What Do We Mean By “The Word Of God?” -- By: Tom Wells

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 09:4 (Fall 2000)
Article: What Do We Mean By “The Word Of God?”
Author: Tom Wells


What Do We Mean By “The Word Of God?”

Tom Wells

The question at the head of this article may seem a little basic for readers of Reformation & Revival Journal, but it is of such central importance that we need to be clear about it before tackling other issues. There are a number of things that can be called “the Word of God,” so let us see if we can sort them out.

First, I will simply note in passing that God the Son is called in Scripture, “the Word” and “The Word of God” (John 1:1, 14; Revelation 19:13). This title meets English readers as something of a mystery when they first come to the Bible. As a title it had affinities with similar words related to God (or the gods) in middle-eastern culture and among Greek speakers as well. It was the kind of word or phrase that alerted the reader that something “divine” was in the air when it was used.1 Each religion or culture filled it with its own ideas, and that was true of Christianity also. To find out what it meant, then, we must see how John uses it. When we do that we may say the following: the “Word” refers to God’s self-expression in his Son in such a way that the Son is both God and yet does not exhaust God. He has the very nature of God, but the Word can be distinguished from both Father and Spirit.

Second, in its usual sense as speech or writing, the Word of God would include everything that God has ever said at any time and at any place in heaven or in earth. Of most of this we are totally ignorant. Assuming that he

speaks to the elect angels, we know almost nothing of what he has said. The same is true of what he says to Satan and his forces. Yet in both cases what God said/says could certainly be called the Word of God.2

Third, this leads to the important point that for us the Word of God must be limited to what he has revealed to us in the Bible. This is not to deny that God works through our minds and judgments to convey his will. Nor do we deny that we receive impulses that are, in fact, from him. There is, however, an enormously important distinction to be made when we compare his activity within us to his written revelation. We are sure that his Word is inerrant; we have no such assurance concerning our minds, our judgments, or our impulses. Only the Bible, properly interpreted, provides certainty.

With these facts as a backdrop for our discussion let us sharpen our focus a bit with a q...

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