Dear sisters and brothers of Arawang,
Last week someone from our church family asked the question: “What does the biblical word, ‘Word’ actually mean? It’s a great question and so I thought I’d use this question as the basis for my blog this week.
At one level, it’s a really easy answer: the biblical word ‘logos’, which we often render ‘word’ means exactly what we would expect: the noise we make or the letters we write to express information. The Oxford dictionary defines a word as ‘a single, distinct, meaningful element of speech or writing’.
The word ‘express’ is important when understanding the biblical idea of ‘Word’. In all of life, words are used for expression to make oneself known. The bible is no different. I’ll give you an example: You can know that I’m tall, big, married with 4 kids, am a parish minister, etc. You can know all that about me without me speaking to you. You can find that about me in any number of ways. However, you can only know me personally if I express myself to you using words. Our culture acknowledges this. When asked if we know someone, we might respond “I know of them”. Knowing ‘of’ someone is not the same as ‘knowing someone’. The difference between the two is whether or not the person in question has expressed themselves to you. Only then can we say, “we know someone”.
In that sense, being known and knowing someone is one of the great privileges of life. When someone knows me, it means they know my likes, dislikes, hopes, fears, strengths, weaknesses, motivators, goals, directions, reactions, damage, vulnerabilities, trigger points, and much more. They can only know me if I express myself to them using words. As someone expresses themselves to us, it means that we are honoured such that we are deemed worthy of receiving that information.
We are to understand the biblical word, ‘Word’ in exactly the same way. God has expressed himself to us. We mustn’t lose sight of the enormous privilege we have in this. God has chosen to express himself to us. This is the essence of the concept of God’s Word in the Bible.
So, how does God use the ‘Word’ to express himself to us? God expresses himself to us in four ways: 1, In his creation; 2, in His Son, Jesus; and 3, in the Bible, 4; in the gospel. In this blog, we’ll look at the first two. Next week, we’ll look at the last two.
1 God expresses himself in creation:
In the Genesis 1 Creation story we read, “And God said….” before something came into existence. We could comment on that by saying. And God ‘expressed himself, saying…” One of the best passages to understand this is John 1: 1, “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….” I could legitimately comment on John 1 by writing, “In the beginning God expressed himself, and God’s expression was with God and God’s expression was God. All things were made through him….”
What this means is that God expressed himself in creation because he created by his word. When he spoke ‘his Word’, he created. What did he express of himself in creation? God expressed that he is good, powerful, generous, he loves beauty, he is organised and loves order, he wants to be known and glorified as Creator. The Apostle Paul, put it like this, “For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made” (Romans 1: 19-20).
God does not express himself as moral or just in creation though. For that, we need to go to the other 3 ways God expresses himself.
2 God expresses himself in his Word Incarnate – Jesus.
God expresses himself most clearly in his Son, the Word made human. John goes on to write, “And the Word (expression of God) became flesh and dwelt among us…” (v14). When we read the gospels and we see Jesus, we see what God is like. Jesus is the “exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3). We can not only know about God but we can know him! We can personally know that God is moral, kind, compassionate, just, righteous, merciful is on the side of the weak and the vulnerable is good, etc. As Rico Tice, the evangelist put it, “When we see Jesus, all our questions about God, stop”.
John closes his prelude to his gospel by writing exactly this. “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Jesus is God’s Word who expresses God perfectly. Indeed, Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?”’ (John 14: 9)
We all want to be known and loved. It is one of the deepest human needs. Even though God is totally satisfied relationally within Himself as “Tri-Unity” – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God wants to be known and loved by us too. So he could have a relationship with us he spoke and expressed himself to us by his Word, Jesus.
I have chosen the idea of ‘expression’ to explain the idea of Word. There are others that are helpful also. One of the most popular is ‘thoughts’. The Greek word Logos that we translate word is the word that brings us the word logic. So theology means Theos (God) + Logos (thoughts/word). Theology is, therefore, the discipline of thinking about God, hopefully logically.
Next week we’ll have a look at the last two ways God expresses himself. The third is through his Word, the bible and the fourth is through the Word as the gospel message.
May we join Paul and grow and pray that God may give us “the spirit of wisdom and of revelation (his expression of himself) in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you know what is the hope to which he has called you…”
Yours in Christ,
17th April 2020