We tend to use the phrase “the Word of God” interechangeably with “the Bible.”
There are several problems with this:
1. The Bible does not do it
You will find places where Scripture is quoted, and then the writer will say something like, “The Word of God says …” However, when “the Word of God” or “the Word” is used without explanation in the apostles writings, it NEVER refers to “the Bible.”
The Bible is the Word of God, but the Word of God is far, far more than the Bible
2. When the Bible uses “the Word of God” or “the Word” without explanation, it is always found to mean something other than the Scriptures as a whole.
In most cases you will find either a direct or mystical reference to Jesus himself.
Let me explain the mystical part, then give you some examples.
Jesus lives in us. He is the Word of God. The Scriptures tell us that the Word is planted in us like a seed. It talks about us being born again by the Word. These are all mystical references to Jesus.
A direct reference to Jesus would be passages like John 1:1-3 or the verse in Revelation 19 that says Jesus is coming back on a white horse with “The Word of God” written on his thigh.
3. Because we misunderstand this, we rely only on the Word of God which we find in the Scriptures, a very limiting and dangerous thing to do (Jn. 5:39-40).
As a standout example, let’s look at 2 Timothy 2:15. Here is the KJV rendering:
Study to shew yourself approved to God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
The Greek word translated “study” there is σπουδα&dzet;ω. It means “be diligent” or “make every effort.” The KJV usually translates it “giving all diligence.”
So why translate it “study” here?
Because the translators being over a thousand years removed from the time of free churches that were preserving the teaching of the apostles, had adopted the Reformation emphasis on the Bible, thinking, like the Pharisees, that this would not only be sufficient to correct Roman Catholic error, but to establish the church outside Roman Catholicism.
Nice thought, but the Scriptures make wise for salvation, are good for teaching and correction so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for good works (2 Tim. 3:14-17). If you make it the end all, you can miss Jesus who is the source of life (Jn. 5:39-40).
The Word of Truth is Jesus in us. This is one of those mystical references. We have to “make every effort” to handle the Word of God accurately that has been implanted in us (Jam. 1:21).
There are better examples to show you this.
Hebrews 4:12 is well-known by everyone, and everyone applies it to the Scriptures. It clearly does not mean the Bible, however, because the Word of God “discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart,” and all creatures are “revealed in his sight.” The final clear reference to Jesus there is: “All things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”
The Bible is not him with whom we have to do.
I also enjoy appealing to Acts 6:7; 12:24: and 19:20:
- And the Word of God increased, and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem daily.
- The Word of God grew and multiplied.
- So the Word of God grew mightily and prevailed
The Bible was not increasing, multiplying, or growing during these time periods. The disciples were increasing, multiplying, and growing during these times, and so the Word of God inside of them was increasing, multiplying, and growing as well.
This all gives some extra meaning to the passage that says:
[God] … made us able ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:6)
Or this one:
[We] have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully. (2 Cor. 4:2)
John loved mystical references to the Word of God. Besides the beginning of his Gospel, there is the beginning of his first letter:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life. For the life was revealed, and we have seen, testify, and show to you that eternal life, which was with the Father and was revealed to us.