“And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”
“But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
“The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
John 6:63, last part
This is a subject that is very dear to my soul, a subject that leaves me in awe and wonder, that gives joy and life, that vitalizes, that heals, that rejuvenates and enlivens. Although these blessings are for all, there are conditions. This subject is quite simply the word of God. This study is about the reality of what His word is and does for the human soul.
However, in order to understand the topic in its depth, its beauty, its power, and its importance, we must begin with a little background.
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:13–15).
Ezekiel 18:4 and 20 says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:11)?
Ellen White wrote, “In order to determine how important are the interests involved in the conversion of the soul from error to truth, we must appreciate the value of immortality; we must realize how terrible are the pains of the second death.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 620.
The agonies of the second death are most clearly revealed in the sufferings of Christ as He bore the penalty in behalf of fallen man for the transgression of God’s law.
“The agony which Christ endured, broadens, deepens, and gives a more extended conception of the character of sin, and of the retribution which God will bring upon those who continue in sin. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).” Bible Training School, September 1, 1915.
“The sword of justice was unsheathed, and the wrath of God against iniquity rested upon man’s substitute, Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father.
“In the garden of Gethsemane Christ suffered in man’s stead, and the human nature of the Son of God staggered under the terrible horror of the guilt of sin, until from His pale and quivering lips was forced the agonizing cry, ‘O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me:’ but if there be no other way by which the salvation of man may be accomplished, then ‘not as I will, but as Thou wilt’ (Matthew 26:39). Human nature would then and there have died under the horror of the sense of sin, had not an angel from heaven strengthened Him to bear the agony. … Christ was suffering the death that was pronounced upon the transgressors of God’s law.
“It is a fearful thing for the unrepenting sinner to fall into the hands of the living God. This is proved by the history of the destruction of the old world by a flood, and by the record of the fire which fell from heaven and destroyed the inhabitants of Sodom. But never was this proved to so great an extent as in the agony of Christ, the Son of the infinite God, when He bore the wrath of God for a sinful world. It was in consequence of sin, the transgression of God’s law, that the garden of Gethsemane has become pre-eminently the place of suffering to a sinful world.
“No sorrow, no agony, can measure with that which was endured by the Son of God. Man has not been made a sin-bearer, and he will never know the horror of the curse of sin which the Saviour bore. No sorrow can bear any comparison with the sorrow of Him upon whom the wrath of God fell with overwhelming force. Human nature can endure but a limited amount of test and trial. The finite can only endure the finite measure, and human nature succumbs; but the nature of Christ had a greater capacity for suffering; for the human existed in the Divine nature, and created a capacity for suffering to endure that which resulted from the sins of a lost world. The agony which Christ endured, broadens, deepens, and gives a more extended conception of the character of sin, and of the retribution which God will bring upon those who continue in sin. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ to the repenting, believing sinner.” Ibid.
“The suffering Son of God leaves His disciples, for the power of darkness rushes upon Him with an irresistible force which bows Him to the earth. … His soul was pressed with such agony as no human being could endure and live. The sins of the world were upon Him. He felt that He was separated from His Father’s love; for upon Him rested the curse because of sin. Christ knew that it would be difficult for man to feel the grievousness of sin, and that close contact and familiarity with sin would so blunt his moral sensibility, that sin would not appear so dangerous to him, and so exceedingly offensive in the sight of God. He knew that but few would take pleasure in righteousness, and accept of that salvation which, at infinite cost, He made it possible for them to obtain. While this load of sin was upon Christ, unrealized, and unrepented of by man, doubts rent His soul in regard to His oneness with His Father. …
“Human minds cannot conceive of the insupportable anguish which tortured the soul of our Redeemer. …
“The sufferings of martyrs can bear no comparison with the sufferings of Christ. The divine presence was with them, in their physical sufferings. There was the hiding of the Father’s face from His dear Son. … It was anguish of soul beyond the endurance of finite nature. It was woe condensed that brought from the trembling lips of the noble sufferer these words: ‘Now is My soul troubled’ (John 12:27). ‘O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt’ (Matthew 26:39).” The Signs of the Times, August 14, 1879.
This is a description of the pains of the second death, separation, eternal separation, from the Life-giver, the One alone in whom rests the joy, the happiness, the peace, the divine contentment of the soul of man. This second death is the destiny for every soul – without Christ. We must realize this before we can understand the gift of God’s word, the antidote for this agonizing, soul-wrenching, second death. I pray God make these words full of vitality and reality to each one.
We are told: “The life of Christ that gives life to the world is in His word. It was by His word that Jesus healed disease and cast out demons; by His word He stilled the sea, and raised the dead; and the people bore witness that His word was with power. He spoke the word of God, as He had spoken through all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament. The whole Bible is a manifestation of Christ, and the Saviour desired to fix the faith of His followers on the word. When His visible presence should be withdrawn, the word must be their source of power. Like their Master, they were to live ‘by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).
“As our physical life is sustained by food, so our spiritual life is sustained by the word of God. And every soul is to receive life from God’s word for himself. As we must eat for ourselves in order to receive nourishment, so we must receive the Word for ourselves. We are not to obtain it merely through the medium of another’s mind. We should carefully study the Bible, asking God for the aid of the Holy Spirit, that we may understand His word. We should take one verse, and concentrate the mind on the task of ascertaining the thought which God has put in that verse for us. We should dwell upon the thought until it becomes our own, and we know ‘what saith the Lord.’ ” The Desire of Ages, 390.
Steps to Christ, 90, adds a little to this thought. “One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained.” [Emphasis added.]
“The Lord has often made manifest [clear] in His providence [foresight] that nothing less than revealed truth, the word of God, can reclaim man from sin or keep him from transgression. That Word, which reveals the guilt of sin, has a power upon the human heart to make man right and keep him so. The Lord has said that His word is to be studied and obeyed; it is to be brought into the practical life; that Word is as inflexible as the character of God—the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, 118, 119.
“The Bible contains all the principles that men need to understand in order to be fitted either for this life or for the life to come. And these principles may be understood by all. No one with a spirit to appreciate its teaching can read a single passage from the Bible without gaining from it some helpful thought. But the most valuable teaching of the Bible is not to be gained by occasional or disconnected study. Its great system of truth is not so presented as to be discerned by the hasty or careless reader. Many of its treasures lie far beneath the surface, and can be obtained only by diligent research and continuous effort. The truths that go to make up the great whole must be searched out and gathered up, ‘here a little, and there a little’ (Isaiah 28:10).” Education, 123.
Here inspiration takes a few paragraphs and compares and contrasts the teaching of the Bible with any and all other writings. Also delineated in these paragraphs are the benefits gained from a study of the Bible from a merely temporal (that is, earth-bound) point of view. Then Inspiration continues by speaking of the Bible and its blessings from a spiritual perspective, that is, including the reckoning of eternity.
“And even greater is the power of the Bible in the development of the spiritual nature. Man, created for fellowship with God, can only in such fellowship find his real life and development. Created to find in God his highest joy, he can find in nothing else that which can quiet the cravings of the heart, can satisfy the hunger and thirst of the soul. He who with sincere and teachable spirit studies God’s word, seeking to comprehend its truths, will be brought in touch with its Author; and, except by his own choice, there is no limit to the possibilities of his development.
“In its wide range of style and subjects the Bible has something to interest every mind and appeal to every heart. In its pages are found history the most ancient; biography the truest to life; principles of government for the control of the state, for the regulation of the household—principles that human wisdom has never equaled. It contains philosophy the most profound, poetry the sweetest and the most sublime, the most impassioned and the most pathetic. Immeasurably superior in value to the productions of any human author are the Bible writings, even when thus considered; but of infinitely wider scope, of infinitely greater value, are they when viewed in their relation to the grand central thought. Viewed in the light of this thought, every topic has a new significance. In the most simply stated truths are involved principles that are as high as heaven and that compass eternity.” Ibid., 124, 125.
Oh, friends, what is the “grand central thought” of the Bible? The answer to this question is given in the very next paragraph of this passage.
“The central theme of the Bible, the theme about which every other in the whole book clusters, is the redemption plan, the restoration in the human soul of the image of God. [That is, rescuing man from the terrifying, agonizing second death, alone, with no God, to the bliss of eternal life with the Life-giver!] From the first intimation of hope in the sentence pronounced in Eden to that last glorious promise of the Revelation, ‘They shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads’ (Revelation 22:4), the burden of every book and every passage of the Bible is the unfolding of this wondrous theme,—man’s uplifting,—the power of God, ‘which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
“He who grasps this thought has before him an infinite field for study. He has the key that will unlock to him the whole treasure house of God’s word.” Ibid., 125, 126.
As thrilling as these words of life are, we must go beyond the beautiful emotion that they inspire. If we are satisfied merely with these good feelings, these wonderful emotions elicited by the reading of God’s words, they will be to us as though we had not read them. It is not merely the study of these precious words that will give the boon of eternal life. There is more. Hear the words of our God. “The love of truth and righteousness must reign in the soul, [then the result is given], and a character will appear which heaven can approve.” Lift Him Up, 336.
“The thoughts must be upon heavenly things if you desire the Holy Spirit of God to impress truth upon the mind and soften and subdue the heart, inspiring ardent love of truth, of justice, of mercy, and of purity. The Spirit will bring to your remembrance the most precious jewels of thought. The whole heart will be warm with the contemplation of Jesus and His love, His teachings will be cherished, and you will love to speak to others the comforting things that have been opened to you by the Spirit of God. This is the privilege of every son and daughter of God. Oh, if those who believe the truth would love and fear the Lord always, if they would abide in Christ, they would treasure up the most precious experience; they would have moral and intellectual power; the grace of God would be in them ‘like a well of water springing up into everlasting life’ (John 4:14), and would flow forth from them as streams of living water. When persecution comes, the influence of such souls will be manifest; they will delight to magnify the truth.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, 345.
Think of those truths with which we began our study, the seriousness of sin and the agonies of its consequences. And then consider the fact that Jesus, the divine Son of God, willingly, eagerly came to this earth to endure those agonies of the second death to shield and protect us from having to experience them ourselves!
Only as we truly comprehend the magnitude of the consequences of sin can we rightly appreciate and love the word of God “which gives life to the world,” not just temporal life, but life eternal, perfect, pure, holy, happy, without the mar, the blight of sin. Oh, friends, if God’s word is not the love of your life, plead on your knees for heavenly wisdom and enlightenment, a change of heart. Plead to the Lord to put in your heart divine love for His word, for the principles of His Kingdom. Then act on that prayer. When other things allure and tempt, steadfastly refuse. Act as though God’s word is the most important thing in your life and the Lord will do the rest.
Friends, cherish, study, read, memorize these precious words as if your life, your eternal life, depends upon it—because it does. The life of Christ which gives life to the world, is in His word – God’s word – the “antidote for death.” Will it be yours?
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She is director of The Training Program for Ministers and Church Leaders, a correspondence course that prepares individuals to serve as pastors or Bible workers. She may be contacted by email at: email@example.com.