It Is Written 

“It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”  Matt 4:4

“Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.” Martin Luther

There is something so permanently powerful about the written word. It lays there unchanged by rumor or deceit or popular opinions or cultural fads. You can question it, deny it, interpret it, or even ignore it, but you cannot change it. It is there in black and white. Countless men and women down through the years have discovered, devoured and devoted themselves to the Word of God, written. It has transformed their lives. It has given them a whole new reason to live. It has set their hearts free. It has set them apart. It has given them unchanging truth. It has given them hope in the midst of great darkness. It has even given them a cause to die for. God has chosen to write down his purposeful, powerful, personal and practical Word to us.

The greatest illustration of this is Jesus and his great battle with the enemy in the wilderness. Where the first Adam fell in the best of conditions in the garden, the Second Adam wins in the worst of conditions in the desert. What was the obvious difference between the two struggles? Adam doubted God’s Word. The Second Adam trusted God’s Word. This is clearly revealed in Jesus repeated response to the enemy’s temptations: “It is written.” Clearly, the written Word was studied and memorized by Jesus. He quoted fighting verses from memory and they secured his and our victory.  

This is so important for us to see. The enemy came with temptations that seemed on the surface to be legitimate steps for the Son of God to take. He needed food. Why not make it. He had the power. Why not shake it. He had the authority. Why not take it? But Jesus knew that was not the Father’s will. He would not use his power, or display his power or assert his power to promote himself. He would trust the Father to do that. And he had God’s will, written down, as an objective weapon to cut through the deceptive lies of the enemy. He wielded the Word and won.

Martin Luther was summoned to the Diet of Worms before the newly elected emperor Charles the V. His life was on the line. Men like Jan Huss had entered similar inquiries and were martyred. After a night of prayer and serious self-examination, the moderator of the assembly pointed at his books and asked: “Will you retract these writings?” Earlier Luther had tried to draw his accusers into a discussion of his beliefs but nobody wanted to debate him. Instead they confronted him with a yes or no moment. Here was his reply:

“Since your most serene majesty and your high mightiness require from me a clear and simple and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear to me as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning- unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted- and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.”

Faced with the very real possibility of death by burning, he responded with clarity and confidence. His faith was set on God’s unchangeable Word. Popes and councils and theologians and philosophers and all the world may line up against him, but he would die if needed, for that written truth. I pray that all of us would be given the same love for that Word. We are not standing before an accusing court but we are under great pressure to yield. The enemy is having success in many churches and seminaries. The Bible remains “the basis” but not “the ballast” for all we do. Our language and methods reveal a great but subtle turning away from God’s Word. We are now showing a lack of love and trust in God’s Word. May God bring a revival to our minds and hearts. May he give us a new and desperate appetite for His Word. May our conscience be bound to its written truth. May we by God’s grace join Luther and say, “Here I stand. I can do no other.”