Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | January 10, 2008

The Word, Part 2

In the comments on “The Word, Part 1” (01.08.09) Ted Johnston made a really good point about the word- something IChristos Pantokrator had forgotten and should have included in my discussion.

The Word of God is the second person of the Trinity, in the flesh he is Jesus. The word of scripture bears witness to him. But so does the word of the apostles’ preaching.

In his comment Ted pointed out that this is the most common use of the term “the word” in the New Testament – it is used to describe the apostles’ preaching of the gospel. (Rom 10:8, 1 Cor. 2:13, 1 Pet. 1:25)

So the Word of God has three dimensions:

First and most important it is the Word who is personal and incarnate as Jesus.

Second it is the apostolic preaching, the declaration of the good news of the Word of humanity’s adoption: Jesus.

Third is the word of scripture, the written record of the declaration of the good news.

The word as the apostolic preaching becomes very significant in church history. Beginning in the 2nd Cen. the early Christians use their understanding of the apostolic preaching to determine which NT books belong in the bible. The content of the bible was determined based on two main factors:

1. Was the book written by an apostle (e.g. Paul) or someone who worked closely with an apostle? (e.g. Luke)

2. Is the book faithful to bear witness to the Word as he is described in the word of the apostolic preaching?

How did they know what the word of the apostolic preaching was? Tertullian and others tell us that the apostolic preaching was handed down through the bishops of the churches and was well known throughout the Christian community.

This apostolic preaching is eventually summarized by the early Christians in places like the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedon Creed (see my post “Forever With Us” 12.28.07.)

All of this has great significance for us in interpreting the bible. How do we know we are interpreting it correctly, as it was intended by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration?

Primarily we need to be sure that our interpretation matches up with who Jesus is as The Word. So, for example, if we come up with an interpretation that contradicts Jesus’ identity as the one in and through whom all things exist (Col. 1:16-17, Heb. 1:2-3) then we have the wrong interpretation.

Likewise, if we come up with an interpretation that contradicts the apostolic teaching then we have come up with the wrong conclusion. For example, the Chalcedon creed preserves the word of the apostles that says Jesus is fully God and fully human and remains forever the union of God and humanity. The creed is telling us “this is what the apostles meant by what they wrote in the bible.” Therefore, we cannot faithfully interpret scripture in any way that contradicts basic, apostolic teaching preserved in the creeds of the church.

What’s to keep us from misinterpreting the bible? Primarily The Word of God and secondarily the word of the apostles’ preaching – if we are willing to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying through them.

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Responses

  1. Well said my brother.

    Indeed “God’s household”…is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20). All this to advance His plan of adoption (Eph 1:5), by which we have “become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph 2:22).

    Feed on the Word!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement! and the reminder of Ephesians 2:20.

  3. Hello To All;

    Do not interpretations belong to God?

    There is no trinity, trinity is a man made doctrine, not Christ’s there is only one doctrine and that is the doctrine of Christ’s…Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh,(something we can see)…We cannot see a spirit, therefore, the spirit is the invisible God…No where in the bible does it say that there are two or three…

    Jesus is fully God,(spirit) and fully man,(flesh), and that is the word of God…The prophets and the Apostles were moved by the Holy Ghost to write His inspired written word….

    Isa 44:24 Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;

    Isa 44:6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

    Rev 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

    It is a dangerous thing for man to interpret the word of God because man has a sinful nature….Let God be God, and His word be His word….

    Let me ask you; What is God’s plan of salvation for His children?

    I am not trying to be a wise guy because no man knows all things there is about God…

    I am simply about truth, God’s truth….

    Humbly;
    Johnnie

  4. Thanks for reading and commenting, Johnnie. Since I believe that God’s Triune nature is what Jesus reveals about God (John 14:16-20) and you think it is something people made up we really don’t have much ground for conversation.

    We are starting from very different beginning assumptions.

    I would just say this: to read is to interpret. You are interpreting scripture to say God is not Triune. Whenever we say “the bible says. . .” that is an interpretation on our part. To say otherwise is, I think, intellectually dishonest.

    With regard to God’s plan of salvation I believe it is made fairly plain in Ephesians 1:4-5 “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his children through Jesus Christ.”

    The Father’s plan is to include us as his children in the relationship of love, joy, and eternal life that he shares with the Son and the Spirit.

    As I said, our dialog can’t really go very far since we have such very different starting points but thanks for reading and sharing your comments!

  5. In reply to Johnnie’s concerns, my thought is that Jesus is himself the interpretation of Scripture, for as Jesus said, Scripture speaks of him: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).

    Jesus invites us to read Scripture through the lens of who *he* is. And as we do, we learn from Scripture that Jesus is the logic (Word; logos) that underlies all the cosmos.

    As one theologian said, Jesus is the “ground and grammar of all reality.”

  6. My response is for Johnnie’s commet. While I respect the opinion, I would ask what is meant in scripture by the plurality of ” let US make man in OUR image” and ” In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was WITH God and was God.” And that the Spirit moved and created.
    There is only one God who exists in THREEness-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God with three distinctions.
    It is amazing that so many individuals read “the bible” with their own short sighted closed mind limited understanding wrong perspectives. Mostly from poor scholarship with no formal theological training.

    Humbly doing anything is being able to accept positive criticisms and learn from the minds of those more qualified and educated than oneself.

    Jonathan was right. When one starts with the wrong premise or starting point, one arrives at a wrong destination.

    Impossible to have dialogue with one who refuses to learn more than one already knows.

  7. Pastor Jonathan;
    Ted Johnston;
    Paul Kurts;

    Thank You for commenting back….First of all, God’s plan of salvation is clearly spelled out in the book of Acts 2:38…This is what Peter was explaining to the men of Israel, and that my friends is the only way unto heaven….

    Second; the word “US” is plural, which was used in our language that we may understand what the prophet was telling us, being the bible was not originally written in our language…Kings and
    Magistrates used plural words when referring to themselves as doing this or doing that, therefore it made sense when the men were translating the bible into English to use the plural word, “Us”…Read further on to the next scripture, Genesis 1:27, It says that God made man in His own imagine, not their image….

    Thirdly; You let scripture interpret scripture…When man adds his own thoughts into the word of God, that is when things become fuzzy and hazy, man perverts things because we are not perfect, but the word of God is perfect, therefore, I let scripture interpret scripture…And no, I do not have a bunch of alphabets after my name, but I do understand the word of God and what He is telling me and others….

    Let me ask you bible scholars something;

    Who is the Father?

    Who is the Son?

    Who is the Holy Ghost?

    Well, they are not separate, and they are not co-equals….They are titles of the one true God, Jesus Christ….

    Fourth; You quite don’t understand what is being said about predestination….What the Apostle is saying here that God chooses who He shall have mercy on or who He may not…We as God’s true children will abide in His word, we will be obedient children unto Him, or He will show wrath upon us…

    It sounds to me that you believe in once saved always saved, which is a man made doctrine, not of God….Yeah, I might not be a bible scholar like you all, but that shouldn’t keep me from speaking the word of God….

    Humbly;
    Johnnie

  8. Johnnie,
    You have a classic understanding of Western Christian Theological interpretation centering on what is known in theological terms as ARMENIANISM. Another approach to Theology is CALVINISM which postits that some are saved by God’s choice and some are lost by God’s choice from the foundation of the world. While both of these center on the Cross of Christ and ATONEMENT, they do not express the intent of God’s original purpose in creating man to be in His life for ever and for God to be in man’s life forever. They lack the elements of Adoption and Inclusion in God’s life.

    Much of the Western Christian Theological understanding taught by a majority of churches in the West has a basis in understanding in AUGUSTINIAN teachings from St. Augustine in the 5th century A.D.
    Augustine was an avid student of Greek Philosophy and gained nearly all of his main dictates from Plato, and other Greek philosophers.
    Concepts such as an ever burning Hell, Limbo, Purgatory, sex being evil inherentily, and many other ideas originated from Plato and Augustine.

    The Trinity is simply the explanation the church was forced to address and proclaim because scripture is filled with the Triune God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And since Jesus was killed because He claimed to be God, the church had to eventually come to explain and or interpret the Trinity as a reality.

    I am thankful to see that you honor and hold Jesus Christ in the Highest esteem. I agree with that. But the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit still is the ONE and ONly true God.

    Our problem is how to describe this Theological and philosophical concept to ourselves and to others.

    We will never on this side of heaven fully understand the EXISTENCE of God in all of His fullness. But we can still love Him and each other.

    I ask that you allow yourself the luxury of listening to the Holy Spirit/Jesus Christ in your continuing to GROW IN THE GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.

    GOD BLESS,

    Paul Kurts

  9. Paul;

    You are correct in the fact that we as mere humans will never know all there is to know about our God, Jesus Christ…Any man that claims to know all about God would be a liar, and a person should run as fast as he/she can, and one might hold on to their bill-fold to because they are just after your money….

    There is only one God, that is correct, there are not three separate beings however, God is multi-facet, not separate as some suppose….I am not into theology because theology is not the word of God, but the word of man…I let scripture interpret scripture, the word of God says what it means, and means what it says….

    Trinity is a man made doctrine, it is not a doctrine of Christ….Who is the, Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? The answer is clearly laid out in the bible, Jesus Christ…The father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are merely titles of the one true God, Jesus Christ…

    I also do not believe in once-saved-always-saved analogy, that is also man-made doctrine…Calvin almost had it right, as, with Martian Luther, but they allowed their own thoughts into the word of God, therefore, ending up with their own doctrine…

    There is also no purgatory as some would have us believe, there is simply no bible to support such a belief, it is either heaven or hell…

    I will continue my walk with the Lord Jesus Christ …Jesus is my King and my Master, my heavenly Father, forevermore…

    Humbly;
    Johnnie

  10. […] Think of these creeds as a pair of glasses. When we cannot see without glasses, we would not even begin to attempt going through life without them because of the hazard to our very life, health and peace! By analogy, we all have poor spiritual vision (we are all sinners) and yet we find ourselves trying to read and understand the bible (with this admitted blurry vision) without our glasses! This has produced a hazard of horrible doctrines and theology that are hurting most of us in the present day and snatching away life, health and peace!! (John 8:43 – we misinterpret God’s speech because we don’t hear things through the lens of Who Jesus is as THE Word!)! […]


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