The Power of God's Word to Convert People and Change Lives

Hugh Latimer: The foremost preacher of the English Reformation by Richard M. Hannula

He was a devout man who had tried everything the church could offer him to find peace with God. Now, he looked to Christ and found grace, forgiveness, peace and joy.

Hugh Latimer (c. 1485–1555), a priest and a Fellow of Clare Hall, known for his unquestioning loyalty to the Church of Rome and his undying hatred of the Reformation, entered the fray to protect Cambridge students from the heresies of Bilney and Stafford. As more and more students considered evangelical doctrines, Latimer charged them to stick to the traditions of the Roman church. He sought out Stafford’s students and railed against their teacher and this new-fangled way of studying the Scriptures. Latimer publicly denounced any instructors who embraced reform. He disrupted their lectures and warned students, ‘Do not believe them!’ 

In the spring of 1524, students and teachers packed Great St Mary’s, the university church of Cambridge, to hear Hugh Latimer deliver a theological address. While a Cambridge student, Latimer prepared for the priesthood as men had for 400 years. He wholeheartedly embraced the theology of the schoolmen and the doctrines of the Roman church. When he examined the Scriptures, it was always through the lens of the medieval doctors of the church. He had learned neither Greek nor Hebrew. 

As Latimer spoke to the gathering at Great St Mary’s, he lashed out against the German Reformation. With his strong voice, Latimer warned that the Lutheran heresies damned to hell the souls of all who followed them. He scorned the idea that the Bible alone could be the Christian’s supreme authority, and charged the audience not to stray from the protective arms of the church. 

In the congregation sat Thomas Bilney, then a Fellow of Trinity Hall. As Bilney listened to Latimer’s tirade, he sighed and said to himself, ‘I was once just like that—full of zeal without knowledge.’ 

Before the sermon ended, Bilney decided to tell Latimer that sinners could find forgiveness only by trusting Christ. ‘But,’ he wondered, ‘how could I ever get him to listen to me?’ It was dangerous to approach Latimer directly; it might lead to arrest as a heretic, but Bilney felt compelled to tell Latimer about Christ’s love. en he hit upon an idea. He walked to Latimer’s rooms at Clare Hall and with trembling hand knocked on the door. In a moment, there stood the university cross-bearer. His face was long and thin with a sharp nose. With piercing eyes he stared down at little Bilney. ‘Master Latimer,’ Bilney said with his head bowed, ‘for the sake of God, would you hear my confession?’ 

Latimer was surprised to see Bilney, for he knew him to be the ringleader of the Cambridge reformers. Latimer assumed that his message at St Mary’s must have convinced him of his errors. ‘Come in,’ he said. Latimer sat down. Bilney knelt on the floor before him and said, ‘Let me tell you what happened to my heart; and if I am in error, I am ready to be better instructed.’ 

‘For years,’ Bilney told him, ‘I did everything in my power to obey the commandments of God and the teachings of the church, but my guilt and sin remained. I went to mass daily and visited priest after priest to confess my sins. I followed their guidance to fast, to hold vigils and to buy pardons until I had no strength left. Nothing relieved me of the sharp sting of my sin. I was a sick and languishing soul.’ 

en Bilney told Latimer how he bought a Greek New Testament. ‘No sooner had I begun to read it,’ he said, ‘when I was struck by this sentence of St Paul in 1 Timothy Chapter 1: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”’ 

Bilney explained to Latimer that Paul thought himself the worst of sinners, but he knew he was saved in Christ. Paul believed that Christ had accomplished everything for him through his death on the cross. ‘ at one sentence from Paul’, Bilney said, his face aglow, ‘gave sweet comfort to my soul! My wounded heart, weighed down with guilt, leapt for joy. After this the Scripture became more pleasant to me than honey and the honeycomb. I saw that all my vigils, my fasts, my pilgrimages, my purchase of masses and indulgences were destroying instead of saving me. I looked to Christ and believed that in him I would not perish, but have everlasting life.’ 

Latimer sat in stunned silence. This heretic was not at all as Latimer had imagined him. He was a devout man who had tried everything the church could offer him to find peace with God. He found forgiveness in Christ by reading the Scriptures and believing them. Although Hugh Latimer did not admit it at the time, he too had an uneasy conscience. His fear of death and damnation had often led him to consider becoming a monk to win God’s favour. Latimer had never heard the gospel so simply explained. ‘I learned more by hearing his confession’, Latimer said later, ‘than I had before in many years. From that time onward, I began to smell the Word of God, and forsook the school- doctors and such fooleries.’ 

Latimer obtained a copy of the New Testament and began to devour it. He saw that it was not what the church did for him or what he did for himself that mattered, but what Christ did for him. Soon he put all his hope of salvation into the hands of his Saviour, Jesus Christ. He was a changed man, a new creation in Christ. Before, he had looked to the church and found fasting, penance, priestly absolution and despair. Now, he looked to Christ and found grace, forgiveness, peace and joy. 

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John Currid on the Sabbath

A Study Commentary on Exodus by John CurridJohn Currid Writes:

Exodus 20:8–11. ‘Remember the Sabbath day to consecrate it. Six days you shall serve and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh, your God. You shall not do any work: you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and your animals, and your sojourner who is in your gates. For six days Yahweh made the sky and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day and he consecrated it.’ 

This is the first commandment that is not prohibitive, and it does not begin with a negative. It is a positive injunction. The force of the order is underscored by the first word, ‘Remember’, which is an infinitive absolute. An infinitive absolute in Hebrew may, at times, serve as a legislative command. 

The Sabbath day is not a new concept. It was already in effect in Exodus 16 (see commentary on that chapter in vol. 1) and as early as Genesis 2:1–3. It is, in fact, a creation ordinance. The purpose of its appearance in the Decalogue is to x it formally into the written code of covenant law. In other words, the Sabbath was established earlier, but now it is definitively inscribed in stone. 

The etymology of the term shabbāt is uncertain, although it probably derives from the root shābat, which means ‘to cease/desist/ rest’. Of course, this latter concept is a central aspect of the Sabbath command. Part of the reason for this uncertainty is the uniqueness of the Sabbath to Israel in the ancient Near East. Some argue for a similar day having been observed in Mesopotamia, but attempts to demonstrate this have failed. In addition, the distinctiveness of the Sabbath depends on its not using the lunar and solar cycles to measure time—other ancient Near-Eastern cultures rely upon the movement of celestial bodies, not the counting of days. 

The purposes of the Sabbath in ancient Israel were many and diverse. 

First, according to the Fourth Commandment, the Sabbath reflects God’s pattern of creation. Thus, when someone observes the Sabbath, he or she is commemorating God’s creative work. The Sabbath is a repetition and a remembrance of God’s past work. 

Secondly, in the reiteration of the Decalogue in Deuteronomy 5, Israel’s redemption from slavery is celebrated in Sabbath-keeping (vv. 12–15). 

Thirdly, the day is created as a time of rest, refreshment and recuperation for all God’s creatures. It is a reprieve from the routine of daily labours (Exod. 23:12). 

Fourthly, the Sabbath serves as a sign of the covenant between God and his people—it is a symbol that God has set apart a people unto himself (Exod. 31:12–17). When the Israelites celebrated the set-apart day they showed that they were a set-apart people. 

Finally, the Sabbath is a day of holy convocation (Lev. 23:2–3) in which the people gather for public worship and instruction in the Torah (Neh. 8:8). 


I would suggest that if we kept the Sabbath as Christians then our lives would improve dramatically. How many of us never do an in-depth study of God’s Word for lack of time? How many of us never visit the lonely or the sick for lack of time? How many of us begin the week exhausted for lack of rest? How much time do we spend in prayer and evangelism? The Lord has made provision for all these things by giving a Sabbath to his people. God makes a wonderful promise to those who keep the Sabbath: 

If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot
From doing your own pleasure on my holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honourable,
And shall honour it, desisting from your own ways,
From seeking your own pleasure,
And speaking your own word,
Then you will take delight in the Lord,
And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. 

(Isa. 58:13–14, NASB). 

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Being Strengthened for Every Need by Joel Beeke

Developing Healthy Spiritual Growth by Joel BeekeJoel Beeke writes:

Paul prayed for converts to be ‘strengthened with all might’. When Paul wrote ‘all might’ he did not mean infinite power. God alone is almighty.The ‘all’ here means power sufficient for all the tasks at hand. Philippians 4:13 says, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’ Christians are to grow into a well-rounded, holistic maturity in which they experience the sufficiency of Christ in every need. John Davenant (1572-1641) listed five actions that require power from God: 

(1) doing good works, however difficult; 

(2) striving against sin; 

(3) despising earthly things; 

(4) resisting temptation; and 

(5) enduring affliction.

 He quoted the church father Cyprian to remind us that we need comprehensive strength to face our comprehensive battle against sin, saying, ‘If avarice [or greed] be overthrown, lust rises; if lust be subdued, ambition succeeds; if ambition is spurned, wrath incenses, pride inflates, etc.’

How much strength is needed? Ultimately, that need not be measured in human terms, because the might Paul speaks of is to be measured ‘according to his glorious power’. The preposition ‘according to’ sets up a standard of comparison. In other words, in God’s ‘glorious power’, that is,the in nite power by which God does such glorious things (Ps. 72:1, 19), we can find all the strength that we need. 

This power flows from heaven to earth because as Christians, we are members of Christ,82 brought into union with him by the power of the Spirit. Thus Paul writes in Ephesians 6:10: ‘Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.’The same Spirit who dwells in the God-man now seated at the Father’s right hand also dwells in us (Rom. 8:11). According to Davenant: ‘The strengthening power is the Holy Spirit himself, with his gifts; who breathes wonderful might into our in rm minds.’

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Why Are You Here by John Blanchard

Why Are You Here? by John Blanchard from Evangelical Press on Vimeo.

Why Are You Here? by John BlanchardJohn Blanchard Writes:

"In looking to find the purpose for your life, and to discover why it has meaning, the right place to begin is not by shaking together a cocktail of your own thoughts, ideas, preferences and circumstances, but by recognizing that God’s glory is the most important truth in the entire universe."

More About Why Are You Here?

It’s one thing to have Ultimate Questions or something similar to freely hand out to anyone, but what do you give to the thinking, serious person who is wrestling with the Christian faith and its relationship to the meaning of life? John Blanchard provides the answers in this new book, written for Christians to give to enquirers. Dr Blanchard deals with the scientific and philosophical issues in his inimitable style, leading at the heart of the book to a full-orbed presentation of the glories of the gospel. Professor Sinclair Ferguson says: You can trust John Blanchard. In addition to the sheer clarity of what he writes, he is honest and he is gracious. At no point will you find yourself asking, 'What is he trying to say!' Nothing here is dull, merely ordinary or interesting. He has that special gift if being insatiably curious about things, and - this is his genius - he always seems to be asking if and how and why things happen. Why are you here? will help you to connect the dots so that the big picture,although composed of seemingly endless millions of facts, really does begin to make sense.

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The Faithfulness of God by Arthur Pink

The Attributes of God by Arthur PinkArthur Pink Writes:

Unfaithfulness is one of the most outstanding sins of these evil days. In the business world, a man’s word is, with exceedingly rare exceptions, no longer his bond. In the social world, marital infidelity abounds on every hand, the sacred bonds of wedlock being broken with as little regard as the discarding of an old garment. In the ecclesiastical realm, thousands who have solemnly covenanted to preach the truth make no scruple to attack and deny it. Nor can reader or writer claim complete immunity from this fearful sin: in how many ways have we been unfaithful to Christ, and to the light and privileges which God has entrusted to us! How refreshing, then, how unspeakably blessed, to lift our eyes above this scene of ruin, and behold One who is faithful, faithful in all things, faithful at all times. 

‘Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God’ (Deuteronomy 7:9). This quality is essential to his being; without it he would not be God. For God to be unfaithful would be to act contrary to his nature, which is impossible: ‘If we are faithless, he remains faithful; he cannot deny himself’ (2 Timothy 2:13). Faithfulness is one of the glorious perfections of his being. He is as it were clothed with it: ‘O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty like you, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds you’ (Psalm 89:8). So too when God became incarnate it was said, ‘Righteousness shall be the belt of his loins, and faithfulness the belt of his waist’ (Isaiah 11:5). 

What a word is that in Psalm 36:5: ‘Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.’ Far above all nite comprehension is the unchanging faithfulness of God. Everything about God is great, vast, incomparable. He never forgets, never fails, never falters, never forfeits his word. To every declaration of promise or prophecy the Lord has exactly adhered, every engagement of covenant or threatening he will make good, for ‘God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good?’ (Numbers 23:19). Therefore the believer exclaims, ‘His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness’ (Lamentations 3:22–23). 

Scripture abounds in illustrations of God’s faithfulness. More than four thousand years ago he said, ‘While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease’ (Genesis 8:22). Every year that comes furnishes a fresh witness to God’s fulfillment of this promise. Jehovah declared to Abraham, ‘Your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them ... But in the fourth generation they shall return here’ (Genesis 15:13–16). Centuries ran their weary course. Abraham’s descendants groaned amid the brick-kilns of Egypt. Had God forgotten his promise? No, indeed. Read Exodus 12:41: ‘And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass, that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.’ Through Isaiah the Lord declared, ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel’ (Isaiah 7:14). Again, centuries passed; but ‘When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman’ (Galatians 4:4). 

God is true. His word of promise is sure. In all his relations with his people God is faithful. He may be safely relied upon. No one ever yet really trusted him in vain. We find this precious truth expressed almost everywhere in the Scriptures, for his people need to know that faithfulness is an essential part of the divine character. This is the basis of our confidence in him. But it is one thing to accept the faithfulness of God as a divine truth; it is quite another to act upon it. God has given us many ‘exceedingly great and precious promises’ (2 Peter 1:4), but are we really counting on his fulfillment of them? Are we actually expecting him to do for us all that he has said? Are we resting with implicit assurance on these words, ‘He who promised is faithful’ (Hebrews 10:23)? 

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The Visible symbol of God's presence in the midst of his people is Jesus Christ Himself by Iain Duguid

Study Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi by Iain DuguidIain Duguid Writes:

Consider your ways! (Haggai 1:1-15)

We too need to repent of the ways in which we have focused on building our own houses, not the Lord’s. The result of this wrong focus in our lives has also been frustration. This is the fundamental problem of materialism: it is an unreliable and inevitably unfulfilling master. The pleasures it promises often prove elusive, and even those it brings to us turn out in the end to be temporary and unsubstantial. Haggai declares to the people of his day a different vision for which to live. Repent and humble yourself before God and pour your energies into building God’s house, the visible symbol of his enduring presence in the midst of his people. In the language of Jesus, ‘Seek first God’s kingdom, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matt. 6:33). 

The visible symbol of God’s presence in the midst of his people is no longer the temple, though, as it was in Haggai’s time. Nor is it the church building. Rather, according to the New Testament, it is Jesus Christ himself. Thus, in John 2, when Jesus had ejected the moneychangers from the temple, he said, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again’ (John 2:19). He did not have in mind redoing Haggai’s task in three days. Rather, he meant that his body would be raised up on the third day. As Immanuel (‘God with us’), he physically represented God’s presence in the midst of his people. Now that Jesus has ascended to heaven and poured out his Spirit upon the church, God’s presence is represented in the world by us, his people. As the body of Christ, the church is the new temple, made up of Jews and Gentiles being built together as a holy dwelling place for God (Eph. 2:16-22; see also 2 Cor. 6:16 – 7:1). 

If this is what building God’s house means, it is a task far beyond our capabilities. It is not simply a matter of collecting wood and stone, but of collecting and shaping living stones. Thankfully, building God’s house is not ultimately our task but Christ’s. He is the one who bore the cost of building it. It was relatively easy for Jesus to come in judgement and make a whip to drive the sinners out of God’s physical house in Jerusalem. It was a far more painful task for him to come as a Saviour and make sinners fit to live in God’s house. To do that would require God the Father to turn the whip upon his own Son, so that he might take upon himself the punishment that our sins deserved. Both aspects of Christ’s ministry are crucially important. On the one hand, he has taken upon himself the punishment that we deserved for our self-centred failure to seek God’s kingdom and to build his house. On the other, in cleansing the temple he has himself shown the zeal for God’s house and kingdom that we lacked. That righteousness of his has now been credited to us, as if it were our own, just as our sin of being perpetually interested only in our own houses has been placed to his account. 

God’s work of building his new temple, the church, by means of his Spirit is the foundation and encouragement for our work. It was because God roused their spirits that Haggai’s hearers set to work with enthusiasm (1:14). It is because God is at work in our earthly bodies by his Spirit that we are called and empowered to glorify God with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20). It is because God is commit- ted to establishing his kingdom in and through us that we are called to seek that kingdom first, above all other things. 

The result of seeking first God’s kingdom will not necessarily be earthly prosperity, or even large, ‘successful’ churches. Jesus’ earthly ministry was characterized by neither of those things. But God does promise his repentant people his presence with us now, and the fulfilment of his own kingdom goals in the longer term. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3). What else do we need or desire? In place of our preoccupation with food that does not fill, with drink that does not satisfy and with clothing that cannot warm our souls, God promises us the bread of life, a fountain of living water and clothing to cover our spiritual nakedness. 

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What is the Eternal Generation of the Son by Stuart Olyott

What the Bible Teaches about the Trinity by Stuart OlyottStuart Olyott Writes:

Son of God 

In considering this title ‘Son of God’ which is used of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 19:7), we must realize that the word ‘son’ is not used in any of the ways we have so far described. He is not the Son of his Father in the sense that he had a beginning. Nor is the phrase merely an exalted title, like that applied to earthly rulers. Nor is it simply a device to remind us that he became a Man by supernatural means, and not by ordinary generation—though of course it does remind us of that (see Luke 1:35). Nor is it a quaint way of saying that he was nearer to God than anyone else. Its use is altogether different. The first person of the Trinity is called ‘Father’ to show to us what is his eternal relationship with the Son. The second person of the Trinity is called ‘Son’ to show us what relationship he in turn has to the first person. ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ are everyday titles. But they help to convey to our poor minds something of the relationship which these two persons eternally enjoy between themselves. 

The terms suggest and imply that the Son is what he is, because of the Father. But they do not imply that the Father is what he is because of the Son. The same idea is suggested by the phrase ‘the only begotten’ which the Scriptures so o en use. He is ‘the only begotten of the Father’ (John 1:14); ‘the only begotten Son’ (John 1:18; 3:16); and ‘the only begotten Son of God’ (John 3:18). The Son owes his generation to the Father, but the same cannot be said the other way round. On two other occasions the term ‘Firstborn’ is used—a term which simply underlines that he was before all creation (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:6). The relationship between the Father and the Son is obviously unique. None the less the Scripture is prepared to help our mortal minds to understand, by speaking of it in terms of generation and birth. It is also said that the Son is the express image of God the Father, and the brightness of his glory (Hebrews 1:3). It would be impossible for him to be what he is without the Father. But God the Father is never said to be the express image of God the Son. 

Begotten, not created 

We are not suggesting that the Father created the Son. The Athanasian Creed is right to declare that ‘The Son is from the Father alone, neither made, nor created, but begotten.’The Lord Jesus Christ is not a creature. We saw in chapter 4 that he is God, as the Father is God. Both are God; both are God equally; both are God eternally; and both are God in the same sense. Nor are we saying that God the Father chose to do something, or that something which had not happened came to happen. We are talking about something which takes place naturally in the Godhead, and has always done so—something which is happening now, and has happened eternally. If this were not the case, there would be some change in the Godhead, and that is impossible. Besides, it would contradict the plain biblical teaching that Christ’s ‘goings forth are from of old, from everlasting’ (Micah 5:2; see Matthew 2:6 and John 7:42). 

God the Father does not make God the Son to be God. He is God in his own right. And yet without God the Father, there would be no person in the Godhead who is God the Son. The Son is what he is because of the Father. Within the Godhead there is something going on which is similar to thinking and speaking. e Son is the expression of the Father. It is for this reason that he is said to be ‘the Word’, who is with God, and is God, from the beginning (John 1:1–2). is is what the Son is. He could not be this, without God the Father. The Father could not find expression, without God the Son. is is the relationship which the first and second persons of the Trinity have to each other. 

Putting this in more technical language, we may again quote Louis Berkhof: ‘The following definition may be given of the generation of the Son: it is that eternal and necessary act of the first person in the Trinity, whereby He, within the divine Being, is the ground of a second personal subsistence like His own, and puts this second person in possession of the whole divine essence, without any division, alienation or change’ (Systematic Theology, p. 94).

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