When we approach the Bible as “the word of God” we must consider what we mean by this. There are a couple things that I want to do in this post. First, I want to give some examples of how we can say that the Bible is the word of God, and second, I want to explain how the word of God is more expansive than the Bible.
If I were to say to you that God speaks, what evidence would be necessary for you to believe this? Obviously, unless God were to speak to you, there wouldn’t be any evidence I could give. Therefore, even though we can reason this out somewhat, it is predicated upon faith that we believe the Bible to be the word of God. And there is nothing wrong with that. Just as the scientist believes that the universe has such order that they can study it to find rhythm and pattern called “laws” and “constants”, we too trust that the Bible is truth. We all put our faith in something.
There are several ways in which God communicates, each of which I would like to speak briefly:
Self Communication: How do we know that God can even communicate to us at all? Well, reason would conclude that we’ve been given this capacity of communication from somewhere. If evolution, then we haven’t the slightest clue how. If from God, then it stands to reason that God Himself must also have the capacity to communicate. We find in Genesis 1:26-27 a conversation of God with Himself. This would lead us to believe that both God can communicate, and that at least these words of God’s self communication are His words.
Angels: In Psalm 91:11, we see that God will “give charge” to the angels concerning you and I. Of course, this is quoted by Satan to Jesus. The point, however, is that God communicates to the angels. The words that we see in Job 1 are the words of God to the angles, and thus we can trust that as long as these words have been faithfully recorded, they are the words of God.
Humanity: In Exodus 19, God tells Moses to assemble the people at the base of Mount Sinai. Then, as we finish the chapter and begin chapter 20, we see that God actually speaks out loud to the whole House of Israel. Somehow there is a Divine oration that all of the Israelites can hear. Therefore, we consider these words to be the words of God. Notice, though, that none of the words that God speaks so far are “written” words. That comes later with the writing of the Bible.
Oracles: In the Old Testament prophets, you can’t read too far before you find the phrase, “Thus saith the Lord…” It is over and over again throughout the prophets. This is Divine speech to the nation in the form of an oracle. The prophet somehow is moved upon by the Holy Spirit, and what they say is the word of God in that moment.
Rulers and Kings: In Genesis 20, we read the story of King Abimelech having a dream. The dream is from God, and God actually speaks to the king in this dream. Somehow, God is able to speak to this pagan king. We find the same thing in the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2, 4, and even the writing on the wall in Daniel 6. These are the words of God.
Through Angels: We have already seen that God speaks to angels, but we also find that God speaks through angels. For example, we find in Daniel 7-12 that practically the whole thing is narrated by angels. All of Daniel 11-12 is spoken by Gabriel, and the interpretation of the visions in Daniel 7-8 are spoken by an angel. Zechariah also experienced speaking with angels, which we find from the very first chapter of his book. These are the words of God, though mediated through angels.
Theophanies: Remember in Genesis 41 when Pharaoh had a dream? It was said by Joseph that God was actually speaking to Pharaoh in this dream. Now, this isn’t necessarily a theophany in a strict sense, but in a lenient sense I’m adding to this both dreams and visions. We find in Exodus 24 that Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the elders of Israel go up Mount Sinai and they see God. That is a theophany. They actually saw God, and they ate and drank with Him. The angel of the Lord is often considered to be God. Ezekiel saw God in the first three chapters of his book. Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up in Isaiah 6. These are the ways God communicates to us, thus making it the word of God.
I’ll begin my discussion of the Bible itself at another time, but for now let us conclude this with a few simple remarks. Jesus was the Word made flesh. Between all of these various ways in which the word of the Lord is used, we cannot conclude that the Bible = the word of God. It is like a square that is a parallelogram. That statement is true, but so is a rectangle or hexagram. A square is not the only manifestation of a parallelogram, and the Bible is also not the only manifestation of the word of God.
When you or I hear the Spirit of God speaking to us, it is the word of God. Now, what differentiates this word with that word is that we put all authority in the Scripture. If I were to hear God say to me that I should divorce my wife, I can rest assured know for a fact that this is not the voice of God. God hates divorce. He clearly teaches against it in His Bible, and therefore anything that supposes to be the word of God in my inner man that does not line up with the Bible is not truly the voice of God.
This is important for a couple reasons. First, if we equate the Bible to be the word of God in a strict sense, it causes for us to disbelieve in God’s communication to us through any other means. Also, this makes it rather difficult to define what it means that Jesus was the word of God made flesh. What does it mean that Jesus was the Bible made flesh? No, we have a broader definition of the word of God, and therefore we don’t limit it. Jesus being the word made flesh goes back to Genesis 1 where we read, “And God said…” The Aramaic Targum actually gives the word of God in that sense a sort of personality. It is that personal Word that John is claiming took on flesh. This definition helps us to see how about a third of the Bible is the word of God, but what about the other two thirds? We’ll have to pick that up at a later time when we begin to investigate inspiration.