The phrase ‘;Word of God’; can really be referring to a few of different things. So in this article I would like to take a look at the different meanings of the term and explain each in brief.
The Word of God as the Person Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is referred to as the ‘;Word of God’ in the Bible. Most well known of all examples is probably John 1:1, where it says that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then later in verse 14, we see that it is talking directly of Christ when it says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” These verses are quite often used to defend the deity of Christ and his position within the Trinity. In addition we read in Revelation 19:13 that “the name by which he is called is The Word of God” when it is speaking of Christ’s second coming, which in orthodox Christianity is known as the Rapture. While this usage is quite uncommon in the Bible, it does show us that it is in fact God the Son (Jesus Christ) who has the role of communicating the character and will of God to us.
The Word of God as Speech by God
There are times where God’s words are in the form of decrees which cause events to occur and objects to come into being. For example we can look at the Biblical account of creation in Genesis 1 where God spoke the entirety of our universe into being from the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1) to the formation of man (Gen 1:26). Therefore we can see that the psalmist is justified when he says “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Psa 33:6).
Events such as these are known as God’s decrees, which are a word of God that causes something to happen. It is also important to point out that creation is not the only event where decrees were issued, but according to Hebrews 1:3, Christ “upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
** **There are numerous examples throughout scripture which tell us of times when God spoke directly to people. For starters there is the account where God warns the man not to eat the fruit from tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:16-17). After their sin, God comes and speaks the curse of mankind directly to them (Gen 3:16-19). Another popular time when God spoke personally is in the giving of the Ten Commandments where he said “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me…” (Exo 20:2-3). But probably most importantly is directly after the baptism of Jesus where he says “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mat 3:17).
These were times when the Bible makes it clear that the people actually heard the voice of God himself. The voice of ultimate authority and trustworthiness! Imagine being among the estimated two to three million who heard his voice during the Exodus of Egypt!
The Word of God as Speech Through Human Lips
**We see all over the Bible where God raised up prophets whom he spoke through in times of need. In Jeremiah 1:9 we read that “the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, ‘;Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’” Besides Jeremiah we have the Lord’s calling of Moses (Exodus 4:12), Balaam’s reply to Balak (Num 22:28), God’s command to Saul which he disobeyed (1 Sam 15:3), God’s anger with Amaziah’s idolatry (2 Chr 25:15-16) and many other instances where God spoke through his people.
It should also be noted that to say that you spoke for the Lord was not something that was typically taken lightly. Reason being, the punishment if you were wrong was pretty severe. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 says that “the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’ - when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” So if ever you were wrong even once, you were to be put to death. If we would’ve continued to follow these rules many false prophets like Muhammad, Joseph Smith and even Nostradamus who was often right would’ve been put to death. Just for being wrong once.
The Word of God in Written Form
**Lastly, we will cover what most people think of when they hear the phrase ‘;the Word of God.’ The very first time this occurred was on Mount Sinai where it says “he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God” (Exo 31:18). From there, writing was done by Moses (Deu 31:24-26) and Joshua (Jos 24:26). God also told Isaiah “now, go, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever” (Isa 30:8). He spoke something similar to Jeremiah when he said “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you” (Jer 30:2).
In the New Testament things happen a little bit differently when Jesus tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit would bring to them the remembrance of the words he said (Jhn 14:26). In addition, Paul said that the words he wrote to the Corinthians were a direct command from the Lord himself (1 Cor 14:37) and were therefore the Word of God.
Primarily, whenever someone is speaking of the Word of God, they are speaking of the Bible itself. This is the form of God’s Word that is accessible for study, inspection, examination, and discussion. While the words of God as spoken through human lips has ceased since the completion of the New Testament, God still uses the Bible to speak to us today. Paul told us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 47-51