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The "Word” of God

Many, many people, both Christian and non-Christian use the term, “Word of God.“  They believe its use gives weight to the message being presented.  There is not any higher credible authority, after all, if God said it, that settles it, dispute ended!  But is it all that easy?  And if it is, are those that are claiming something to be God’s Word telling us the truth?  Is the Word of God a book, written by many prophets and mystics throughout ancient times, now handed down to us to decipher.  Is the Word of God the Bible?  How do we know?  We have been conditioned over time to believe in the authority of Bible, and we have been told that it is the God’s Word.  This document has as its goal to re-evaluate this teaching in the hope of refreshing our understanding of the concept of the Word of God.

It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

 – Jesus (Matthew 4:4, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3)

The Word of God is very important!  In fact, it is vital!  As followers of Jesus Christ, we must walk with Him in accordance to His Word.  Our relationship to God is founded on the righteousness (right standing) we have received through Him and has given us freedom to respond in obedience to His Word.  But, is the Bible equal to the Word of God?  Are these synonymous terms?  A question of that premise is presented in this document, not to tear down faith, but to anchor faith in the “living” Word of God and set us free from the doctrine of men.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we find a familiar passage that many use to proclaim their belief in the Bible as God’s Word.

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching (doctrine), for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

 – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The apostle explains that the scriptures (holy writings) are useful for doctrine, reproof and correction.  In this statement, Paul says nothing about the Word of God, but does expound his belief in the inspirational guidance of the Holy Spirit.  He says the writers of the scriptures were profoundly influenced, so that in their writing they were able to capture information that would lead those who read them into righteousness (right standing before God), proficient (living), equipped for every good work (a life of faith.)  Those that believe in the perfect inspiration and inerrant nature of the Bible believe that proof of its divine origin is ascertained by dogmatic proclamation.  This strategy has been largely successful.  Today in evangelical circles, anyone who would dare question the authority of scripture and cast doubt on its authority as the Word of God, is at the least heretical and probably not even a Christian.  But, having admitted that the Word of God is authoritative and vital to living the Christian experience, doesn’t it seem more important to find a better more practical understanding of the life giving Word of God; something that will truly make a difference in life and will in truth lead us to God Himself rather than just a doctrinal position.

What is the “Word of God?”  What are we talking about when we reference it?  Aren’t we referring to statements made by Him, utterances that have at their core the meaning of life and death?  The answer of course is yes!  The scriptures do testify to these characteristics:

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

 – Hebrews 4:12-13

This reference makes it clear that the Word of God is a judge of the thoughts and intentions of the individual heart.  Can a book do this?  Something is missing if we see God’s Word as only a timeless book written by wisemen over a period of many centuries.  According to the apostles, the Word is much more personal than that.  We could go as far as to say according to John that it (the Word) is of the same essence as God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

 – John 1:1-3

We do not give divine nature to the Bible, do we?  The context of this passage goes on to reveal that the Word (having been active in the Spiritual realm) became flesh (in the person of Jesus Christ):

 

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

 – John 1:14

Logos

The proclamation of the gospel of John therefore is that Jesus is the Word of God; and Jesus Himself gives us an understanding about the Word of God in a familiar parable.  Most parables’ meanings are left unexplained.  This one, however, commonly known as the “Parable of the Sower,” is explained by Jesus to His disciples.  Starting in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 13, verse 4, Jesus tells the story of a sower who broadcasts his seed on four different types of soil; each soil yielding a different result with the final good (fertile) soil growing and producing much fruit from the seed that is the Word of God.  Having heard Jesus’ story along with the crowds, the disciples were perplexed as to its meaning, so Jesus explains starting in verse 18.  This story gives us some important clues about the nature of the “Word of God.”

“Hear then the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.  As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.  As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.  But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
– Matthew 13:18-23 (nearly identical, Mark 4:14-20)

In the Greek, there are two words for used in the New Testament for the word, “word.”  Here the word is “logos.”  It references that which is spoken in an objective sense, a message that is broadcasted to many listeners.  The message itself is not revealed here, but the listeners in the story hear he message and then evaluate it to determine its validity.  The seed, which is the “logos” Word in Matthew’s parable, avails itself to be received by all the different soils it falls upon.  It is then eaten by the birds or rendered powerless by the scorching sun or in some way acted upon by its receiver.  The life giving power of the “logos” Word is not in its transmission, but in the reception and cultivation of the message by the soil.  So even though this passage does use the word “logos”, it also reveals that the true power of the word is only realized when germination and growth occurs.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.   With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

Ephesians 6:17-18

Rhema

If “logos” is God’s word proclaimed, “rhema” is God’s word received and understood.  “Rhema” is more associated with the power of the Word of God because it is at that point that it becomes apparent that God has indeed spoken.  Armed with the certain message that God has spoken to you, the Word of God becomes a weapon wielded by the Spirit to win spiritual battles.

Peter’s “rhema” word from Jesus concerning his then future denial, invoked bitter tears as he realized God’s word for him:

And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, "Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.

Matthew 26:75

Rhema” word has the added impact of realization.  It becomes powerful because it is understood to be God’s personalized word.  The full impact of the truth of this word can only be realized by the person for whom it was intended.  Thus, the Word of God is given in “rhema” (utterance) through a personal relationship with an individual believer.  When the revelation is completed, God’s perfect will is established and germination and growth happens.
 

So the next time you hear someone reference the Holy Bible as a synonymous term for the Word of God, stop and think for a moment about what the real Word of God is.  It is a message to you personally from God.  It is a word that makes a difference in your life; one that brings about growth and change and conformity of character to that of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Word of God is not found on coffee tables or dusty shelves, but as the scriptures testify, the word of God “is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  The experiences we have as believers when this activity is happening in our lives is our encounter with the real Word of God; it is bound to nothing less than our personal relationship with Jesus Himself through the Holy Spirit.