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Understanding the Term "Word"
The Bible is often called the "Word of God" because it contains the thoughts, feelings, desires, plans, and will of God as He has revealed them to humankind.
In the Gospel by his name, the Apostle John calls Jesus the "Word" and appropriately so when you consider that God has revealed Himself to us through Jesus. Jesus didn't just give us God's messages in His teachings. Rather, He is God's message to us God's Living Word to us.
In defining who Jesus is as "the Word", it helps to understand John's intention when he called Jesus "the Word" and the etymology1 of the word itself as used in the Bible.
As we have previously learned, the New Testament was written in Greek. The English term "word", as it applies to Jesus Christ, is translated from the Greek Logos meaning "the divine word of God". It was a common word in both Greek philosophy and the Jewish thought of that day, so both Jews and Gentiles would readily understand the point John was making when he introduced Jesus as the "Word".
"Word" in the Old Testament
The term "word", as it pertains to the carrying out of God's will ["His word", "word of the LORD", "word of God"], appears in the Old Testament more than 260 times: 73 times in the books of 1 Samuel to 2 Chronicles; 53 times in Jeremiah; 60 times in Ezekiel; and 32 times from Daniel to Malachi.
"...while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain." (Deuteronomy 5:5)
"And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD." (1 Samuel 3:21)
"This God his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him." (2 Samuel 22:31)
"By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host." (Psalm 33:6)
"Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens." (Psalm 119:89)
"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." (Proverbs 30:5)
"That is why the LORD is going to teach you letter by letter, line by line, lesson by lesson. Then you will stumble with every step you take." (Isaiah 28:13a)
Certainly, John's Jewish readers understood what he was referencing.
"Logos" in Greek Philosophy
How appropriate and true when you think of Jesus as our Mediator and the One who bridges the gap between God and sinful man!
God Reveals Himself in Jesus
Very clever. He begins his gospel with a sentence guaranteed to get his readers' attention. First, he uses a word and phrase that both Jewish and Greek readers would understand:"In the beginning was the word..." But then, he throws them a curve ball [sharply turns the dialog to something unexpected].
His Jewish readers well understood that God created the world by His word ["And God said..."], and they thought of Jesus as a human representative of God's revelation to man, so no surprise so far. And the Greeks readily understood about God using Jesus as a mediating entity by which they could know God.
Both groups of people were correct in their understanding, as far as it went. Then, just as they're getting ready to nod in agreement with John, he presents Jesus not just as a mediating principle or a physical representative of God, but as a fully divine living Person who somehow had also pre-existed with God.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." (John 1:1-2) Needless to say, those first two sentences definitely got their attention! And just to be sure his readers didn't miss the point he was making, he added: "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." (John 1:14)
No doubt, many of John's Jewish and Gentile readers had to stop and take a breath at this point. They probably had so many questions, they didn't know which ones to ask first. Was this man, John, really saying what it looked like he was saying? Jesus of Nazareth . . . Jesus, the son of a carpenter . . . Jesus, "son of David" . . . Jesus, the healer . . . Jesus, the one who died on a Roman stake, but who some say was resurrected on the third day . . . Jesus, the itinerate preacher . . . Jesus, the man some people say was God's Messiah . . .
And now one of His disciples is saying that this same Jesus was and is the incarnate, divine, living Word of God!
From this surprise introduction, John now goes on to explain to his readers about the living Word of God, Jesus Christ fully God and yet fully man who came to show us what God is like, to correct our misconceptions of what God is like, to be God with us, and to redeem us from the penalty of our sin.
God Is Spirit
Of course, we know God revealed much about Himself through His priests, kings, and prophets. Through them, we learned that...
But God is scary! Just ask the people of Israel:
Or, ask some of the other people of the Old Testament:
"When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp." (1 Samuel 17:51-53)
"And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat." (2 Chronicles 17:10)
The answer? Jesus. Jesus reveals God to us through His own human personality. What is God like? We can know by looking at Jesus, His Son.
Jesus was and is the perfect manifest expression of God's love. Just as you or I might use a word or phrase to express our love for someone, God the Father uses the Word to express His love. But God is so powerful and all-encompassing, and His love is so extraordinary, that His Word had to become a whole being a separate, yet united, living Entity.
Since the Creation and the Fall, God has spoken to humankind in many ways, but the clearest revelation of His character, His personality, His heart, His ways, and His will is in His Son God's living Word. And God continues to speak to us today as we read about Jesus. Jesus' life, emotions, attitude, mannerisms, work, and teachings all express God in terms of our own experiences, in a "heart language" we can understand.
The writer of Hebrews said: "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets . . . He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power." (Hebrews 1:1,3)
Jesus spoke of God's holiness, goodness, wisdom, justice, mercy, power, and love. But Jesus didn't just talk to people about God, He demonstrated God's character and God's heart. Men saw these qualities in Him. Unlike the Pharisees whose righteousness was a mere show for attention and prominence among the people, Jesus proclaimed and lived the highest moral standard the world has ever known. He was quite literally God's love in action as He ministered to human needs and gave His life to us and for us.
On Calvary, we see the clearest expression of both God's perfect justice and His unfathomable love. God's righteousness demands the death penalty for our sin: "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Hebrews 9:22) And even though we deserve the death penalty because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), God's extravagant love for sinners compelled Him to suffer, not just death of the cruelest and most excruciatingly-painful sort, but such brutal torture beforehand that His face was disfigured beyond recognition (cf. Isaiah 50:6; 52:2-3)!
And yet, as the Roman soldiers were driving the spikes through His wrists and feet, His unreasonable love even compelled Him to pray for forgiveness for them! What love! What a wonderful God we have!
God's Feelings, Thoughts, and Plans
Through Jesus, we have come to know God as our all-wise, loving Father in Heaven who affectionately cares for His children. Clearly, He hates sin and hypocrisy, but through Jesus, we learned that He very much loves the sinner.
And not only does He tell us how to be saved and how to live a contented and fulfilled life, but He models the same in absolute perfection.
He longs for His wandering children to leave their sins and come home to Him. He lets us know about the wonderful life He has planned for us in His eternal kingdom. We have these truths in God's written Word and we see Jesus living them out before us.
Jesus, the living Word, has revealed God's feelings concerning us. In Christ, God wept over the grief of His friends, the suffering of humanity, and the blind unbelief of a city that rejected Him and was rushing toward destruction. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Matthew 23:37)
God's anger was inflamed against pretense, fraud, and the commercialization of religion."And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, 'It is written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer," but you make it a den of robbers.'" (Matthew 21:12)
"And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, 'Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.'" (John 2:15)
Jesus saw the people as victims of an empty religious system overflowing with man-made rules and rituals, and His pity was stirred. "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)
See also Mark 6:34 and John 10:11.
Jesus showed us that God wants us to enjoy being in His presence and to be free from sickness, sin, guilt, and fear."So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them." (Matthew 4:24)
And He wanted to liberate us from repressive and empty religious traditions. He wanted us to forsake religion in favor of an intimate relationship with our Abba Father. "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" (Romans 8:15)
God's Power and Will
This proves that God wants to heal us, forgive us, and meet all of our needs today. We don't have to coerce or bargain with Him for provision, health, forgiveness, or other favors. He most gladly gives us His very best in accordance with His perfect will and foreknowledge every single day!
"...the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me." (John 5:36)
See also John 14:10.
"...to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:24 NIV)
Jesus Used the Word
He resisted Satan's temptations with the Word:
In the book of Revelation, Jesus manifests [appears] as having a sharp two-edged sword protruding from His mouth."...from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength." (Revelation 1:16) And to the church in Pergamum, Jesus said He is the one who has a sharp two-edged sword (cf. Revelation 2:12), indicating that God's Word is the strongest weapon for fighting against Satan and his evil plans.
Later, in the vision He showed John of His war with the beast [the Antichrist] and the nations of the earth who had come against Israel, Jesus appears again with the sword protruding from His mouth. "From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. . . . And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse..." (Revelation 19:15, 21)
"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18)
"But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:23-24)
In the 19th chapter of Revelation, as we've already noted, we see Christ warring against, and gaining the victory over, the Antichrist. The key to Christ's power in that battle is found in verse 13: "He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God."
And when He prayed for us, He prayed: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17)
Some other statements Jesus made about Himself as being "true" include:
"Then Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses did not give you that bread from Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from Heaven.'" (John 6:32)
"I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser." (John 15:1)
God also testifies in His written Word...
"He was the true Light; He enlightens every man coming into the world." (John 1:9)
"And I saw Heaven opened. And behold, a white horse! And He sitting on him was called Faithful and True. And in righteousness He judges and makes war." (Revelation 19:11)
Jesus is the one and only standard of truth by which all else is counted true or false. Anything that does not line up with His Word is a lie from Satan, the father of lies (cf. John 8:44). Everything that agrees with God's Word is truth.
"...assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus." (Ephesians 4:21)
"for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth." (Ephesians 5:9)
Jesus' "weapon of choice" was God's Word. That should be our choice, too, when resisting and fighting "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12)! Not physical strength or will-power, not human wisdom, not profuse dialogue but the Word. That is the only offensive weapon we have in our spiritual arsenal with which to defeat evil: "and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:17) After all, spiritual warfare is simply replacing lies with truth. And even Satan, as powerful as he is, cannot fight against God's Word.
God's Name(s)/Attributes Evidenced in Jesus
But what is it that God is? What will He do? Jesus answers these questions in His sermons recorded in the Gospel of John. Eight times He applies God's name, "I Am", to Himself. Once He used it to describe His own eternal nature, telling us that He existed before Abraham: "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:58)
Several other times, Jesus used this name of God to explain God's character and His own to show what God does for those who come to Him. The great I AM will meet all of our needs!
The name of God that occurs most frequently in the Biblia Hebraica [Hebrew Bible] is the Tetragrammaton [from the Greek "word with four letters"], which is spelled in the Hebrew alphabet [Yod or Yud] [Heh] [Vav] [Heh] or, reading right-to-left, [Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh]. Most of our English Bibles use the all-uppercase word LORD in place of the Hebrew name . And the name is generally transliterated as "YHWH", "YHVH", or "YHUH". Regardless of which transliteration one uses, the Hebrew Tetragrammaton is the distinctive personal name that the God revealed to the nation of Israel ±5000 years ago, which we have Anglicized to "Jehovah" or "Yahweh".
Most translators and Hebrew scholars agree that the Tetragrammaton is a form of the Hebrew root "havah" which means "to be" or "to exist". Thus, Yahweh/Jehovah becomes the Eternal or Self-Existent One who brings into being.
Although the accuracy of such may be disputed, for this lesson, I will use the name "Jehovah". As you are probably aware, the name is often combined with other words to form several compound names/designations. These are all based on personal revelations of God's attributes that tell us more about who He is and what He does, or wants to do, for people. [For example, your name may be Mary. That tells us your name, but nothing about you. But when we add the designations "mother", "sister", "aunt", "daughter", "Christian", "secretary", "soccer mom", "great cook" and "worship leader", we now know much more about who you are.]
Jesus the Word who reveals God to us is a physical manifestation of the truth of the following names or attributes of God.
"And evening coming on, they brought to Him many who had been possessed with demons. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick." (Matthew 8:16)Jesus, the Great Physician, heals the body, mind, heart, and broken spirit.
"I have spoken these things to you so that you might have peace in Me. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)Jesus gives us inner peace that doesn't depend on our circumstances, but on who He is. In Christ, we have peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with others.
"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." (Psalm 23:1)
"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." (John 10:11)
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, laid down His life for us, and He now lives to take care of all who follow Him.
"In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'" (Jeremiah 23:6)
"For He has made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21)
There is only one way to have a clean heart and life. We can have the right kind of life and right relationship with God only by union with Jesus. Jesus alone is our Righteousness.
"The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, 'The LORD Is There.'" (Ezekiel 48:35)
"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst." (Matthew 28:20)
"Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Jesus has promised to be with us always. He is always near to help us.
"And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, 'The LORD Is My Banner.'" (Exodus 17:15) "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
"You have given a banner to those who fear You, to lift it up because of the truth. Selah." (Psalm 60:4)
"...by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." (Hebrews 6:18)
Jesus is the Banner under which we engage in spiritual battle and defeat Satan, the enemy of our souls. This title means that Jesus is our Leader, our Victory, and Strength. With Him we can be strong and victorious in the daily battles of life.
The victory is ours in Christ Jesus! "He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God." (Revelation 19:13)
1etymology n. history of a word; study of the sources and development of words