Dear Brothers and Sisters,
If I were to ask you that question, you’d know I have something important to say, and you’d want to learn more. When asked in a movie or TV show, that question typically indicates a plot turn as suspense mounts. Words are powerful. As the proverb says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11 ESV).
Yes, affirming and encouraging words uplift, but negative words tear down. I remember a conversation I had with a classmate who always seemed to be in trouble. She lamented, “It doesn’t matter what I say or do, people are down on me. What’s the use?” At the time I thought of Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I prayed those closest to her would let her know she is valued and loved.
People often use many words to say very little. A case in point is the recent debate of Republican candidates for U.S. president. Each had 60 seconds to answer a specific question, and the others had 30 seconds to dispute that answer. As I heard the questions, answers and disputes, I wondered how anyone could possibly determine what is true. After each candidate proclaimed how he or she would “fix” the country, leading it back to a safe and secure place, the others proclaimed why that plan will not work. A lot of words were spoken, many promises made, and our problems as a society continue.
Words, of course, convey ideas. Sometimes lots of words are used to convey the most trivial ideas. In 1945 the U.S. Department of Agriculture used 26,000 words to set standards for grading cabbage! In contrast, few words were needed to convey these profound ideas:
- Pythagoras’ Theorem: ………………………………….24 words
- Lord’s Prayer: ……………………………………………….66 words
- Archimedes’ Principle: ………………………………….67 words
- Ten Commandments:……………………………………179 words
- Gettysburg Address:……………………………………..286 words
- U.S. Declaration of Independence: ………………1,300 words
- U.S. Constitution with 27 Amendments: …….7,818 words
Though human words can’t solve our problems, we know a divine Word who can and does—the Living Word of God, the Logos (spokesman or speech of God), who became incarnate for us in the person of Jesus. Because Jesus Christ is the full and final revelation of God to us, we can, without reservation or doubt, place our trust in him. In his divine freedom, the Living Word of God came to humanity as a human being to challenge every idea we possess about everything. Jesus, through his life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension, personally fulfilled ancient Israel’s covenant, represented us before the Father, and sends the Holy Spirit to indwell us. As the God-man he continues to be the Word of God with us and for us.
Although it cannot capture all that Jesus Christ is, the written word of God (which we refer to as the Bible), faithfully directs us to the Living Word of God. The Bible must never be separated from the person of Jesus who appointed and authorized those who preached and wrote about him and his gospel and continues to speak in and through Scripture by the Holy Spirit, who he sends to his people. In that way, the Bible is and remains his word. We do not worship the Bible, but we do worship the One it uniquely, authoritatively and infallibly points to. As the church, it is our calling to proclaim the Living Word of God, and we do so by teaching the written word of God (note here the three-in-one aspect of God’s Word: Jesus, Scripture and the proclamation of the church).
Though I don’t place my trust and hope in the words of politicians, I do trust Jesus, the Living Word of God. He is our hope of a new day that has come, and one day will come in all its fullness. Though I’m discouraged by spoken and written words that misrepresent the Living Word of God, I’m never discouraged about who that Word is, and I’m constantly inspired in studying the written word that points me to him—to Jesus, the One who continually gives us assurance and hope.
Through Scripture, and by his Spirit, Jesus shows us a whole new way of seeing everything. It’s only through the Living Word of God that we have a rational basis to understand both the created order and our place of freedom within it. Jesus calls us to be a new creation and to participate in the unfolding of a new heaven and new earth. Whether we realize it or not, we live right now in the grace and truth of this Living Word, and when we embrace his unconditional love for us and all humanity, we will experience a new way of being and living—a way that lasts forever.
Grateful for the Word,
PS: In thinking about various ways the gospel is being proclaimed in our world, I came across a tongue-in-cheek comparison (all in good fun, I hope you get a chuckle):
- Evangelical: God thinks you’re despicable. But Jesus loves you!
- Liberal Protestant: God thinks you’re wonderful. Here’s a crayon drawing I did earlier to show you.
- Progressive: I have not the faintest idea of what God, if there is a God, thinks about you. And if any of you disagrees with me, God thinks you’re an arrogant fundamentalist, and I agree.
- Roman Catholic: I know many different things that God thinks on various matters. Here are nine of them, in no particular order.
- Orthodox: We Orthodox are absolutely certain about what God thinks. But here instead is a story about something that happened to me the other day.
- Pentecostal: God doesn’t think, God feels. And how does God feel about you? Great!
- Presbyterian scholar: I—that is to say, myself, the ego, the first-person speaker whom Paul so poignantly yet so ambiguously names in Romans 7—know—meaning that I perceive it, not only by way of intellectual comprehension but as something that I grasp and apprehend with my whole being, in the way that “Adam knew Eve his wife” (Genesis 4:1 KJV)—what God thinks—that is to say, not just the content of the divine mind but the entire mode by which God apprehends created things, what one commentator has aptly called God’s “sapiential omniscience.”
- Itinerant evangelist: God is thinking about that ten dollar bill that you’ve got hidden in the bottom of your pocket.