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The Word of God

"...the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God." Luke 5:1 The way Western Christians talk about "the Word of God" today is a little problematic. When we say that we believe "the Word of God", we don't mean it in the same way that Luke does when he wrote his gospel. When we say that we believe the Word of God, we mean to say that we believe the Bible, and by that, we usually mean a whole package of assumed fundamental beliefs. These un-articulated assumed fundamentals are varied considerably from group to group and are the source of many controversies among "Bible-believing" Christians. When people say "I believe the Bible" (I.e. The Word of God), they often say it in defense of a particular pet doctrine such as young earth creation, the rapture, or women wearing head coverings, etc. This gets rather bewildering and disheartening for those who are seeking fellowship with God's people. Certainly, every true Christian wants to fellowship with others who take the Bible seriously as God's Word, but how does one decide where to fellowship when so many "Bible-believing" groups vary so greatly and regard those who don't think similarly with deep suspicion. It is enough to drive a good Protestant back to the Catholic Church! (Which, of course, has happened in many cases.) The problem springs from the fact that we look at the Bible, I.e. The Word of God, as a collection of Holy Commandments, supernaturally preserved and passed down through the ages for our obedience. But thanks be to God, that is not the sense in which the Bible is the Word of God. Nor is it what Luke is referring to when the crowds gathered around to hear Jesus speak "the Word of God". After all, if Luke had meant that the crowds came to hear Jesus teach the Bible, all of the Bible that they would have possessed would have been the Jewish Bible, what we call the Old Testament. For meany Protestants, the main purpose of the existence of the Old Testaments was to condemn us, so pretty tough luck trying to find good news in that or in trying to understand why this should draw excited crowds to Jesus.

The Word of God

The "Word of God" that Luke refers to here is based on the fact that the crowds believed Jesus to be a prophet and like all the true prophets of old, Jesus speaks on God's behalf. Many prophets spoke in days gone by about what God would do in the future, and one of the main questions that the ancient prophets wrestled with was "how is God going to keep the promises (I.e. The Word) that He gave to Abraham their father, to make a great nation out of them and to rescue the creation"? So when the crowds gathered to Jesus to hear "the Word of God" it was in two senses: First it was God's Word because Jesus was a prophet. Secondly, it was God's Word because what Jesus was declaring, as a prophet speaking the words of God, was that God was finally doing what he always promised (Gave His Word) to do in and through Himself! God was becoming King, on earth as He is in Heaven, in and through Jesus. This is the Word of God that people excitedly gathered around to hear and to witness because this Word was living and active and sharper than any two edged sword. This Word was a reality, a person, and He had the power and authority to cast out demons and to heal the sick and even raise the dead! They didn't gather around to hear some dogmatic word of doctrine, or some new theory, new psychology, or philosophy,they came to witness the Living Word of God. God was doing a new thing and was declaring that a new thing was happening in a through Jesus. And Jesus was declaring that what God was doing was fulfilling His ancient Word of promise to Abraham: "In you and in your family, all nations will be blessed." (Genesis 12:3). As the Messiah, Jesus was taking this vocation of Israel to be a blessing to the world, on His own shoulders to carry it where Israel, up to this point in history, had not be able too. This is the Word of God that Jesus both declared and then made a reality and it is what the people of Israel came out to hear and to see, the living Word of God.

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