Tim Johnson, editor
September 25, 2005
to the Standard
His Word is Like Fire
Fire is fascinating. It can be a very destructive force. But if it is controlled, fire can also serve many useful and constructive purposes. Fire can be used to warm a home or burn it down. We can see by the light from the fire in a lantern, but the light of the sun can blind us. Fire within a combustion chamber produces power to run an automobile, but outside of the chamber it can blow up the same automobile.
Fire is obviously a tremendously powerful force. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God compares His own word to fire.
1. Like fire, God's word consumes error and false teaching. The false prophets of Jeremiah's day were welcome to tell their dreams for they could not stand against God's word. In Jeremiah 23:29 the Lord says, "The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. Is not My word like a fire?" says the LORD, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" God's word has nothing to fear from genuine "free speech." As long as God's servants freely and faithfully speak His word, no error devised by man can win the day. As the apostle Paul said, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:4). We should never be afraid to speak God's word in a fair and open discussion of spiritual matters.
2. Like fire, God's word punishes the unrighteous. In the Old Testament, the Lord's word often brought condemnation and punishment upon sinful man. In Jeremiah 5:14 He tells Jeremiah, "Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts: 'Because you speak this word, Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, And this people wood, And it shall devour them.'" Ultimately, the same word of God that created the earth will destroy it along with the ungodly. This is Peter's point exactly in 2 Peter 3:7 when he says that "the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."
3. Like fire, God's word burns within the hearts of those who have it, and they must share it. Fire spreads. And like fire jumping from one dry clump of prairie grass to the next, God's word spreads from hearts that cannot contain it to hearts that are ready to receive it. Jeremiah found that if he tried to keep from speaking God's word, he could not hold it in. In Jeremiah 20:9, the prophet said, "'I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.' But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not." May the word of God be fire in our hearts as well!
I was a musician for several years. In junior high school and high school, I enjoyed some achievement playing a trumpet. I played in the Fort Smith Symphony for two seasons, then served in the Army Band for about three years. In those days, musicians would tune with a device called a tuning fork (the processor of the pith pipe and the new digital devices). The conductor of the orchestra or band would strike the tuning fork with his hand and let a clarinet player or violin player tune to the standard. Once the musician tuned his instrument to the tuning fork, the rest of us would listen to that note and tune our instruments accordingly. Today, if you attend an orchestral performance (and you get there a little early), you may hear the piano player striking a note like "C" and all the musicians listening, then tuning to that note (up or down).
In this process, do you realize the tuning fork was the standard of authority and, therefore, unity?
Can you imagine the unmusical results if the conductor said to his musicians: "For tonight's performance, we will not be using a tuning fork. It will be our purpose to illustrate the beauty of individuality and diversity. You can find your own "C" according to your own desires, or tune to a neighbor if you like. We do not want anyone to be stifled or limited by authority of a singe standard." What do you think the performance would sound like? What would the reviews say?
But why not take it farther (this suppression of authority and exaltation of individualism)? The conductor says, "each one of you can play your favorite piece; ready, 1,2,3&ldots;"
But, you know what, the very presence of a conductor requires submission to leadership. Fire the conductor. Let the musicians show up whenever they want to, play whatever instrument they want, whatever piece they like, in tune or out of tune; and let them start and finish whenever they desire. Let individualism prevail and authority die.
What has happened? You have nothing left of any musical value. No authority, just unattractive chaos that nobody would want to hear. It would sound awful!
Yet this is exactly what we observe in modern religion today. There is resistance to Bible authority, praise for human plurality, unity in diversity and the growing deception that this is what God wants!
But this isn't what God wants. Jesus prayed, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:20-21). Who can believe the Lord's prayer and teach that the division of denominationalism is sanctioned by our Lord?
-- Warren Berkley