The Bible and Authority
Very simple Why Mormonism Why the Bible? What is authority
Who has authority ONLY the Bible? The Word of God Which Bible?
Do you trust
the word of God?
or do you prefer the Bible?
A form of idolatry See also: the Gospel
Idolatry means worshipping something instead of God. For example, someone may have a wooden effigy of their own god. People do not of course worship the wood itself, the wood is just a way to point them to their god.

A popular modern form of idolatry is "bibliolotry" - worship of the Bible. People do not of course worship the Bible itself, the Bible is just a way to point them to their god. But ironically, their god is one who, like the gods of other idols, cannot speak.

Most Christians would strongly deny that they worship the Bible. But if all your religious ideas are based on the Bible, it amounts to the same thing.

What is wrong with basing your faith on the Bible?

This page deals with just the first point: when the Bible refers to "the word of God" it seldom if ever means the written scriptures.

Living prophets and dead prophets

Music CDs, and the difference between alive and dead

Few (if any) Christians admit to bibliolotry. They would claim that they worship the true God, based on his word - the word of God. But is the Bible the word of God? (What a heretical thought!) or does it rather contain a record of the word of God, just as a compact disc has a record of a song?

The difference is crucial. A compact disc recording cannot claim to be live. The musician's union would have something to say if a radio station claimed to have live music, then played CDs all day. In the same way, the Bible does not contain the living word of God, but it does contain a record of some of the words of God given in the past.

Why does this difference matter? Because it is the difference between life and death, between a living faith and a dead faith, a living hope and a dead hope, living words and dead words.

Put bluntly, if a singer sings a song at the wrong speed, they immediately notice and correct themselves. But if you play a CD at the wrong speed, you may never realise (especially if you have no other CDs to compare it with). Likewise, if a living prophet is misunderstood, he can correct us. But if the Bible is misunderstood, we can go along for a thousand years (as the Roman church did) and not realise.

Am I saying that the Bible has dead words?

No. But the Bible is only alive insofar as the living word has enlivened it. Just as the Old Testament was only alive to the New Testament saints insofar as Jesus or Paul had made it clear. This is a bold doctrine, but truth is just that - bold.

As a Latter-day Saint, I believe that the Bible is the word of God, as far as correctly translated. I also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. Intelligent critics will observe that this puts the final decision in the hands of the living prophets! Quite true. That is the only way it can be, if you believe the Bible.

According to the Bible, "the word of God" means the living words. The living words may be recorded in books, but if so they become a record of the living words and not the living words themselves. Why the distinction? Because all books can be interpreted. We can both read the same thing and come away with different ideas. But a living prophet can correct me if I am wrong. A book, no matter how good, cannot always do this.

If the living word of God says that such and such a book is good - then great! I can trust that book. And if I misunderstand it, the living word can correct me. So a book can also be a living word, but only insofar as a living prophet can correct me if I stray. (Remember the Ethiopian Eunuch?)

Of course, the Holy Spirit can perform the same function. If I read the scriptures with the spirit, than I myself am a prophet (by definition - see Revelation 19:10). So ideally we would not need any other prophets to guide us. This is the starting point of Protestantism! But there is a problem with this. We are all liable to sin. It is quite possible to think we are guided by the spirit when in fact we are not. Even the New Testament saints needed Peter and Paul.

In summary, the foundation for our faith is the the word of God - meaning the spoken word, as moved upon by the Holy Spirit. The Bible never teaches us to rely on the written word unless verified by the words of living prophets.

Is "the word of God" spoken or written?

If "the word of God" generally means the written word, then non-Mormons have a good case. Who needs more prophets when you have it all written down? But if "the word of God" generally means the spoken word, then to follow it we need to find the living prophets.

Almost every time that New Testament uses the term "word of God" it refers to the (then) living prophets. "But that is only because the prophets were then still alive" you say? Precisely. You can only have the word of God in any living sense when the prophets who speak it are alive.

There are a few references to written scripture as "the word of God", but every time this is to condemn those who corrupt and twist the original spoken, living word.

What is "the word of God" - according to the Bible?

Every occurrence of the phrase "word of God" in the New Testament (KJV) :

Mark 7:13
Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

Here Jesus has only recently started preaching, so the only generally available "word of God" is that recorded in the scriptures. the Pharisees are condemned for being like many modern Christians. They claimed to follow the written "word of God". But it is made of no effect because, like many modern Christians, they also relied on tradition.

I critic recently wrote to me , "it would seem to me that the further a person or group strays from traditional teachings the more likely they are to be in error." This seems to be a common belief among Christians. It seems to me, however, that the Bible says the precise opposite.

Luke 3:2
Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

This was via a living angel - not because Zacharias read it in the Bible. Can you name one single announcement by a modern day angel that has been accepted by most Christians? Then do modern Christians listen to the word of God?

Luke 5:1
And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret

Was Jesus reading from the Bible? No. The word of God meant words spoken by a living oracle.

Luke 8:11
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

The parable, you will recall, concerned missionary work. Missionaries sow the seed by preaching (see 2 Corinthians 9:10). In the parable, in every case, people do not read the word, but hear it (Luke 8:12-15).

Luke 8:21
And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.

Once again the context is of Jesus preaching. It has no reference to the written scriptures.

Luke 11:28
But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

Once again, the word is heard rather than read.

John 10:35
If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

This is one of the occasional references to the word not in the present tense. The word of God came in the past because there were living prophets in the past.

Acts 4:31
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Does this mean that the people all read from or recited the books of Moses? I doubt it.

Acts 6:2
Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

This passage would not make sense if "word of God" meant written scripture. Or does this mean that the apostles were actually monks, who saw it their duty to sit at home and read the scriptures all day? No. They were sent forth as living prophets to speak.

Acts 6:7 (see also Acts 12:24, Acts 19:20)
And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Does this simply mean that more scriptures were written at this time? Of course not. But more people were speaking the words the Holy Spirit gave them!

Acts 8:14 (see also Acts 17:13)
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

Samaria already had the scriptures - the books of Moses, etc. And the New Testament had not been written at that time. So clearly "the word of God" referred to the spoken (not written) message. In this case, it was Philip who was preaching.

Acts 10:36
The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)

Once again, since the scriptures had not at that time been written, it could only refer to the spoken word.

Acts 11:1
And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.

See Acts 10:44 - Peter was telling his experiences, not reading the scriptures.

Acts 13:5
And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

The synagogues were specifically built for reading the written scriptures. But the Christian word of God is different - it is spoken by the mouths of living prophets.

Acts 13:7
Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.

And when they came, the word - referred to as "the doctrine" - was that a living prophet could perform miracles. This has nothing to do with reading scriptures.

Acts 13:44
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

To hear it from Paul and Barnabas, not to read it in the synagogues. (The Jews, who ran the scripturally based synagogues, were said to be "full of envy". I am reminded of the letter sent out to ministers advertising the "Godmakers" film - it began "they're stealing your people!")

Acts 13:46
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

The living prophets told the Jews that the word of God had been spoken to them yet had now been put from them. Does this mean just the word as spoken by Paul? Or the written scriptures also, which the Jews held in the highest regard?

Acts 15:7
And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

By his mouth, not by his pen. You will notice that the gospel was seldom if ever spread by sending the written word.

Acts 18:11
And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Why did he need to stay a year and six months if everything they needed was in the written word?

By the way, you will have noticed that most references to "the word of God" are in one book - the Acts of the Apostles. There are far fewer references in each of the written epistles.

Romans 9:6
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

This is important. All of Israel had the scriptures. But only some of them heard and accepted the word of God.

Romans 10:17
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Hearing, not reading. But perhaps Paul means reading as well? No, Paul understood the distinction perfectly well. Just look at words regarding women in churches. (Words, incidentally, that many "Bible based" Christians are happy to ignore):

A clear distinction

1 Corinthians 14:34-37
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

So here we have a clear distinction - the spoken, verbal, word of God, and the written commandments, which include both Paul's epistles and the "the law" (the books of Moses).

2 Corinthians 2:17
For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

How can it be corrupted if it is straight from the mouth of the apostle? Corruption is only possible once the words have been written down.

2 Corinthians 4:2
But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

See previous comment.

Ephesians 6:17
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Spoken or written? The next verses give the context:
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.". As before the word is spoken, not written.

1 Thessalonians 2:13
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, 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, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

It is easier to understand how they could mistake it for the word of men if they heard it rather than read it.

1 Timothy 4:5
For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

This apparently refers to blessing of food before it is eaten. The word "and" was not in the original Greek (in fact, according to ""The Literal Translation", the word "prayer" was not there either). So the word of God in this case is the words spoken in the prayer.

2 Timothy 2:8-10
Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:
Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.
Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

He refers to the word as "my gospel", in other words, his own testimony and experience, his own words as moved upon by the Holy Ghost.

Titus 2:5
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Remember what Paul had already said about the word of God? That wives hear it spoken by their husbands. Hence this has nothing to do with the written word.

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged 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.

Is this a new revelation, that the printed word is alive? Quite the opposite. He is making the already established point that the word of God is spoken, and thus is not open to misunderstanding (as the speaker can immediately correct any misunderstandings)

Hebrews 6:4-6
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put [him] to an open shame.

Does this mean that if you read the scriptures and fall away you are damned forever? This would be rather severe. But no, the context is of something far more dramatic.

Hebrews 11:3 (see also 2 Peter 3:5)
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Did God read the scriptures to make the worlds appear? No. He spoke.

Hebrews 13:7
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

Speaking again, not written. (An effective ruler cannot answer everything by simply quoting - he has to say other things too)

1 Peter 1:23
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

This verse, at first sight, seems to give support to the notion hat the word is the written word. But Paul tells us exactly what he means, two verses later:

"But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."

So the word - the spoken, living, truth - is always true and reliable. However, as we have seen with the Pharisees, as soon as the word is written down there is the possibility (nay, the likelihood) that it will be misunderstood. And the greatest misunderstanding is that the written word is the foundation rather than simply a record.

1 John 2:14
I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

The word of God is something that lives in you - if you have the spirit. It is not something you read.

Revelation 1:2
Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

This is the saddest reference of all - to the martyrs. They bore record of the word of God - of the spoken words that they both heard and felt. And they were killed because of it.


In conclusion, "the word of God" refers to words that are spoken. "The word of God" does not refer primarily to the Bible, except as confirmed by the (spoken) words of living apostles.


The bottom line:

"Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
- 2 Corinthians 3:6


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