Chapter 12: “Man shall not live by bread alone…”
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 “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”
{Luke 4:4 & Matthew 4:4 KJV}


I’d like to begin this chapter with a couple questions. Jesus often said, “follow me.” My first question is: Can we really say that we’re following Jesus if we don’t follow what He says? My second question is: Do you believe that when Jesus said “every” that He really meant every?

Let me share with you something else Jesus said that I think will go a long way in helping us to correctly answer my first question. I’m sure you remember our closing passage from the last chapter: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 7:21) Here’s how Luke states the parallel passage in his Gospel:

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  {Luke 6:46 NIV}

It may not be what the natural heart wants to hear, but Christ’s words there are pretty clear: if we’re going to call Him our Lord, then we really ought to do what He says.

Now I want to share with you what Jesus said immediately after that. (It’s found in both Matthew and Luke; I’ll be quoting it from Matthew.) I think it’s especially important when you consider that it’s how He brings the Sermon on the Mount to a close: by telling that well-known parable upon which the popular little children’s song is based—the song about the wise man and the foolish man, with the wise man building his house on the rock and the foolish man building his house on the sand. And for those of you who are familiar with the story, I want to ask you a question: According to Jesus, what does it mean to build your house upon the rock, and what does it mean to build your house upon the sand? Something else that I think deserves pointing out: after teaching all the important things that He taught in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus starts this final section with the word “therefore.”

“Therefore whosoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, which built his house upon a rock… And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand.”  {Matthew 7:24, 26 AKJV}

Putting it all together:

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  {Luke 6:46 NIV}
“A wise man hears these sayings of mine and does them.”  {Matthew 7:24}
“A foolish man hears these sayings of mine and doesn’t do them.”  {Matthew 7:26}
Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”  {James 1:22 KJV}

Again, I think it’s pretty clear: if we really want to be a follower of Jesus we need to follow what He says. Which brings us to our second question—and to what I believe is one of the great crossroads in our search for God and truth and salvation: When Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God,” did He really mean every?

For a quick answer: Do you think Jesus said anything He didn’t really mean?

For a more in-depth answer: I’ll begin by looking at a word that’s very similar to every—“all.” And I’d like you to take note of how consistently God’s servants of old use that word and the context in which they use it:

“These be the words that Moses spake unto all Israel… if thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.”  {Deuteronomy 1:1; 4:29 KJV}

“Then Joshua said unto them…take diligent heed…to walk in all his ways and to serve him with all your soul.”  {Joshua 22:1, 2, 5 KJV}

“And Samuel said unto the people…serve the LORD with all your heart.”  {1 Samuel 12:20 KJV}

“Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent…thus saith the LORD…ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”  {Jeremiah 29:1, 10, 13 KJV}

“The word of the LORD that came to Joel…thus saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart.”  {Joel 1:1; 2:12 KJV}

Now that same word—and that same teaching—as given by Jesus Himself, in what has to be considered one of the most important statements He ever made:

“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.”  {Matthew 22:35-38 KJV}

Surely it’s clear: “the first and great commandment” is to love God, and of course Jesus, with all our heart. And yes, I know there’s plenty of disagreement over exactly what that involves. But I also know that there’s no reason for disagreement over at least one aspect of what it involves:

“If you love me you will do the things I command… He who knows my commands and obeys them is the one who loves me… If anyone loves me, then he will obey my teaching… He who does not love me does not obey my teaching.”  {John 14:15, 21, 23, 24 NCV}

With everything I’ve just shared fresh in your mind, I’d like to again ask you my second question, only this time I’m going to ask a third question along with it:

#2: When Jesus said that we’re to live by “every” word of God did He really mean every?
#3: When Jesus said that we’re to love Him with “all” our heart did He really mean all?

Maybe I should ask a fourth question: Based on that last passage, do you think it’s possible to answer yes to question #3 while answering no to question #2?

Now I’d like to try to answer our question using a different approach. I’d like to add one word, that same word “all,” to something else Jesus said, something I’m sure you’ll recognize:

“All the words that I speak unto you… they are life.”  {John 6:63 KJV}

Do you agree with me that what I did there accurately interprets what Jesus was saying? (I sure hope you do.) And if all His words are life, which they most certainly are, then how could Jesus not have meant every when He said, “Man shall live by every word of God?” Also, if all His words are life, why wouldn’t we want to live by all of them?

Since I realize that this idea of living by every word of God may not only be new to many of you, but can appear very daunting, let me share with you a couple passages I think will help. You’ll notice that they both have a  variation of that word every:

“I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”  {Philippians 4:13 NLT}

“As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.”  {2 Peter 1:3 NLT}

Since we just had that passage on “living a godly life,” I want to share another passage on living a godly life:

“This letter is from Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to bring faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives… For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.”  {Titus 1:1; 2:11, 12 NLT, NIV}

According to what we just read, “grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.” And I have to tell you: any teaching on the subject of grace that doesn’t include those things isn’t the grace of the Bible, and isn’t very likely to lead to this: “living by every word of God,” but instead is more likely to end up leading to this: “Why do you call you me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

If I’ve not already convinced you that Jesus really did mean “every,” maybe this final passage will. (Hopefully it’s not me that convinces you, but God’s word and God’s Spirit.) And yes, Christ is “that Prophet”:

“Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up a Prophet like me from among your own people. You must obey everything he tells you. Anyone who does not obey that Prophet will be cut off from God’s people.’”  {Acts 3:22, 23 NLT, NCV}