I recently came across a writer who suggested substituting “Jesus” for “the Word of God” when reading verses normally assumed to be about Scripture itself. The suggestion seemed legitimate to me, based on Revelation 19:14 (“and the name by which He is called is The Word of God”) and on the familiar opening words of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
By way of testimony, I want to share how this practice of substitution has enlivened specific verses for me, starting with Hebrews 4:12:
[Jesus] is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword,
even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow,
and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
More than any other Scripture I looked at, this verse reminds me that “it is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus, the Word of God, lives intimately within me through the promised Helper of His Spirit, so it is Jesus-in-me sifting through the thoughts and intentions of my heart and helping me transform through the ongoing renewal of my mind. The passage in Hebrews also reminds me that the sword-like sharpness of character Jesus showed at times when He walked this earth is still His character today. Just as He did while on earth, Jesus offers today’s disciples “penetrating” questions and insights, not only through challenging Scriptures, but also through the still small voice of each individual conscience, the feedback of other people, and the physical outcomes of our choices. The mechanism has changed, but the Word-made-flesh still dwells, living and active, among us.
[Jesus] is right and true; He is faithful in all He does (Psalm 33:4).
What beautiful resonance this verse has with Revelation 19:11: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness, He judges and makes war.” The world is filled with the antithesis of right and true and faithful, but we’re told in Isaiah 40 that all this will fade and wither like the grass. Meanwhile, the One we follow, Jesus, is the Word of God that will stand forever.
[Jesus] is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path (Psalm 119:105).
Psalm 119 is a long paean to the Hebrew Scripture of its day, and uses eight words to refer to it: law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, ordinances, and word. For the purposes of my exercise, I’ve focused on a verse that starts “Your word,” but what if we could think of the entire psalm as a paean to Jesus?
In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said explicitly that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and in doing so He challenged the sterile and rigid application of the Law around morality (Matthew 5:27-28), keeping the Sabbath (12:1-2 and 8-10), purity rituals (15:2), family relationships (15:3-6), and social taboos (multiple examples of Jesus mingling with people that the law labeled as sinners and outcasts).
Jesus, the living and active fulfillment of the Law, dwelt among us and brought us good news about undeserved grace (John 8:1-11) and freedom (John 8:36), and peace (John 14:27). Because of that, I believe we can legitimately circle back to Psalm 119 and make it about my relationship with Him, rather than simply about the written precepts and statutes. Thus, for example, verses 15-16 could be transformed to read this way: I will meditate on Jesus and fix my eyes on Him. I will delight in Jesus; I will not forget the Word-made-flesh.
The final aspect of my testimony has to do with Jesus as the Word dwelling both in us and in the body of believers we interact with. In my new consideration of these Scriptures, I’ve been reminded that the Word continues to be made flesh, He continues to dwell among us, both individually and corporately, and this “made flesh” reality is, in my opinion, “where the rubber meets the road” for human beings.
Let [Jesus] dwell richly within you…(Colossians 3:16).
In the words of Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Consider the encounters Jesus had with the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus the tax collector, the Samaritan woman at the well—not to mention Peter, the disciple who denied Jesus and then became a spokesman for the fledgling church. None of these would ever forget how Jesus made them feel as He extended the unexpected gift of grace. What if such gifts of grace can continue to flow as we let the Word-made-flesh dwell richly in interactions with each other and with those who don’t yet know Him?
In Matthew 15:8 Jesus warned the Bible scholars of His day that studying the letter of the law was not a substitute for embodying the spirit of the law: “These people honor Me with their lips but their heart is far away from me.” To avoid this potential “form of godliness,” may we focus on being the Word and not simply studying the words of Scripture. John 1:16 reminds us that from the fullness of the Word-made-flesh “we have all received grace upon grace,” and because of that we are qualified to glorify God in the same living and active way Jesus did. ■
—In addition to her work as a Biblically-based life coach, Laura enjoys partnering with her husband Paul as they minister in the community and visiting their three children and eleven grandchildren.