Christians like to talk a lot about the word. We encourage each other to “get into the word”. We can talk exhaustively about biblical this or that. As a new Christian hearing people talk about the word of God meaning the Bible made sense. The Bible is full of words. But then I read the Gospel of John.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word Was God. He was in the beginning with God. …And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
All this talk about “word” can be confusing and sometimes we confuse ourselves. What or who is this word Christians like to talk about? I was confused until I read the PC(USA) Book of Order. ( Yes, that’s right. The Book of Order. We have some trouble coming up with interesting titles, but it is more interesting than you might think. Click on the link and you can get a free download! ) Anyway, as I was reading I came across a sentence which said the Bible is the written Word which points us to Jesus the Living Word.* That sentence helped me make some sense about these ideas.
The Bible is important, no doubt about it. But more important is our encounter with the Living Word. That encounter comes through worship, sacraments, prayer, community and by reading the word. Realizing the Bible as the word which points us to Jesus helps keep us from reducing the Bible to rules and doctrine- mere words. It is not a rule book. It is a signpost. It is a map which gives us the lay of the land. It is the big story of God in which we find our smaller stories. The written word helps us know who God and Jesus are, and who we are.
The phrase “Bible believing Christian” rubs me the wrong way for several reasons. The main reason is that I don’t believe in the Bible. In a certain sense I don’t believe the Bible. I do believe Jesus. I do believe in Jesus. The Bible helps me to do that. The written word points me, orients me to the living Word.
Sometimes as Christians we claim something is true because the Bible says so. That is not a particularly compelling argument for me. Because Jesus says so, now that is compelling. The Living Word calls us to a particular way of living as humans. The written word tells us some important things about how we live as followers of the Living Word.
The written word is important. But the living Word is paramount. It is the living Word who comes to us, lives among us, and calls us to follow him. We follow him into the future and not back into the biblical past.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word Was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it….And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. …From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. (John 1:1-16 selected verses)
*The language is a little different in the latest edition of the BOO but the idea is the same.