The WORD of God

When many of us hear the phrase, “the Word of God,” we immediately think of the opening verses of the Gospel of John:

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. (John 1:1–5, CEB)

 “Word” here is the Greek word “logos.” In common language, it carries a variety of meanings: an account or reckoning, and argument, principle, reason, or thought. Among the Greek philosophers, “logos” came to mean the rational principle that gave order to the cosmos and was therefore equated with God. In John, “logos” is certainly a reference to Jesus himself, the wisdom of God that became incarnate.[1] The implication seems to be that the best way to understand who God is, what God thinks, and what God wants to say to us, is to look at the person of Jesus. This is clearly manifest in our confessional tradition as exemplified in the Confession of 1967:

“The one sufficient revelation of God is Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, to whom the Holy Spirit bears unique and authoritative witness through the Holy Scriptures, which are received and obeyed as the word of God written. The Scriptures are not a witness among others, but the witness without parallel. The church has received the books of the Old and New Testaments as prophetic and apostolic testimony in which it hears the word of God and by which its faith and obedience are nourished and regulated.”[2]

 So, if we want to know God’s word, we should look to Jesus. And the best way to do that is to look to the Bible, which contains the best witness to Jesus and God’s intentions. Thus, many Presbyterian churches use the liturgical expression following the reading of scripture in worship: “The word of the Lord.” This expression is reminding us that this mysterious idea of God’s Word is not the words on the page, but in the message in the texts.

Illustration of Barth's Threefold Word of GodTheologian Karl Barth proposed the notion of the “Threefold Word of God.” Barth taught that the revealed word, the written word, and the proclaimed word are considered to be three different, yet unified forms of the Word of God. Barth compared the simultaneous independence and unity of these forms of the Word of God to the Trinity. To the extent that proclamation really depends on revelation attested in the Bible, it is no less the Word of God than the Bible. And to the extent that the Bible really attests revelation, it is no less the Word of God than revelation itself. Barth believed we should never try to understand the three forms of God’s Word in isolation. So, we can find God’s Word by looking to Jesus, and by reading the scriptures, and by listening to proclamation or preaching that is derived from the scriptures and influenced by the work of the Holy Spirit. Barth believed that preaching becomes the Word of God, not because of something we do, but according to God’s direction. Likewise, we become proclaimers of the WORD, when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our thinking, our speech, and our daily behavior, as we live in the world[3] (CD I/1, 90–121).

When we affirm this constitutional question, we acknowledge that God alone is the source of all life and wisdom, and we commit ourselves to be open to God’s direction by intentionally engaging the resources that have been provided to us by God.

For Reflection and Discussion:

Consider the ways in which God’s Word has come alive for you.

In your service as a ruling elder or deacon, where do you encounter Jesus as the Word of God?

When do you spend time with the written word of scripture?

[1] online dictionary.

[2] Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Book of Confessions, “The Confession of 1967,” 9.27, 291.

[3] Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics, Volume 1, 90–121.