The Power of Words

“Actions speak louder than words.”

john piper preacher wordsTell that to the teacher, journalist, or politician. Tell that to the critic, preacher, or prophet. Tell that to the prayer warrior. They won’t believe you. These people know the power of words and they’ve learned them to use them skillfully. Through words the teacher inspires. The journalist observes. The politician persuades. Through words the critic, preacher, and prophet provoke. Through words the prayer warrior binds Satan and releases the Holy Spirit (Matthew 16:19).

God values words so highly that he tells us “through the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Words, not actions, reveal the heart and let a person know if he’s listening to a true or false prophet. Actions can lie. Even words can lie for a period of time. But if we’re listening, we’ll learn to distinguish true from false through words.

God also tells us that we will be judged for “every idle word” (Matthew 12:36) and that by our words we will be justified or condemned (12:37). Words, not just actions, count with God. People think we will be judged after death for our motives. They’re wrong. We’ll be judged for our motives, words, and deeds – the whole package, i.e. what makes us human. Why else would James warn his readers, “The tongue is a little member and boasts great things,” an organ that cannot be tamed (James 3:5, 8)? Why else would David pray, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight” (Psalm 19:14)?

ezekiel 37 can-these-bones-live prophesy-to-the-windWords lay the foundation for actions. Therefore, words are the first agent of change. Native Americans trained themselves to speak little in times past because they feared their words would come true, i.e. prophesy the future. Maybe they were superstitious. But they had the right idea. Why else would God say, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3)? Why else would he tell Ezekiel, “Prophesy to the wind” (Ezekiel 37:9)? Why else would Jesus tell a sinner, “Your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2), or a sick person, “Take up your bed and walk” (9:5, John 5:8-12)?

God knows the power of words. He upholds all things by it (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus Christ is the living Word of God, the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14). He is the embodiment of logos (Word), which is “both the thought and the expression or utterance of that thought.” In Christ alone, words and actions become one. This is why God calls things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17).

holy spirit word doveThe written Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). It is living and active, “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). “Is not my word like as a fire and like the hammer that breaks the rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29)?

Through the Word, God lays us bare to his quickening, refining Spirit. That Holy Spirit is ruach, the breath of life. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Humbly receiving the Word saves our souls (James 1:21). Receiving it first as “pure milk” (1 Peter 2:2) and then as “strong meat” (Hebrews 5:12-14) produces true spiritual growth. The word of truth sanctifies us (John 17:17).

Only God can say “let there be light” and light will suddenly appear (Genesis 1:3). But if the Holy Spirit dwells inside us, we have that same power. We can speak life or death to a person or situation through the prayer of faith, through a single word. “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

God knows the power of words. Do we?


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