It seems quite fashionable these days for Christian people to insist that the expression ‘the word of God’ can only be applied to Jesus Christ, and not, say, to Scripture. Steve Chalke, for example, writes: ‘the Bible itself is unambiguous: “The word of God” is a person not a book.’
However, the phrase is used in Scripture itself in several ways:-
- The gospel, Acts 4:31; 6:7; 13:5, 26;1 Cor 1:18; Heb 6:5; 1 Pet 1:23,25; 2 Cor 5:19; 2 Tim 2:9 4:2.
- Christ, Jn 1:1-2; Rev 19:13.
- Scripture, Mt 15:6; Jn 10:35. Cf. Mt 22:31.
But even if the Scriptures themselves only rarely use the exact expression ‘the word of God’ as a synonym for God’s written revelation, it is necessary to ask how prevalent the concept is. After all, orthodoxy commits to the doctrine of the Trinity as both biblical and central, even though the word itself is found nowhere in Scripture.
In an article published many years ago in The Churchman, the late Leon Morris sets out clearly and forcefully the case for regarding the Bible as ‘the word of God’.
The Old Testament frequently records words which are held to be God’s words. These is the case in the very first chapter of Genesis, where no less than ten times we read, “And God said”. And it continues throughout the Old Testament:-
Such expressions occur no less than 3,808 times in the Old Testament!
When we come to the New Testament, we find that Christ and the apostles wholeheartedly regarded the Old Testament as completely authoritative:-
It is fair to say that, just as the New Testament writers regard the new dispensation as in no whit inferior to the old dispensation, 2 Cor 3:7-11, so they would not have regarded the writings in which the new was set forth as in any way inferior to the writings of the old, cf Mt 13:17.
Several times words from God Himself are recorded. This is the case with the voice at Jesus’ baptism (Mt. 3: 17, Mk. 1: 11, Lk. 3: 22), and at the transfiguration (Mt. 17: 5, Mk. 9: 7, Lk. 9: 35). There were words of God given to Paul while at sea (Acts 27: 24), and the response that his “thorn in the flesh” might be taken away is recorded: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12: 9). Several times in Revelation we have words ascribed to the Father (Rev. 1: 8, 21: 5f), or to Christ (Rev. 1:17ff, chs. 2, 3, 22: 7, 16, 20), or to the Spirit (Rev. 2: 7, 11, etc., 14:13).
Then there are passages which affirm the divine origin of the Christian message. It is “the gospel of God” (1 Thess. 2: 2, 8, 9, 1 Tim. 1:11, 1 Pet. 4: 17; cf. Gal. 1: 12). Or it may be referred to as “the word of the Lord” or as “the word of God” (Acts 13: 46, 49, 17:13, 18: 11, 1 Thess. 1: 8, 4: 15, 2 Thess. 3: 1, 2 Tim. 2: 9, Heb. 4: 12, 6: 5) while “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20: 27) is not dissimilar. The salvation to which the Christian writers refer was “at the first spoken through the Lord” (Heb. 2: 3), while the message of 1 John is “the message which we have heard from him” (1 Jn. 1: 5; this message is then given in set terms, so that it applies to the written word). Paul uses the expression, “this we say unto you by the word of the Lord” (1 Thess. 4: 15) specifically of the written word, for he goes on to say what his “this” comprises.
It is clear, then, that the identification of Scripture as ‘the word of God’ is neither dubious nor peripheral, but certain and central.