the weblog of Alan Knox

The Gospel and the Word and the Scriptures

Posted by on Aug 25, 2011 in scripture | 39 comments

Often, Christians use the phrases “Word of God” or “Word of Christ” or “Word of Truth” or simply “Word” to refer to the Scriptures (i.e., the Bible). However, it’s clear that in the Scriptures themselves, these phrases often do not refer to the Scriptures (even earlier versions of the Scriptures, such as what we now call the Old Testament).

For example, almost everyone agrees that the term “Word” in John 1 (i.e., John 1:1 and John 1:14) does not refer to the Scriptures, but instead refers to Jesus Christ. The term “Word” probably refers to Jesus Christ in Hebrews 4:12 also.

Besides these examples, there are other occurrences of the term “Word” that seem to refer to the gospel, or, the good news. Some of these references are straightforward. For example, consider these passage:

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… (Ephesians 1:13 ESV)

In that passage, it’s clear that “word of truth” refers to “the gospel.” In the same way, consider a similar statement that Paul makes to the church in Colossae:

… because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth… (Colossians 1:5-6 ESV)

It’s possible, however, that once Paul has stated that “word of truth” refers to the gospel, he then uses variations on that phrase to refer to the gospel also. Consider these within the letter to the Colossians:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known… (Colossians 1:24-25 ESV)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)

At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:3-4 ESV)

In each of these cases, it is possible (and I would suggest probable) that the phrases “word of God,” “word of Christ,” or even just “word” refer to the gospel, not to the Scriptures. Paul set up this reference in Colossians 1:5 (see above).

In two other passages of Scripture, the phrase “word of truth” in used in a way that seems to refer to the gospel:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creation. (James 1:18 ESV)

While there is not room in this post to completely argue why I think all of these uses of the term “word” refer to gospel, I think it’s clear from the text itself that the referent of “word” is “gospel” in at least some of the passages above.

So, this brings me to the point and questions of this post. In Scripture, we’ve seen that the term “word” can refer to Jesus Christ and to the gospel. However, today, it is often assumed that the term “word” refers to “the Scriptures” or “the Bible.” Is this valid or dangerous? Why?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-25-2011

    It is dangerous to assume “word” for the Bible, because this leads people into worshipping the book itself and not what the book is all about.. Jesus.

    Jesus = Gospel = Word

  2. 8-25-2011

    Good thoughts. I have recently rejected the idea that word meant Bible according to the Bible. I gathered it meant either Jesus or Words of God. However here is another thought from Wikipedia:

    “In Stoic philosophy, which began with Zeno of Citium c. 300 BC, the logos was the active reason pervading the universe and animating it. It was conceived of as material, and is usually identified with God or Nature. The Stoics also referred to the seminal logos, (“logos spermatikos”) or the law of generation in the universe, which was the principle of the active reason working in inanimate matter. Humans, too, each possess a portion of the divine logos.”

    Could this concept of logos fit all the verses above? The active reason pervading the universe. Jesus is the logos. The truths of this pervading force is the good news.

  3. 8-25-2011


    I think it’s dangerous too, both for the way we interpret what we read in Scripture about “the word” and for the way we live in relation to “the word”.


    Do you think it’s possible that John (especially) and perhaps other writers of Scripture redefined that philosophical understanding of “logos”?

    By the way, even the philosophers did not use the term “logos” to always refer to “the active reason pervading the universe,” so I think we have to be careful with various references in Scripture also.


  4. 8-25-2011

    Yes, I not saying the writers of Scripture were in agreement with all of the philosophers of the day. However we should try to understand what the word logos meant to that audience.

    Our culture has the phrase “May the force be with you”. Today John may have written “May the force be with you. Jesus is the force…”

    Or “The Laws of nature make the world go around… Jesus is the Laws of nature that makes the world go around… ”

    I think Logos certainly meant something different than “The Bible” as your post concludes. Johns clearly linked logos to Jesus. In the other passages did the term continue to carry a sense of God’s “laws of nature” or the truths of how God has set the world in motion…. ?

  5. 8-25-2011

    So your argument is that the term “word” only refers to the Good News of Jesus, and not any other part of the Scriptures.


    So in your view, If a person say that Scriptures reveal the Good News, is that also an equally false and dangerous statement? Or, If I would suggest that the Good News of Jesus is contained in the Old Covenant, would that also be wrong and dangerous since Paul never says the “Good News” refers to any revelation prior to Jesus death and resurrection?

    Can you help me explore the boundaries of your reasoning brother? Thanks.

  6. 8-25-2011


    Yes, I like your examples.


    No, I have not studied the term logos enough to say that it never refers to Scripture. And, I’ve shown in this post that I don’t think it always refers to the gospel. The “boundaries” are that we should be careful about how we toss around terms like “word of God.”


  7. 8-26-2011

    Alan, first I must say you bring up good discussions, you always do 🙂

    I do notice that the Greek word “logos” is used 329 times in the NT.. so that is a lot to study. A quick study though shows that Logos is sued by Paul in reference to the promises of God given in the Old Testament

    Romans 9:6–9 (ESV)
    6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”

    And it is also used by Peter in reference to the record of creation in Genesis

    2 Peter 3:5 (ESV)
    5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God,

    This use of “logos” seems to fit with the OT use of what is translated in English as “word of the Lord” in reference to the revelation of God to the prophets. (I note 258 occurrences of this English phrase in the ESV from Genesis 15:1 through 1 Peter 1:25).

    The phrase “word of God” is used 43 in the ESV from 1 Sam 9:27 through Rev 20:4 and there are a diversity of uses. One interesting one is by Luke in Acts

    Acts 6:7 (ESV)
    7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

    At first glance, this usage does not seem to refer to Jesus nor directly to the Gospel message itself, but seems to be a reference to the actual progress of the church… which implies that the church itself is the manifest word of God. Could we say that in this sense sense the Church is the fruit of the Gospel and therefore also the Word of God? I will have to spend some time on this one.

    Based on how I see the idea of “word” used, both OT and NT, I would suggest the following:

    The Living Word = Jesus
    The Spoken Word = Including all that God has spoken (both recorded and not recorded in the Bible), plus all that he speaks now through the HS.
    The Recorded/Written Word = Scripture (OT & NT)
    ??The Manifest Word = Church?? – not sure, but intrigued by this one.

    So back to your original question Alan. For me, I think it is a bit hyperbolic to say those who call the Bible the Word are doing something “dangerous”, but I do think, as was mentioned above, this usage can become trite and religious if the Church is not aware that the term “Word” is something far more than just what is given in the Scripture.

  8. 8-26-2011


    Thanks for continuing this discussion. I love the way that you pointed to other referents for the terms “word of the Lord” and “word of God.”

    In my context, I have never heard the phrase “word of God” used to refer to anything but Scriptures. I still think this is dangerous, because it misleads people when they run across the phrase “word of God” in Scripture and assume it refers to Scripture. But, I would do like your designations including “the recorded/written word.” That’s the kind of distinction that would require that people look at phrases like “word of God” in context before assuming it means “Scripture.”


  9. 8-26-2011


    You might find this post I made on Barth’s view of the Written Word helpful

    He also makes distinctions like he ones you we are discussing here


  10. 8-28-2011

    I can’t believe I missed this post!

    Two neglected verses and a couple of thoughts –

    “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (ῥήματος rēmatos) Romans 10:17 and

    “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you (ῥήματα rēmata) John 15:7

    My purpose here is neither to distinguish rhema and logos, because they for the most part they are interchangeable, or to discount your proposition.

    We can not interpret scripture by what people might think or do. Whether it is dangerous or not for people to think that the Bible is the Word of God is irrelevant to rightly bringing to bear scripture itself to this point.

    Does the Bible contain the words of God? If yes, how many? If all the words in the Bible are indeed God’s words, then there is nothing wrong with calling the scriptures “God’s words.” Of course if you disagree that the bible contains God’s words or deny the scriptures authority, then the whole argument is moot.

    In fact, your whole proposition is based on the assumed authority of the scriptures to speak on this matter. Doesn’t the authority of the scriptures beg the question, “whose authority?”

    Do I really have to say, when I refer to the Bible, that they are “all the words that God intended for us to have in written form.” Or can’t I simply say, “It’s God’s Word.?”

    I just started writing a little piece on this very topic in conversational screwtape form and will be posting it this week. Look for “My view of the Scriptures,” by Mr. D. Minish…

  11. 8-28-2011

    Hi Miguel,

    If I were to attempt to answer your questions:

    1) “Does the Bible contain the words of God?”

    Yes. There are many parts of the Bible that say “God said”, or “Jesus said”. And Yes I believe God can speak to us through all other parts of Scripture too.

    2) “If yes, how many?”

    Tough question. And where do we find an answer to this. Does God or Jesus tell us that the 66 books we have as the Bible are His words for us? Or are we relying on the authority of the early Catholic church?

    Yes 2 Tim 3:16 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”(NIV)

    But what Scripture was Paul referring to here? It is a leap to assume Paul was talking about the 66 books put together in a canon years after Paul wrote this letter to Timothy.

    Did Jesus leave a book for us to follow, or the Holy Spirit? I fear we have far to often chosen to follow a book rather than our living Lord. I believe the point of the Bible is to introduce us to our Lord – and it is our Lord’s voice we are to listen to and follow.

  12. 8-28-2011


    I’m comfortable with (and believe that) the phrases “word of God,” “word of truth,” etc. can refer to the Scriptures, but I don’t believe they are limited to the Scriptures.


    We are definitely to follow the Holy Spirit. While Christianity today is described as a “religion of the book,” I don’t think it started out that way. (Of course, it couldn’t, since the book didn’t exist.) However, I do believe that the Scriptures can be very beneficial in helping us follow the Spirit.


  13. 8-28-2011

    Hi Alan & Miguel.

    I’m OK with people in our culture and Christian traditions referring to the Bible as the Word of God. Language changes over time, and it is not a bad label for our Scriptures. However within the context of Scripture, I don’t think these phrases were ever intended to refer to the 66 books we now call the Bible. If we want to understand the meaning of a verse we should consider what the words would have meant to the original audience.

    However I certainly don’t want to diminish the value of Scripture. It is our most treasured book that helps us understand our God and how we can be part of His kingdom. I also acknowledge that understanding Scripture plays a vital role in following the Holy Spirit. The two should not contradict each other.

  14. 8-29-2011


    Thanks for the followup comment. I think it would help people to realize the importance of the work of the Spirit when reading/interpreting/applying Scripture. I would often try to stress that in my classes, but people would often revert to Scripture alone.


  15. 8-29-2011

    How would you then respond the the common propositions, “The Spirit will never contradict His word as laid out in the Scriptures.” & “The Spirit will not give further revelation in addition to the scriptures that we already have.”

  16. 8-29-2011


    I wasn’t sure if your comment was directed to me or to Jon, but I thought I’d take a shot at it. God never contradicts anything that he says, whether it’s what he says in Scripture or what he reveals by other means. Of course, Scripture does not give us the details of everything God has said or is saying. So, there is plenty of freedom for God to direct someone to do one thing while directing someone else to do something different… seemingly contradictory revelations.

    As far as the 2nd proposition… Is such a statement even made in Scripture? Isn’t making a proposition like that – which is not found in Scripture – a form of “further revelation” that would then contradict itself?


  17. 8-29-2011

    So then, would I be incorrect to say that any revelation of God must be filtered through His word as revealed in the scriptures?

    If God is telling me to go to India, then of course I can not filter that through the word per se, but if I think God is telling me that there is more than one way to get to the Father, then I have no alternative but to accept what has already been revealed in the scriptures concerning this matter or deny them.

    Beautiful logical trap thou hast constructed…. in the 2nd proposition above.

    Curious though Alan, do you hold that there is revelation today that is on the same level of authority as scripture?

  18. 8-29-2011


    No revelation of God has to be filtered. However, we do not interpret any of God’s revelations perfectly… even Scripture. It is always good to compare what we think God is telling us (either directly now or through Scripture or any other way he may reveal something) to what we and others think we understand about God. This is one of the reasons that I believe it’s important to try to understand God’s revelations (including Scripture) within and among a community of believers who are seeking him and seeking to follow him.

    Why would we want to assign different levels of authority to God’s revelation? If God told you to go to India, then that revelation carries just as much authority as something written in Scripture.


  19. 8-29-2011

    A friend pointed me to this article because he said it made him think of me. Never heard of you guys before that, but I’m glad I found you.

    Anyway, this has been a pet-peeve of mine for a number of years. I’ve even considered writing a book called “Bibliolatry” (along with an ever-changing sub-title), with a good chunk of it dedicated to this subject.

    There are several things I would like to pass on based on my research and meditations.

    1) For starters, this is a very sensitive subject with many people. As you probably already know, there is a real knee-jerk tendency within the evangelical community to repeat so-called christian “cliches” as if they hold some kind of special validity and to react to any challenges regarding them. Sacred cows, if you will. This is certainly one of them. And unfortunately I’m not always the most tactful guy in the world. Nevertheless, I sometimes can’t help it when I say to someone who thinks I’m in agreement with them on everything:

    “Hey, what would you think if I told you that I didn’t believe the bible was the word of God”?

    Great way to get a reaction. You can almost predict the jaw-dropping. But I then quickly follow up by asking:

    “What if I were to tell you that the reason for that is because I prefer to reserve that term exclusively for Jesus Christ himself”.

    This will usually put the person at ease (about my eternal soul, anyway). But then they inevitably come back with “Well, the bible is the WRITTEN word”. To which I have plenty more to say, and the conversation will either expand (with those who are open to the idea of actually thinking) or peter out (for those who are not). Or I catch a particular drift in the conversation, chicken out, and find a way to back out of the conversation altogether before totally destroying a friendship that may one day bear fruit.

    Anyway, my suggestion is to prime people before springing this on them; gauge how open minded they are to begin with, and only pull this out if there is context (pretty easy to find, by the way).

    2) From the instances I’ve seen, the early church used this term (i.e., “the Logos of God”) exclusively for Christ himself. There may be exaples where they didn’t, but they liked this term (the Logos) and liked using it as a proper noun.

    3) John is clearly using it in this sense in the first chapter of his gospel (of course I’m just referring to the word “Word” here).

    4) Nowhere in scripture do I ever see this phrase as absolutely needing to apply to scripture itself. Every time I begin to think I’m reading it that way, I have to stop, consider other possibilities and they appear pretty readily. In fact, I believe this is one of the chief dangers we have in referring to the bible as the Word of God. It distorts proper interpretation because we’re not reading with a blank slate . . . kind of a vicious cycle actually. By extension, we miss out on what is really being said.

    5) Bibliolatry is extremely subtle. No one I know would ever admit that they are worshipping the Bible. But when it comes down to practical application, many of them are not only doing just that, they are actually doing worse: they are worshipping their own particular interpretation of scriptures.

    6) In scripture, there are enough instances of the use of the word “scripture” (to signify scripture) that one has to treat with a healthy bit of skepticism the notion that any of the writers would use the term “Word of God” to signify scripture.

    7) Like you, I came to the conclusion that, in most cases, the use of the term “Word of God” within scripture usually refers to either Jesus himself, or the gospel message. However, there are other possibilities, including an audible word, a specific message, a thought (something akin to the Mind of Christ), etc.

    8) Dangers: As if any form of Bibliolatry (subtle or not) were not bad enough, I see several other problems that have come from this common tendency to refer to scripture as the Word of God. As mentioned above, one obvious problem is that of missing out on what certain scriptures are really talking about and the robust spiritual life that comes from recognizing that scripture wasn’t written in a vacuum. Ironically, by learning to reject the supposedly lofty designation of scripture as Word of God, I have actually gained a much deeper appreciation of scripture and its mind-blowing concepts. Only by recognizing that it was written by real people in real time has this been possible. To close out this point, let me also point out how many denomination, groups, organizations, etc. have elevated this concept to the extreme, adopting it as part of their essential creed or “Statement of Faith”, some even going so far as to give it the first position in their creed [somewhat understandable if they’re simply trying to make their points in an organized manner; nevertheless a bit disturbing]. Some go further still, by adding to what scripture says about scripture (such as starting with parts of 2 Timothy 3:16, but then adding words like “inerrant”). I don’t fault these folks as intentionally evil, by the way, just misguided. Take for example this clause, the first in a Christian organization’s Statement of Faith:

    “1. The Bible is the only inspired, authoritative, infallible, and inerrant word of God. Its very words are God-breathed. It is both necessary and sufficient to teach not only about our salvation but also about the conduct of our life.”

    Really? Is that what scripture teaches? Poor Abraham. He didn’t have the “necessary” Bible.

    So you can see where this leads. It is for the most part little more than a pompous, silly, sound-bite cliche; a symptom of religiosity that has little to do with Jesus Christ and probably much to do with building a faith that fits into a nice little formula. At worst, it is a form of idolatry that probably causes others to unknowingly stumble into that sin as well.

  20. 8-29-2011


    Appreciate your thorough response, and maintaining a non knee-jerk reaction in the other direction. I also appreciate your honesty in saying that “that, in MOST cases, the use of the term “Word of God” within scripture usually refers to either Jesus himself, or the gospel message.” Most doesn’t mean all and therefore leaves room for the possibility that you may be incorrect. lol

    As to tabla rusa, or blank slate. It doesn’t exist and therefore one can not approach scripture with it. It is an impossibility. All we can do is try to take ever thought captive and obedient to the mind of Christ.

    One thing about the scriptures, like it or not, because they are written, they are propositional and objective truth. Any other source of revelation is subjective. The spirit could be saying it, or it could just be bad pizza affecting your mind.


    If we can not ascribe different levels of authority to revelation, then shouldn’t we be writing the 67th book?

  21. 8-29-2011

    Alan, one more thing…

    You said, “No revelation of God has to be filtered. However, we do not interpret any of God’s revelations perfectly… even Scripture.”

    Did you mean: No, revelation of God HAS to be filtered, or NO revelation of God has to be filtered? Sorry, but it could read either way.

    I prefer to say we can not exhaustively know the full implications of any given passage of scripture instead of we can not interpret any of God’s revelations perfectly.

    If we can not interpret any scripture perfectly, then nothing from scripture can be known for certain.

  22. 8-29-2011


    I meant that sentence without the comma… i.e., we do not filter any revelation of God. If God reveals something, we do not filter what he reveals. We might not understand what God is revealing, and we might use previous revelations to understand what God is revealing, but that doesn’t mean that we filter anything that God reveals.

    Concerning “we cannot exhaustively know perfectly” vs. “we cannot interpret perfectly”, what would be the difference?

    Has God given you something to write to another church? If so, then I guess it would be up to the whole church to decided if that is normative or not. My guess is that few, if any, would accept it as normative. Remember, the decision that there are 67 books of Scripture was made after the fact, and is still not accepted by all believers.

    How do you think believers were able to live and thrive and make disciples for years and years without a copy of the 67 books?


    We do see examples in Scripture of people comparing new (to them) revelations/teachings to Scripture. The most obvious example is in Acts 17:11.


  23. 8-29-2011

    Hi Miguel –

    I think the 67th book has already been written, and the 68th and quite a few more. I don’t hold to the idea that the council of Trent somehow got it all right. On the contrary, the Septuaging included other books and even the first KJ bible included the books of the Apocrypha. The Coptic church has a lot more than 66 and I think the Syriac does as well. Some passages in both the OT and NT are clearly, and I mean CLEARLY referring to passages out of the Wisdom of Solomon. Interestingly enough (considering the current topic of conversation), even Paul’s passage referring to the “whole armor of God” (which includes “the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God) is not an original analogy. It comes almost directly from books that are considered by many to be “dueterocanonical”. Furthermore, we are at some points advised within scripture to look at other books, like Jasher and Enoch. Which we just don’t have. (well, some people thing we have Enoch, but the jury’s still out on that in my mind).

    Anyway, as far as the “66 books” thing goes, that’s a bit of a non-starter with me.

    HOWEVER, I have no problem with the idea of holding thoughts up to the scrutiny of scripture, particularly so-called “new” thoughts. As a huge fan of early church writings. I think it provides probably the best standard we have for measuring things. And it would be a bit ridiculous to suggest otherwise (like, “I don’t like Webster’s definition of the word “dictionary”).

    But we have a problem.

    I think David Bercot makes an excellent point in his classic work “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” (highly recommended, by the way), when he says [and I am paraphrasing wildly from memory]:

    “It’s not a case of contrasting scripture with the practices of the early church; they were probably more literal in their interpretations than we are. No, it’s a matter of contrasting the early church’s understanding/interpretations of scripture with our modern understanding/interpretations of scripture”

    The point is, Sola Scriptura (a myth from the start, incidentally) could only possibly be legitimate if we got it all right. Besides that, it is not a scriptural concept. When Paul references “the faith that was handed down once for all to the saints” scripture was not yet “completed”. Oral tradition was hugely important. John ends his gospel by saying that if everything Jesus said and did was written down, there would not be enough libraries to contain it (or something like that).

    So relying on scripture alone is also a non-starter.

    Where does that leave us? Are we thus destined to wallow in confusion? No. I think that as long as what is being taught is not specifically and clearly taught AGAINST in scripture, we can — with prayer, meditation and the help of the Holy Spirit — be guided into much truth. Not that the truth is new. But the personal revelation of it would not necessarily be inconsistent with scriptural faith.

    Do you want to go to India? By all means go. Perhaps God called you. Or perhaps he can simply use you in whatever you’re doing. I think that if you are truly seeking God, you can essentially do whatever you want and God will enjoy watching you the same way that I enjoy watching my own children play, work, invent, laugh, etc.

    PS – You are right, there is little chance of ever really having a blank slate. But let’s recognize that by not having one, we should give due diligence to considering other possibilities.

  24. 8-29-2011

    This is a great discussion. Thanks for dealing with it in such a Christlike way.

    I did not say, ““we cannot exhaustively know perfectly” I said, “we can not exhaustively know the full implications of any given passage of scripture.”

    You didn’t answer my question. If we can not perfectly interpret any passage of scripture, then can we know anything in scripture for certain?

  25. 8-29-2011

    Typo alert! I meant Septuagint, of course, not Septuaging, which is a verb meaning to study the Septuagint. 🙂

    Alan – Interesting that I was constructing a response to your comment before knowing you were posting it. Hmmm….

  26. 8-29-2011

    RE: “You didn’t answer my question. If we can not perfectly interpret any passage of scripture, then can we know anything in scripture for certain?”

    Certainty and perfectly are different concepts. I can with near certainty accept that planes can fly. I definitely don’t have a perfect understanding of how they do it. But even there, I know more than I did as a child.

  27. 8-29-2011


    ok… So, what is the difference between “we can not exhaustively know the full implications of any given passage of scripture” and “we can not interpret any of God’s revelations perfectly”?

    By the way, I believe that the Scriptures are without error and inspired (in their original form), and I believe that they are authoritative for the church, since they are one of the ways that God has revealed himself. Believing that there are different ways that God reveals himself without differing levels of authority does not diminish the importance of Scripture (the 66 books).


  28. 8-29-2011

    Miguel –

    RE “Most doesn’t mean all and therefore leaves room for the possibility that you may be incorrect. lol”

    Yes, I’m usually pretty good at putting in my disclaimers (like that one). And in fact, later in that post, I offer some other suggestions, and even leave that list hanging with the accurate, albeit convenient, “etc.”

    But in response to your comment — and to get us back on topic — are you able to point out a verse that uses the term “Word of God” where you think the only possible interpretation is one where it is referring to scripture?

  29. 8-29-2011


    I do not wish to prove that when “word” is used in any of its forms that it is exclusively designated for the bible. My point with those that say it is ONLY Christ or those that say it is ONLY the bible is that they both miss the thrust of it.

    Jesus was always the pre incarnate logos before the word became flesh. Jesus gave the 10 commandments to Moses, Jesus was always the word that would become flesh, always the expression of the Father. Whether in written, physical or in audible form.

    It is preeminently used of Christ (Jn 1:1), expressing the thoughts of the Father through the Spirit.

    But, of its 330 uses in the NT, surely we can make a case of it not being used exclusively to refer to Christ in every instance.


    Interpretation and application are distinct. I can know with certainty that if I have two object of equal substance, weight and size and I add tow more objects of equal substance weight and size, that I will have 4 objects of equal substance weight and size.

    I can also know with certainty that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 1 Corinthians 15:14

    One additional question: Does every verse in scripture need to be interpreted?

  30. 8-29-2011


    I haven’t check all occurrences of the phrase “word of God”, or all occurrences of similar phrases. So, I’m not willing to say – at this point – that these phrases never refer to Scriptures. I’m only willing to say, as I did in this post – that the phrases do not always refer to Scriptures and that we should be careful in the way that we use them and interpret the phrases when we do find them in Scripture.


    This is not a trick or rhetorical question: How do you know that 1 Corinthians 15:14 says, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain”? (i.e., Paul did not actually write those English words.) Also, what do the terms (for example) “preaching” and “faith” mean? (i.e., there are many different ‘interpretations’ of those words today)


  31. 8-29-2011

    I am enjoying this conversation and was excited when I saw this subject come up on your blog Alan!

    “No revelation of God has to be filtered. However, we do not interpret any of God’s revelations perfectly… even Scripture. It is always good to compare what we think God is telling us (either directly now or through Scripture or any other way he may reveal something) to what we and others think we understand about God. This is one of the reasons that I believe it’s important to try to understand God’s revelations (including Scripture) within and among a community of believers who are seeking him and seeking to follow him.

    Why would we want to assign different levels of authority to God’s revelation? If God told you to go to India, then that revelation carries just as much authority as something written in Scripture.”

    The above words really resonated with me that you wrote! Here is some writing that I wrote on another blog on the same subject. I thought it might add to the conversation here.

    The Spirit does not contradict the nature and essence of God and how he responds. The scripture, being the written record of God’s activity with man, also does not contradict the nature and essence of God. However life is too complex and our ability to interpret scripture is too fallible, or at least everybody’s ability but our own.:) Our wonderful Savior knew this when in Acts 1:4 he commanded the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Jesus told them in John 16:12&13—I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes he will guide you into all truth….Jesus knew that they needed more than WWJD and the written word. They needed the Living Word to reside in their inner being.

    In John 14:26, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said. Notice Jesus did not say, why don’t I just give you the Bible right now, because you certainly can’t live the Christian life without it. No, the Apostles lived the Christian life without it. The disciples knew that the Father’s house had many dwelling places and that Jesus was going to prepare them so that they could be with the Father in the same way that he was with the Father. Jesus was the firstborn of many sons.

    In John 14:23 Jesus said, If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and WE will come to him and make our home with him. Notice that the ability to obey him is based on love, not on one’s ability to read the Bible or come up with correct interpretations. So the Apostles went out to 80 percent illiteracy and to people with no available scripture and said we want you to be Christians, but first we need you to learn to read the scripture that we write, so that you can determine truth and not be led astray.

    No, they told them the same thing Jesus told them- 1 John 2:27, As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things…just as it has taught you, remain in him. Apparently they believed one could be taught by an internal guidance once one was initially given the Gospel and came to the awareness of Christ in you the hope of glory. Remember these people do not have access to the Bible. You ask how you can check this internal guidance? By honestly checking our hearts and motives. Are we truly loving Christ? Do we seek out wisdom from others who we know love Christ? And, does it fit with the Spirit of the scriptures?

    So, my security does not rely on my ability to interpret scripture or a written code but rather on him who is able to keep me from falling and who lives in my inner being, teaching me his Truth by illuminating scripture to me through revelation, or by using the voice of another person which was actually Jesus speaking through someone else. Or maybe it’s an inner urging or a sudden understanding that pops into my mind.

  32. 8-29-2011

    I too am loving this conversation, and more times than not I have an agenda when asking a question. It’s just my nature. So, forgive me if I push too hard.

    I want to get back to the authority issue for a moment and concentrate on one aspect.

    The Scripture is written and we know it is from God, therefore it is objective as it stands. Scripture also has a myriad of secondary supports which include but are not limited to context, language, historical setting, archeological evidence, an so forth.

    Revelation today through leading, guiding, illumination, spiritual thoughts whispered into our hearts etc., are all by their very nature subjective.

    So one can simply not have the same authority as the other.

    And like the Bereans, we too should “search the scriptures” (filter, sift, screen) to see if someone else’s subjective revelation, teaching, or propositions measure up to the biblical standard? Am I far off here?

  33. 8-30-2011


    I am certain that I interpret Scripture incorrectly at times. I’m also certain that I interpret other forms of God’s revelation incorrectly at times. But, I am more certain that God loves me and his Spirit will guide me in spite of my wrong interpretations. In fact, I’m counting on him to teach me when I’m wrong. He often does that through his children.


    I would suggest that God always reveals himself objectively. And, in return, in our fallen state, we interpret that revelation subjectively. This would include Scripture.

    Education, experience, tradition, background, etc. all affect how we interpret Scripture. The very existence of different interpretations of a single sentence (or word even) between people who are Christians is evidence of this. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we give up, because we want to understand God and know him more.

    In the same way, when God reveals himself (objectively) through other means, we do not understand objectively, but subjectively.

    So, yes, it is good to search the Scriptures and seek other means to determine if what we think we understand from God lines up with what God has actually revealed. In the book of Acts, especially, we see the Bereans searching Scripture, but we also see many seek to understand God’s revelations through prayer and fasting.


  34. 8-30-2011

    Alan, I am having trouble finding any theologians that have not said that the scriptures are objective and all other revelation is subjective. Can you point me to one that argues to the contrary.

  35. 8-30-2011


    I don’t know that I’ve read that many theologians on this topic. I’d like to better understand your concern.

    Do you believe that God reveals himself in a subjective manner at times? (I’m not talking about the way someone understand, but the way God reveals himself.) I’m of the opinion that God always reveals exactly what he wants someone to know… which is not subjective.

    Also, do you believe that people objectively understand Scripture? Scripture has to be interpreted. Even language and translation is a form of interpretation. If Scripture is understood objectively, how to you explain the many different interpretations by different Christians?


  36. 8-31-2011

    Alan, sorry to jump in, but I do have one question. You wrote above, “I’m of the opinion that God always reveals exactly what he wants someone to know… which is not subjective.”

    But it seems that many OT prophecies and Jesus’ teaching in parables were very subjective to the hearers (but then that was God’s purpose as well).

    Matthew 13:10–15 (ESV)

    10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

    “ ‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
    and you will indeed see but never perceive.
    15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
    and with their ears they can barely hear,
    and their eyes they have closed,
    lest they should see with their eyes
    and hear with their ears
    and understand with their heart
    and turn, and I would heal them.’

    So how does this fit with your statement I quoted above?

  37. 8-31-2011

    “Do you believe that God reveals himself in a subjective manner at times? (I’m not talking about the way someone understand, but the way God reveals himself.)”

    I believe that God can be purposefully vague at times like Joe argued above. I believe that man can also take perfectly clear data and exchange the truth of God for a lie. I believe that truth is objective when it can be verified by going to the data or by performing mathematical calculation. Even if the scriptures we have now has been translated, that does not negate its objectiveness. If someone makes the proposition to me in english that jesus rose on the third day, then I can verify that statement by going to data contained in the scriptures. It is therefore an objective proposition.

    If however, someone says to me while walking along a path “God told me to tell you to go right at the next fork,” but in fact God told me personally to go left at the fork, then one of us is wrong and both are making a subjective proposition which can not be verified by hard data or calculation.

    The necessity of interpretation again, does not negate the objective nature of a proposition. Because I can verify the interpretation by again going to hard data. We do it all the time. We say, “in the original greek, it says…” If someone disagrees with out method, the method again goes to hard data (the rules of translation)

    The existence of different interpretations again does not negate the objective nature of the original source. It only shows there are some who make faulty subjective propositions. We are all at different stages of growth and learning. There will always be some who need correction, reproof, doctrinal adjustment, and equipping, etc.

    My concern is that the moment we say that revelation outside of the scriptures has the same authority as that which is contained in the scriptures, then we have sacrificed the God-Breathed for the Man-Breathed. By saying my feelings, or what the Lord impressed on me is objective, we claim that it too is God’s breath when in fact it could just be bad breath.

  38. 8-31-2011


    I agree. God often reveals himself in mysteries and parables. But, even these revelations are objective. The God reveals himself exactly as he desires to; there is nothing subjective from the actual revelation. Subjectivity creeps in when we start to interpret that objective revelation.


    Let me use your example to see if I can explain myself more clearly. You said:

    “If however, someone says to me while walking along a path ‘God told me to tell you to go right at the next fork,’ but in fact God told me personally to go left at the fork, then one of us is wrong and both are making a subjective proposition which can not be verified by hard data or calculation.”

    God either revealed 1) go right, 2) go left, 3) something else, or 4) nothing. However, God’s actual revelation is exactly what God wanted to reveal. It is objective.

    But, as you said, you and the other person are having trouble understanding which of the above God actually revealed. Your understanding is the subjective part.


  39. 8-31-2011


    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I will spend some time muling it over.

    Blessings brother,


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