In the booklet “You can trust the Bible”, John MacArthur surveys three main headings which convey why we can trust the Scriptures (the link for the booklet is accessible through the following link - https://www.gty.org/library/articles/45trust/you-can-trust-the-bible). The first two, "The Authenticity of the Bible" and "The Power Of The Bible", explore how the Scriptures are respectively demonstrated and experienced as trustworthy. The final section of the study, “The Attributes of the Bible”, consider five attributes of Scripture: infallibility, inerrancy, complete, authoritative, and sufficiency.
In this post I want to approach the attributes of the written Word, the Bible, by how they also describe Jesus Christ, the Living Word. By noting the commonality between the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ, we can grasp whatever attitude we have toward the Bible will invariably reveal how we think of the Lord Jesus Christ. Conversely, what thoughts we hold to be true about Jesus, lead to making plain our views of the Bible. This particular thought is the take-away as to why I wrote this first part and why I will write a future second part in the next post. Let us first though lay out the reasoning behind why there is such a close relationship between the Bible, the written Word, and Jesus Christ, the Living Word.
The wordness of the word “word” in the Bible
The word “word” in the Old Testament and New Testament was used to describe three truths: God’s revelation of either His will, His power or Himself (particular to the Person of the Son). Once God spoke, what was previously unknown became known – thus, revelation. Much like how we make known the thoughts of our minds through words, God did as well. I call this feature of God’s revelatory activity “wordness”. When I say “wordness”, I mean that quality that makes possible the revelation of God. This quality of “wordness” is tied to the words of Scripture, making them to be the very words of God. Put another way, the words of Scripture reveal His will and thus are God’s words (see 2 Peter 1:20-21).
Similarly, whenever God would make known His power, the act of creation involved this quality of “wordness”, resulting in Him speaking all of creation into being (see Genesis 1:3; Romans 4:17). Then of course whenever Jesus is described as “The Word of God”, He Himself, by act and nature, is “wordness” personified. He has revealed what God is like - He being God - and because of His incarnation, what humanity was meant to be (see John 1:18 and Colossians 3:10). Below is an unpacking of how the phrase “word of God” describes Scripture, God’s power, and Jesus to set up the reasoning for our comparison of Jesus the “Living Word” and the Bible “the written word”.
A. The “Word of God” revealed the will of God through the words of Scripture.
We read the following in Exodus 24:4a “Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord.” Moses also wrote in Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” Amos records in Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.”
The New Testament similarly uses this phrase “Word of God” or its counterpart “Word of the Lord” to describe God’s revelation of His will through the words of Scripture. Paul writes in Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” The writer of Hebrews affirms in Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Apostle John notes in John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” These examples demonstrate that the Bible does not become God’s word when I agree with it. Instead, the words of Scripture are the very words of God by virtue of their quality of “wordness”.
B. The “Word of God” as the revelation of God’s power, shows us the written Word and the Living Word.
A second closely related category to describe the word “word” in the Bible has to do with how God demonstrates His power. God’s power in creation is expressed by His words in Genesis 1:1-3 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”
Remarkably, it is in this second category of God’s power we begin to see a glimpse of the relationship between God’s words and God so-described as “The Living Word”. Take for instance Psalm 33:6 “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.” We know from Genesis 1:1-3 that God indeed spoke all of creation into being. Yet Psalm 33:6 reveals that God did what he did through “the Word of the Lord”. John 1:1 of course reveals to us exactly who this “Word” is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
God’s work of salvation involves the revelation of His power as described by the phrase “word of the Lord”. Again, notice how the revelation of God’s power links the phrase “word of God” to Scripture and Himself. David writes about the written Word as God’s power of salvation in Psalm 119:41 “May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O Lord, Your salvation according to Your word.” Paul too speaks of the power of salvation conveyed through the Scriptures in Romans 10:17 “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” But now notice how Biblical salvation is dispensed through Jesus Christ, the living Word, as in John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
C. The Word of God as none other than the Living Word, the Second Person of the Trinity.
The Bible, the "written Word of God", centers upon "The Living Word" - Jesus Christ. We observed already how the Old Testament hints at the phrase “Word of God” (or the closely related “Word of the Lord”) as referencing God Himself. A review of a few Old Testament texts sets up this idea. In Genesis 15:4, Moses writes of Abraham’s experience with God “Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.”’ The prophet Samuel has an encounter with the pre-incarnate Son of God in 1 Samuel 3:6 “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him.” Note in these passages how “the Word of the Lord” is both “coming’ and “speaking” to these men.
Remarkably, it is from verses such as these (as well as Psalm 33:6, which we saw already) that John alludes in His argument for Jesus Christ being the “Living Word” in John 1. Similarly, the same Apostle John introduces his short letter, 1 John, we these words in 1 John 1:1-2 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us” (compare also Jesus as “The Word” in Revelation 19:13).
Is it no wonder that Jesus speaks of the Old Testament scriptures as pointing to Himself (Luke 24:44). Christ came to fulfill the written Word by being Himself this “Living Word”, the very revelation of God. The Apostle Peter notes in 1 Peter 1:10-11 "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow." Thus, we cannot separate the ministry of God's "written Word" and the majesty of Christ “the Living Word”.
In the next post we will continue this dicussion, noting common traits shared between “the written Word”, the Bible and “the living Word, Jesus Christ.