Christian Life

The Bible, Sermons and God’s Word

Has it ever happened to you that you heard something that was extremely familiar and yet all of a sudden you heard it in a new way and started to ask questions about it? Something like that happened to me in church yesterday. The man leading the service said something short and simple – I’m sure I’ve heard something similar many times over – but this time I found myself sitting up in my seat and questioning the way we tend to use language in my church tradition. The simple phrase was (not an exact quote).

Now X will read the passage for today and then the minister will come and bring God’s word to us.

This isn’t a dig against the chap who said this – he was just using language the way we do from my background. But, which bit is God’s word – the inspired words of Scripture or the interpretation and application of those words through a sermon. I realise that this is a huge can of worms and the use of the term the Word of God can involve the theology of the incarnation, the doctrine of Scripture and our view on preaching and reading. I acknowledge all of that, but somewhere in there, I have a lurking fear that I have spent much of my life valuing sermons more than the Scripture they are expounding.

Does this strike a chord with anyone else, or am I just strange?

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5 replies on “The Bible, Sermons and God’s Word”

Strange… you…?

But a valid point. I think terms like this support the idea that the minister has some kind of special hotline to God and would be better at explaining scripture than you or I. That said, I also can see this phrase from the point of view of someone leading us through a passage of scripture in a more detailed way.

To be honest though, I’ve been perturbed by this phrase for a while and I try to avoid using it for two reasons. 1) It’s a cliche that just gets used as an introduction. 2) I don’t really understand what it is supposed to mean.

Yes, I agree. Sometimes people try and get away from that old fasioned language and say things like “Now Bob-the-Preacher will explain to us what that passage means”. Oh, so he knows does he … for sure …. so, he must be the one who inspired it in the first place then!

And I assume this is the same church that refuses to have icons like a cross at the front of the auditorium but are very keen to put a bible there. If you were a visitor, I think you might be confused into thinking that there isn’t in fact a living God we worship but an old dusty book!

I guess I’m on the opposite sid of the fence. In my church, the Bible reading is concluded with the words, “This is the word of God for the people of God,” and I’m not fully comfortable with that.

Most places where the New Testament itself uses the phrase “word of God,” it refers to preaching or something spoken (e.g. Luke 11:28, Acts 4:31, 6:2, 13:46, 2 Cor 2:17, 1 Thess 2:13, and elsewhere). Hebrews 4:12 says the word is “living and active,” a description that fits the spoken word much better than the printed word.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s important that we have the Bible, but what makes the Scriptures vital is taking the ancient writings and finding a way to connect them to our contemporary world. In that sense, I think it is entirely appropriate to refer to the preaching as the word of God, if it can reach that goal.

Thanks for the comment Bruce. I agree that there is a vital role for teachers to bridge the gap between the world of the Bible and our world and I think what you are saying is very important. However, I retain my concern that my particular church tradition has, perhaps, elevated the preacher and the sermon above the Scriptures in terms of importance – and that worries me.

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