Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus is the source of life. Jesus is the culmination of every Bible verse, command, and story’s meaning. Jesus is the heart of God’s message, and Jesus is the source of true life. So when we go to the Bible, every time we read or teach, let us not only seek to understand the words of Scripture themselves. Rather, let us seek, know, and rely on the one true Word, who is revealed by the Bible’s words.
Did you know that the Bible never refers to itself as God’s Word?
Before you tear your robes and stone me for heresy, I do believe that “all scripture is God-breathed and profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16). And I do believe that the words we find in our Bibles are indeed God’s words.
But God’s words are different from God’s Word. If we read God’s words in the Bible, we see the term God’s “Word” consistently referring to two things.
- God’s “Word” is God’s overarching message—-His history-long self-revelation (like God’s sayings, decrees, prophecies, etc.; e.g. Matt. 7:24; John 14:10).
- God’s “Word” is Jesus—the incarnate Word (e.g. John 1:1-14; Col. 1:19).
Of course, the Bible is a primary means by which we can know God’s message and God’s Son, but we must distinguish between the two concepts.
Because God’s words, rightly read, point us toward God’s Word.
This “words/Word” distinction may seem like a matter of semantics. But in truth, it is a vital distinction for every follower of Jesus—for both a theological reason and a practical one.
A Theological Understanding of God’s Word
Theologically, rightly defining God’s Word helps us rightly understand God. And as we do, His message and His Son become even more glorious. For example:
- “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth,” Jesus prays (John 17:17). While Scripture is true and helpful, only Jesus sanctifies us. This happens as we increasingly rely on Him, as His Spirit leads us to apply the truth of His good news to all of life.
- “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow…” says Hebrews 4:12 (NIV). This verse is often understood to be about the Bible itself. But the chapter explains how God’s people enter God’s rest. The Bible doesn’t work so we can rest; God does! Hebrews 4:13-16 clearly describes our reliance on Jesus in our weakness: He is our high priest; in Him alone we have confidence. Because of Jesus, not the Bible, we rest in God’s grace, now and forever. Further, by His Spirit, Jesus is the “active” presence of God in the world today! Our faith in Jesus is humanity’s dividing line (“double-edged sword”).
- Hebrews 4:12 also says that the Word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The Bible shows the standard by which God will judge, but Jesus—God’s Word—is our judge. The Bible can’t know our heart; Jesus does. This verse is about Jesus and the good news of the gospel, not about Scripture itself.
Again, I firmly believe that God inspired the words of the Bible and that regularly engaging with the Bible is a vital aspect of Christian living.