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?