3 Forms of the Word of God

The word of God comes to us in three forms: the personal word, the spoken word, and the written word. This article will explain what each form is and what God accomplishes through each form of the word.

Luther pionting to Jesus

Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be God and that his exemplary life, his miracles, his teachings, his death, burial, and resurrection all serve as credentials to verify” those claims. Jesus also affirmed the accepted text of Scripture among his people, the Jews, to contain eternal life and proclaimed that their words testify about him.  He also promised that when he returned to his Father in heaven, he would send the Spirit of Truth to his apostles who would remind them of everything he had taught them.  Because Jesus of Nazareth is God in the flesh, we can trust that he knows best what words, spoken or written, accurately reveal who he is, what he expects of humanity, and what he has done for us – what words are from him and what words are ultimately his words of revelation.  This is why the Church has trusted Jesus at his word, recognizing that the Bible (the Hebrew Scriptures of Jesus’ day and the New Testament texts that originated from within the apostolic circle) is God’s written word of divine revelation – written so that we might believe Jesus is the Son of God and that by believing in him we might have life in his name.

What I have described is wholly unique to Christianity.  In no other religion has God become a human being to personally speak to his creation and save his people from death.  Jesus, the Son of God, sent by God the Father, born of the virgin Mary, was God’s deputy.  He was given authority to speak on his Father’s behalf (authorization) and he spoke all that he had received from his Father to speak (superintendence).  If people saw Jesus, they saw the Father, if they heard Jesus, they heard the Father, because Jesus is the personal word of God.  With his words, Jesus spoke the truth of God and proclaimed the forgiveness of sins in his ministry of reconciliation to restore creation back into a right relationship with God.

The ministry of reconciliation continued with Jesus’ apostles, who he deputized to teach everything he had taught them.  As stated previously, Jesus promised that the Spirit of Truth would remind them of everything he had taught them.  This means that we can trust that the words they spoke were all that Jesus had taught them and that the words they proclaimed were true and forgave sins, just as Jesus’ words were and did.  The Apostles were therefore speaking the word of God. The apostles deputized other believers into this ministry of reconciliation, giving the Church the authority to teach what Jesus taught according to the witness they gave and to forgive sins in continuity with the proclamation of the Gospel (good news of Jesus Christ) they declared.

From within the apostolic circle, arose certain written texts that were typically written at the request of those who heard the apostolic message and wanted their words in writing, to preserve the teachings of the apostles, or to serve as reminders of what was spoken in person.  Because these texts were the written form of what the apostle’s spoke on the authority of Jesus, the personal word of God, and because they arose from within the apostolic circle (either from apostles themselves or people who wrote based on the directly received spoken word of the apostles), the Church came to recognize these texts to be the definitive versions of the apostolic proclamations in written form. The collection of these texts is the New Testament Canon; this written form of God’s word is the revelation of God that guides and norms the Church’s spoken proclamations of God’s word today.

In summary, three forms of God’s word have been presented: the personal word of God, the spoken word of God, and the written word of God.  The personal word of God is Jesus as God’s word to us.  The spoken word of God is the proclamation of God’s word to us through the prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers – all Christians – in preaching, evangelism, and through the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.  This form of God’s word is the “means of grace” word; it is the spoken form that has “causative authority” to create faith, as Scripture clearly states that faith comes from hearing.  In that last sentence, the function of the written form of God’s word was at work.  Scripture has “normative authority” to be the rule and guiding principle for all of God’s spoken word and it is the definitive standard by which all teachers’ and preachers’ words are to be judged.  Put another way, the written form of God’s word is the norming norm and the spoken form of God’s word is the normed norm.

In conclusion, these three forms are to be distinguished, but not separated.  Jesus is the personal word that gave the apostles the words they spoke and later wrote.  In the 21st century, we read the revelation of God in the written form, which serves the spoken word that proclaims God’s commands and promises, which delivers the personal word – all for our salvation and the restoration of God’s creation.


Credit: This article is largely based on class notes from Professor Nafzger’s lecture entitled, “The Word of the God of Word” given on Sept. 24th, 2018 at Concordia Seminary and the class discussion of the lecture on Sept. 27th, especially the use of the deputizing language and the descriptions of the type of of authority attributed to the spoken and written form of God’s word.

The Story of Everything

With the siren of a ram’s horn, the heavenly bodies are shaken and stars fall as the atmosphere is ripped open and rolled up like a scroll.  Bursting through the hole in the sky rides the Word of God on a white horse… riding on the clouds, leading his entire angel-army. All the dead from ages before are raised from their graves, and even the sea gives up its dead.  All of humanity is brought before the one on the white horse, the one who has King of Kings and Lord of Lords written on his robe and thigh.  They all bow down before him and confess that he is Jesus the Lord, and their confession gives glory to God the Father.  Jesus has mounds of books, books that give an account of each man’s life.  This is the day of reckoning.  This must be the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning.

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In the beginning, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were.  All three had always been, were never created, nor made, none were before the other in time or majesty.  All three are eternal, all-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing, and all-good: one God.  By very nature they are love, existing in a community of love to one another.  It is out of their love and out of nothing that they together chose to create all things, visible and invisible, seen and unseen.  Humanity was the crown of their creation, being made last and in the image, likeness, of God.  God declared all that he had made to be very good… but there was war in heaven.

One of God’s heavenly beings, an angel named Satan rebelled against God his Creator in a mutiny.  Epic fail. Satan and his followers were cast out of heaven.  Losing the battle to God and his faithful angel-army, Satan turned to ravage humanity, the ones made in the image of the God he hates.  Possessing a serpent, Satan approached the first two humans in their garden home created for them by God.  The serpent deceived them into rebelling against God’s command given to them, and Adam and Eve, the parents of humanity, acted on that deception – high treason – they too thought they could take God’s rightful place of authority and power over all.

No one is above the Triune Lord.  God cursed the serpent, cursed Eve, cursed the man, cursed all of his creation, even the cute furry animals.  God damned it all!

He is a just God, a God of order.  He must punish insurrection, evil.

Yet, the Lord is by nature love.  The same love by which he created is the same love that compels him to exonerate and restore his creation.  In his knowledge of all things, The Triune Lord knew his creation would reject him and he knew what it would cost him to make all things new, but he chose to create anyways.

When cursing the serpent, God gave the promise that Eve’s offspring would deliver a death blow to his head – putting an end to Satan, his followers, and the aftermath of their rebellion.  God doesn’t forget his promises, even when man forgets and rejects not only God’s promises but God himself.

Evicted from the garden home God had given them, Adam and Eve bore children made in their likeness. One of their sons, Cain, killed his brother Abel in a fit of jealousy that God had rejected his sacrifice of offering but had found Abel’s sacrifice to be pleasing.  Cain’s descendants followed in the path of Cain with his sixth generation grandchild, Lamech, killing a man and rejecting God’s plan of marriage, taking two wives instead of one.  The line of Adam and Eve’s son Seth however, remained faithful to the Lord, for a time, until they too rejected God.  In time, only Noah remained from Seth’s line as the only man to be righteous through walking with God.

For mankind’s utter rejection of him, God destroyed all the world through water, sparing Noah, his sons, their wives, and two of each kind of creature.

Despite the salvation given to Noah’s family, men still rejected God.  Yet out of God’s love and his faithfulness, he continued to keep his promise to Eve.  He chose Abraham, a descendent of Noah, to be the father of his people, a great nation with a promised land, the man from whom the offspring would crush Satan.  God chose him despite the fact that Abraham had rejected him to worship other gods!  Abraham after being chosen by God rejected his idols and has faith in the one true Lord.  His descendants followed the Lord too, for a time, until they found themselves enslaved in Egypt… there they forgot the God of Abraham their forefather and they worshiped the gods of their masters.

Despite their rejection of him, God kept his promisesGod chose a man named Moses to lead his people out of captivity. Through many miraculous plagues against his people’s captors, Moses helped lead them to be free men again.  They didn’t approve of where God took them from Egypt, a wilderness badland with no food or water.  They wished they were back in captivity to the Egyptians.  They rejected God.  God saw to it that the old generation that escaped Egypt wouldn’t enter into his promised land, as they died off during the time he led them through the wasteland for forty years.

God is faithful to his people.  The rag-tag band of Abraham’s descendants that didn’t rebel in the wilderness finally entered into the promised land, acquiring it as God helped them drive out the nations that were in their land.  The seven-nation army couldn’t hold them back.  God was their king, but once again, his people chose to reject him, asking that he give them a king like all the other nations had a king.  They got their king, and like most men, he rejected God.  The succeeding king, King David, was of the lineage of the promise and he was chosen by God to have a descendent who would sit on a never-ending throne ruling over all the nations, the Son of David, the one to crush the serpent’s head.  Most people thought that David’s son who ascended the throne after his death, Solomon, who had built a permanent house for the Lord, and who was the wisest man to walk the earth, would be the son to rule forever, to end the wickedness in the land, but Solomon was just a man.  He had rejected God throughout his life, keeping many wives and idols in the land of God’s people, and so he died as all men do.

After Solomon’s death, the promised land to Abraham was split in two as Solomon’s descendants fought for power and authority over God’s people… power and authority over God’s people through the schemes of wanton men? Another rejection of God. Many of the kings of both kingdoms were perverse, worshipping other gods and leading the people to do so too.  Due to their rejection of the one true Lord, the God of angel-armies pulled back his hand of protection, even stirring enemy nations up against his whoring people as punishment for their idolatry.  Without God’s shelter, both kingdoms fall, the house of the Lord that Solomon built was decimated, and God’s chosen people found themselves once again slaves in a land not their own.  Among the exiled descendants of Abraham, a remnant remained faithful to God, having the same faith as Abraham.

Centuries passed.  God’s chosen people are still under foreign rule, far from being a great nation as God had promised.  But finally, during the time of Emperor Augustus of the Roman Empire, Eve’s promised offspring was born.  Unlike David’s son Solomon, this Son of David, is not a mere man; he is the eternal Word of God, born of God’s chosen theotokos, the virgin Mary.  The Son of God assumed a human nature.  His name is Jesus for he will save his chosen people.  He chose to save us by becoming one of us, The Son of God was so human that he even sucked at his mother’s breast for his body’s sustenance.  Yet the Son of God was also fully God, from his birth, heaven’s messengers delivered the good news of his life’s trajectory.  The shepherds who met these messengers accepted Jesus for who he truly is upon finding him.  Throughout his time with us many individuals received him as the promised savior against Satan and they were given the right to not just be called God’s people, but God’s children, loved by him.

Jesus claimed to be God again and again, publicly.  He performed many miraculous signs, publicly.  He taught with a wisdom that must be from God alone.  Many of God’s people wanted him to be their king, the one who would set his people free from all pain, suffering, and death, a greater escape than what Moses had enacted, a never-ending peace with a forever-ruling king.  Others denied his miracles, claiming that Jesus was acting by the power of Satan, not God.  In the end, Jesus wasn’t doing what they thought he should do: be the one-man army of God to overthrow their Roman captors – this was their promised land after all, not Rome’s.  His people rejected him, his closest followers and friends deserted him, and he was killed under Roman rule by crucifixion because of his people’s claim that he was the King of the Jews, an act of insurrection against the Roman Empire.  This is what he promised would happen, yet he also foretold that the grave would not hold him down.

Jesus’ death was the serpent’s strike at the heel of Eve’s offspring.

Jesus’ crushing blow of that serpent the devil came when no one thought it was possible; the Father raised his only eternally begotten Son bodily from the dead on the third day, just as Jesus had foretold it would happen.

Jesus’ exemplary life, his miracles, his teachings, his death, burial, and resurrection all serve as credentials to verify his title, the Son of God, the eternal Word of God.  After his resurrection, Jesus shared the story of everything to his closest followers and explained how he had to die and rise for the salvation of mankind and restoration of his creation.  Then Jesus left them, but he promised to return for them and all of his people.  His people are not those who were born of a particular bloodline, as many of Abraham’s descendants had thought.  They are all of those who received him, who called upon his name for salvation, who did not reject him, who returned from their ways to God’s way for the washing away of their evil, so that the image of God might one day be restored in each and every single one of them. They are those who God has chosen.

Repent and be washed into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of all your sins.

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Jesus is coming, and hell is coming with him.

For those who have rejected him, his return is the beginning of the end.

For those he has chosen, his return is the end of the beginning.

101. Are Scripture and Darwinian Evolution Compatible?

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Are Scripture and Darwinian Evolution CompatibleSean Pino interviews Andy to see if he thinks Scripture and Darwinian Evolution are compatible. The literary nature of Genesis is discussed, the source and origin of physical death in creation, the interplay between scientific discovery and theory with Biblical interpretation, and why some Christians are adamant in their refusal to adapt Darwinian teaching into Christian Doctrine.

99. Lutheran Theology Part 4

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Andy is joined by Wes, Jonathan, and Robby to continue the series on Lutheran Theology. This time the focus is on the means of grace, a term that is particularly Lutheran, and is used to describe the Gospel, baptism, and communion.

You’ll learn why Lutherans call baptism and communion a means of grace. Not all Christians would do this, and many would deny that they are ways in which God delivers his grace to individuals. Most Christians won’t deny the Gospel being a means of grace, so the bulk of the episode is focused on baptism and communion. Lutherans baptize babies and believe that Jesus’ body and blood is physically present in communion and is consumed along with bread and wine. Why do Lutherans believe these things? Listen and find out.