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 (Manna 67: The Bible)
The Abiding Word of God
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The Abiding Word of God

Vincent Yeung—Cambridge, UK

“The grass withers, the flower fades”—a reflection on the ephemeral existence of living creatures in the eyes of a seemingly unchanging observer. What is said shows our own fragility; it is a projection of humanity’s fleeting existence against the universe. Human minds are the product of changes too. Early perceptions and interpretations tend to shape later perceptions and interpretations. Our ideas and values are conditioned, augmented and shaped by the flux of history. In this changing world we are used to adapting ideas, skills and values as well as embracing new ones.

Science is often portrayed as a key driver of change and the development of human civilization. Science helps us to observe, explain and predict natural phenomena by experiment. We are brought up in the current world of scientific rationality. We do not take old wives’ tales in trust anymore; we want to reserve our judgment, experience and try for ourselves. Such skepticism and experimenting also creep into our trust in authority, such as parents, political leaders and religion.

A third of Church of England clergy doubt or disbelieve in the physical resurrection and only half are convinced of the truth of the virgin birth, according to a new survey[1].

The poll of nearly 2,000 of the church’s 10,000 clergy also found that only half believe that faith in Christ is the only route to salvation. Clergy, faced with intelligent and educated congregations, increasingly have to think "very carefully" about how to present complex doctrine credibly. Are we also subjected to the same influence? Do you believe in the word of God?

The Perils of the Last Day

Jesus warned that many false prophets will rise up and deceive many (Mt 24:11). Power, signs and lying wonders follow these false prophets and false christs (Mt 24:23–24; 2 Thess 1:10). Those who do not receive the love of the truth will be deceived by their unrighteous deceptions (2 Thess 1:10). On a less dramatic level, secularization slowly poisons present day societies. Biblical teachings are irrelevant in how society conducts its business. It is even an embarrassment to talk about faith in public. The traditional Christian is marginalized, shunted and challenged by a generation deemed more intelligent, rational and educated.

Many of the teachings of the Bible become out of fashion and some denominations have become more tolerant to these aberrant trends: divorce and remarriage in the church, homosexuality etc. No wonder the Bible warns that people in the last days only hold a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Tim 3:1–5). They call themselves Christians but they do not believe Christ is the only way to salvation. The basic tenets of Christianity, such as resurrection and Christ’s second coming, are not taken seriously.

The advance in mass media and social networks allows quick communication and sharing of useful information. However, when misused, a few people can corrupt and destabilize the church by simply posting false, misleading and slanderous information anonymously. False doctrines are published on unofficial websites and nobody takes responsibility for what has been said; as a result, the uninstructed are easily led astray.

All these deceptions share a common thread—they are characterized by lying signs of false prophets (Mt 24:24), the deception of evil men (2 Tim 3:13), and the cheat of philosophy and empty deceit, which are not based on Christ (Col 2:8). People prone to deception are those who do not love the truth (2 Thess 2:10). Without a heart to search the truth and a strong foundation of faith, people are tossed and carried about by every wind of doctrine, dishonesty, deceit, and cunningness (Eph 4:14). If we believe in collective human values only, and do not have any anchor of faith to adhere to, we stand on shaky ground.

God’s word shall stand forever

Contrary to the fleeting transition of human values and ideas, the word of God stands forever (Isa 40:8). It broke into human history through God’s self-revelation, with the ultimate goal to save mankind. We never have been and never will be wise or intelligent enough to find God. God has to find us—all human interaction with God begins with His gracious move.

Abraham did not choose to go to the promised land; God showed him the way (Gen 12:1). The prophets did not imagine and theorize God’s word; God came and showed them His word as well as visions (Isa 1:1; Amos 1:1). The Lord has spoken, who will not prophesy (Amos 3:8)?

The otherness of God’s word contrasts with the best that man could offer. Man can say whatever he likes, but there is no guarantee that it will happen. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and once spoken, His words will be accomplished (Isa 55:8–11). Man himself is like a flower and as grass (1 Pet 1:24); but for God, even His word is eternal (Isa 40:8). Therefore, Jesus declared, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Mk 13:31; Lk 21:33; Mt 24:35).

The Eternal Word and the Immutable God

The eternal nature of God’s word rests upon an unchanging God. The LORD is the true God; He is living and everlasting (Jer 10:10). Unlike great philosophers and teachers in the past, God lives forever. The psalmist links God’s eternity with His immutability and contrasts it to the transience and changeability of men (Ps 102:26–27)—men shall become old like a garment, but God is always the same. He does not change in mind or interest (Ps 89:34; 2 Cor 1:17–20), an attribute that accords with His omniscience. As He continued to inspire the Bible penmen over thousands of years, the message is consistent, coherent and unfailing (2 Pet 1:21), for right from the start, He saw through the full length of time. For this reason, His word is absolute.

Even if men deny God, He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim 2:13). His love towards His chosen people endures forever (Ps 118:1–4; 136:16). Despite many twists and turns in the history of His chosen people, God never forsook them (1 Sam 12:22) because His love never changes (Mal 3:6). God prepared our salvation even before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:3–4)—a mystery concealed in ancient prophecies (1 Pet 10–12). Today, the mystery of Christ is revealed through the gospel (Eph 3:5,7 cf. Rom 16:25), which is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). The omniscient God is able to fulfill His faithful word (Ps 119:86) uttered long ago.

Hold on to the pattern of faith

The unchanging will of God is subsumed in the person and word of Jesus (1 Pet 1:25). He is the only way to God (Jn 14:6), and the way to salvation that was once for all delivered to the saints (cf. Jud 1:3). The word of God is complete; there is no need for addition or subtraction (Rev 22:18; cf. Gal 1:8). God may inspire individuals to have a better understanding of the Bible, but fresh insights must not give rise to new interpretations that contradict and move away from foundational truths.

God’s word needs to be “delivered”, “received” and “held fast to” (Tit 1:9). Indeed, God expects us to pass on the pattern of sound words from one generation to the other. Paul left us a good example: He delivered to the Corinthians what he had received (1 Cor 15:3)—the gospel that forms the foundation of faith and the means to salvation (1 Cor 15:1–2). As God’s workers we need to deliver the word faithfully, without addition and adulteration to suit personal preference and interpretations or to satisfy our vanity.

If we are on the receiving end we should accept the word of God with faith, without any doubt and reservation. We should not change God’s word or interpret it our own way to accommodate our weaknesses. Once received, we should treasure it. Paul exhorted Timothy to hold fast to the word of God in faith and love (2 Tim 1:13), and to guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 1:14). Moreover, we need to share and deliver the word to faithful men (2 Tim 2:2).


Even in the best of all possible (human) worlds, individuals can be mistaken. When a former gold standard cannot account for new observations, new theories replace the old one. Science is basically empirical. Theories are valid until they are no longer able to explain new observations.

If truth is relative, then absolute right and wrong become doubtful. If truth is relative, there would be only subjective and indefinite answers for the purpose and meaning of life. God has already provided the absolute answers to life’s most fundamental questions. Therefore, true believers should not put their trust on the shaky ground of empirical sciences and philosophies.

Jesus emphatically pronounced that He is the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Him (Jn 14:6). God has offered us His word, which is in Jesus (Eph 4:21)—the unchanging truth that abides forever.

In the last days, many false prophets and false teachers will rise up among us who secretly bring out destructive heresies (2 Pet 2:1). Their messages are very persuasive, logical sounding and enticing. However, as lovers of the truth we will be able to discern what is right or wrong. We should therefore reaffirm our trust in the unchanging word of God. If we hold on to the sound pattern of faith, which has been once and for all delivered to us, we will be able to pass on and safeguard the precious truth of salvation for future generations.


[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1403106/One-third-of-clergy-do-not-believe-in-the-Resurrection.html

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Author: Vincent Yeung