The Word of God in the Soul of Man

The one true God speaks, and that is how the Bible opens. Immediately following its first words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” the phrase God said occurs eight times (Genesis 1:1-26). Clearly, the Holy Spirit did not want us to miss this point! Psalm 33:9 affirms: “He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood firm.” In contrast to the idols of the nations who do not speak (Psalm 135:15-18), God’s active voice generates life.

God reveals himself to all humanity through nature and our testifying conscience, which He wove into the fabric of man and woman (see Romans 2:15). Through this material revelation, we see God’s “invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). God’s life-giving power displayed in creation is what we call general revelation.

However, God also reveals His nature and attributes in Scripture. We call this special revelation, which we may define as God’s disclosure of His will primarily, and ultimately, through Jesus Christ and His Word (Hebrews 1:1-4). Creation reveals non-salvific attributes of God, whereas Scripture reveals the saving works of God. Another way to say it this: God’s revelation in creation is enough to hold us accountable to our creator, but it is not enough to save us. For salvation, we need the special revelation of God in the gospel. Steve Lawson explains, “While the sun and the skies above reveal the existence and infinite power of God, Scripture reveals the only way to know God personally.”[1]

Scripture Alone Enlivens Our Souls

The heavens and earth display the creative power of God’s voice in the visible world. But Scripture displays the life-giving power of God’s voice in the immaterial part of man—our souls. His words alone breathe life into our dead spirits and nourish and lead us along the pathway of discipleship until we see our Savior face to face. This connection between the life-giving power of the spoken Word and the written Word is seamless. We see this in Psalm 19, as King David effortlessly moves from one form of revelation to the next. Therefore, John Frame concludes, “Scripture correlates God’s creative word with the written Word of Scripture. As the heavens consistently declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), so his law is perfect, restoring the soul (v. 7). As his creative word stands firm in the heavens (Psalm 119:89-90), so his laws endure and stand as our authority.”[2]

Scripture Drives Soul Care

Scripture is the primary means by which the Holy Spirit cares for our souls, which then becomes the foundation for Word-driven discipleship. Psalm 19 governs our thinking on this matter. The first six verses elevate God as the almighty Creator, of whom all parts of the material creation testify: “The heavens tell of the glory of God; and their expanse declares the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth [silent] speech” (vv. 1-2). The second half of the psalm unwraps the superb gift of Scripture, which suffices to meet every need of the soul.

In Psalm 19:7-13, the songwriter refers to God’s revealed will in Scripture by using six terms: law, testimony, precepts, commandment, fear, and judgments. Alongside these nouns, we notice five active verbs which describe the work that Scripture alone performs inside us: restoring, making wise, rejoicing, enlightening, and enduring. Together, these nouns and verbs, and their surrounding context, highlight the functional purposes of the Bible in the care of souls. Focusing on these functions of Scripture informs our discipleship ministry and builds our confidence in the invisible activity of the Word in the care of souls.

Scripture Restores Us to Fullness of Life

The first attribute is foundational to those that follow: “The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7a). The word restoring (also translated converting, as in the NKJV; and reviving, as in the ESV), refers to spiritual regeneration, the gift of the new birth. Psalm 60 employs the word to refer to repentance and conversion.

The Holy Spirit, through Scripture, converts the soul. He makes our inner person alive unto God. This is necessary because, left to us, we remain spiritually dead. Without the Holy Spirit, we remain alive to sin but dead to God. Yet Scripture has the power to change our inner disposition, to breathe life into our soul. Reviving also includes the concept of spiritual restoration. David uses the word this way in Psalm 23 to draw the picture of a vulnerable, straying sheep returning to safety and care in the pasture of its shepherd. This stunning image of soul care finds its fulfillment in Christ, the “Shepherd and Guardian of [our] souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

Why not take a moment to open your Bible and read all of Psalm 19? Then thank the Lord for the perfection of his Word, which restores your soul to the fullness of life with him.

[1] Steven J. Lawson and Max Anders, Ed., Psalms 1-71, Holman Old Testament Commentary (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 100.

[2] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 188.

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