The physicality of words (A body of words)

Imagine the words that you speak becoming living beings. The breath that leaves your lips and enters the atmosphere, forming bones and sinews, skin and hair. Living words. But do our words actually have being? Can written or spoken words actually make things happen? Are words physical? Can they create change? Can they produce action? 

Think of a marriage vow. The bride and groom both speak words of promise to one another. And after spoken and signed these words cannot be reversed – they are legally binding. The words don’t just carry nice sentiments, they action a promise, they action two people coming together to form one united family. The words of a marriage vow take on flesh when their promise is lived out in the faithfulness of these two people.

God’s word is like this. But perhaps more so. In the Bible, to say God spoke and to say that he did something is often the same thing. In Genesis 1 we read ‘God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light’. So God speaking and God acting are often one and the same thing. God’s speech causes action. He acts by speaking. If God says the words, He performs the action. In his book Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God, Timothy Ward says:

God and his word share the divine ability infallibly to perform their purpose; human words often fail to perform their intended purpose, but God’s words do not. Thus an action of God can be appropriately described both by saying that God’s Word has performed an action for which he sent it, and by saying that God himself has performed an action. 

Oh I long that the words I say would always perform their intended purpose. I long this for myself and for others. To be always true to our word. In the small things (when someone clicks going on a facebook event that they would actually go and not flake out) and in the big things (when a marriage falls apart because a vow of faithfulness is broken). I wonder at the fact that God’s words never fail. 

God is also a God of covenant: a relationship established by means of the uttering of a promise. It is through the words of His covenant spoken to His people that He makes Himself knowable to humanity. It is through living in a daily relationship with people that we come to know them. We listen to them speak about themselves and others. We watch them act in the world. God lets his people come to know Him in the same way. So if God’s word is an extension of Himself, then when we trust his covenant word, we trust Him. Thus, Ward says ‘communication from God is therefore communion with God, when met with a response of trust from us.’ If the majority of our relationships are built by the words that we speak to one another, then our relationship with God is no different. We are to know and learn to trust Him by listening and speaking. Ward makes the wonderful parallel:

A man and a woman sitting in a restaurant gazing silently into each other’s eyes over the table are engaging in a much more genuine relationship if they are doing so with twenty years of conversation-filled marriage behind them, than if they are on their first date and have not yet spoken to each other. 

In Christianity, when we hear ‘Word of God’ we often think of the Bible. Which is true. And we have been speaking of God’s word being alive, creating action and allowing relationship. But what is even more incredible is that the Word of God is also known as a person. Read the beginning of the gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

This Word is personified. This Word is a person. This Word has been alive since the beginning. This Word has always been with God. In fact, this Word is God. Back up! So we have said that God’s word is an extension of Himself. But what if God’s word is an actual person who has been in relationship with Him for eternity? Bit of a big idea?! Tell me about it! OK, let’s try and work this out by reading the first four verses in the Bible:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

This is the account of where God creates the world. But how many people are present in this account? Well we have God, the creator, or more widely known as the Father. Then we can see the Spirit of God who is hovering over the waters. But if you read carefully you can see a third person. Remember back in John 1 the ‘Word’ of God is described as ‘the light of all mankind’. And then here in Genesis God’s first words are “Let there be light”. We can see this Word that is said to have been with God in the beginning; it is working and creating light. This Word is a living person. It doesn’t say it in these verses, but this third person is known as Jesus the Son of God. And these three people – Father, Son and Spirit – have been in a loving relationship, working together, since eternity. We call this the trinity.

So how are God speaking and God acting the same thing? This is only possible because of the three persons of the trinity. The Father gives direction, the Spirit is a conduit of this direction and the Son actions this word. How is communication from God communion with Him? The Father speaks of Himself, the Son lives out these words as the exact representation of the Father’s being and the Spirit is a conduit that allows us to understand this connection. It is all about relationship. Relationship allows the action of communion. 

But what does this mean for me? In the book of John, Jesus goes on to say ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). We are to see Jesus the Word of God through God’s words in the Bible, and that will show us the Father. We are to join in this trinitarian relationship. We are to commune with God by knowing Jesus. Ward goes on to say:

God has invested himself in his words, or we could say that God has so identified himself with his words that whatever someone does to God’s words (whether it is to obey or to disobey) they do directly to God himself.  

God the Father has so identified Himself with Jesus (the Word) that whatever someone does to Jesus they do directly to God himself. So we are not only to get to know Jesus but we are to obey His words. So what now? Well, read Jesus’ words. They are not just nice moral idioms to live by. They are controversial words that bring you into a life changing relationship with God. Don’t believe me? Jesus said ‘love your enemies’ (Matthew 5:44) and then he died for those who despised and rejected him. 

If you want to truly understand Jesus’ shocking words and actions then read about Him and see what he says about God. People say that you cannot believe in something you have never seen. But God became a human man in Jesus. He physically walked the earth and we have hundreds of accounts of people seeing Him. That is pretty tangible and real. So yes, Jesus the word has being. As the word of God He made things happen. He was physical. He created controversial change. And He produced action that has affected the entire living world as we know it. I would say that Jesus is worth exploring.

Written by Lydia Hiorns