the church must consecrate herself and muster her strength to defend the veracity and authority of the Bible. No other institution on earth has been appointed by God to declare and defend the Word. It is the church which God has commissioned to be the custodian of His Word. As is mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:15, “the church of the living God” is “the pillar and ground of the truth”. So the church should not fail to recognise her duty to declare and defend the Word. It therefore behoves us to approach this topic with the correct mindset and attitude.
At this juncture, it is imperative for us to consider whether we need to defend the Word of God at all. Is not the Bible able to defend itself? Is it not powerful enough to defend its truths against its attackers? Or is the Word of God so defenceless and destitute that we need to render our help to defend it? So, when we say that we need to defend the Word, are we not making the Bible look weak? After all, the Bible teaches us to “defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy” (Psalm 82:3); but nowhere does it say, “Defend the rich and mighty”.
Moreover, does not the Bible teach us that God is our Defender, and His Word a shield unto His people? In Zechariah 9:15, we read, “The LORD of hosts shall defend them”. The LORD is the Defender of His people! Psalm 91:4says, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” Is not the Bible an unfailing, impregnable bulwark by itself? How can we defend God’s Word, when we can’t defend ourselves? Since we ourselves need to be defended by the truth of God’s Word, how can we be in a position to defend the Word?
We should not approach this topic as though we have what it takes to defend the Word. Who among us has the power to do so? Can this preacher convince you that you have the power to defend the Word? Make no mistake about it, any careless thinking or conduct towards God’s Word will be like the presumptuousness of Uzza, who stretched out his hand to hold the ark of the covenant when the oxen (pulling the cart carrying the ark) stumbled, and was thereby struck down by the wrath of God (1 Chronicles 13:9, 10). God forbid that I should unwittingly stir you to think that the Word will fail without us defending it. May we not become so puffed up to think that God’s Word will perish without us.
Haven’t you read in Psalm 29:4, “The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty”? What can puny men like us do for the Word of God that is full of divine majesty? Jeremiah 23:29 declares, “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” Now, which one of you can break the rock with your bare hands? Whose fist is so strong to cleave the rock in twain? Even if all of us (about 270) gathered here, were to give the hardest blow, will the rock be broken? Dear folks, when we handle God’s Word, whether we propagate, preach or defend it, we should not take glory to ourselves. Our prideful attitude towards God’s Word will destroy us. God’s Word is a consuming fire! It is the hammer that can crack rocks and crush them into powder. Let us be careful how we think of our role with respect to God’s Word.
No preacher, whether he is expounding the Word or conducting an apologetics class in defence of the Word, should ever think that God and His Word are “defenceless”. God and His Word are not powerless nor vulnerable. He is the Almighty; hence, His Word self-enduring. As Isaiah 40:7-8 declares, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” 1 Peter 1:25 also says that “the word of the LORD endureth for ever”.
No one has what it takes to protect the Word. Besides, no man is worthy to take God’s Word in his mouth. Without God’s sanctifying work in us, we are unfit even to utter His Word. “But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?” (Psalm 50:16). “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully”(Psalm 24:3-4). None of us by himself is fit to be a defender of God’s Word. Should the weight of God’s judgment as revealed in His Word come upon us, we will surely perish in a flash!
Therefore, the proper attitude to have is a desperate cry – “Have mercy on me, LORD, that we may serve Thee!” Our confidence is not in ourselves, but in God’s mercy. Let the preacher say, “The LORD has helped me to preach His Word.” We do well to remember Paul’s testimony in 1 Corinthians 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am”; and also in Ephesians 3:7, 8 – “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Let all who labour in His church say, “God has shown great mercy to use us.” Let those who give generously and those who sing praises to God in choirs alike say, “We serve God because He has mercy on us, so blessed be His name.” Otherwise, He will detest our self-assumed roles as “propagators” and “defenders” of God’s Word. To get off on the right foot, we must think of going about defending God’s Word with the right attitude.