The Word of God
The word “Bible” is derived from the Greek word Biblia which means Books. The Bible is composed of an Old Testament with 39 books and a New Testament with 27 books – a total of 66 books. These books were written at different times and in many different places, but they were collected under die guidance of God’s Spirit and form a wonderful unity. In the Bible itself these books are referred to as the “holy Scriptures” (2 Tim. 3:15). They all constitute the Word of God because the authors have written them under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21).
We are living in a time of great falling away from the truth, and evangelical Christians must observe and honour the Bible. The Word of God is a precious gift that was given to us. It is dynamic and living, and fulfils various spiritual needs in our lives. The Word has, according to its own statements, the following clear and unique characteristics:
It is a revelation of God and His works
Firstly, it should be realised that the Bible does not contain the words of men but the Word of God. It reveals the nature of the Triune God, the works of His creation, including the origin of man, the existence and plans of a hostile kingdom under the leadership of Satan who was cast out of heaven by God, the wretchedness and moral depravity of humanity due to of the Fall, God’s calling of Israel and the giving of His laws of righteousness, His saving grace for all humanity through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the wrath of God upon the wicked who rejected His offer of salvation, the Second Coming of Christ, the establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth, and the future of humanity – the saved ones in the new heaven and on the new earth, and the wicked with Satan and his demons in the lake of fire. A large part of the Bible is devoted to supporting the spiritual growth of believers and to equip and empower them to stand against all the spiritual deception of a hostile world (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible is not a collection of human thoughts about God but a Book that was “given” by God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21). The divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible as it was written in the original languages has been firmly established – among others, by the remarkable fulfilment of prophecies. The clear revelation of Jesus Christ as God the Son is elevated far above all theological speculation and vain reasoning.
It is associated with a Person
All the promises of God in the Bible are related to a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the incarnate Word (John 1:1,4,14). The spoken and written Word of God testify of the Saviour, Jesus Christ, and is therefore closely associated with Him. In Him all promises in the Bible are Yes and Amen as He paid the price for their fulfilment on the cross (2 Cor. 1:20; Eph. 1:7). Because of the close relationship between Christ and the Word we cannot fully know and love the Lord Jesus if we neglect the study of His Word (John 14:23).
It has creative power
The Word of God has creative power (2 Pet. 3:5), also in the lives of people who were dead in their sins and iniquities (Rom. 1:16). All true believers know that there is quickening power in the Word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. The believing Roman centurion said to Jesus: “…only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matt. 8:8).
It is pure
The inerrancy and flawlessness of the Word are proof of the fact that it is absolutely pure. It is unchanging and trustworthy (Ps. 12:6; 119:140). It is worthy of all acceptance that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).
It is like a fire and a hammer
The Word is like a consuming fire and a hammer which breaks a rock in pieces (Jer. 23:29). It can soften the hardest heart and break down every wall of resistance. If we have a teachable spirit and receive the Word into our minds and hearts, it will be like a fire which consumes all human theories and false ideas about life. Instead of our distorted views of the past we will receive divine wisdom and insight, which is described as enlightened eyes of the mind (Eph. 1:18).
It saves the souls of sinners
We must receive the Word with meekness as its message can save our souls (Jas. 1:21; 1 Pet. 1:23). The Lord Jesus gave intensive teachings to the disciples and opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures that testify of Him (Luke 24:44-45; John 5:37-40). If they reject the Word they will die in their sins (John 8:24). Jesus reprimanded them because His Word had no place in them (John 8:37). The most important reason for their resentment of the Word was the wayward opinions of Israel’s spiritual leaders who deceived the nation and thus shut up the kingdom of heaven against men (Matt. 23:13).
It is spirit and life
The words of Christ are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). After being born again we should nourish ourselves daily with the Word to become mature Christians, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (1 Pet. 2:2; Eph. 4:13-14; 1 Tim. 4:6). This spiritual food is essential (Luke 4:4). Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit as only He can teach you and guide you into the whole truth of God’s Word (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:10).
It is a two-edged sword
The Word is like a two-edged sword that pierces into our deepest being where it discerns the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Heb. 4:12). It reveals to us which thoughts are carnal and which are spiritual.
It gives direction to our lives
It directs our steps away from the paths of sin and iniquity (Ps. 119:101,133; Josh. 1:7). By accepting the promises of the Bible in faith we are hiding God’s Word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him (Ps. 119:11). The lives of all people who are not anchored to Christ and His Word have been built on sand. They will certainly fall down and come to eternal grief when they encounter the storms of God’s judgements (Matt. 7:24-27).
It illuminates our lives
All Christians should let the light of God’s Word shine in the world so that sinners may repent (Acts 26:18). Every unsaved person is caught in the darkness of sin and should, by way of a spiritual rebirth, come out of the darkness of Satan into God’s marvellous light. In the light of God’s Word we realise our sinfulness and need for salvation (Eph. 5:14).
It reveals the future
Prophecies that reveal future events are an important part of God’s Word. Paul says that we should not despise prophecies (1 Thess. 5:20). A special blessing is promised to us if we study the prophetic Word and take its message to heart (Rev. 1:3). It reaffirms the certainty of our hope in Christ, while also giving information on the future strategies that Satan will follow in his relentless efforts to deceive Christians.
It will not return to God void
The Word of God either leads to the salvation and spiritual growth of people or to their condemnation due to unbelief: it will not return to God void (Isa. 55:10-11). The Word of God will be fulfilled in all respects (Rev. 17:17) – for believers and unbelievers (Num. 23:19). With His perfect foreknowledge God knows what will happen in the future. Consequently, He could supply our every need before the time and also announced appropriate penalties for the wicked (Rev. 20:15). The Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rather in his repentance (Isa. 55:6-7). That is why the message of repentance is proclaimed to all nations (Acts 17:30-31). In the light of these facts we should hold fast the Word of life (Phil. 2:16).
It endures forever
“The Word of the Lord endures for ever” (1 Pet. 1:25; Matt. 24:35). It will always remain effective, never become irrelevant or redundant, and will prevail after the present heaven and earth have passed away. Every word will be fulfilled. Together with the psalmist we have every reason to rejoice in our eternal God, His everlasting Word and His enduring mercies (Ps. 19:9-10; 29:10; 37:18; 44:8; 73:26; 92:8; 111:3; 119:93,160; 135:13).
Does the Lord speak to you through His Word, or do you wait on Him to speak to you in other ways outside His Word? Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest) explains this point in the following way: “Jesus says: ‘The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life’ (John 6:63). That is the way God speaks to us, not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a man gets to God it is by the most simple way of words.”
We can avoid many fallacies if we observe the sound principle of Sola Scriptura (only the Word). Even when we are tempted to attach significance to dreams and visions, we are still not allowed to convey these messages to other people as revelations of God’s will. We only have one clear command concerning God’s will: “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). God has revealed His whole counsel to us in the Bible (Acts 20:27). Direct your steps according to His Word! (Ps. 119:133).
I accept the Bible as the inspired and inerrant Word of God. It is a precious gift from heaven as God has revealed Himself through His Word to humanity. The holy Scriptures do not only give the promise of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life but also instructions on how to build, strengthen and sustain this life with a view to reaching its full potential. Through His Word, the Lord wants to make me complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. May He keep me from ignorance about His Word which is living and powerful, so I will never be guilty of the following reproach: “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). May the Word of Christ dwell in me richly (Col. 3:16; Rom. 10:8-9), that I may be rooted and grounded in His love (Eph. 3:17). “I have restrained my feet from every evil way” (Ps. 119:101).
1. Explain whether the Bible is the words of men or the Word of God.
2. What is the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Word?
3. Explain the Bible’s role as a two-edged sword.
4. How is the Bible related to our salvation?
5. Should we look for extra-biblical revelations of God’s will?
Prof. Johan Malan