What Does the Phrase “Word of God” Actually Mean?
Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Evangelicals love the phrase “word of God” and when we use it, the most common meaning is the Bible. The Bible is the word of God. That’s true, but the real meaning is so much richer than a book.
Why is understanding this so important? Because many younger evangelicals are drifting away from the Old Testament as an authoritative voice in their life and are embracing Jesus teachings alone as their “word of God.” As spiritual mentors we’ll need to remind them that for roughly 3,500 years all scripture has been the word of God.
So, when Christians use that term, we mean; 1. It is something that God has decreed. When God decrees something that will come about, it is the “word of God.”
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” Psalm 33:6
This is a decree of something God desired to occur and they were not necessarily words spoken to an individual person. God just makes a decree and it happens.
2. It speaks of God addressing humans.
Scriptures give a number of examples of God addressing humans directly. When God gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments, he said in actual words; “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:1-3 In doing so, God was telling Israel what he expects from them and why.
3. It can also refer to God putting words in the prophet’s mouths.
In this instance, God gave a message to a person, who passed it on to another person, or group. And, when the prophets spoke, their words were called “the word of God.”
“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” Deuteronomy 18:18-20
“Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth.’” Jeremiah 1:9
Scripture makes no distinction in the authority of the words that were spoken by the prophets and those spoken by God himself. All are considered to be the word of God.
4. Jesus Christ is the word of God. At the beginning of John’s gospel we read;
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
And in Revelation, John describes the risen Jesus;
“He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” Revelation 19:13
That description, the Word, is only used of Jesus, not of Jesus the Father or the Holy Spirit.
5. It refers to God’s written word.
Finally, the word of God can also refer to God’s word in written form – the Bible. After God proclaimed his “word” orally; it was put in written form. The first known instance of man doing so was the 10 Commandments. God himself wrote those tablets.
“When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.” Exodus 31:18
Jesus himself said; “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” Matthew 15:3-6
Scriptures make no distinction in the authority of the words God spoke directly, and those things written or spoken by God’s spokesman, the prophets or of those spoken by Jesus. When God says anything, about anything, to anyone, it is the word of God.
“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20, 21
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