Is the Bible the Word of God?
The Word is a Spoken Thing
The Word of God is what God says, just as your word is what you say. When the Word of God comes, it comes from God’s mouth (Deut. 8:3; Isa. 45:23; Jer. 9:20; Ezek. 3:17). The Bible, on the other hand, is the divinely-inspired record of salvation history. “The Word of God came” is a phrase used very many times in the Bible, and no one should understand that phrase to mean that “the Bible came”, especially in the light of the fact that the Bible, for the most part, had not yet been written when the Word of God came to most of those men and women.
We find in the Bible that when the Word of God comes, it comes “saying”. In the Bible, no one ever is said to have “read the Word of God”; rather, the Word is a thing to be heard. The Word of God came “saying” to many prophets and other especially blessed people. Here is a list of sixteen individuals who, we are told specifically, received the Word of God when it came “saying”:
The Word came to Abram SAYING. . . . Gen. 15:1, 4
The Word came to Samuel SAYING. . . . 1Sam. 15:10
The Word came to Nathan SAYING. . . . 2Sam. 7:4;1Chr. 17:3
The Word came to Gad SAYING. . . . 2Sam. 24:11
The Word came to Solomon SAYING. . . . 1Kgs. 6:11
The Word came to Shemaiah SAYING. . . . 1Kgs. 12:22; 12:7
The Word came to a prophet SAYING. . . .1Kgs. 13:9,17
The Word came to Jehu, the prophet, SAYING. . . .1Kgs. 16:1
The Word came to Elijah SAYING. . . . 1Kgs. 17:2; 18:1; 19:9
The Word came to Jacob SAYING. . . .1Kgs. 18:31
The Word came to Isaiah SAYING. . . . 2Kgs. 20:4
The Word came to David SAYING. . . . 1Chr. 22:8
The Word came to Jeremiah SAYING. . . . Jer. 1:2-4,11,13, etc.
The Word came to Ezekiel SAYING. . . . Ezek. 3:16
The Word came to Haggai SAYING. . . . Hag. 1:1
The Word came to Zechariah SAYING. . . . Zech. 1:1
None of us believes that the Bible came to these men, saying something. But we all can see that the Word did come, and that it came “saying”. The Word was heard by Micaiah (1Kgs. 22:19), by Elisha (2Kgs. 7:1, 16), by Isaiah (2Kgs. 20:16), by Jesus (Lk. 5:1), and many others.
Simply put, God’s Word is what God says. The Lord spoke the Word to Moses (Josh. 14:10). He also spoke the Word to Nathan (2Sam. 7:25). In neither case was God quoting Scripture, for both times, it was entirely new information being given from God to those men; still, it was the Word which was being spoken. And when the Word was spoken concerning God’s curse on Eli’s house (1Kgs. 2:27), it was not a repeat of written material. It was new information out of the mouth of God. Although the Lord commanded Joshua to read the Scriptures, Joshua obeyed the Word of God by doing what God told him to do, not by reading a Scripture and claiming that it applied to him (Josh. 8:2, 27). When the unnamed prophet of 1Kings 13 spoke the Word of God to King Jeroboam, he was repeating only what God had told him, not what he had read. There was, in fact, nothing he could have read that would have given him this Word. So it is with every man of God who spoke the Word of the Lord. In every case, they spoke what they had heard from God, new information which was needed in the situation that existed. Ahijah (1Kgs. 14:18; 2Chron. 10:15), Jehu the prophet (1Kgs. 16:12), Joshua (1Kgs. 16:34), Elijah (2Kgs. 1:17; 2Kgs. 9:36), Jonah (2Kgs. 14:25), the young prophet who spoke to King Jehu (2Kgs. 15:12), Isaiah (Isa. 16:13), Jeremiah (2Chron. 36:21-22; Ezr. 1:1), and all God’s true prophets (2Kgs. 24:2; Jer. 18:18) spoke what they heard from God, not what they read out of the Bible!
The false prophets of Jeremiah’s day quoted Isaiah’s ancient Word from God, that He would defend Jerusalem for David’s sake. But Jeremiah and the few other faithful prophets living then had a new and living Word from God that said God would now destroy Jerusalem, the city He had promised to defend in Isaiah’s day. Their new and living Word was rejected by the professional, false prophets, even as they quoted the old written prophecy – to the destruction of the nation.
The conflict between the old letter and the new Word was desperate, and the stakes were high. The souls of God’s own people were in the balance. Here is an excerpt from my book, Suffering and the Saints, that gives an indication of the resistance Jeremiah faced when he delivered the living Word of God to God’s chosen people:
Jeremiah cried in the streets because of the wrath of God which he knew now would certainly come:
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold I will bring evil upon this place.
But many other prophets prophesied just as loudly,
No evil shall come upon you.
Jeremiah cried in distress,
The sword of the Lord shall devour from one end of the land even to the other end of the land. No flesh shall have peace.
But the other prophets, with equal zeal, proclaimed together,
The Lord has said, You shall have peace.
Hear! And give ear! Be not proud, for the Lord has spoken.
But the other prophets cried more loudly,
It is not He. Neither shall evil come upon us. Neither shall we see sword nor famine.
Though opposed by the same kind of false prophets, Jesus spoke the Word of God to Israel. And even though he sometimes quoted from the Law and prophets, even his enemies admitted that the Word that he spoke was new (cp. Mt. 5:21-22, 27-28; Jn. 13:34). Jesus did not work on sermon preparation by studying the Scriptures, taking notes, and then making an outline. He preached his Father’s Word, not his own (Jn. 8:26), and they were blessed who were able to believe the new Word from God that Jesus brought (Lk. 7:7; Jn. 4:50; 17:6; Acts 13:48). The congregation of the Lord, too, is to speak the Word (Acts 4:29, 31; 1Thess. 1:8), just as Paul and Silas did (Acts 16:32), but we can only speak the true Word of God if God truly speaks to us first.