On the Word of God

As I keep mentioning, I’ve been teaching classes on doctrine at my church. The first 2 classes were spent on the general importance of doctrine and I’ve been stressing 2 points:

  1. Doctrine was important to Jesus so it should be important to us.
  2. Doctrine is more than just knowledge; it’s the backbone of conduct.

So in the 3rd class I started in on the W/word of God. I spoke about how God’s word is not limited to Scripture alone. We can look to his creative words in Genesis 1, his words of sovereignty and lordship referred to in the Psalms, and even modern prophetic speech (for those of us who believe in such things) and find the word of God, even though these things haven’t necessarily been inscripturated. But they all have one thing in common, which is that they point to the eternal Word of God, which became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.

I spent the class in John’s Gospel and his first epistle focusing on the Word in which is light, life, and love. It’s with this Word that most of us have a real, personal, and existential encounter before we ever give the written word serious attention. There are always exceptions, I’m sure, but in general I’d bet that God saves most folks before they become serious Bible students. And my point last week was that love is foundational for any doctrine of the W/word of God.

Last night I had planned to turn our attention to the Scriptures and their inherent authority. Things took a different turn and I didn’t end up teaching but I did get a couple of minutes to say something and I focused in on a couple of Jesus’ statements in Luke’s Gospel. At one point Jesus’ mother and brothers desire to see him but can’t work their way through the crowd that surrounds him. Word gets back to Jesus that they want to see him but he responds by saying something that’s as practical as it is profound: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21).

Just a short while before this Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the soils and explains that the seed in the parable is the word of God (8:11). In every case the word is heard. The seed that falls by the wayside is heard but snatched away by the devil (8:12). The seed that falls among the rocks is heard and received with joy but doesn’t take root (8:13). The seed sown among the thorns is heard but when it comes up it gets choked out by the cares of life (8:14). But the seed sown in good soil is heard, held fast, and produces fruit with patience (8:15). These are those who can count themselves members of Jesus’ family!

A few chapters later a woman, who is clearly impressed by Jesus, offers praise for his mother saying, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” (Luke 11:27). Jesus’ response is like the one he offered above; he says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28). So what we believe about the word of God, and what that leads us to do, identifies us as member’s of Jesus’ family and offers blessing! If that’s not a great reason to care about the word of God then I don’t know what is!



4 thoughts on “On the Word of God

  1. Nick I am interested in how you arrived at point 1, “Doctrine was important to Jesus so it should be important to us” It seems to me Jesus didn’t use the word doctrine and the way you and I would understand it would be very different to the Jewish worldview Jesus would have worked within. Just curious.

  2. Castellio: Good to know!

    Mark: I’ll start by responding to your second point. The way that I understand “doctrine” is simply as “teaching.” No more; no less. I think we can agree that “teaching” was important to Jesus. In the first class I taught on the subject I stuck with Matthew’s Gospel and noted how Jesus’ ministry was a teaching ministry (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 26:55). He taught with authority (Matt. 7:28-29 cf. 21:23); people were amazed and astonished by his teaching (Matt. 7:28; 13:54; 22:33); he both corrected (Matt. 15:9) and warned against (Matt. 16:12 cf. Matt. 7) false teaching; and finally, he commanded the disciples to teach others to obey all that he had commanded (Matt. 28:20).

    As for Jesus using the word “doctrine” (we are, of course referring to word(s) that can be translated as “doctrine”), I believe that he did in at least 2 places (i.e., Matt 15:9; John 7:16-17) and his reference to the “leaven” of the Pharisees and Sadducees was explained to be their διδαχῆς, even if he didn’t use that particular word himself. I’m interested to hear what significant differences you see between what you or I would understand as doctrine as compared to what Jesus would have.

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