This Week's Focus Passage

The Logos of God

Focus Passage: Hebrews 4:12

‘The word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword.’

The writer to the Hebrews is here speaking clearly of the Logos of God. But what, or who, is it that he intends us to understand by his usage of the term ‘Logos of God’? Does this writer/preacher speak here of the Word of God as the written word, such as the prophets and apostles penned under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Perhaps he intended for his readers/hearers to understand by this term the incarnate Logos, Jesus Christ. Or is it his design to make reference here to the spoken word of God? This has involved commentators in perennial discussions and disagreements over centuries of exegesis.

One writer notes, ‘It has been a chronically popular conclusion among commentators to see in this phrase a reference to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who is undeniably called the logos of God, the very phrase used here in verse 12. No less an expositor than John Owen finds this conclusion to be the correct one: “I do judge, therefore, that it is the eternal Word of God, or the person of Christ, which is the subject here spoken of…’ The writer referred to, however, disagrees with the justifiably venerated theologian of the 17th century. The present writer has found it difficult, in spite of the assertion of a chronically popular conclusion to locate very much, if any, support in his library for the assessment of John Owen referred to above. The search was, nonetheless, interesting as well as rewarding.

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1789), a well-respected Scottish divine has said of this passage, ‘The word of God has, by many of the ancient, and some of the modern interpreters, been explained here as a title of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, in His pre-existent state; as it is without doubt employed by the apostle John, in his Gospel, in his First Epistle, and in the book of Revelation. The use of the expression, “Word of God,” as an appellation of Jesus Christ, seems, however, peculiar to that inspired writer; and though much of what is here said of the word of God might with truth be said of Jesus Christ, other expressions cannot without extreme violence be applied to Him, and neither the words themselves nor the context require us to give so uncommon a meaning to the expression; on the contrary, both seem naturally to lead us to understand the phrase in its ordinary signification, of the revelation of the divine will.’ Here we witness, just a century removed from the activities of John Owen, one who disagreed with the puritan.

Neither did a contemporary of Owen, although he was already 41 years of age when Owen was born, William Gouge, agree with Owen, although he wrote of some who refer the phrase to the Son of God, he too, made the point that this title, the Logos of God, is used only by the apostle John. Gouge went on to add, ‘Most usually is this title word of God put for God’s manifesting his will by voice, or writing in sacred Scripture. Thus it is oft used in this epistle, and styled, as here, ‘the word of God,’ 13:7; ‘the word of the beginning,’ or doctrine ‘of Christ,’ 6:1; ‘the word preached,’ or ‘word of hearing,’ 6:2; ‘the word of righteousness,’ 5:13; ‘the word of exhortation,’ 13:22.’ Gouge understood the living, active, word of God to be that Word spoken by God Himself, even that to which our preacher made prior reference from psalm 95; or else that word inspired and preserved in the Scriptures. Was not that word spoken ‘To-day if ye shall hear his voice, Harden not your hearts,’ living and active in the wilderness? When we read it in the inspired volume, does it not remain living and active? Indeed, through the gift of faith, do we not hear the voice of God when we read His Word?

A successor of sorts to John Brown of Haddington, James Alexander Haldane (1768-1851), although a Scot as was Brown, was not a Presbyterian as was Brown, but, in fact, a Baptist. In spite of that denominational distinction, he seems to have agreed largely with his predecessor when writing, ‘Here the Apostle

intimates the impossibility of the unbelief of the heart escaping detection. Some by the Word of God understand Christ, who is the judge of all; but it rather seems to refer to the word, which he declares shall judge us. John xii. 48. It is described as living and abiding for ever. 1 Peter i. 23. Thy word, saith the Psalmist, hath quickened me, Psalm cxix.50; and Christ describes His words to be spirit and life.’ John vi. 63.’ Hugh Montefiore (1920-2005), an Anglican bishop, added his agreeable comments to the many, when he wrote, “This ‘word’ does not signify the person of the eternal Son, for he is never, in this Epistle, explicitly identified with the Logos. It means rather God speaking to his people, both in the old dispensation and in the new; God speaking by prophesy, by scripture, by any mode which he chooses to use.” We add the comments of another twentieth century commentator, Donald Guthrie (1916-1992), ‘It is used either in a general sense of the revelation of God or else in a particular sense of Jesus Christ himself in his function as Logos, according to John’s usage. These two aspects are closely linked together.’ We would underline that feature; they are closely linked together. In fact, they are so closely linked that we are called upon to exercise faith in both; we are not only to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ but we must necessarily have faith in the ‘report’ that we have received of Him. We greatly appreciate Spurgeon’s remarks, in a sermon on this text. His statement speaks toward that aspect of the Incarnate Word and the Inscripturated Word being ‘closely linked together,’ yea, they are inseparably linked together. Spurgeon said it this way, ‘As the Christ reveals God, so this Book reveals Christ, and therefore it partakes, as the Word of God, in all the attributes of the Incarnate Word.’ We cannot believe in the Subject of the Book if we don’t believe the Book, can we? And if we believe in the Subject, how could we possibly question the veracity of the Book?

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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