Perhaps the greatest miracle that God has ever performed is the conversion of a lost sinner. The taking of someone who was dead spiritually and giving them new life. The changing of a heart from loving sin and wanting nothing to do with God to loving God and wanting nothing to do with sin. What Jesus refers to as being born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-7).
We are given a striking picture of this miracle with something that God called the prophet Ezekiel to do. In chapter 37 of the book which bears his name, God takes the prophet to a valley of dry bones. Serving as a living parable of God’s restoration of His people Israel (and by implication I believe the conversion of a repentant sinner), God does the impossible. He has Ezekiel speak to these dry bones telling them of God’s plan to bring them back to life. Then the most amazing thing happens. I’ll let Ezekiel describe it for us so that we get the full effect of it. “And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them” (vv. 7-8). The bones actually came together with flesh developing on them. Then God has Ezekiel speak to the breath and command it to come into these dead bodies (v. 9). And sure enough, breath did come into them and they became living men (v. 10). God brought life to that which had been dead.
Now what I want to direct your attention to is the very instrument that God chose to use to bring this new life about. As we see in the text, such new life came from the delivering of God’s words out of the mouth of the imperfect prophet. It was after Ezekiel prophesied to them and spoke the prophecy that the action of these dead bones being brought together and coming alive took place. And this is nothing new. God’s Spirit always uses God’s Word to bring new life. Let me provide you with some examples of this so that you can clearly see this important truth.
How did God create and bring life into the universe? Through the means of His word. Genesis tells us that He said “Let there be” and it was so. What brought an entire city of people to repentance? The preaching of God’s Word from a very reluctant prophet! I’m speaking of the conversion of the people of Nineveh as a result of Jonah’s preaching of God’s judgment upon them on account of their sins (Jonah 3). It was the discovery of the book of the Law and the reading of it that led to King Josiah and the people reforming their worship of God (2 Kings 22-23). The public reading of the law by the priest Ezra and the Levites to the returned exiles which resulted in mourning and repentance over the people’s sins (Nehemiah 8-9). God brought 3,000 to faith in Christ right after they heard Peter preach His Word on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37-41). Throughout the book of Acts, we witness the Lord adding to the number of those who belong to the church as a result of the apostles’ preaching of the Word. I could also add the central role that preaching played in the reformation of the church in the 1500s with men like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox or “The Great Awakening” in our own nation associated with the preaching of John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards. Martin Luther even stated in evaluating all of the changes that God brought about during the Protestant Reformation that “I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing . . . the Word did it all.” Whenever we see a mighty work of God to bring new life to dead sinners, we see the proclamation of His Word preceding it. In fact, where the Word of God is absent, no spiritual life is given. (Which is why we ought to be concerned about those people groups who do not have a copy of the Bible in their own language yet. They cannot be saved without it!) God’s Spirit obviously does not operate apart from God’s Word to bring spiritual life to those chosen to be His people.
What does this mean for us as a church? Well, if we want to see spiritual life in our congregation, we must not veer away from the centrality of the teaching and preaching of the Word of God. In any of our evangelistic endeavors, it cannot be neglected since it serves as the very means that God has chosen to use to bring people to repentance and draw them to saving faith in His Son. If we want to be sure that we as a congregation do not become dry spiritually, we need to have a daily intake of His Word. This is where the power of our evangelism and personal growth lies. Not in our craftiness or cleverness but in the Word of God. Let’s be sure to keep it the main thing in our lives and practice.
Love in Christ,