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Introduction: John, the youngest, is wonderfully outstanding among the 12 Apostles in many ways. He survived all the others, and is said to be the only one to die of old age, the others being martyred. He lived long enough to see and to write concerning the early heresies and false doctrines assailing the church, as well as the beginnings of the false church, the whore, and her many anti-christs. Because of that, he writes like the first of Genesis, always taking us back to the very beginning, the rudiments and foundations of knowable divine truth. Here, as in all his writings, he immediately takes up the contrasts between light and darkness, truth and lies, love and hate, life and death. He plumbs these topics to their very depths, and brings them to bear on every facet of Christian doctrine, life and practice.
Of the twelve Apostles, John was the only theologian, and of the writing theologians, the mystic. Paul was a logical and systematic theologian who experienced, heartily embraced, and fervently taught the mystical realities of Christ and the gospel: but John, the theologian, an unmistakable mystic, was completely taken up with the Lord Jesus, the eternal God-Man in Whom is embodied all that may be known of life, truth and all reality. It is with good reason Jesus Christ is to him “The Word.”
John gives us the fourth and last gospel, the life of the Lord Jesus. This “Gospel of John” is, by far, the most published, distributed, read, and beloved portion of the entire Bible. He writes to no local church in particular but leaves us one powerful general epistle and two personal ones. In that capacity, he spans the gap between the original twelve and the succeeding apostles, among whom Paul is chief. He then closes the Bible, the recorded and written word of God, with the last book in the scripture, titled appropriately, The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
The prominence of “word,” “words,” “the word,” and “God’s word” in the scriptures: Ten different Hebrew and Chaldean words are translated “word” in the O.T. Two different Greek words are translated word in the N.T. (Logos, the term John prefers and employs in our text, and rhema). All these different words (Hebrew, Chaldean, and Greek), however, are always synonyms rather than different ideas. We find them used interchangeably throughout the scriptures. A fitting question to ask at this point is “What is the basic meaning of all scriptural words translated “word” and other expressions of informing such as speak, tell, command, warn, prophesy, or, in general, to communicate?
It is, essentially, that thing or means whereby rational creatures understand, know and communicate.
The principal value of the word is to dispel darkness and ignorance. It is that which sheds light and opens vistas. It goes beyond sensing (senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing of meaningless sounds) which can only provoke pleasure, pain, or awareness. Words inform! They make us to know. It is the criteria of rational creatures to understand. And of knowledge and understanding, the greatest is to know God. (Jer. 9:23-24) Note the key of understanding in Matt. 13:13, 15, 19, 23, and in Proverbs 4:7-9. Correspondingly, this understanding leads to fruitfulness in life, the goal and purpose of all that lives! Note Paul’s prayer for understanding in Ephesians 1:15-18.
Words, and the thoughts in connection with them, are communicated to us by hearing audible sounds, by seeing (reading symbols, and by letters which are understood to mean concrete ideas, and by touch; braille, by which blind and deaf people have been taught to understand certain senses to their fingers).
But by far the most efficient means of understanding comes by hearing words (Rom. 10:17). It is the prime means by which God has ordained understanding. Video adds little to understanding. It has more entertainment value than anything else, and may actually be used to confuse or cloud the truth of the word. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” may be true in esthetic effects, but for understanding reality, a word is worth a thousand pictures. Illusion, not reality is at the heart of the artist’s most powerful and popular work.
The gate of the ear follows a more direct route to the soul than that of the eye. Written words or images of actual things cannot interpret, inflect, emphasize, convey feeling urgency, power, pathos, and passion as spoken words. Inflection volume, tone, brevity, pauses, deliberation, all combine mightily to inform the actual spirit, the invisible substance and essence of the thing communicated. A good argument can be made that the spoken word is better than the written, and that a message preached in the power of the Spirit is better than reading the Bible. For thousands of years the truth was communicated effectively, purely and solely without a written Bible! That is because Jesus Christ is the Word, and He has never been handicapped by the lack of human technology and devices! He is no more dependent upon them now than in the Creation when He spoke all things into existence out of nothing!
It is the word that brings light to shine and banish darkness. An infant is formed, created in total darkness deep in the womb of its mother. Darkness cannot hide form God Who is Himself light. But that infant in the darkness of the womb is hearing his mother’s voice and learning much about her before he is born. He also recognizes his father’s voice. Before a child learns the meaning of words, the tones, volume and inflection of its parent’s voices either comfort or frighten him.
We wait, and eagerly anticipate our baby’s first word, for that is what ushers him into the understanding world. That word is invariably, ma-ma, pa-pa, or ab-ba. This is the first indication of his understanding. The same is true of our second birth: the Spirit of son-ship crying “Father” (abba) to our God! (Gen. 1:3) Paul uses that to illustrate the coming of the word of God to us in salvation. What the word of God did for the world in creation is done for us in salvation (II Cor. 4:2-6).
Some other scriptures that underscore the foundation and centrality of the word...that make it clear that the principle focus and activity of the Christian church is on the word: not music, singing, or works.
These all must arise from the word of truth!
Psalm 138:2 is often given some absurd interpretations as “preaching the word is greater than God.” This would necessitate verbal inspiration in translations! “Word” used here cannot mean the Bible; no Bibles existed at that time. It cannot mean scripture. The word of God was the word of God before anything was written. It cannot mean that God has magnified preaching above Himself. The Hebrew word shem, translated “name” here means renown, fame, reputation. It is what one is know for. We are told God has magnified His word, what He says...makes known....above all else for which He may be known! His spoken revelation transcends all His attributes. It is the most important thing we can know about God. And if we do not know what He says, all other knowledge of Him is worthless! In Matthew 4:4 Jesus quotes this in refutation of the devil’s attempt to seduce Him to exercising His personal power and prerogative into turning stones into bread. Note the source of the quote (Deut. 8:1-3). The point is, our life, being and survival depends not in physical nutrition, but upon knowing God’s word!
Acts 4:31 “And they spoke the word of God with boldness”. According to the context the “word of God” here is not the Bible or the scriptures. They were praying for God to grant them boldness to speak
His word (vs.29), because they had been forbidden to do so by the religious authorities. The authorities would have had no problem with them speaking the scriptures. The problem was, these disciples believed those scriptures, and were witnesses of their fulfillment in Christ whom they had crucified!
Religion, as well as the devil, is comfortable enough with dead letter words...words without life. It is the demonstration of the power of that word in the living and reigning Lord Jesus that unseats the power of the world, the flesh and the devil!
Words printed in a book that everybody owns and nobody believes is no threat to darkness. Darkness has no objection to scholarship, linguistics, and debates over words. It will even sponsor multiple translations of these words, and preside over the debates, splits and schisms which they provoke. No, it is the evident demonstration of living reality in that work that darkness fears!
Acts 4:24-31. Here now is the proper church response to the devil’s attempt to intimidate us into silence or to deny spiritual realities brought to us in the Person of Jesus Christ: Prayer! A church prayer meeting! In that prayer meeting, confess the truth. Tell God Who He is! What He has said! His Word!
What men have done and what they have said. Confess our fears, our weakness, our refusal of self confidence, or desperate need of Him, of boldness, and confidence in Him in His ability to enable us.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit that followed did not cause them to speak in an unintelligible language, but clearly understood language...the wonderful works of God. There is, always has been, and always will be pressure from the world, the flesh and the devil... more often than not...in the garb of established religion, to suppress and silence the word. But this word, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Who has been sent here to help us, cannot be denied, and will not be silenced (Acts. 5:29-32).