Living on the Breath of God (Matthew 4:4) | Jared Betts

The words of Jesus here are important for us to recall and to remember, and perhaps for, come to realize:

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

            We understand that when Jesus says that man must live on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, that this calls us to a life of continual study of the Scripture. It demands that we be like the Bereans who devoted themselves to thoroughly examining the Scriptures daily.[1] Jesus Himself, prayed for us in the garden that we would be sanctified in the truth of His Word.[2] We are to do as Paul instructed Timothy to do and study to present ourselves approved to God as a workman who do not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.[3] We are to be like Job who said:

“I have not departed from the command of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”[4]

Or the Psalmist when he says in the 119th Psalm:

20 My soul is crushed with longing
After Your ordinances at all times.”

103 How sweet are Your words to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

131 I opened my mouth wide and panted,
For I longed for Your commandments.”

174 I long for Your salvation, O Lord,
And Your law is my delight.”

Peter teaches us that we need to long for the pure milk of the Word so that we might grow in respect to our salvation.[5] Truly, man cannot live on bread alone, but on every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We must feed on it. It is to be our daily sustenance and longing.

There is no doubt that you all understand this. What I desire us to consider, however, is that Jesus’ words at the end of His forty days in the wilderness encompass far more than just having the truth take up residence in one’s mind. Yes, we are called to a life of study of the Scripture so that we mighty acquire a correct knowledge of God. We as Christians must immerse ourselves in understanding the Word of God so that we might be sound in doctrine, because contrary to popular opinion today among many professing Christians, doctrine matters. Bad doctrine destroys people both quantitatively and qualitatively. Meaning bad doctrine not only has the potential to lead people to a life of eternal damnation, but it will also lead to a poor quality of life in the here and now. Sound doctrine on the other hand leads to abundant life, both quantitatively and qualitatively. It is the foundation of a sound life and therefore essential to sound living. It was Martin Lloyd-Jones who insisted that:

“To attempt to deal with Christian practice in isolation from Christian doctrine is to tread a dangerous path.”[6]

Living without any consideration of sound doctrine is foolish arrogance, because at that point a person not only leans upon their own understanding, but they live according to it. This is sheer stupidity given the deceitfulness of our hearts and propensity towards evil, as well as a clear command by God not to do so. Proverbs 3:5-8:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.”

This leads us to what I want us to really consider in Jesus’ words, which is that the Christian life begins with sound doctrine for the purpose of sound living. Orthodoxy is to produce orthopraxy. Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” In other words, the Word of God is not only to be thought on, but also to be lived on. The very breathe of God is to impact how a person conducts themselves in the here and now. The purpose of your mind being renewed by the Scripture is so that you might live a renewed life. This is clearly seen in Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers when he says:

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

2 Corinthians 4:16 tells us that those whom God graciously and sovereignly saves are new creatures that are “being renewed day by day.” Jesus has begun a good work in them that He will progressively perfect throughout their life. He renews them. To be renewed is to be changed into a new kind of life as opposed to the former corrupt state. It is to be transformed, which is to go beyond or across one form to another. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says:

18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Jesus Christ’s greatest desire for you all is that you would resemble Him. It is that you would be sanctified, not only in thought, but in deed also. He died and rose again on our behalf so that we would no longer live for ourselves, but for Him. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that He became our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Peter says in 1 Peter 2:24 that He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Jesus Christ has called us to Himself by His Word so that He might then conform us to Himself with it.

The purpose of all our study is not merely for the attaining of knowledge, but so that we might live to the praise of His glory in light of the knowledge attained. It is inner renewal resulting in outer conformity. We are told in Colossians 3:9-10 to put aside the old self with its evil practices and to:

10 Put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—”

Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24:

22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

We are all undoubtedly familiar with Paul’s words in Romans 12:2 when he says:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The evidence of a renewed mind is a renewed life. Where there is no renewal of life there has been no renewal of mind.

May I implore you all to be like Ezra the Scribe who the Scripture describes as one who:

“Had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.”[7]

Notice the progression. Ezra studied the Scripture not only so that he could teach it to others. He studied it so that he might first practice it.

Do what the Scripture says and hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.[8] Continue to long for the pure milk of the Word so that by it you may grow in respect to your salvation. Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you in understanding, and through you in application. James 1:22 says:

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

Be transformed and prove with your life what the will of God is. Live on every breathe that proceeds out of His mouth for it alone is enough to teach you all matters pertaining to life and godliness. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 beautifully declares:

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”


[1] Acts 17:11

[2] John 17:17

[3] 2 Timothy 2:15

[4] Job 23:12

[5] 1 Peter 2:1-2

[6] Christian Marriage: From Basic Principles to Transformed Relationships, D.M. Lloyd-Jones; Page vii

[7] Ezra 7:10

[8] 2 Corinthians 10:5

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