The True Source of Spiritual Life

(Photo: Unsplash)

This post was first published in September, 2019. —ed.

People don’t always do the things they know they should. Whether it’s eating vegetables, paying bills promptly, or getting to bed on time, some people’s everyday actions defy what they know to be best. That’s often the same for believers with our Bibles. God’s people may recognize the importance of feeding on God’s Word even while we allow it to gather dust on the shelf.

That’s why the apostle Peter exhorts his readers: “Therefore, putting aside all malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:1–2).   

First Peter 2:1 begins with the word “Therefore,” linking the Apostle’s exhortation to the foundational reality that should fuel our hunger for God’s Word—Peter’s prior statements, specifically, verses 23–25 of chapter 1, where he writes,

You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23–25)

Peter wants us to understand that it was the incorruptible, imperishable Word of God that has saved us and transform us into new creations.

To grasp the full weight of what Peter is saying, we need to remember our spiritual destitution prior to regeneration. We possessed unrepentant hearts that were “more deceitful than all else and . . . desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). In Romans 3, Paul uses quotes from the Old Testament to describe how comprehensive our depravity was: “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10–12). He sums up the corruption of that rebellious state: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). Not only were we incapable of escaping our depravity, we were unwilling to do so. Before the Spirit did His illuminating work through the Word, we had no fear of the Lord or of the due penalty of our sins.

From that horrendous state, Peter says we “have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). Peter identifies this Word as the source of our spiritual transformation. Borrowing a metaphor from the life of Christ, Peter describes the Word as an imperishable seed. Just as Jesus explained to His disciples in Matthew 13, a faithful sower cast seed onto soil prepared by the Spirit, and the seed bore fruit (Matthew 13:3–23). Describing the Bible’s transforming power, James says, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures” (James 1:18). Referring to the saving work of the Word, John writes in his gospel, “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). And in response to all that Scripture has already accomplished in our lives, Peter charges us to cultivate a hunger for it.

Why? Because the power of God’s Word does not fade, diminish, or wither (1 Peter 1:24). It is the source of both our transformation and our sanctification. It is our spiritual sustenance (Matthew 4:4). It gives us stability and security: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). Scripture is “the word of [God’s] grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). It is “the word of life” (Philippians 2:16). Regarding its power, the writer of Hebrews says, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). God’s living Word, active and powerful, saves, sustains, and sanctifies His people.

Believers recognize the Word for what it is and for what it does in their lives. Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul said, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Scripture was instrumental in our salvation, and it continues to perform God’s work in us. Moreover, we know it accomplishes God’s work without fail.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10–11)

If we want to experience God’s supernatural work in our lives, we must understand that the Holy Spirit accomplishes it only through His Word. He has ordained no other means, no momentary emotional or existential experience that can catapult us to some greater spiritual maturity. We cannot set aside our Bibles and expect His sanctifying work to continue uninterrupted. God saved us through the power of His Word, and its work is not finished. We must increase our hunger for His truth, knowing it is the sole source of our spiritual lives and the only means by which the Spirit conforms us into the image of His Son.

Used with permission from John MacArthur.

Related Blogs