(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
The Word of God and the word of God
7th December 2013
In the Bible, the English word "word" usually translates the Greek word logos, which doesn't only mean "one word"; it can mean "sentence" or "utterance". I like to think of it as meaning "communication" or "message". In fact, the NIV translates it as "message" in Matthew 13v19.
Many evangelical Christians use the phrase, "the word of God" to mean the Bible. And when the Bible talks about "the word", it is often talking about itself but sometimes it's talking about Jesus Christ. Some people differentiate by describing Jesus as "The Word of God" (capital "W") and scripture as "The word of God" (lower-case "w").
And it also may be that sometimes when the Bible says "the word", it's talking about other messages from God, that are not in Scripture and are not the person of Jesus.
Sometimes it's more obvious than others what is meant by "the word" in a Bible passage. Here are some examples my thinking of how to interpret the phrase. Yours may differ:
The word of God as scripture:
Every word of Scripture is God speaking to us - it's His logos. As Paul tells us:
2 Timothy 3v16
The Word of God as Jesus Christ:
The ultimate communication from God - the greatest possible logos - is Jesus Himself. God spoke more completely, more vividly, more powerfully, in sending Jesus than in any other way. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews understood this. He said:
The Word of God as other messages from God:
(which probably refers to preaching or prophesy; it's unlikely they were only quoting scriptures to each other)
Also, Old Testament prophecies (1 Kings 12:22 and 1 Chronicles 17:3) were called the word of God twice and the word of the Lord and least 103 times. I'm sure God gave many more prophecies which were not recorded in Scripture, and I think they were also the word - the message - of the Lord. And 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the "word [logos] of knowledge" and the "word [logos] of wisdom" as spiritual gifts - gifts from God.
In several places, Acts describes preaching as proclaiming or preaching the word of God. This can't mean that they only quoted scripture. it might mean that they proclaimed/preached about the Word of God - Jesus. Or it might mean that what is preached is a message from God (however imperfectly delivered). These include:
In other scriptures it's not clear if " the word" means "the Scriptures", "Jesus", or "the gospel". Or perhaps they just mean "the message of God", including all three:
Jesus and the Bible
As quoted earlier, 2 Timothy 3v16 says All Scripture is God-breathed. Since Jesus is God, this means that the Word of God breathes out the word of God. We also saw that Ephesians 6v17 describes the Scriptures as a sword. these ideas are combined in:
This passage prophesies that Jesus will strike down the nations, judging them by the word of God. Like all law courts, God's seat of judgement will convict us according to whether we have broken the law - in this case, God's law, found in the Bible. The only way to escape condemnation is through faith in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus. That is, we'll be condemned for trespassing against the word of God, unless we're saved by the Word of God.
I was taught to think of the word of God as being the Bible, which is correct, of course, so far as it goes. But I wasn't taught very much to think of the Word of God as being Jesus - the ultimate Word of God). And I wasn't really taught to consider prophecy or preaching as the (imperfectly delivered) word of God.
I'm trying to re-educate myself to have a greater understanding of the different ways God's word - His message - comes to us. This must include looking again at the scriptures that talk about the word, and thinking about the possible meanings of each. In particular, next week I hope to write about this passage: