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The Word of God

What do we mean by the Word of God?

There are several things that could be meant by it:

The Word of God as a Person: Jesus Christ

Sometimes the Bible refers to the Son of God as “the Word of God.” 

Revelation 19:13 ESV

13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.

John 1:1 ESV

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

It is clear that John is speaking of the Son of God here because in verse 14 he says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 

These verses (and perhaps 1 John 1:1) are the only instances where the Bible refers to God the Son as “the Word” or “the Word of God,” so this usage is not common. 

But it does indicate that among the members of the Trinity it is especially God the Son who, in His person as well as in His words, has the role of communicating the character of God to us and of expressing the will of God for us.

# 1- The Word of God as speech by God

Sometimes God’s words take the form of powerful decrees that cause events to happen or even cause things to come into being. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Gen. 1:3).

 God even created the animal world by speaking his powerful word: “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.’ And it was so” (Gen. 1:24). 

Thus, the psalmist can say, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Ps. 33:6).

These powerful, creative words from God are often called God’s decrees. 

A decree of God is a word of God that causes something to happen. 

These decrees of God include not only the events of the original creation but also the continuing existence of all things, for Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ continually “upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

# 2 - God’s Words of Personal Address

God sometimes communicates with people on earth by speaking directly to them. These can be called instances of God’s Word of personal address. 

Examples are found throughout Scripture. 

• At the very beginning of creation God speaks to Adam: “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’ ” (Gen. 2:16–17).

• After the sin of Adam and Eve, God still comes and speaks directly and personally to them in the words of the curse (Gen. 3:16–19). 

• Another prominent example of God’s direct personal address to people on earth is found in the giving of the Ten Commandments: “God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me’ ” (Ex. 20:1–3). 

• In the New Testament, at Jesus’ baptism, God the Father spoke with a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).

• In these and several other instances where God spoke words of personal address to individual people it was clear to the hearers that these were the actual words of God: they were hearing God’s very voice, and they were therefore hearing words that had absolute divine authority and that were absolutely trustworthy. 

To disbelieve or disobey any of these words would have been to disbelieve or disobey God and therefore would have been a sin.

Though the words of God’s personal address are always seen in Scripture to be the actual words of God, they are also “human” words in that they are spoken in ordinary human language that is immediately understandable. 

The fact that these words are spoken in human language does not limit their divine character or authority in any way: they are still entirely the words of God, spoken by the voice of God himself.

Some theologians have argued that since human language is always in some sense “imperfect,” any message that God addresses to us in human language must also be limited in its authority or truthfulness. 

But these passages and many others that record instances of God’s words of personal address to individuals give no indication of any limitation of the authority or truthfulness of God’s words when they are spoken in human language. Quite the contrary is true, for the words always place an absolute obligation on the hearers to believe them and to obey them fully. 

To disbelieve or disobey any part of them is to disbelieve or disobey God himself.

#3 - God’s Words as Speech Through Human Lips

Frequently in Scripture God raises up prophets through whom he speaks. Once again, it is evident that although these are human words, spoken in ordinary human language by ordinary human beings, the authority and truthfulness of these words is in no way diminished: they are still completely God’s words as well.

In Deuteronomy 18, God says to Moses:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. (Deut. 18:18–20)

God made a similar statement to Jeremiah: 

“Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth’ ” (Jer. 1:9). 

God tells Jeremiah, “Whatever I command you, you shall speak” (Jer. 1:7).

Anyone who claimed to be speaking for the Lord but who had not received a message from him was severely punished (Ezek. 13:1–7; Deut. 18:20–22).

Thus God’s words spoken through human lips were considered to be just as authoritative and just as true as God’s words of personal address. 

There was no diminishing of the authority of these words when they were spoken through human lips. To disbelieve or disobey any of them was to disbelieve or disobey God himself.

#4 - God’s Words in Written Form (the Bible)

In addition to God’s words of decree, God’s words of personal address, and God’s words spoken through the lips of human beings, we also find in Scripture several instances where God’s words were put in written form. The first of these is found in the narrative of the giving of the two tablets of stone on which were written the Ten Commandments: “He gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God” (Ex. 31:18). “The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets” (Ex. 32:16; 34:1, 28).

Further writing was done by Moses:

Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years … you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing … that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God.” (Deut. 31:9–13)

This book, which Moses wrote, was then deposited by the side of the ark of the covenant: “When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, ‘Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you’ ” (Deut. 31:24–26).

Further additions were made to this book of God’s words. “Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God” (Josh. 24:26). God commanded Isaiah, “Now, go, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever” (Isa. 30:8). Once again, God said to Jeremiah, “Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you” (Jer. 30:2; cf. Jer. 36:2–4, 27–31; 51:60). In the New Testament, Jesus promises his disciples that the Holy Spirit would bring to their remembrance the words which He, Jesus, had spoken (John 14:26; cf. 16:12–13). Paul can say that the very words he writes to the Corinthians are “a command of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37; cf. 2 Peter 3:2).

Once again it must be noted that these words are still considered to be God’s own words, even though they are written down mostly by human beings and always in human language. Still, they are absolutely authoritative and absolutely true: to disobey them or disbelieve them is a serious sin and brings judgment from God (1 Cor. 14:37; Jer. 36:29–31).

Several benefits come from the writing down of God’s words. 

1. First, there is a much more accurate preservation of God’s words for subsequent generations. To depend on memory and the repeating of oral tradition is a less reliable method of preserving these words throughout history than is their recording in writing (cf. Deut. 31:12–13). 

2. Second, the opportunity for repeated inspection of words that are written down permits careful study and discussion, which leads to better understanding and more complete obedience. 

3. Third, God’s words in writing are accessible to many more people than they are when preserved merely through memory and oral repetition. They can be inspected at any time by any person and are not limited in accessibility to those who have memorized them or those who are able to be present when they are recited orally. Thus the reliability, permanence, and accessibility of the form in which God’s words are preserved are all greatly enhanced when they are written down. Yet there is no indication that their authority or truthfulness is diminished.

Focus of Our Study

Of all the forms of the Word of God, the focus of our study in systematic theology is God’s Word in written form, that is, the Bible. This is the form of God’s Word that is available for study, for public inspection, for repeated examination, and as a basis for mutual discussion. It tells us about and points us to the Word of God as a person, namely Jesus Christ, whom we do not now have present in bodily form on earth. Thus we are no longer able to observe and imitate his life and teachings firsthand.

The other forms of the Word of God are not suitable as the primary basis for the study of theology. We do not hear God’s words of decree and thus cannot study them directly but only through observation of their effects. God’s words of personal address are uncommon, even in Scripture. Furthermore, even if we did hear some words of personal address from God to ourselves today, we would not have certainty that our understanding of it, our memory of it, and our subsequent report of it was wholly accurate. Nor would we be readily able to convey to others the certainty that the communication was from God, even if it was. God’s words as spoken through human lips ceased to be given when the New Testament canon was completed. Thus, these other forms of God’s words are inadequate as a primary basis for study in theology.

It is most profitable for us to study God’s words as written in the Bible. It is God’s written Word that he commands us to study. The man is “blessed” who “meditates” on God’s law “day and night” (Ps. 1:1–2). God’s words to Joshua are also applicable to us: 

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Josh. 1:8). 

It is the Word of God in the form of written Scripture that is “breathed out by God” and is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

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Week 2 Review


1. What two things are referred to as the “Word of God”? Describe each briefly in your own words.



2. As Grudem considers speech by God, he mentions several things that the words of God do. Name some of these outcomes of God’s speech.


3. What is the value of the written Word of God, the Bible? Why did Grudem choose to make the written Word the focus of his study?


4. Why do you think John refers to Jesus as the Word of God? How does learning about God’s speech in the Old and New Testaments help inform your answer?


5. Do your life and habits reflect a belief that the Bible really is God’s Word? How does seeing the Bible as God’s very Word encourage or exhort you to engage with it?


6. As you close your time in this chapter, spend some time in prayer and worship, thanking God for his Word in flesh, Jesus; his word in speech; and his Word in text, the Bible.