It is Written
In Genesis, the old Serpent is introduced to us as already fallen, and the record of his first words is intended to impress on us the fact that the special area of his activities is not the sphere of criminality or the sphere of immorality, but the religious sphere. Why? Because it is the sphere in which the Word of God is pre–eminently the great object of his attack.
The first utterance of the Serpent was to question the truth of the Word of God. He said to the woman “Is it even so, that God has said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3: 1). From that seemingly innocuous query what calamitous results have flowed for mankind! God had spoken. Will man believe what He has said? On that, everything hinges.
The Word of God was thus the object of Satan’s earliest utterance. This fact speaks to us if we have ears to hear. It bids us look for Satan’s sphere of influence today, not in the police courts, but in the pulpits, not in our newspapers, but in our sermons, not in the streets, but in the professors’ chairs at our theological colleges. Time was when infidels had platform campaigns of lectures against the Word of God. In our day this has practically ceased. There is no further need for it—the work is more effectually done in the pulpit by theological infidels, who have turned their ears away from the truth and have turned aside to fables (see 2 Tim. 4: 3, 4). Treating the Word of God as ‘unhistorical’ and its records as ‘moral tales’, they teach the myths of men instead of obeying the command to “proclaim the word” (v 2).
So much for the first utterance of the Devil. With this we ought to couple a remarkable series of utterances from the Lord Jesus Christ at the commencement of His public ministry—and given in response to an attack by the same old Serpent. We find them in Matt. 4: 4-10, immediately after the Lord’s consecration as the divine Servant. The old Serpent comes to the second Man, the last Adam, not in the paradise of Eden, but in the wilderness. The Word of God is still the focus of his attack: he questions again the truth of God’s words “This is my beloved Son” (Matt. 3: 17), the echo of which had scarcely died away, by demanding that “If thou be Son of God, speak, that these stones may become loaves of bread” (Matt. 4: 3). What are the words of the Lord’s reply? “But he answering said, It is written” (v4, my emphasis). Could language tell us more pointedly and plainly that we are again on the same battlefield in which the truth of God’s Word is at stake?
It is written! What was written? What can be written but words? How can it be possible to have writing apart from words? And yet there are those that tell us that the Bible only contains the word of God, that its thoughts are inspired, but not its words. But how can thoughts be written down without words? It is by words, and only by words, that thoughts can be made known. When Milton dictated his poems to the one who wrote on his behalf, did he communicate his thoughts and leave his words to the choice of another? Are not the actual words vital to the whole matter? Is not the choice of the words the very essence of what made the result Milton’s, and not that of his assistant?
It is written! This is an utterance which settles such questions for ever, and closes the mouth of Satan and all his ministers (see 2 Cor. 11: 15). Three times did the Lord Jesus use that same utterance, “It is written” and no words did He utter to his foe outside that which is written until he dismissed him with the rebuke “Get thee away, Satan” (Matt. 4: 10). In the light of this, is it not remarkable that at the end of the Lord’s earthly ministry when He had delivered up His trust, He again, three times, referred to God’s Word? Thus we have, “for the words which thou hast given me I have given them” (John 17: 8), “I have given them thy word” (v14) and “thy word is truth” (v17). Does this fact not speak to us? Surely the fact that the Lord’s ministry began and ended with a three–fold reference to the Word of God emphatically assures us that the beginning and end of all ministry is the Word of God.