The Incarnate Word and the Written Word
The doctrine of the Word of God has come on hard times among professing Christians. This sad state of things is no surprise. At the very beginning of human history, Satan assaulted the Word of God, which is to insult the character of God. In so doing, the “father of lies” ushered mankind into spiritual ruin. Particularly sad in our day, though, is the fact that many professing Christians believe that they are honoring Christ by denying that God’s written Word, the Bible, is everything it claims to be in its self-attestation and self-authentication.
Typically, these professing believers engage in a spiritual sleight of hand: lauding the Bible as a wonderful gift from God while on the other hand dismissing the fact of the Bible’s being a text at one with itself as “the ultimate fantasy of the fundamentalist” (a line from postmodern, Emergent church writer Peter Rollins. See his book How (Not) to Speak of God.) They salute the Bible with one hand and attempt to gut it with the other. And typically, believers defend against such assaults by referring (as they should) to Matthew 5:17-18 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and other canonical commentaries on previously and recently composed Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).
These “tip of the iceberg” passages demonstrate the extant view of the Old Testament among Jesus and the Apostles as well as the self-consciousness of the Apostles in writing something equal to it. Through the centuries and even the millennia, the written Word of God commends itself as the very Word of God in every way. Alongside these popular proof texts (to use that phrase in the best possible way) is the relatively ordinary language we find throughout the Bible in its self-referential commentary. The Bible’s self-attestation is so frequent that we may miss the profound significance of such common canonical language. Jesus’ continual use of the Psalms in reference to His own life and ministry serve as an important example of this principle. These citations serve to show the sheer force of the Scriptures in our Savior’s mind.
Just before He was betrayed by Judas, Jesus told His disciples (including Judas) that this betrayal would come. To substantiate His claim, He quoted Psalm 41:9 and applied it directly to what was about to take place. Jesus’ soul was stirred up, deeply distressed that one so close to Him would betray him, and that in a matter of mere moments. Jesus knew it would happen. From all eternity, this historical betrayal was laid out as a means by which He would be handed over to death so that He could bear His people’s sin and guilt in their place (Acts 2:22-23). Jesus knew that this betrayal and the bitter death it brought must come to pass. Jesus knew and had sung these very words which were coming to such awful, imminent fruition. And as He descended deeper into the aloneness at the heart of His redemptive work, He told His disciples the reason for it all, the reason why even they would abandon Him and why He would remain steadfast in the midst of His suffering: “In order that the Scripture may be fulfilled.” (John 13:18). It was the will of God as expressed in the Word of God for it to be so.
Jesus, more than any other man, understood the absolute inviolability of Scripture. Expressions such as “in order that the Scripture may be fulfilled” and “It is written” pervade the pages of Scripture and come so often from the Savior’s spoken words. Over and over, the Son of God made reverential reference to the written Word of God. He even gave His own life “so that the Scripture may be fulfilled.”
If the Lord of heaven and earth submitted Himself to the written Word of God, how much more is it incumbent upon us to do so!
Let us never think that we are honoring Jesus by adopting anything less than His own view of the written Word of God. Rather, let us truly honor the Incarnate Word (John 1:14) by honoring His written Word, and this too, “so that the Scripture may be fulfilled.” (John 17:17)