On Using The Power of God’s Word to Disobey It.

One of the things I strive to do here is help theologians care for the situation we find ourselves in, and vice versa.

The pat response on eternal loop is thus: “But I trust in the power of God’s word to do the work.” I’ve heard it as a reason to avoid illustration, adjust curriculum, change musical style, make clear sermon points, strategize small groups for mission, etc etc ad naseum.

It’s convenient, isn’t it?

Anything we don’t like to do may fall under the purview of “God’s word doing the work”.

But let’s examine this. What’s the scriptural justification? Isaiah 55:11 is commonly cited:

“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Yes and amen. I see the “power of God’s word” aspect.

But what of the “to do the work”?

The context of chapter 55 doesn’t allow it:

Verse 1: “Come to the waters…”

Verse 2: “Listen diligently to me…”

Verse 3: “Incline your ear, and come to me, hear that your soul may live…”

And let’s not forget the climactic moment of the passage, in 56:1:

Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my righteousness be revealed…
…who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

How, exactly, does one extract passivity from a passage like that?

We ought to say, “I trust in the power of God’s word.”

But if it’s an excuse from “doing the work”, may it be anathema.


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Posted in Culture, Preaching, Theology.


Nicholas McDonald is a blogger, pastor, and author of the book "Faker: How to Be Real When You're Tempted to Fake it." He studied creative writing and communication at Oxford University and Olivet Nazerene University, and received his M.Div from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He currently resides in Lexington, NC, with his wife and two boys, Caleb and Owen.