Words radiate power. Divine words emanate limitless power. God spoke creation into existence. Scripture transforms, motivates, and equips. His words are words of human comprehension that engage the human mind and soul. Jesus has “the words of eternal life” John 6.68.
The popular notion that words mean nothing is bunk. Human words also effect great consequences. The reason words multiply today is not only because more means are available, but because, down deep, people know the power of words and want to exercise that power.
The power of human words becomes clear in Proverbs 18.21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love its use will eat its fruit.” There is one whose “tongue injures and destroys” Psalm 10.7. It is possible to “do damage with words” Psalm 50.19.
1. Words in Prayer
Words in prayer direct God’s power. While God retains his sovereignty, he channels his power at the request of his people. God chooses to exercise his power in ways and at times that he would not otherwise do, were it not for words of his people spoken in prayer.
“As for me, I will call out to God, and the Lord will deliver me” Psalm 55.16 NET. David was certain: “You hear prayers” Psalm 65.2. Solomon’s experience confirmed it, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous” Proverbs 15.29. Jesus guaranteed it, “For this reason I tell you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” Mark 11.24.
We are careful to surround the certainty of God’s answer to prayer with conditions and limitations, and in some ways we are right to do so, but we should never diminish the power of words in prayer, because God does hear and answer.
2. Words in Evangelism
Words in evangelism insert God’s power where it would not otherwise be present. Human communication connects the needy with the provisions of heaven. Salvation comes as a result of disciples fulfilling the mission of Christ. Phillip teaches the eunuch about Jesus, who finds joy in his saving baptism. Sent by God to Saul, Ananias speaks words that the persecutor responds to and washes away his sins. Peter preaches to Cornelius and his household for their salvation.
In the latter case, it’s almost ironic that an angel appears to Cornelius with instructions to send for Peter. “He will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household” Acts 11.14 NASB, the angel stated. Not angelic words, but human words, bring salvation to others. This is God’s plan.
Not only of the apostle Paul can it be said: “My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power” 1 Corinthians 2.4 NET. Paul was inspired, like the other apostles and prophets of the first-century church, so that his teaching was free from error. But words today using Scripture as their base have the same capacity to effect change.
3. Words to Build Up
Words in edification have power to build up the faithful and strength the weak. James reminds Christians that teachers have greater responsibility because their ministry depends upon words which have great potential for good or for harm. Though a small member of the body, it wields great power, James 3.
To edify, words have to make sense, 1 Corinthians 14. No foreign languages. No special church talk. When people hear in the language they speak (or the Bible read in terms they can understand) Acts 2.8-11, those words have power.
4. Words in Relationships
Words in relationships exude power, for good or bad. Kind words make all the difference. People crave words from those they love. The closer the relationship, the more powerful words become. Conversely, the more fitting the words, the more they have power to increase intimacy. “Speech that heals is like a life-giving tree, but a perverse tongue breaks the spirit” Proverbs 15.4.
Words have such power that some people in close relationships should not speak them, 1 Peter 3.1ff. For the most part, however, the judicious use of the tongue is a wonderful thing. “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a soft tongue can break a bone” Proverbs 25.15.
Channel of Blessing
Christians should speak good words, knowing that they are God’s channel of blessing to the world. They should always remember that they speak in the presence of God. “Certainly my tongue does not frame a word without you, O Lord, being thoroughly aware of it” Psalm 139.4.
Words that accomplish good have knowledge behind them and are tempered with kindness, Colossians 4.6. They are spoken “in grace” (“full of grace” NIV). That probably just means gracious or winsome, but it also prompts us to think of words as an expression of God’s grace. Christians speak words that others may not deserve to hear. Rather than responding in kind, saints speak blessing, 1 Peter 3.9.
They must also remember that they will be judged by their words, James 2.12. Words are so powerful, they determine eternal destiny. The Lord Jesus himself said, “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” Matthew 12.37.
Herein, too, lie the power of words.
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