The Word of God for the People of God
We often think of language as the words we form together to create a meaningful statement. While this is generally true, how did these words come to be? Who decided that those furry little animals would be called “cats”? These are questions of origin, and origin is important for understanding purpose.
The phrase, the “word of God” is cited throughout the Old and New Testament by the prophets, the teachers of the law, and the apostles. What is the origin of this common phrase?
The Law of God
The Old Testament writers would argue that the Word of God is the Law spoken by the prophets. This would include the holiness laws, the sabbath laws, and any other statute initiated by God for man. But a central theme found in the Old Testament Law is the presence of God with man. Thus, the “word of God” was much more than spoken words.
The Incarnate Christ
The word of God is Christ himself, the incarnate Son of God (Jn 1:14). Thus, the “word of God” is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because he has been tempted in every way like us (Heb 4:15). It is because of this that the Word is the greatest hope that the people of God possess. Amidst earthly suffering, they cling to the future hope of communion with the word-made-flesh in the new Heaven and new Earth. The words which outline the life and death of the Redeeming Messiah are the fountain of life for those who the Spirit illumines.
The Gospel Word
The apostles often used the phrase “word of God” to reference the gospel of Christ. The book of Acts begins with the ascension of Jesus. The physical Word of God leaves the story at this point. How, then, did Luke approach the “word of God” throughout this book? Throughout Acts we find that when the word of God is preached, the people believe in the risen Jesus. The Word of God is transformative, and those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Thus, the “word of God” is the same thing as the gospel of Christ preached to the masses.
This is consistent with the rest of scripture, especially in the New Testament as people are preaching the good news. The way people still encounter the transforming work of the gospel is by the word preached. There are countless stories throughout the scriptures of people encountering the word of God preached and their heart is turned. This is why Jesus gave the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20). In this command, Jesus tell us that it is by the word preached and the people being taught all these things that salvation occurs.
Salvation cannot be secured merely by noticing the intricacies of our earth and admitting the existence of a Creator. It is by the word preached that men understand this good news, that Christ came as a human like us and died in our place that we might be reconciled to God and find life.
The Promise of God
The word of God is the promise of God for his people. As John says,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-3)
The word of God broke into the world as incarnate man. Christ is the eternal word who bore flesh in order to be “like” those he came to take their place. Because of this Word of God, we are released from the weight of the Law because Christ fulfilled it. We do not need to ensure our own perfection, because Christ is the only one who achieved that status as the perfect one who fully fulfilled the Law’s demands. We are inheritors of his righteousness by faith.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:11-14)