God Speaks by His Word

by Frank Jones

"Before issuing the well-known charge to Timothy to ‘preach the word’ (2 Tim. 4:2), Paul reminds him that the Bible is ‘breathed out by God’ (2 Tim. 3:16). Scripture has its origin directly in God such that the words of the Bible are God’s words. However, the striking thing we discover as we look more broadly through Scripture to discern the theological character of the word is that God continues to speak today through the words that he once spoke. Scripture is not simply a depository and record of words that God spoke at some time in the past; it is the script that he continues to speak today. Scripture presents itself as a living thing.

We could turn to a number of places within Scripture to see this principle established and affirmed, but the handling of Old Testament Scripture in the book of Hebrews is particularly striking in this regard. The writer of Hebrews repeatedly treats Old Testament texts as being spoken by God in the contemporary context. So he can introduce quotations from psalms written centuries before with the words ‘he [that is, God] says’ (Heb. 1:6, 8). He adds more contemporary colour to a psalm quotation which is introduced as being the word of Jesus, saying that the words of the psalm reflect the feelings and disposition of Jesus: ‘That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers” ’ (Heb. 2:11–12). He introduces words from another psalm by saying ‘as the Holy Spirit says’ (Heb. 3:7). God continues to speak the ancient words that he once spoke. That is why Hebrews refers to God’s word as ‘living and active’ (Heb. 4:12).

This truth is vital for us to remember when it comes to any ministry of the word—and particularly when it comes to the ministry of preaching. If it is the word of God that preachers preach, then insofar as they are saying what the Bible passage is saying, it follows that God is speaking and his voice is heard. This truth may be so familiar that it has lost something of its wonder, but it is an extraordinary thing to consider. When preachers open up God’s word and say what it says, God is speaking, and the congregation is hearing his own voice."

Griffiths, Jonathan I. Preaching in the New Testament: An Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Study. Edited by D. A. Carson. Vol. 42. New Studies in Biblical Theology. England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; Apollos, 2017, 9-10.