Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 26, 1951

The Word Of God

Pat Hardeman, Tampa, Florida

Before continuing our series on modernism in the church, it is necessary that we appreciate fully the positive side of these matters. So the present article is an effort to set forth the Bible doctrine of "The Word of God." First, there is the question of...

Words Of God And The Word Of God

There can be no question but that in the Old Testament the Word of God was identified with the written words of God. The expression, ta logia—the words, the oracles (specifically), occurs four times in the New Testament:

Acts 7:38 — Moses "received the lively oracles to give unto us.'

Rom. 3:2 — To the Jews "were committed the oracles of God.'

Heb. 5:12 — You need to be taught again "the first principles of the oracles of God."

1 Pet. 4:11 — "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God."

Most certainly the first two of these passages, perhaps also Heb. 5:12, refer to the Old Testament law. 1 Pet. 4:11 unquestionably refers to the New Testament. But in such passages as these, if we judge by the usage of the terms in Classical, Hellenistic and Patristic Greek, the meaning of the terms, oracles of God, is obvious: (1) either that the separate portions of scripture are to be regarded as "utterances' of God, or (2) that the scriptures as a whole constitute one continuous oracular deliverance from God's own lips. (Read the illuminating chapter, "The Oracles of God" in Warfield's Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1948—Thus Warfield shows that the singular "oracle," logion, is synonymous with gramma, a passage of scripture from God, and the plural ta logia, "the oracles," becomes synonymous with ta grammata, in Philo, and with ai graphai, the scriptures, and o logos, the word, in the New Testament.) So the scriptures, the oracles, may safely be called The Word of God, as far as the Old Testament is concerned. Now what about the New Testament teaching on the Words of God and the Word of God? If we should find that the New Testament makes the Word and the Words synonymous, it would do much to undermine further the frail structure on which our modernistic brethren such as Roy Key have erected their charge that we hold a "legal rather than a personal' view of faith in the Word of God. They say our faith is legal because it rests in the written Word rather than the personal Word. But where do writers of the Bible make such a distinction between Words and "the Word?' In deed the Holy Spirit in the New Testament identifies the Word, o logos, with the Words. Then it must follow that whosoever has real faith in the written Word also holds the true faith in the personal Word since the written Word reveals and exalts the personal Word. So away goes the charge of legalism. This is not to say that the person in heaven, Christ, does not exist apart from the written Words on earth but it confidently affirms that Christ transfers to us through the written Word his message, his will, his "Words,' his provisions of Grace and the power of his Person. Brother Roy Key has written that he will deny this "transference." I wonder if he will decide against this "statement of the real issue' as he has other statements of the issue he has made.

A Proposition

RESOLVED: The scriptures teach that the Word of God is identical with the Words of God. Notice the arguments in support of this proposition.

(1) 1 Thess. 2:13 — "When ye received the word of God which ye heard of us ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.' Wonder what "the word of God' is in this passage? It could be that it was the apostolic word preached to the Thessalonians!

(2) Heb. 4:12 — "For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." The very thought of this passage is that it is the word of God which makes it imperative that we labor to enter into the rest that remains for the people of God. Certainly there is not the slightest suggestion or possibility in the passage of an antithesis between the word of God on earth and the high priest of God in heaven. Rather it is the word that makes possible and meaningful our relation to the high priest of God who is passed into the heavens.

(3) 1 Peter 1:23-25 — "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." Which is the word? This is the word! The what? That word "which by the gospel is preached unto you!!' This does not sound like brother Key's dictum "not in words, but His Word to us."

Question: What is "the Word of God' in these passages if it is not the same as the Words of God, the oracles of God in other passages? Brother Key and other modernists like him have complained that words cannot give life, cannot transform, cannot save, yet in 1 Peter 1:23-25, the apostle does not hesitate to affirm the identity of the apostolic-preached word with the life giving and abiding word of God. Frankly, I'll take the apostle's view, and pray that these modernists will return to the same view.

(4) Acts 12:24; 13:49 — But the word of God grew and multiplied.' What word grew? The Word of God! Then Paul and Barnabas said, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you.' What is this the apostles are saying can be spoken? The Word of God! Far from the modernist's contradictory assertion that the Word of God cannot be put infallibly and completely in words, the apostle affirms infallibly that "it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken." Now will brother Key or any other modernist deny that the Word of God can be spoken?

Irrationalism In Philosophy

Brethren, behind the view of the modernists that Christ as the Word of God cannot be completely preached in Words is a view of human knowledge (epistemology) which absolutely precludes the very possibility of having an infallible Bible. This is the view held by Barth and Brunner whom brother Key has sought to exonerate from the charge of "modernism.' The idea is, as they put it, that in every act of knowing there is a certain "non-rational' and "inexpressible' fact. So, Christ, as a living fact, cannot completely be put in Words (even if God inspired the writers to do it—P.H.) Thus brother Key wrote me that any theory of inspiration "can be shown deficient at the same or other points. That is true not only with theories of Inspiration but also of the Incarnation, Atonement, Nature of God, etc. Here, is of course, the Achilles' heel of all creeds as absolute statements of the Christian faith. (Emphasis mine—P.H.) Now the Bible claims to be an "absolute statement of the Christian faith,' in fact, the absolute statement of it, but it seems to me that brother Key says, the Bible cannot be .the absolute statement of it. If this is not his meaning, I confess that I am one of "the many' whom brother Key describes as not even beginning "to see what is at stake." If brother Key applies the above only to human creeds, he knows that I agree entirely; but when he writes in the same letter the scriptures are not "to act as a roadmap, walking stick, a blue print, or a code, to show man how to save himself,' I cannot for the life of me see what else he means but that the Bible cannot be an absolute statement of the Christian faith. If this is brother Key's meaning, the charge of "infidelity" which I have made is not so "reckless' after all. If this is not his meaning then I hereby resolve to study grammar and logic a little harder for the next few years so as to "see' when I read his articles "what is at stake.' These brethren (modernists in the church) know that we understand their unbelief all too well for us to be quiet. They appreciate the simple and glorious beauty of New Testament Christianity which we have espoused, and they hate to be fed only on the husks of denominational infidelity. So, they try to reform and transform the Restoration Plea in harmony with their modernism, try to stay in the church, keep their modernistic views, and convert as many as possible to them. They accuse us who are content to accept the Bible as it is in truth the Word of God, of being abysmally ignorant. As Roy Key put it, "I would not care to discuss such a question with very many, for they likely couldn't even begin to see what is at stake." Modesty, thou art a jewel!

What About John 1:1-4?

This essay will be closed when we answer an objection to the identification of the Words of God with the Word of God, rising from a misunderstanding of John 1:1-17. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth... For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." There are three well defined stages of the revelation of the Word. Christ was in the beginning the eternal logos (the Word), and was manifested in certain degrees in Old Testament days (1 Cor. 10:4 — "they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ"). The Word was coeternal "with God' and was divine, "was God." Then the Word was made flesh, and lived a life full of grace and truth, as of the only begotten of the Father. As men saw him, they saw the Father. (John 1:18; 14:9) But his life was to be "taken from the earth." How was his life of truth to be perpetuated and spread from generation to generation? Jesus brought the truth, then he sent the "Spirit of truth' to guide the apostles in producing an infallible Book of truth, the New Testament. Hence, "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.' Hence also, when we obey the truth, we obey the word which by the gospel is preached. (1 Peter 1:22-25) So also when we "receive with meekness the engrafted word" which is able to save our souls, we receive the truth by which we can be made free from sin, error and death. (John 8:32; James 1:21) But modern theology has such wondrous beauty to brother Key that he sees much more than this in John 1. The passage for Roy is a "theological formulation.' Hear our modernistic brother: "Of course, the basic faith of the technically trained in religion, or anything else, will not differ from the basic faith of the wash woman, but the theological statement of it will most certainly vary.' Will it vary, I ask, if both "speak as the oracles of God,' and hold the "form of sound words?" (1 Peter 4:11) But that the "theological statements" of the same faith will vary, Roy says, "That's apparent to anyone who knows what theology is." What, may we ask is offered as proof of this jargon? Hear the "proof" Roy offers: "In the opening verses of John we have a theological statement of the Incarnation in terms of the logos philosophy of the Greeks. Do you imagine this was the view of every Jewish peasant?" At this point, if I should follow the example of my modernistic brother, I would rave about his ignorance of "the logos philosophy of the Greeks," for apparently he doesn't have the slightest idea of how the Greeks conceived their idolatrous "logos." However, since I do not exalt philosophy as the way for a "technically trained' man to express his faith, Roy's ignorance of philosophy matters little. It is the hold modernistic theology has on him that concerns me. Why are varying "theological statements" necessary? Can't the "technically trained" speak as the oracles of God. Why not accept John 1 as and for what it is; viz.—an affirmation of the eternity and deity of the Word, plus the grand facts that "the Word became flesh" and brought God, grace and truth to men.

This certainly does not affirm that we exhaustively comprehend these truths but we do believe they are infallibly expressed without any further theological formulation.