My tongue shall speak of your word, for all your commandments are righteousness. Ps 119.172
This is certainly true of me. Ask anyone who knows me. I bring conversations around to principles and perspectives I find in Scripture. A reputation for knowing God’s word is a good thing but I have something better. I am known by the One whose Word I know.
Like Peter, one of Jesus’s closest friends. After three years in his company, enduring the tragedy of the crucifixion and the beauty of restored affection with the risen Savior, Peter has one thing to say about knowing and being known by God. It’s the secret to everything. The divine power of God, his Holy Spirit whose presence transformed Peter from a simple fisherman into an able fisher-of-men, is all we need for life and godliness, but only to the extent that we know him.
For his own glory and out of his own good heart, God made spectacular promises that allow us to share in his nature.
Can we really participate in the divine nature, though?
Peter means more than hosting a spiritual being. He was there when Jesus prayed, “That they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us … just as we are one: I in them, and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one … That the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Peter means serious integration of one being with another. But we know that the Lord has no evil in him. How will his holiness unite with our sinful lusts?
And yet Peter insists that God’s nature becoming ours is the way to escape the depravity that comes with being part of the world. This is called sanctification—more like him, less like me.
Jesus prayed about that, too. He asked his Father to sanctify his followers by the truth. Which is what? None other than the Father’s word.
Here’s where an understanding of what we mean by “the word of God” is helpful.
In its purest form, it is a comprehensive revelation of God’s being, a representation of himself as far as he wills to be known.
At the simplest level, it is God’s spoken word to others, as when “God said…”
Such utterances are recorded for us in the Bible, another thing we call the Word of God.
The Bible includes God’s activity among his people and their responses to him, ways he made himself known in creation and redemptive history, the beginnings of Christianity in the gospel and apostolic records, and writings of its earliest witnesses.
Before the Bible came to be as such, however, God revealed himself in Christ.
Jesus too is called the Word of God. He was with God in the beginning, and was also God. This Word became flesh and dwelled among people. He’s described as “the image of the invisible God.” and the “exact representation of [God’s] being.”
But then there’s Peter. He walked with Jesus. He knew this Word of God in living color. We can afford to believe him when he equates the promises of God with the Spirit of God. In fact, he probably got that from Jesus, too. The words I speak, Jesus told his disciples, are Spirit and life.
For me, that puts learning the Word of God on a whole new level. It means studying Scripture, reading it, memorizing it, meditating on it. When I sit at home and when I walk along the road, when I lie down and when I get up. It means hiding it in my heart and having it on my tongue. But it also means getting to know the Son of God. Spending time in his presence. Learning to recognize his voice. Hearing the sound of his heart and perceiving the thoughts on his mind. Sitting at his feet and watching his hand work his will. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said the Father seeks those who will worship in spirit and in truth.
Paul tells us that in Christ God grants all his promises to his people. This is important because most of God’s promises are conditional in some way, but if we are in Christ, those conditions are met. As God’s children we are heirs with Christ of every spiritual blessing, something God made doubly sure of by two unchangeable things—his oath and his promise.
To believe Jesus that God’s Word is “truth” means we can trust what he says. None of it can ever be overturned or proved false. God is faithful, which simply means he will keep his word. If he said he’ll do a thing, we can count with certainty on him doing it. Even when we don’t see it yet, we know he’ll come through. This calls for us to be faithful in turn. Which is simply to live as if what God says is the way things are.
Does he promise never to leave us? Then faith acts like he is with us whether we feel it or not.
Does he promise to provide? Then faith asks for what we need.
Does he promise to forgive? Then faith confesses sin.
Does he promise peace beyond understanding? Then faith refuses to be anxious.
Does he promise unfailing love? Then faith pours out tears.
Does he promise power to witness? Then faith opens its mouth.
You get the idea.