A husband and wife exchange opinions on a subject where they have different points of view. Both make their feelings known and the wife considers the conversation closed when her husband makes one last statement which irritates his wife. “There you go again,” the wife says. “Why must you always have the last word?” Have you ever been accused of demanding the last word?
Our text raises a similar question in my mind. There are times when God and I are having a discussion on a particular subject. We both express our viewpoints on the matter. He through His Word and I through my prayers let our desires be known. It is obvious that we do not agree, but I am willing to let the subject remain unsettled. Then I can go my own way and God’s Word can remain unchanged. But then God gives one more statement showing how wrong I am and how right He is. This irritates me and under my breath I say, “Why must You always have the last word, God?” He answers by saying, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever (vs. 24).
God is saying, “You people have your own ideas about many subjects that I have spoke about in my Word. You don’t agree with me feeling that times have changed since I spoke and adjustments must be made if I am to remain relevant. I let you humans speak as millions of others have spoken in past generations, for what you believe and voice will also pass, but My Word is eternal.”
Peter had experienced such a conversation with the Lord. One day Jesus said, “Today all you disciples will leave me.”
Peter answered, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
Jesus says to him, “I tell you the truth, this very night before the rooster crows, Peter, you will deny me three times.”
Peter is angry that Jesus demands the last word and says (perhaps under his breath), “Even if I have to die with you, I will not disown you. Just wait and see if I am not right about this.”
In only a few hours Peter and the other disciples did just what Jesus predicted would happen: they all fled from Jesus. Peter denied Jesus with a curse. It was then that Peter realized that the Lord has reserved the right to the last word. Our words fade away, but God’s word is eternal. We may deny His Word. We may seek to change it in the name of scholarship and scientific research of one kind or another, but before we close our eyes in death we too will acknowledge that God’s word stands forever. Thus Peter spoke from personal experience when he included these words about the fallibility of human words, but the infallibility of God’s Word. God has the last word simply because He is God.
Our culture challenges this claim made in God’s Word. Does God’s Word mold our culture or does our culture mold God’s Word? It’s a rather important question for Christians to answer. The rationalist believes that only that part of the Christian faith which can be explained by human reason makes any significant contribution to our culture. Jesus’ teaching, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is rational and should continue to be taught. However, the core of the Christian faith, which presents Christ as true God and the Savior of the world, cannot be rationally understood and has no significant value for society. God’s Word teaches that what reason we can comprehend because of human limitation, faith can receive as divine truth. Here God claims to have the last word.
Humanism has long rejected the Bible teaching, “While we were yet helpless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 3:25). Humanistic philosophy teaches that we are basically good and have the capacity within our own being to right what is wrong. We can pick ourselves up and move on without God’s help. Human experience teaches that we are inadequate to solve our spiritual problems and stand in need of God’s grace. When I asked the psychiatrist, who cared for my wife during her depression brought on by a major stroke, how she had been healed, he said, “Our medication and shock treatments were not very effective. God was her healer.” Fortunate is the person who can accept himself or herself for who he or she is and let God have the final word.
As our world grows smaller and pluralism becomes a greater factor than it was in the past, God still has the last word. His word, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me,” is not well received in a pluralistic society. How much more popular is the thought that there are many ways to God, and who are we to judge others. Here the Christian, who believes that Jesus has spoken the last word on how one is restored into fellowship with the Creator, is labeled a bigot, prejudiced, and narrow minded by others who refuse to give Jesus the last word on how we are saved.
God’s law states clearly, “Thou shalt not kill, steal, commit adultery, covet, or bear false witness against your neighbor.” Such teachings are debatable by some in society. They might have worked well in another culture but rights and wrongs are relative in an educated society. It is better to determine what is right and wrong as it applies to the individual person in a given situation. God’s word declares such thinking naive and foolish and our Heavenly Father says, “I am the Lord God. I have spoken and I have the last word.”
It was tough for Peter to accept that Christ had the last word, but his denial taught the disciple that God was right. However, God’s last word to Peter was not spoken that night when he betrayed his Master. No, it came some days later after Jesus’ resurrection when the Lord met Peter by the sea and said, “Peter, go and feed my lambs. Your sins are forgiven, and I can use you to tell people of my love for them. If they will repent of their sins and trust me, I will walk with them through life and bring them safely home to heaven.”
That is the last word. It is the Gospel.