Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Jesus is the Word of God; an exposition (Ed.2)
In my previous post "The Bible is not the word of God!" I explained that we often mis-understand who/what the word of God is and there by end u with false conclusions. The Rambler justly critiqued my work. He says "[Your] the Bible is Not the Word of God post was heavy on assertion and not argument." So here, just for you (and anyone else who reads this), is my exposition. I have three main arguments: A) John 1 and Genesis 1, B) Scripture Vs. Word of the Lord, and C)The word is eternal.
A) In Genesis 1, right at the beginning (literally and figuratively), we read "And God said" 11 times. Each time God speaks something is created from nothing by his voice, by his very word. Later in Colossians we read "For by [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." So here we see that that Jesus was this word that was creating in Genesis. In Genesis we have the whole Trinity in action: The Father ordains, the Son creates and the Spirit hovers over the face of the deep.
We see this in the beginning of Johns Gospel. He writes:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it...He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
B) It seems interesting to me that in general when someone in the Bible quotes or reads Torah it is referred to as scriptures. However when God speaks it is regarded as "The word of the Lord". This is not always the case however but there seems to be a general theme used. (Yes, I know this is a weaker argument as it could be explained by culture but I'd thought I’d add it as a little extra anyway).
C) It's also worth noting what we mean by the Bible when people refer to it as being the word of the Lord. Is it the pages, the physical book itself: The paper and ink? Isaiah 40: 7-8 says:
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever."
Obviously paper and ink can be destroyed, plus there was a long time when the bible never existed at all, let alone in written form. Does that mean that Gods word didn't exist? Of course not! This means that the word of the Lord is separate from the Bible; something separate from the material. The Bible contains the words of God. This is not to say that either there are parts that are not inspired but simply that they Bible is not itself the word of God, nor does it portray the fullness of all God has to say.
Likewise when we read passages about Gods promises does he do them because we have read the promises? Almost like an incantation? No, he does them because he is loving. They are written because he does them. The Bible is not a Christian spell book but a record of who God is and his dealing with mankind. The bible has power, not because of the ink, the paper or the words but because to the God behind them all. I would prefer if we called the Bible "the written word" as it helps to remove the confusion.
So what does this mean for us? Should we stop Bible study and just pray to be taught? No. God has revealed himself to us in Jesus and through the Bible and we are to read it and learn more of who God is through his dealings with us and his commands. What is does mean however is the simply reading the Bible is not enough to grow. We need to know the author, to be taught by him and to receive the true Word: Jesus himself.
Karl Barth said:
"The prophetic-apostolic witness, through which the congregation of Jesus Christ is established, is the single normative form of the Word of God for that congregation. There are many things in the heavens and on earth, but there is only one God. There are many ideas about God, but there is only one true knowledge of this one God, true because derived from God’s self-testimony. There are many events, powers, forms, and truths which are important, worthwhile, and indispensable for us, but there is only one Word of God, only one Jesus Christ, in whom the confrontation of the gracious God with sinful humanity took place once for all. And because not all, but only these particular people are the elected, called prophetic and apostolic witnesses to Jesus Christ, there are many hidden forms only this one visible form of the one Word of the one God. Only in this form is God’s Word finally, decisively normative, binding, and authoritative. The Church of Jesus Christ acknowledges the unique Word of the unique God in this uniquely visible and uniquely normative form. In this knowledge, it sets the biblical canon."
(Karl Barth, “The Authority and Significance of the Bible: Twelve Theses,” in God Here and Now, p. 60.)
Please don't get me wrong. I do not believe that every time "word of God" or "word of the Lord" are used that it is a Christophany. What I am meaning is that this message is to do with Christ and is through Christ. The word of God is more than, beyond the book we know as the Bible. The word of God is Christ and his message. It is this which is revealed in the Bible.
The word of the Lord has power because the Word is God (John 1). The Bible has power because it bears witness to that true word, Jesus Christ. In this sense the Bible has power because it bears witness to the word and not because we claim it is the word itself. To claim that the Bible is the word of God is to limit God and to mis-understand the Bible
Caleb Woodbridge asked below: "What problems, theological and practical, do you think would be corrected by not referring to the Bible as the word of God?"
Here is my answer: I believe that it has three main implications (which I will also add into the main text above when I get a chance):
1&2) It changes what the Bible is and who Jesus is: If we see the Bible as the word of God in the same sense that Jesus is (and the sense of 'the Lord said/spoke to, etc) then it becomes a very different document then we actually have. The bible is inspired by God by not written by him or dictated verbatim. It means that instead of approaching the bible as a document which is to be interpreted by the help of the holy spirit and through Christ (the revealer) we would approach it with less care. It also turns the Bible into the Qu'ran and one would expect that we treat it as such. If the Bible is the same as Jesus (both "Word of God") then we should treat them the same and treat the Bible with awe and majesty.
3) Its dangerous for evangelism: It lends to a view of "As long as they have read the Bible I've done my part" view of evangelism when in reality that’s not the case. We need to help them understand the Bible and apply its meaning. If it were the "word of God" in the fullest sense then this shouldn't be necessary.
Till next time!
N.B. Please stay tuned for Ed. 3 (as I'm sure I'm not done yet!)