Have you ever heard Jesus Christ referred to as “The Word”? Usually people who use this terminology are referring to John 1:1, which says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (NASB).
This verse makes it abundantly clear that Jesus Christ is the Word, and that he is God. What this means is not so clear, because we also refer to the Bible as the Word (of God), as in Hebrews 4:12. Jesus is not the Bible, nor is the Bible Jesus, so where is the disconnect?
To unpack this, we must understand the nature of God’s revelation to mankind. Historically, theologians have split God’s revelation into one of two categories: general and special. General revelation is what the scriptures speak of when they say that the “Heavens declare the glory of God”. This is information about God which is communicated through the splendor of his created work, but which is not enough to save sinners, according to Acts 4:12 because it is impersonal and non-redemptive. This is where special revelation comes in. Special revelation is (as the name implies) is a unique gift of God to all of mankind, specifically designed to bring knowledge of God to mankind so that they can be saved. This is made abundantly clear through Paul the Apostle’s words in Romans 1, where he explains that God is making what may be known about him known.
Here’s what’s important: God revealed himself. Here’s what else is important: We can know God because of this self-revelation.
When we talk about special revelation, we can break it down into two further categories, the Biblical texts and the person of Jesus Christ. Both are personal and redemptive, which means that are relevant to all people at all times and that they both are geared towards convicting sinners and bringing them to a correct knowledge of God for salvation. That is, both reveal God’s nature to mankind in such a way as to convict them of sin and instruct them in righteousness so that they may be saved. In any discussion of the Bible and the person of Christ we must recognize that Christ not only originates the Scriptures, he has divinely inspired them to point to himself through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (More on this when I discuss the Trinity in a few weeks).
This is a key evidence of God’s love for mankind and of his desire for reconciliation with us. The fact that an almighty God would condescend enough to send his own son to earth in order to save man is tremendous. As I mentioned in my post The Incarnation of God, this is one of a very few things which can consistently move me to tears. The sheer magnitude of a God who loves us enough to redeem us from our sin is mind-blowing.
All this said, the question remains: What’s the difference between the written word of God (the Bible) and the living word of God (Jesus Christ)? Simply this. Christ is the living and incarnate God, and because of this, when we refer to him as the word of God, we recognize that he himself is responsible for absolute truth, truth we can trust for life and salvation, truth which is also found in the Bible.
What does this mean for us? First, we must understand that the Bible (as the written word of God) is important for our understanding of Christ, the living word of God. We must trust Christ as the source of ultimate truth, which will change our lives when we allow it to impact us. Do you trust him in this? I challenge you to consider how this knowledge should impact your life, and to let it become the driving force behind your faith and growth in the Spirit.
In grace and peace,