"Word of God" not the bible! Hunh?April 22, 2009 (addendum added 5/12/09) ~ by the Generic Christian Mystic
“Is the Word of God the same thing as what most of us call the holy bible?” or asked another way, “When the written text of the scriptures refers to the Word of God, is it referring to itself?”
The plain and surprising answer I am still discovering, that was nagging at the edge of my soul for a long time, is “No, it is not.”
Uh-oh, I hear the rumblings out there of “heretic”, “liberal”, and “false prophet”!
This is a very tricky knife-edge to dance upon I realize, like hiking along the dangerous “Knife Edge” trail of Maine’s Mt. Katahdin that I avoided many years ago. To assert that the bible is not the “Word of God” seems blasphemous until one takes a closer look at what the bible actually has written in it when the “Word of God” is mentioned.
Imagine, please try hard, that you have never heard a sermon, never read book about the bible and nobody has ever called the written scriptures, (the bible), as being the “Word of God”. If you can do this and then read the bible, (free from certain mental noise of your past), – you will never find in the text of the bible where it calls itself the “Word of God”!
When you see this truth, it is a shock, yes -- yet also a revelation of something wildly precious that many believers need. This deeper truth as to the real identity of the “Word of God” once fully grasped is a mighty and unshakeable reality.
Our minds are usually set on “auto-pilot” in that we rarely analyze what we are thinking about critically. When we read a written word or phrase, when we hear a word – our brains seek for a reference point to grasp meanings in order for us move forward in ascertaining a message or information being offered. What we fail to realize is that many times, when we read or hear text from the bible, we incorrectly attach definitions and meanings to the text that the writer never intended for the reader or hearer to think of as part of the message.
It is complicatedly true that we inevitably and unconsciously bring our own very individualized, customized mental filter “lexicon” or subconscious codex: “my-worldview” to every instance of our encounter with scripture. Mostly, this is very helpful, as it obviates the need for us to relearn every word’s meaning as we are thinking and processing language. Sometimes it is NOT helpful because we were taught or told incorrectly what a word or phrase meant or was connected with in everyday usage.
Equating the written text in the books of the bible as being the same as the “Word of God” is one tragically confusing case in point of our mental “auto-pilot” being NOT helpful.
Here’s a sample list of scriptures that mention the “word of God”:
1 Chronicles 17:3 (Darby Translation)
3And it came to pass that night that the word of God came to Nathan saying,
Mark 7:12-14 (Darby Translation)
12And ye no longer suffer him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13making void the word of God by your traditional teaching which ye have delivered; and many such like things ye do. 14And having called again the crowd, he said to them, Hear me, all [of you], and understand:
Luke 3:1-3 (Darby Translation)
1Now in the fifteenth year of the government of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Ituraea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, [the] word of God came upon John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. 3And he came into all the district round the Jordan, preaching [the] baptism of repentance for [the] remission of sins,
Luke 8:10-12 (Darby Translation)
10And he said, To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables, in order that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. 11But the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12But those by the wayside are those who hear; then comes the devil and takes away the word from their heart that they may not believe and be saved.
Acts 4:31 (Darby Translation)
31And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God with boldness.
Acts 6:7 (Darby Translation)
7And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem was very greatly multiplied, and a great crowd of the priests obeyed the faith.
Acts 12:24 (Darby Translation)
24But the word of God grew and spread itself.
Colossians 1:24-26 (Darby Translation)
24Now, I rejoice in sufferings for you, and I fill up that which is behind of the tribulations of Christ in my flesh, for his body, which is the assembly; 25of which *I* became minister, according to the dispensation of God which [is] given me towards you to complete the word of God, 26the mystery which [has been] hidden from ages and from generations, but has now been made manifest to his saints;
Hebrews 4:11-13 (Darby Translation)
11Let us therefore use diligence to enter into that rest, that no one may fall after the same example of not hearkening to the word. 12For the word of God [is] living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrating to [the] division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of [the] heart. 13And there is not a creature unapparent before him; but all things [are] naked and laid bare to his eyes, with whom we have to do.
Hebrews 11:3 (Darby Translation)
3By faith we apprehend that the worlds were framed by [the] word of God, so that that which is seen should not take its origin from things which appear.
1 Peter 1:22-23 (Darby Translation)
22Having purified your souls by obedience to the truth to unfeigned brotherly love, love one another out of a pure heart fervently; 23being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by [the] living and abiding word of God.
In not one of the above quoted scriptures is the “Word of God” referring to anything written down for us to read or have read to us. The book we have with us today called “the bible” did not even exist when the above quotes happened in their own “real-time”! This “Word of God” these texts and stories refer to are each about a LIVING and SPIRITUAL reality that can transform us, save us, teach us, guide us and bring a direct revelation of the LIVING GOD to mankind’s spirit.
This “Word of God” these writers speak of is no mere collection of books, gospels, letters, and an apocalyptic finale. The “Word of God” inspired the initial impetus and subsequent written creation of the biblical texts, yes indeed. But the text itself alone, be it read or spoken, is no magical talisman. It needs a catalyst.
Only when the LIVING and SPIRITUALLY ALIVE “Word of God” actively, sovereignly, and in real-time imparts HIS revelation and resurrection life to the moment does the text then come alive for the hearer. Man, in his own power, cannot make the bible text come alive as if it were the LIVING “Word of God”! It is only by the Spirit of God’s love for us in grace and truth that the written text of the bible can wield any saving and transformative power.
And now for the real eye-opening passage that follows . . .
Revelation 19:12-14 (Darby Translation)
12And his eyes are a flame of fire, and upon his head many diadems, having a name written which no one knows but himself; 13and [he is] clothed with a garment dipped in blood; and his name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies which [are] in the heaven followed him upon white horses, clad in white, pure, fine linen.
The above passage refers to the risen Jesus, the Son of God as the “Word of God” and it cannot be any clearer that no written book such as the bible is being spoken of here!
With all the above information offered, it might be wondered as to what is so important about realizing the distinction between the written text of the bible we have today versus the eternal and living “Word of God” that the bible discusses.
A written document about the “Word of God” can easily become an idol, held even more holy than the ACTUAL “Word of God” Himself. We must never let bible-book-worship eclipse our obedience to the living “Word of God” Who still speaks ACTIVELY and in real-time to us each day.
This is more important than I can possibly stress in this article!
Simply reading a bible to read it, studying it to know all the tales, carrying it as a charm, quoting it as a tool, and preaching from it to prove a point is NOT what the living “Word of God” desires. We must each COME TO HIM and ask HIM to make the text come alive as HE WANTS for the moment. When we humbly approach the text of the bible as a very useful historical record of the “Word of God’s” ways among mankind and a guidebook for the faithful, then and only then, are we utilizing the bible correctly.
Men can use and have used the written text of the bible to create spiritual bondage, mental confusion, deadened souls, wretched word weapons, false doctrines, and a myriad of religious evils.
The eternal “Word of God” never birthed any of these things.
Many so-called “holy” men ignore the voice of the living “Word of God” yet they love to quote the bible as truth. These deaf and blind ones lead the unsuspecting into darkness.
We must learn in these last days to hear and follow the living Logos or “Word of God” instead of kneeling at the foot of idols of tradition that we religiously carve our favorite bible quotes upon.
When we read the text in the English translation of the bible and see “word” written, it can be known to have either the original Greek language terms known as “logos” or “rhema” depending on the writer’s or speaker’s intended message.
When the biblical text has “word” used in conjunction with the terms God or truth as in the phrases “Word of God” or “word of truth” -- it is referring to the “Logos” or the living and ageless divine thought or eternal plan of God. When this “Logos” or “Word of God” became flesh and dwelt, (tented or tabernacle’d), among us we of the faith, then and now, call Him Jesus the Christ. John refers to Christ as the “Word” Who, already existed, in the timelessness before the beginning began, found there with the eternal God and was the same as God, wholly divine and equal. This “Logos” lived among us and communicated the mind of God to us. Jesus’ words and life among mankind was the ageless and immensely powerful “Logos” of God made flesh. This “Logos” or “Word of God” was God’s divine life itself for those who believed and received it.
Used less in the original languages, “rhema” as with “logos” has to do with “that which is spoken”; an utterance, a saying, and “a word that goes forth”. When the divine speaking or God-breathed “rhema” or word of the Spirit of God is given, then the faithful hearer of this rhema, is then given a supernatural wisdom for that moment. We usually call this direct revelation or something revealed in the Spirit. This rhema from God opens up the truths to be spoken, received or understood in preaching, reading or speaking the written text of the bible. Rhema or divine wisdom from God can also be revealed in a situation we may find ourselves in – herein we gain a “rhema” or “word of knowledge” from God.
Again, I have to remind the reader that these terms of logos and rhema, when connected to Jesus, God, the Spirit, salvation, and the gospel are related to an eternal, supernatural plan, concept or a body of truth that is revealed by the Spirit of God to us. This “Word of God” existed before languages of men were spoken, before we learned to write and will continue long after mankind’s way of communication has ceased.
My desire is not to tear down in any way the invaluable vehicle of thought that the written scriptures offer us. What I desire is a renewed desire among God’s people to daily experience God’s “rhema” as direct revelation, guiding them, teaching them, and wooing them to His fullness. The “Word of God” is alive, powerful, and He desires to commune with us, live daily in us, and communicate His eternal life in and through us to a lost and dying world. The Logos awaits our spiritual ear to be attentive. He will make the written text of the scriptures explode with life if we will but listen to Him.
We need not believe that the bible is so mysterious and somehow too magical. We need not think it cannot be fully understood unless someone else interprets and explains it all to us. We need not then have others always tells us how to live a Christian life. God has given all believers His Spirit to open up the bible and reveal His “Word of God” to us.
When we seek to hear only from God Himself via His Logos and His Rhema, then His people will have a real chance for unity. If we then seek to walk daily in the living Word of His Peace as mature sons of God, instead of squabbling about the hidden meanings of the written biblical texts, we then will hasten His coming Kingdom of Love and Righteousness.
John 17 (Darby Translation)
1These things Jesus spoke, and lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee; 2as thou hast given him authority over all flesh, that [as to] all that thou hast given to him, he should give them life eternal. 3And this is the eternal life, that they should know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. 4I have glorified *thee* on the earth, I have completed the work which thou gavest me that I should do it; 5and now glorify *me*, *thou* Father, along with thyself, with the glory which I had along with thee before the world was. 6I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world. They were thine, and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word. 7Now they have known that all things that thou hast given me are of thee; 8for the words which thou hast given me I have given them, and they have received [them], and have known truly that I came out from thee, and have believed that thou sentest me. 9I demand concerning them; I do not demand concerning the world, but concerning those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine, 10(and all that is mine is thine, and [all] that is thine mine,) and I am glorified in them. 11And I am no longer in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me, that they may be one as we. 12When I was with them I kept them in thy name; those thou hast given me I have guarded, and not one of them has perished, but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13And now I come to thee. And these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in them. 14I have given them thy word, and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. 15I do not demand that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them out of evil. 16They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify them by the truth: thy word is truth. 18As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world; 19and I sanctify myself for them, that they also may be sanctified by truth. 20And I do not demand for these only, but also for those who believe on me through their word; 21that they may be all one, as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22And the glory which thou hast given me I have given them, that they may be one, as we are one; 23I in them and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one [and] that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and [that] thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me. 24Father, [as to] those whom thou hast given me, I desire that where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before [the] foundation of [the] world. 25Righteous Father, -- and the world has not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 26And I have made known to them thy name, and will make [it] known; that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them.
May the “Word of God” call us all . . . into His truth and His life . . .
Addendum (in response to comments received elsewhere)
I know that my article indeed APPEARS to absolutely and without respect to their Source -- to "reduce" the written text of the bible or the scriptures to being as you say "to simply being scribbles of ink on paper".
I am sorry if I offend. That is not my intent here.
But in fact, apart from God's opening up these texts of "scribblings" to us, they are simply paper, parchment, papyrus with inked markings from many times and diverse peoples, collected together by yet more people, as representing the mind of God to us.
Again, I must repeat that -- YES, the eternal God inspired, impressed and spoke His mind and will and prophecies supernaturally to men and women. Some wrote it down, others told others and then others wrote it down. Then others collected, cared for, made copies, memorized, and collected them together for us. These books were collected together and were known as "The Books" and then later these Old and New Testament writings simple became known as the "The Book" or "The Bible". Then the word "holy" was added later by well-meaning, religious types and now have today "The Holy Bible".
But . . .
Without the Spirit of God to then take these biblical texts and make it ALIVE to the hearer or reader by grace and through faith -- the text is simply that -- text alone.
Just knowing the biblical text inside-and-out mentally, logically, and theologically in the original languages and via all the various translations and even knowing the cultures, the history and all that -- does that mean one has "the mind of Christ"? Does this psyche-based, soulish adeptness give this reader access to experiencing the "Word of God"?
I have to say, "No!"
We know of many learned people who have incredible knowledge of the biblical text but they have never encountered the living "Word of God". They have only encountered paper and text.
This is my point: Knowing ALL the "holy" bible means nothing eternally valuable in and of itself.
Without the Creator, Inspirer, Originator, Spirit of the WORD to lead and teach our hearts from the text ~ we remain lost as to knowing the WORD HIMSELF.
The bible points us to the WORD but then the WORD must reveal Himself as He wills. Then and only then does the simple text -- IN THAT VERY HOLY MOMENT -- become transformed, by faith to come alive WITHIN US via the Spirit.
Apart from this DYNAMIC, RHEMA, LOGOS process, the text on the page is simply text on the page. Some readers/hearers will be open to this process but others are closed to it.
What I worry about is this:
When a "Word of the Lord" or a "Word of God" comes through a modern-day or future prophet who speaks and writes words that sheds a new and uniquely & TIMELY light on the fullest meaning of the scriptural text -- will we hear him or her?
Or will we say, "Sorry, we already have the "holy" bible, the finished, one and only "word of God" and we don't need to hear or read anymore.
What if a TRUE and LIVING "word from the Lord" comes our way but the "majority rule" theologically-certified, denominationally-right, convention-approved interpretation of the bible disallows accepting this "Word of God"?
When we say, a "rhema" or a "word from God" must not contradict scripture, we all shake our heads of course, saying true, true, true and we are satisfied and leave it there.
But wait . . .
Not all of our accepted or standard interpretations of scripture agree do they?
We argue amongst ourselves, divisions arise, and we splinter apart over "the truth" we see in the bible.
Who then is the one who can firmly say when a "Word from the Lord" to us contradicts scripture when we can't agree on the same scripture?
This brings me back to my whole point about the text of scripture being NOT the "Word of God" as we like to call it.
We must follow the Spirit as He leads us, speaks to us and opens HIS scripture to us. No convention, no theology, no "olde-time religion", no consensus of learned men should be our final guide.
We EACH must learn the "Voice of the Lord" to our hearts and follow Him.
Consider the lonely, abused outcasts we know as the prophets of old when they TRIED to give the "Word of the Lord" to the people. They had their scriptures. Did they hear the prophets or kill them? The Jews of Jesus' day had their scriptures too. Did they hear the Prophet Priest Jesus and His WORD or did they kill Him?
Are we any different today? I think not.
I fear sometimes that we, many times in the Church's past, have trampled the LIVING "Word of God" underfoot by using the very text of scriptures He gave us against hearing Him speak . . .
May God have mercy on us!
If you want to read more of my replies to comments on this article, (feel free to add your own comments too), please go to my blog here: Word of God not the bible! Hunh?
E-mail me if you have comments or questions.