Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Oral Word of God

What about Christians who preach and teach? Are their words the words of God? Is there such thing as an “oral” word of God, or is there only a “written” word of God? My contention is that there is as an oral word of God, and this is attested to in the Scriptures.

Jesus said, "A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it….Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:5, 11).

Here, Jesus witnesses to the spoken word of God. Jesus is describing the oral word of God as it is shared with others. What about the book of Acts? How is the preaching of the first Christians described?

The historian Luke writes, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). The word of God is described here as spoken. And this theme is attested to throughout the book of Acts (6:2, 7; 8:14; 11:1; 12:24; 13:5, 7, 46; 17:13).

In the writings of the Apostle Paul, the concept of the oral Word of God is prevalent as well. He writes, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 2:13). The Epistles describe the word of God as oral in Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 2:9; Heb. 13:7 as well.

Now the above quotes are assuming that the oral word of God is in accordance with the written word of God. If the Christian preacher or teacher says things contrary to the word of God, then his preaching/teaching is not the word of God. All post apostolic writing and preaching is normed by the written word of God. If someone writes or preaches something contrary to the word of God, then it is not to be received as the word of God. In that way, there is a distinction between the written and oral word of God, since Scripture is the sole rule, norm, and judge of everything else. The Holy Scriptures were inspired by God Himself, so all prophecies, sermons, and teachings must be judged by it. When preachers get up to speak, they are not inspired in the same way as the Apostles were. However, if what they say is in accordance with the Scriptures, their words are the words of God.

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