The Word of God & the Scriptures

On the page, The Word of God, I suggest that the Word of God and the Scriptures (or the Bible) should not be interchangeable terms. Scripturally, they are not interchangeable terms.

Instead, although the Bible is the Word of God, the Word of God is much larger than the Bible, involving everything God says, and at its core, the Word of God is Jesus Christ himself.

Such a teaching is clearly and thoroughly Scriptural. I put numerous early Christian quotes on that page so that you can see that such a teaching is also historical.

But we are not logical people.

We are moved by emotion—even when it comes to Christian doctrine.

So I have written this page to slow us down and to give you time to examine this claim of mine.

Commonly Misinterpreted Verses

Usually, when I teach about the Word of God, some people are immensely relieved. They knew these things were true, but they were never sure they could believe them.

Others, however, are highly agitated and begin throwing Scriptures at me.

There really aren't any Scriptures, however, that teach our modern view. There is simply nowhere in the Bible where the term "the Word of God" is used in such a way as to be interchangeable with "the Scriptures" or "the Bible."

It's only us that refer to the Bible as the Word. Neither the apostles nor the early Christians did such a thing. The Word of God is far more than the Scriptures.

It's pretty easy to handle the verses they throw at me because the Bible is so consistent on this matter. Let's look at just a few of the many verses we have to work with.

Places Where "the Word of God" Cannot Refer to the Bible

Really, I could just ask you to go look up all the uses of "Word of God" in the New Testament, and that would give you the places where "the Word of God" can't refer to the Bible.

That's not really fair, though, so let's look at some of them.

Mark 4:33

And with many such parables he spoke the Word to them, as they were able to hear it.

Here "the Word" is used to refer to the parables Jesus was speaking.

Obviously, Jesus wasn't quoting Scripture when he gave those parables, so "the Word" wasn't referring to Scripture but to the words Jesus was speaking.

Those who believe that the Bible, and only the Bible, is the Word of God, could object two ways. They could say that these words eventually wound up in the Bible, and the Holy Spirit knew they would, and that's why his parables are called the Word. Or, they could say that everything Jesus said was the Word because he is the Word.

I would agree with that second objection. Everything Jesus said was the Word of God.

As to the first one, there are a lot of other things Jesus said that aren't recorded in the Bible (re: Jn 21:25). Mark 4:33 itself makes it clear that other parables besides the one listed there were spoken, and they are as equally called "the Word" as the ones written down. Clearly, the Word of God is not limited to the things written in the Bible—at least according to the Bible.

Proverbs 30:5-6

Every Word of God is pure ... Do not add to his Words, lest he reprove you, and you be found a liar.

If this is a reference to Scripture, then Jesus and the apostles were liars. In fact, so are we because we are the ones that have added their words to the Bible—long after Proverbs 30:5-6 was written.

It's simply bizarre to suggest, like so many do, that Proverbs 30:6 is warning us not to add to the Bible. The whole last section of our Bible, the New Testament, was added after it was written. In fact, if Proverbs was completed in Solomon's time, then most of the Psalms, most of the prophets, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Esther, and Ezra were all added to God's Word against the command of Proverbs 30:6.

Isn't it much more reasonable to believe that Proverbs 30:6 is saying that we should not add to what God says, no matter when he says it, even if God is speaking to us today, on September 27, 2010?

Luke 3:2

While Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests, the Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

Did the Bible come to John the Baptist in those days? Did he find a copy of the Hebrew Scriptures out in the desert?

Obviously not. Instead, the Word of God came to John, and because the Word of God was moving in him, he was able to proclaim the things God wanted him to proclaim. Thus, when he was speaking under that anointing, everything he said was the Word of God, even though it wasn't written down.

Acts 4:31

When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness.

We don't know what it is these people spoke. The whole church was assembled together and praying after hearing that Peter and John had been threatened and let go. They were filled with the Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness.

Obviously, we don't know their words because they're not written down. Thus, their words can't be Scripture, even though the Bible calls their words the Word of God.

As in many other places, this is simply a statement that they were able to preach the Gospel—the good news about Jesus Christ and peace with God—with boldness. The Word of God here is a reference to the Gospel.

1 Thessalonians 2:13

We thank God unceasingly because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you did not receive it as the word of men but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectively works in you who believe.

This is found in First Thessalonians. Thus, this is talking about words which were spoken before 1 Thessalonians was written.

So once again we have words which are not written down but which the Scripture calls the Word of God. Once again, it's a pretty clear reference to the Gospel as being the Word of God any time it is proclaimed.

Assumptions About the Word of God and the Bible

The above verses are clear. No one really denies them.

But no one really takes them seriously, either.

Think about it. We have all these verses, and I could have shown you a couple dozen others, but we don't use them as a pattern. As soon as we get to a place where the phrase "the Word of God" might refer to the Bible, we revert to our tradition, and we assume it does, despite what the rest of Scripture might show us.

One of the craziest places where we revert to tradition and assume that "the Word of God" means the Bible is Hebrews 4:12.

Hebrews 4:12-13

The Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow. It is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Nor is there any creature that is hidden from his eyes, for things are naked and open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

I added in verse 13 for obvious reasons. There is simply no doubt what ... no, who ... this passage is talking about.

The Bible doesn't have eyes, and as we've seen from other verses that mention the Word of God, there is just no reason to assume that this passage is talking about Scripture. Why would we? When the Word of God comes up in Scripture, it's almost never about Scripture.

2 Timothy 2:15

Study to show yourselves approved, a worker that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

Well, now, this is a good one. Surely if it mentions "study" here, then it's talking about a book!

Actually, though, I quoted the KJV here to make a point. Paul didn't write "study." Paul wrote spoudazo, and spoudazo does not mean study.

Spoudazo is used 11 times in the NT, and all the other times the KJV translators seem to know it means to be diligent or give effort. All I can think is that "the Word of Truth" threw them off and made them think of Scripture because our tradition was already ingrained in 1611.

It's wrong, though. Paul wasn't talking about Scripture there, and so he didn't say study.

Paul wanted Timothy to do what I was telling you to do. He wanted Timothy to become proficient in handling the Word of God that was living inside of him. If he could do that, that would take care of making sure that he taught the Scriptures properly as well.

2 Timothy 4:2

Preach the Word. Be instant in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all patience and teaching.

So just a couple chapters after 2 Tim. 2:15, Paul exhorts Timothy to "preach the Word."

Immediately our mind jumps to preaching from the Scriptures. But we have seen from 2 Thessalonians that Paul thought of all the preaching of the Gospel as preaching the Word of God. Yes, Paul appealed to the Scriptures when he preached, but he called everything he said the Word of God, not just the Scriptures.

So here, if we are going to be consistent, then we need to understand that Paul is simply telling Timothy to proclaim the Gospel and exhort the church to obedience to Christ. Doing so is the Word of God.

Matthew 4:4

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word proceeding from the mouth of God.

I am not a Greek scholar. I've completed one year of Greek and used it a lot more than most Greek students do, but that doesn't give me enough education to take a stand on the interpretation of a Greek word or the nuances of Greek verb tenses.

We are not talking about a nuance here, though. Even in Greek, present is present. Verbs can carry the idea of just one action right now (aorist tense), or they can carry the idea of ongoing or continual action (present tense), but either way, they are in the present tense as we know it in English.

Matthew 4:4 is in the present tense. Man lives by every word that is currently proceeding from the mouth of God. This passage is not talking about words that proceeded from God's mouth 2,000 years ago or more, many of which were directed at others, not you.

You need what God is saying to you. We are a spiritual people. The sons of God are led by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14). That means you have to hear God in order to live as a son of God. In some way, you need to be led or moved by the Spirit of God.

Once again, as in almost all other cases, this Word from God is not the Scripture.

Where to Go from Here

Don't agree or don't see? Express yourself on our Word of God Discussion Page.

Or, if you feel like you've understood all this, you may want to go back to the doctrine page. Better, I think you may find the Law of Moses similarly unique and satisfying.

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