THE GOD OF JESUS: PART SEVEN
The Word of God
The phrase “Son of God” and “Spirit of God” are seen repeatedly in the NT narrative. Nowhere will you find the phrase “Father of God.” Trinitarians believe God is a single entity of Father, Son and Spirit indwelling each other. If this is the case, all three should be seen as of God if God is Father, Son and Spirit. Yet, only the Son and Spirit are seen as of God while the Father is repeatedly seen as being God.
Another phrase seen throughout the NT is “word of God.” Most Christians believe “word of God” is synonymous with “Son of God” and Son of God is synonymous with being God. The Son of God is believed to be the word of God and vice versa. Most Christians believe Apostle John, in chapter one of his Gospel, identifies the word of God as being God in the person of the Son. Is the Son of God the literal word of God? Is the word of God the Son and the Son of God the word? In this Chapter we will carefully examine this issue and proceed, in Chapter Seven, to study the first chapter of John’s Gospel.
The phrase “word of God” occurs dozens of times in the NT narrative. In most cases, the context wherein this phrase is found shows “word (Greek: logos) of God” to mean the expressed thoughts, will and purpose of God and does not in any way convey the idea the word of God is a person called the Son. The Greek word logos appears 330 times in the NT and is translated into English primarily as “word” or “saying.” Its basic meaning is “to speak.” This word is derived from the verb legein which means to “say or speak.” It can also mean “reason or mind.” Nothing in its definition denotes personhood.
Just before His crucifixion, Jesus was praying to His Father and said, “I have given them (His disciples) your word (logos) and “your word (logos) is truth” (John 17:14-17). There is nothing here to indicate Jesus was referring to Himself as the word (logos) that was given to His disciples. It should be plain the logos Jesus speaks of is the logos of the Father and in keeping with the meaning of logos, Jesus is saying He has given to His disciples what is in the mind of the Father. Over and over again, the phrase “word of God” (logos of God) is seen as pertaining to the actual thoughts of God delivered through others.
Acts 6:7: So the word (logos) of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Acts 12:24: But the word (logos) of God continued to increase and spread.
Acts 13:7b: The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word (logos) of God.
1 Thessalonians 2:13: And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word (logos) of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word (logos) of men, but as it actually is, the word (logos) of God, which is at work in you who believe.
In all these passages it should be obvious that “word of God” is not a synonym for “Son of God.” It should be clear the phrase “word of God” is being used to convey the understanding that it is the mind of God that is being expressed in the teaching of the Apostles. In the case of Christ, the mind of God was perfectly expressed and, therefore, Christ was seen as the personification of the mind of God. This does not equate with Christ literally being the mind of God as a distinction in a Trinitarian Godhead.
In Deuteronomy 18:18, God speaks of sending a prophet like Moses. Most Christians see this as a prophecy of the coming of Christ. God is recorded as saying, “I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.” This clearly shows Jesus is not the literal word of God but the vehicle through whom the word of God is disseminated. We see Christ fulfilling this prophecy when just before His crucifixion he said, “I have given them your word (logos)” (John 17:14).
Paul likens the word (logos) of God to being the sword of the Spirit. The writer to the Hebrews says something similar.
Ephesians 6:17: Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (logos) of God.
Hebrews 4:12: For the word (logos) of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Is the writer talking about a person called the Son when discussing the logos of God? When Paul says the sword of the Spirit is the logos of God, is Paul saying the Son is the sword of the Spirit? Is it the Son, as the logos of God, who is living and active and sharper than a two edged sword? Some believe that because John, in the Revelation, writes that a doubled edged sword comes out of the mouth of Jesus and the name of Christ is the Word of God, Jesus is the actual literal word of God in the person of the Son. Is this the case?
Revelation 1:16: In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
Revelation 19:13-15a: He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word (logos) of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.
It should be apparent that the passage in Ephesians, the passage in Hebrews and the passages in the Revelation are all using symbolic language to describe the word of God. The word is seen as coming out of the mouth of Christ. If Christ is literally the word of God, how can it be seen as coming out of His own mouth? When John writes of the name of Christ being the word of God, it should be apparent he is speaking of Jesus coming in the authority of God the Father whose logos is manifested in Jesus. In Revelation 1:2 John writes of testifying to the “word (logos) of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Here we see Jesus as distinct from the logos of God.
Revelation 1:1-2: The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw--that is, the word (logos) of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Logos is consistently seen as the expression of the thought, will, reason and purpose of God. As such, the logos of God is not a person called the Son. The logos of God is the expressed and manifested mind of God. Jesus fully expressed and manifested the logos of God His Father and as such can be called the logos of God (Revelation 19:13). This doesn’t mean Jesus is the literal, actual logos of the Father. Some believe Jesus is identified as the logos of God in Luke 1:2.
Luke 1:1-3: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word (logos). Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
It is often assumed that Luke, in speaking of the “eyewitnesses and servants of the word,” is referring to Jesus as the word. If Luke was doing this, it would not be evidence for Jesus being the literal word of God for the reasons already delineated. It should be noted, however, that it is unlikely Luke is directly referring to Jesus in this passage. The context here is Luke revealing how he came to write his own account of events associated with Christ. He is revealing the methodology He used to write his account. That methodology was to review the thoughts, observations and accounts (the logos) of those who had been eyewitnesses and followers of these events. The NET Bible provides the following commentary regarding this passage:
The phrase “eyewitnesses and servants of the word” refers to a single group of people who faithfully passed on the accounts about Jesus. The language about delivery (passed on) points to accounts faithfully passed on to the early church.
The thought expressed here is that Luke is not speaking of eyewitnesses and servants of a person called the word but of eyewitnesses and servants of the events and the perceived significance of such events in the life of the person Jesus.
In the OT, the Hebrew word dabar is the equivalent to the Greek logos and appears hundreds of times in association with God and by context is seen to express the thought and will of God. Debar is translated as logos in the Septuagint (the Hebrew to Greek translation of the OT). Here is just one of hundreds of examples of how this word is used in the OT Scripture.
Exodus 19:7-8: And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words (Hebrew debar, Greek logos in Septuagint) which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words (debar/logos) of the people unto the Lord.
It should be evident from this passage, and many passages like it, that the debar/logos of God proceeds from Him as His speech, thoughts and will. This is how the Hebrew debar is used throughout the OT. It is a word that defines God’s expressed thoughts to man and man’s expressed thoughts to God. Both debar and logos have the basic meaning of communication and are so defined in the Concordance of the Hebrew to Greek Apostolic Bible Polyglot. These words have absolutely nothing to do with being a literal person of a Trinitarian Godhead or a literal person called the Son.
The word of God is the manifestation and expression of the wisdom, knowledge, understanding, purpose and overall will of God. Jesus Christ, as the begotten Son of the One God, was the human agent through whom the Father’s word was perfectly expressed. In this respect, Jesus was seen as personifying the logos of God. This doesn't mean Jesus was the literal logos of God in an indwelling relationship of three distinctions of a Triune Godhead. Jesus, as the Son of the Father, was the vehicle through whom the logos of the Father was and is fully expressed. Jesus is the manifestation of the Father's logos.
Jesus perfectly represented the word of God the Father. The Scriptures symbolically picture the word of God as a sword. The Scriptures picture the word of God as a sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus because Jesus represents the word (logos) of God. Representing something, however, does not make you that something.
When the American Secretary of State travels abroad, she represents the President of the United States. She expresses his will in her dealings with other heads of state. She becomes the virtual mouth piece of the President. She virtually becomes the President’s logos. She speaks as though she was the president. She represents his name, his thoughts and his will. No one would conclude from this that she is the American President or that because she speaks for Him she is somehow an intrinsic part of him, that she is literally his speech.
As will be seen in the next chapter, it is through and by the word of God that all things were created, including the Son. The Son is the materialization of the will and purpose of God and in this sense can be considered God’s logos. The Father's logos, however, is not a literal person called the Son. The word of the Father is the expression of the Father’s attributes of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, will, purpose, light, truth, love and life. Jesus expresses these attributes. Jesus is not intrinsically these attributes. Only the one God, the Father, is intrinsically these attributes. These attributes define the very nature of the Father. Christ was a reflection of these attributes. Jesus mirrored these attributes of His Father. Jesus was the image of these attributes as Scripture teaches. This is why Jesus could say, “If your have seen me you have seen the Father.”
Being the image of the Father, who is God, does not equate with being God. The Father is the one and only God, as Jesus, Paul and John clearly reveal. Jesus is not co-equal with God the Father as Trinitarians teach. Jesus said His Father was greater than He. Jesus also made a very telltale statement which is recorded in three of the Gospels. I will quote it from Luke:
Luke 18:18-19: A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone.”
Jesus did not consider Himself good in the sense and to the extent that God is good. Jesus plainly said God alone is good. If Jesus was God in the flesh and knew He was God in the flesh, He could not have made such a statement. Even though Jesus never sinned, He did not consider Himself good compared to God. The goodness He had was a reflection of the goodness of God shinning through Him. Jesus’ statement to the ruler clearly shows Jesus did not consider Himself God.
Luke records, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).
If Jesus was the actual word of God in human form, why do we see Him growing in wisdom? He would already have complete wisdom as God. It should be obvious Jesus grew in wisdom and knowledge like we all do. Jesus was not God in the flesh but a totally human person who had been given an abundance of God's Spirit from birth to facilitate growth in wisdom and stature as Luke points out. This being the case, Jesus was able to represent the nature of God in expressing God's wisdom, knowledge and understanding from early on in His life. Because of the presence of God's Spirit from birth, Jesus was also able to avoid sin as covered in more detail in Chapter Nine and Ten.
Jesus said He was the light of the world. Was He this light because He is God or because God’s Spirit was in Him and He expressed the light that is His Father God. Let’s look again at 1 John, chapter one. Here John writes that God is light. He goes on to distinguish between the God who is light and His Son whom He sent.
1 John 1:5-7: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him (God) yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
John is saying God is light and he distinguishes between God who is light and His Son Jesus. This same John, in the Gospel of John chapter one, writes of the true light coming into the world. He associates this light with Christ. He is not saying Christ is intrinsically this light and therefore God. He shows in his epistle God is light in distinction from the Son He sent. John is seeing Christ as the manifestation of the light that is God. When Jesus said He was the truth and the life, He was expressing the truth and life that is from the Father. Jesus did not have intrinsic life. Jesus plainly said His life was given to Him by the Father.
John 5:26: For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.
Jesus was the light of the world in that He manifested the Spirit of God in all He said and did. Jesus taught that we too can be the light of the world if we manifest the Spirit of God and allow it to shine forth in and through us. We receive the light of God through the Son who receives it from the Father. As seen in the foregoing passage from 1 John 1:5-7, light comes from God. We being the light of the world, however, does not equate with us being God and neither does it equate with Jesus being God
Matthew 5:14-16: You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
In 1 Timothy 6:13-16, Paul shows a contrast between Jesus and God. Paul shows it is the one God who is the only Supreme Ruler, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is God, in contrast to Jesus, who alone is shown to have innate immortality. Paul describes this God as the one who gives life to everything and lives in unapproachable light whom no one has seen or can see. This can't be referring to Jesus as Jesus was clearly seen while on this earth. During His ministry, Jesus stated that no one has seen God at any time. It’s apparent that all life, both temporal and eternal, comes from the one God. All rulership, kingship, lordship and sovereignty are derived from this one God who Paul identifies as the Father throughout his writings.
1 Timothy 6:13-16: In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time--God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen (NIV).
In OT Scripture the designation king of kings is a title given to those having power and authority to rule. Kings Artaxerxes of Persia and Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon are given this title (Ezra 7:12 & Ezekiel 26:7). This certainly doesn’t men these men were God. Jesus is given the title King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:14 &19:16). Is Jesus given this title because He is God as the Father is God and is therefore King of Kings and Lord of Lords equal with the Father? Daniel, chapter seven, gives us the answer to this question.
Daniel 7:13-14: In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Here we have a picture of the risen and ascended Christ being led into the presence of the Father (Ancient of Days) and being granted authority, glory, sovereign power and dominion. If Jesus is co-eternal, co-equal and con-substantial with the Father, He would already have had all these attributes. Jesus is given the title King of Kings and Lord of Lords because the Father, His God, who intrinsically is Ruler, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, gave Him the authority, glory, sovereign power and dominion to warrant this title. Jesus clearly said the Kingdom was conferred upon Him by the Father.
Luke 22: 28-29: You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me,
It should also be noted that in the Daniel 7 passage Jesus approaches the Father and is led into His presence. This is certainly odd language if Jesus is one with the Father in a Trinitarian relationship of Father, Son and Spirit. Peter clearly shows it was the God of the patriarchs who raised Jesus from the dead and glorified Him. Scripture shows it is God the Father who is the God of the patriarchs.
Acts 5:30-31: The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.
Peter’s statement about God raising Jesus from the dead and exalting Him to his right hand as Prince and Savior harmonizes well with the passage in Daniel as it reveals Jesus to be the agent of God through whom salvation is granted. If God had not raised Jesus from the dead, not only would we not have a savior, the Father would not have a living Son. Jesus plainly said to John in the Revelation that He was dead and is now alive.
Revelation 1:18: I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Jesus is alive because His God and Father resurrected Him. He is a powerful glorified Being at the right hand of God His Father because God has exalted Him to such position and status. Jesus is not the literal word of God. Jesus is the manifestation of the word of God and is seen as such in chapter one of John’s Gospel to which we now turn.