Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Nature of the Word of God

2. God’s Word as the Speech of God
The Word of God in its three forms always exists with a physical aspect—the sound of preaching, the page of Scripture, the body of Jesus Christ—or it could not come to us as physical creatures. But God’s Word is primarily spiritual because it is primarily a form of rational communication between God and us. Consequently, we do better to focus on understanding and obeying God’s Word than on how it sounds or makes us feel.

God’s Word is not an idea or a bit of information but a person: Jesus Christ. Because God’s Word is finally God’s Son, we cannot reduce Scripture or proclamation to a fixed system of ideas or moral code. Conversely, because God’s Son is God’s Word, he is present among us through words proclaimed which are consistent with Scripture whenever he freely chooses to be so.

God always communicates with us in this reasonable and personal way for a purpose. He does not communicate with us to mention general truths to us. He speaks to us specifically as our Lord: as the Creator to us his creatures, as the Reconciler to us who thereby are made new creatures, and as the Redeemer who comes to us to fulfill the relationship he made and renewed with us.

3. The Speech of God as the Act of God
What God does is not something distinct from what God says. What God says, is. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light (Genesis 1:3). So the Word of God in its three forms is the act of God.

That God acts through his Word has three implications for us. To begin with, it means that we become contemporaries of Jesus Christ when God so desires. First, Jesus spoke the Word of God. Next, the prophets and apostles wrote down these words. Finally, we speak to others according to their witness. We become contemporaries of Jesus Christ, we hear Jesus Christ speak God’s word to us, when he is pleased to grant us a specific revelation by means of a specific text spoken by a specific person.

God’s action through his Word means that God actively and effectively rules through his Word. Jesus Christ does not have to wait for our preaching to become Lord. Real preaching is an expression of his prior lordship. It affirms those who believe in his lordship even as it judges those, both in and out of the Church, who refuse to do so.

Finally, God’s active word means decision. We understand God’s Word only when God actively decides we will. God’s Word actively expresses God’s decision to elect or reject us. God’s Word to us brings who we really are to light because, when it causes us to hear it, we actively decide to accept or reject it and, in so doing, we actively express God’s decision concerning us.

4. The Speech of God as the Mystery of God
We can say nothing about the Word of God without the Word of God. To begin with, God’s Word is never so different from other words that it cannot be confused with them. This is because, to come to us at all, God’s Word must first clothe itself with our creaturely reality and then cover itself with our sinfulness. In this way Jesus Christ was believed by most to be nothing more than a misguided carpenter.

God’s Word remains a mystery to us because, at any one time, we may know its form or its content but never both together. The content of God’s Word is glory, but its form is humility; its content is grace, but its form is judgment; its content is gospel, but its form is law; its content is Spirit, but its form is letter. When we hear its content, we can only acknowledge that our joy is limited by the form we do not hear. When we hear its form, we can only remember that our sorrow is limited by the content now hidden from us.

Finally, God’s Word remains a mystery because we have no control over it. It is spoken to us when God chooses to speak it and it is heard by us, again, only when God chooses to have us hear it. We express our faith in God through words and acts. But our faith, though ours, is as much a gift of God to be believed as God’s Word is.

Copyright © 2019 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.