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Does “Word of God” Mean “The Bible?”

by
5/2/2008

It never fails. In conversations about biblical authority with Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants, this argument always comes up. The mistake here is in imagining that every time the phrase “Word of God” appears in Scripture, it refers to the Bible. The fact is, when attention is paid to the context of the passage, we see that most of the time the phrase “Word of God” does not refer to Scripture but to something else, such as Christ, the law, God’s creative utterances, and apostolic and prophetic preaching. Here are some verses that prove this:

Isaiah 55:10-11--‘‘For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” This demonstrates that “the Word of God” is not Scripture but, rather, God’s creative word.

Luke 3:2-3--‘‘[T]he word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance . . .”

This refers to the inspiration that St. John the Baptist received, as he was sent forth to preach the gospel of repentance and preparation for Christ.

Luke 4:44-5:1--‘‘[Jesus] was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God . . .”

Luke 8:11-15--‘‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; . . . the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. . . . And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.”

Notice that the emphasis in this last verse is on hearing the word of God; an obvious reference both to Christ’s own preaching as well as to apostolic preaching (cf. 1 Thess 2:13), as well as the continual preaching of the gospel by the Catholic Church to all creatures in all ages (c.f. Mt 28:19-20; Rom 10:14-15).

John 1:1, 14--‘‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

This passage, of course, refers to the Incarnate Christ.

Acts 4:31--‘‘And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.”

1 Thessalonians 2:13--‘‘[W]hen you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

Here Paul is specifically pointing to oral Tradition, not to Scripture. This was his first epistle to the Thessalonians. Notice that he doesn’t enjoin them to go solely by what is found in Scripture, but he reminds them to adhere to the oral teachings he had handed on to them.

Hebrews 4:12-13--‘‘For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”

This last passage is frequently quoted out of context by Protestants, as if it meant Scripture. But notice that it speaks of the Word of God as a “him” not an “it” and that it is before “him [Christ]” that the secrets of our hearts are laid bare and judged. The next time a Protestant quotes this verse out of context, ask him to explain how it is that the Bible can “discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Then ask him if it isn’t nonsensical to think of this as Scripture, and conversely, ask him if it’s not eminently reasonable, even demanded by the context, to see the “Word of God” here to be in reference to Christ.

Heb. 11:3--‘‘By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.”

This passage in Hebrews only reinforces the conclusion we draw from Hebrews 4:12-13 that the Word being spoken of there is not the Bible. Clearly, no Protestant will posit that “the world was created” by the Bible. If he does, head for the door, quickly!

Patrick Madrid is an author, public speaker, and the publisher of Envoy Magazine. Visit his web site at www.surprisedbytruth.com