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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.