CLICK TO LISTEN
Text: Jn.1:14 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
Jesus – The Word
The name of the Lord Jesus which we are focusing our attention on this evening is the Word and a couple of variants of it: the Word of God and the Word of Life.
This should be very straightforward for us for the simple reason that we know about words – after all, we all use words everyday. We use them when we speak to others and even when we’re on our own we probably think in terms of words even if we don’t talk to ourselves with them.
But what exactly is a word?
A word is a unit of language that is the principal carrier of meaning
When we speak to someone else the tone of our voice will convey a certain amount of information especially what our own particular attitude is towards the subject we want to discuss but what that matter actually is will only be made clear by the words we employ.
We also use "word" in a range of more idiomatic expressions and we know that each usage is slightly different. Here are some examples:
"Word" can be used to mean:
contentious or angry speech; a quarrel: "We had words and she walked out on me"
a short talk or conversation: "Can, I have a word with you."
an expression or utterance: "Let me give you a word of warning."
a promise: "I give you my word I'll be there."
some news or information: "We received word of his death."
"Word" in the OT
When we turn to the Bible we find that the word "word" is employed many times over and in a number of different ways.
In about half the occurrences word is used in the expression "the word of the LORD" (approaching 250). This expression generally points to a particular message that the Lord GOD wishes to communicate. The specific content may vary greatly – instruction, promise, warning, judgment – but the constant factor is the divine authority that stands behind the message.
There are so many examples we could look at but let me direct you simply to one. Do you remember the desire that King David had, once his authority had been established in Jerusalem, to build a house/Temple for the LORD? David shared this desire with the prophet Nathan who initially encouraged him to proceed. However, during the night, the LORD spoke to Nathan: "the word of the LORD came to Nathan" 2Sam.7:4. That word contained a clear set of instructions for David and also some staggering promises. David was not to be the one to build a Temple for the LORD. Instead the LORD would graciously build a house/household or dynasty for David.
The "word of the LORD" was not an alternative piece of advice, another factor in the equation, it was an authoritative word that was to be firstly obeyed and then enjoyed.
When something as important as an authoritative "word of the LORD" exists the fallen human heart is ready to try to pervert and to imitate it. We find this working itself out in and through the ministries of false prophets. How tempting they found it to declare that they had an inspired message to share as they prefaced their own ideas with a deceitful: "Thus says the LORD..."
The LORD strongly condemned such false prophets:
They were dangerous because they misled others and encouraged them not to pay heed to the true word of God:
Jer.23:16 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD."
The problem was that the false prophets were not speaking the truth and this leads us to underline the association there is between "the word of the LORD" and truth. Balaam is not an outstanding character in the OT being more interested in promoting his own interests than anything else but even he recognised the fundamental truthfulness of God and consequently of what he said. Balaam declared:
Num.23:19 "God is not a man that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?"
This link between the word of the LORD and truth is highlighted further when it comes to determining whether or not a prophet is a true prophet. The acid test was the truthfulness of the word that he spoke:
Deut.18:22 "when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken."
Sadly we have probably all met people who don’t tell the truth and some about whom we might even say: "I can’t believe a word they say".
So far we have noted that "word" is frequently related to the LORD and as such is authoritative and true. But we have not yet finished with the associations the OT links to the term "word". The Bible also uses "word" to refer to an active agent and not simply to a communication of information – the word is powerful and effective in carrying things out.
Just think about the creation. The opening two verses of the Bible tell us that God created everything and then from the third verse onwards we learn just how he did so. "And God said" – the phrase appears 18 times in the OT half of these occurrences in Gen.1 speaking about creation.
Looking back on creation the Psalmist rejoiced and sang:
Ps.33:6 "By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host."
The early church writer Irenaeus, reflecting on these matters, declared that God had two hands – his Word and his Spirit. It is worth noting that Word and Spirit operate together throughout Scripture and it is by the Word and the Spirit that the Father relates to the world.
If the "Word" was the active agent at creation this by no means exhausted the "Word’s" energies. The LORD was, and is, good at taking care of his people a fact that the psalmist celebrated in Psalm 107. Under discipline God’s people turned again to the Most High crying out for his help and deliverance. He responded:
Ps.107:20 "He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction."
In Psalm 147 which we read earlier in the service the "Word" is referred to as the actor determining the climactic conditions; the "Word" controls even the weather: snow, frost, wind etc.
Jesus is the Word in the NT
When John wrote his gospel he had a clear purpose in mind. He wanted to introduce his readers to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He aimed to make it abundantly clear who Jesus was and what it was that he did. He did so because he wanted men and women to embrace Christ and his saving work by faith.
John began by declaring that Jesus was the Word. The creative power of the Word that was exercised in the OT was the creative power of Jesus Christ. The healing power of that Word in the OT was the healing power of Jesus Christ who would go on and on healing during his earthly ministry. The powerful control the Word exercised over nature with the weather was Jesus’ control – and again that control would be further evidenced as he stilled the winds and the waves, turned water into wine and fed huge crowds with virtually nothing.
Yes, the Word in the OT was frequently associated with the LORD and right here at the outset of his gospel John makes the identification explicit and complete:
To avoid any possible mistake in us properly identifying this Word John went on to clarify:
Jn.1:14 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
Jesus is called "Word" because he both gets things done – creation is in view in these opening verses of John’s gospel – and also makes things known. He makes known both the will of God and God himself and when he does this he does it truly and accurately:
Jn.15:15 "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."
Jn.17:26 "I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."
Heb.1:2 "in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,"
It is not just that Jesus tells us what God wants us to know but that he himself is the message that our Father wants us to "hear". Jesus in every aspect of his life shows us or tells us what God is really like. If we want to know anything about God then we must pay serious attention to his "Word", his "Message", his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!
John refers to Jesus twice more in his NT writings as the Word and both occurrences have clear links back to the opening words of his gospel.
Writing his first letter John referred to Jesus as the "word of life":
1Jn.1:1 "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life"
Cf. Jn.1:4 "In him (the Word) was life, and the life was the light of men."
Jesus not only spoke words that lead to eternal life, but according to this verse he is the very embodiment of that life. Eternal life is to be found not merely in listening to what Jesus has to say but in embracing Jesus himself – all of a Christian’s blessings are bound up in Jesus. The gospel is not primarily about having the joy, peace, pardon and fulfilment which he provides but about having him and with him all his blessings.
This "Word of life" is once more an active agent – he is God the Father reaching out looking for those who will worship in Spirit and in truth. This "Word of life" came actively seeking the lost in order to save them not in order to lecture them and to inform them how they might be saved. Action and information were and are bound together in this wonderful man.
This "Word of life" didn’t merely talk, he acted and he did so powerfully and effectively. Jesus didn’t just speak about his rejection, sufferings and death but he experienced them all taking on his adversaries and defeating them all as he laid down his life for his people!
The final time John refers to Jesus as the Word is in the Book of Revelation where he tells us that his name is "the Word of God".
What an impressive picture John paints for us of a glorious and regal Lord! This is Jesus the Victorious conqueror and the garments dipped in blood speak either of his own sacrificial sufferings or of the blood of his enemies destroyed in judgment (or maybe both together).
We are never to imagine that Jesus is just one more word of the LORD for he is indeed the personification, the perfect revelation, not merely of God’s will but of God himself.
Let us thrill and rejoice in knowing that such a great Saviour is indeed our Saviour and let us look confidently to this "Word of God" to which every page of Scripture points.
And to God be the glory.