Q & A 89-90 The Word Is Made Effectual.
Q. 89 How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A. 89 The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.
There are things which are unique to the word of God, given that it has been given by divine inspiration. “For the word the word of God is living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12a). Quite apart from the application of the word by the Spirit, the word itself carries with it a living and powerful dynamic that is not present in any other book. “The gospel…is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes” (Rom. 1:16). However, on behalf of the elect, there is also the effectual application of the word in faith and repentance by the Spirit, and all else involved in the Christian faith. It converts the soul (Ps. 19:7), and builds the saints up in the inheritance that is given to the elect, for their sanctification (Acts 20:32).
The Ethiopian is an example of a person who both read the word and had it explained to him (Acts 8:27-28). The Bereans also were those who searched the scriptures themselves, and then had the truth explained to them (Acts 17:11-12). Paul stated the following with respect to those in Thessalonica. “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (II Th. 2:13). They knew this was the case because, they became imitators of those who brought the message. How important it is then that Christians, and preachers especially, live the word (Cf. Js. 1:23-24)!
Q. 90 How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?
A. 90 That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer, receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice in our lives.
There is the outward means appointed for the salvation of God’s elect, and the inward gifts granted. It is important to regard these as separate, for many are exposed to the outward means who have not been granted the inward gifts. There is the sound of words, but for some there is not the listening of faith (Pr. 8:34). Those of faith pray that their eyes might be opened to see “wondrous things” out of God’s law (Ps. 119:18). Those who are of faith “desire the pure milk of the word” (I Pet. 2:2). For many, even the word preached does not profit them, because it is not mixed with faith (Heb. 4:2). If one is going to be saved, and grow in grace, one must love the truth (II Th. 2:10). We must say with the psalmist: “Your word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Ps. 119:11), “being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work” (Js. 1:25). “Therefore take heed how you hear” (Lk. 8:18a). Moreover, we must not be content with the milk of the word, we must also progress forward to the meat, in doctrine and life (Eph. 4:14; Heb. 5:14).