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When I was preparing the post for a recent blog entry, I ran into Jesus’ interesting response to the rich man who didn’t end up with a happy eternal dwelling.

Some background.

In the parable about the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man, who is in a very hot place, asked Abraham if he would send Lazarus to warn his (the rich man’s) brothers so they didn’t end up going where he is, which, to put it bluntly, is hell. Jesus doesn’t call it hell, but the man is “in anguish in this flame.” Abraham responds to the rich man’s request by saying, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

So much for post-life sympathy.

This rich man and his brothers did not “hear” Moses and the prophets. Now, what did they not hear, precisely? It seems clear, in light of the context of the parable, that these brothers had been deaf to the Old Testament’s commands to love God, love one’s neighbor, and give generously to the poor. Jesus is putting His foot on the neck of the love of wealth at the expense of the poverty of others. He had said earlier in this chapter that one cannot serve both God and money, because you will hate one and love the other (Luke 16:13–15).

I guess the rich man hated God.

However, that is not the issue I would like to address in this post. The issue is Jesus’ startling statement that even if one saw a person who had been dead get up, talk, and walk around, it would do no good if he or she didn’t hear God’s word, which we must assume means “hear, believe, and obey.” So, according to the God who knows all things, the primary instrument of belief is God’s word, not miracles. This makes sense. After all, Jesus had raised Jairus’ daughter, His friend Lazarus, and the son of the widow of Nain from the dead. He Himself was raised from the dead, and many still did not believe in Him or what He taught.

Think with me about God’s word for a moment. It has many characteristics, but one of them is indestructibility. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Peter, quoting Isaiah, wrote, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (1 Peter 1:24–25). God’s word is imperishable, unlike our flesh and grass and flowers, which wither and fall. Human experience bears out this truth.

God’s word is not like the frail things of earth. Nothing, not even time, can cause it to decay or cease to exist. We have a difficult time comprehending this idea, because everything we know can be destroyed, even mountains (I’m thinking of Mount St. Helen’s right now), which are probably the most solid material things we can think of. You can throw fire against God’s word, molten steel, massive jolts of electricity, nuclear explosions, but it cannot be destroyed because it is not a material thing; it is a spiritual thing. Attempting to destroy a spiritual thing with a material thing is an impossibility. Let us hasten to add that the Bible says that Jesus is the Word, and men tried to destroy Him but failed. He is alive today.

He cannot be destroyed.

So, if people reject God’s word, which is indestructible truth, should we expect them to believe in Him because of temporary miracles?

I believe God performs miracles. Healings. I believe the gifts of the Spirit are still active. I have seen and experienced amazing spiritual events—biblical ones—and no one can convince me to doubt them. It’s one thing to see something the Spirit has done; it’s quite another to experience it yourself. Now, I’m not advocating for Christianity based upon experience; however, if what you see and experience lines up with God’s word, what criticism can be thrown up against it? However, the effect of miracles and spiritual events soon dissipates. We should not seek after or promote such things to bring people to belief in God—we should seek after and promote Jesus alone and His indestructible word, which is able to save souls (James 1:21). If we try to find life and truth in anything else, we are in trouble. Life, true life, is found in Jesus and His truth alone, and that will never change, whether we ever see or experience another miracle or not.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

 

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