The Word of God
What are the different forms of the word of God?
[This piece of writing is from my personal reading of the book ‘Systematic Theology’ by Wayne Grudem]
A. “The Word of God” as a person: Jesus Christ
Sometimes the Bible refers to Jesus Christ as “the Word of God”. In Revelation 19:13 John tells us the name by which Jesus is called, which is the Word of God. Similarly in John 1:1 he says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. Furthermore, in verse 14, he makes it clearer by saying “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. Here Grudem concludes that these are the only instances where God the Son has been described as the Word of God and this usage is not common throughout the Bible. It indicates that among the members of the Trinity it is especially God the Son who in His person as well as in His words has the role of communicating the character of God to us and of expressing the will of God for us.
B. “The word of God” as speech by God
- God’s Decree: Sometimes God’s words take the form of powerful decrees that cause events to happen and cause things to come into existence. As we see in Genesis 1. Psalmist also says “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of His mouth” (PS 33:6). The decrees of God not only include the original creation but also the continuing existence of all things or sustaining all things by His powerful word (Hebrews 1:3).
- God’s words of Personal Address: God also sometimes communicates with people on earth by speaking directly to them. For example, in the beginning, God spoke to Adam (Genesis 2:16-17; Genesis 3:16-19). God’s personal address to people on earth is also found in the giving of the Ten Commandments. “And God spoke all these words …” (see Exodus 20). In the New Testament at the baptism of Jesus, God the father spoke with a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).
- God’s Words as speech through human lips: Frequently in scripture, God raises up prophets through whom he speaks. Although these are human words spoken in ordinary human language by ordinary human beings, the authority and truthfulness of these words is no way diminished: They are still completely God’s word. God spoke to Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18-20, that “…I will put my words in his mouth and he shall speak all that I command him”. And here God also warns sharply not to speak anything in God’s name what He has not commanded. In a similar statement, God made to Jeremiah also “…Behold I have put my words in your mouth” (Jer 1:9). “Whatever I command you you shall speak” (Jer 1:7; see also Ex 4:12; Num 22:38; 1 Sam 15:3, 18, 23; 1 Kings 20:36; 2 Chron 20:20; Is 30:12-14; Jer 6:10-12, 36:29-31; et al). Anyone who claimed to be speaking for the Lord but who had not received a message from him was severely punished (Ezek 13:1-7; Deut 18:20-22). Thus God’s word spoken through human lips were considered as authoritative as His personal address. To disbelieve or disobey any of them was to disbelieve and disobey God himself.
- God’s words in written form (the Bible): The first of the written words were found when the Ten Commandments were given to the people of Israel written on two tablets of stone (Ex 31:18). The writing was the writing of God graven upon the tablet (Ex 32:16; 34:1, 28). Further writings were done by Moses which we know as the law given by God (Deut 31:9-13). This book which was written by Moses was deposited by the side of the Ark of the Covenant (Deut 31:24-26). Further additions were made to this book of God’s words by Joshua (Josh 24:26), Isaiah (Isa 30:8), Jeremiah (Jer 30:2; 36: 2-4, 27-31; 51:60). In the New Testament, Jesus promises his disciples that the Holy Spirit would bring to their remembrance the words which He; Jesus had spoken (John 14:26; 16:12-13). Paul said the very words he writes to the Corinthians are “a command of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37; 2 Peter 3:2).
Several benefits come from the written words of God. First, there is a much accurate preservation of God’s word for the generations to come (Deut 31:12-13). Second, the opportunity for repeated inspection of words that are written down permits careful study and discussion which leads to better understanding and complete obedience. Third, the written words of God are accessible to many more people than the words preserved merely through memory and oral repetition. The reliability, permanence, and accessibility of the words of God are enhanced by written form.
C. The focus of our study
Of all the forms of the Word of God, the focus of our study of systematic theology is God’s word in written form that is the Bible. This written form of God’s word is available for study, public inspection, repeated examination, and as a basis for mutual discussion. The other forms of the Word of God are not suitable as the primary basis for the study of theology. We do not hear God’s word of decree and thus can’t study them directly but through observation of their effects. God’s personal address is uncommon, even in the scripture. Even if we hear the personal address today, we would not be certain about the accuracy of our understanding and memory. Nor we can readily be able to tell others with certainty that the communication was from God, even if it was. God’s words as spoken through human lips ceased to be given when the New Testament canon was completed (Which the author discusses in more detail in the subsequent chapter “The canon of Scripture- What belongs in the Bible and what does not belong”.
[Note: This piece of writing is from my personal reading of the book ‘Systematic Theology’ by Wayne Grudem. I have not put any of my interpretation or commentary in addition to his original writing. I am presenting the text in a short summary format for anyone who is interested in reading doctrines of the Bible in greater depth but has less time to read the original extensive version (but I strongly recommend you to read the original work for deeper understanding). The purpose of me putting a short version is to help my friends and family to get the benefit from my reading (with no selfish and comercial interests). All the credit goes to the author who has worked extremely hard to put this book together for our easy yet deeper understanding of doctrines. I hope my work of putting this short write-up help in your edification and help you in knowing God more. -more to come…]