Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Word of God Creates

While it is indeed the profession of many Christians that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, the essence and luminosity of the latter phrase has somehow lost its shine and sheen. These days, one can find Scripture being used in all sorts of ways as a "guide" to many schemes: from getting rich, to staying healthy, to developing leadership savvy, all the way to attracting a prospective mate!

In light of these misappropriations,

"...we will also have to recover the Reformation view that the Word of God is not only a canon that regulates our beliefs and practices...but that it is actually alive, accomplishing everything God intends. While upholding the reliability and authority of Scripture, conservative Evangelicalism has tended to reduce God's Word to a sourcebook for timeless doctrinal and ethical laws, missing the crucial point that the Bible itself underscores from Genesis to Revelation: namely, that God's speaking is acting, and this acting is not only descriptive but creative. God's Word is authoritative not only because of what it is (God's utterance), but because of what it does (God's utterance).

The Word of God written and preached is not simply legally authoritative and binding, but is the primary means of grace, through which the Spirit ordinarily creates communion with Christ and therefore the communion of saints: ekklesia. In other words, in this conception, the Word is not merely something that stands over us. It is also 'the implanted word' (James 1:21) that 'abides in you' (1 John 2:14), and is to 'dwell in you richly' (Col. 3:16). 'So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ' (Rom. 10:16).

Thus the Word is not only the church's norm for faith and practice, but the primary means of grace, often referred to as the 'sacramental Word.' Although there can be no saving, personal, covenantal encounter apart from information and assertions of fact, the Word in this sense is much more 'living and active' than that. It not only tells us what God has done; it does what God tells.

Life is found only in God, located in Christ, mediated by his Word. Specifically, the gospel is that part of God's Word that gives life. Not everything that God says is saving. Sometimes God's speech brings judgment, disaster, fear, warning, and dread, Calvin reminds us. God's majesty is so terrifying that we would either be overwhelmed with despair or driven to idolatry and self-justification in an attempt to avoid the God who actually exists. The only safe route, therefore, is to receive the Father through the incarnate Son. Christ is the saving content of Scripture, the substance of its canonical unity. Calvin notes, 'This is the true knowledge of Christ: if we take him as he is offered by the Father, namely, clothed with his gospel. For as he himself has been designated the goal of our faith, so we shall not run straight to him unless the gospel leads the way.'

As Christ gives himself to us through creaturely elements of water, bread, and wine, so too he gives through the words of Scripture and the proclamation that is derived from it. As with baptism and the Supper, the Spirit creates a bond between the sign (proclamation of the gospel) and the reality signified (Christ and all his benefits). That is why the Heidelberg Catechism (Q. 65) answers the question, 'Where does this true faith come from?' by saying, 'The Holy Spirit creates it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.' Through such preaching, sinners are actually reconciled to God.

Dr. Michael S. Horton, 'Creature of the Word' (A Liberating Captivity), Modern Reformation, March/April 2007.


  1. It is so humbly to know that God has condescended to us His creatures and given us His Word; yet sadly, so many today almost treat it with contempt.

    Thanks for posting a great excerpt by Horton.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Nathan.

    The recovery of the "sacramental Word" is crucial—the word "crucial" itself being a derivative of "cross."


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