Hey, I’m Mark Moore, teaching pastor at Christ Church of the Valley in Phoenix, Arizona, and the author of Core 52. I want to share a thought with you today, because I broker in words—that’s how I make my living, whether it’s writing or speaking or editing. And my guess is that, that’s probably a pretty strong part of your day as well: brokering in words. Words matter, because words create your world. So what I want to do is just share three simple passages with you—the most famous passages about the Bible in the Bible—and then draw a simple conclusion of why it matters so much what you do with words.
Here are the three scriptures (you can probably guess them). Second Timothy, chapter three, verse 16: “All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” Paul wrote that at the very tail-end of his life from a dungeon called the Mamertine Prison. I’ve actually been down there and seen that dank, dark place. The next time Paul would see the light of day, he would die by being beheaded on the Ostian Way.
And so it raises the gravitas of what he writes to his young protege, Timothy—now leading a great church in Ephesus, a hugely influential church. And Paul reminds him, “Timothy, you need to found your life and ministry. Your work needs to be based on the Bible, because scripture is important.” What do you think is the word for word that Paul used in 2 Timothy 3:16? Press pause on that. But you know it’s important, because Paul was a Bible guy. In fact, in the same book, he says, “Send me my scrolls.” He was cold. He wanted a jacket. He was a scholar. He wanted his scrolls. Both equally important. I get that.
The second passage is Hebrews 4:12, where the writer says that the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, even dividing between soul and spirit, joint and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. That’s a great passage.
Question: what is the word for word in Hebrews, chapter four, verse 12? Press pause on that.
The third famous passage about the Bible in the Bible is Ephesians 6:17. Paul was describing the armament we have: the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness. And then he describes the sword of the Spirit, which is (and you know this) the Word of God. So question: what is the word for word in Ephesians, chapter six, verse 17? And you might be surprised. All three words for word in the most famous passages about the Bible are different.
In 2 Timothy, the word he uses is graphe, from which we get the English word graphic or graffiti or calligraphy. It is the formal word for writing. As in pen and paper, or, in Paul’s case, scrolls. You get that. The copy of the Bible that we hold in our hand—the book that is the graphe—is critically important. But when you move from 2 Timothy to Hebrews 4, it’s a different word for word. It’s not graphe; it is logos. That probably reminds you of John 1:1: “In the beginning was the word”—that is the logos of God. “And the logos was with God, and the logos was God, and the logos created all the things that we see in the world around us.”
Logos is not the written word. It is the embodied word; that is, the life of God, the intent of God lived out, and of course it’s embodied in Jesus. But it’s also embodied in us. As I think about my own life as a teaching pastor, it’s not enough for me to know the Bible if I don’t live the Bible. It’s not enough for me to teach the Bible if I don’t demonstrate and embody the life of Christ in me for others to tangibly follow.
The third word for word is in Ephesians, chapter six. It’s not logos, and it’s not graphe. It is rhema. And that’s the spoken word, and boy, does that matter. Because so many Christians I know will put on all of the armament, and they’re ready to go to battle, and they find themselves only playing defense. They have the helmet of salvation—God gave them that. The breastplate of righteousness—the Spirit gave him that. But the sword of the Spirit is not the Bible that we know; it is the word of God that we speak. Now, obviously we can’t speak the word of God without knowing the Bible, but just knowing the Bible is not going to put you on offense with the devil. You may still play defense. You can know everything you need to know, but until you speak it out, the demons aren’t intimidated by you, and the church isn’t blessed by you.
It is when we know scripture enough to speak scripture—whether that’s word for word quotation verbatim, or whether that is getting the sense of God’s Word and speaking the truths of God’s Word. Until it comes out our mouth, it is still defensive, not offensive.
Now, here’s why all this matters to me. These three different words for word: one is written that we must know, the other is embodied that we must live, the third is communicated that we must speak.
All of that takes me back to Genesis 1:26, when the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit—said, “Let us make man in our own image,” and so he made humankind—male and female—and he embedded in us his own characteristics and nature. Some of those characteristics, which differentiate us from animals, are like time. No other animal gets up in the morning and looks at their watch. They just don’t. They don’t care about time. They don’t plan for the future. They don’t meditate on the past. Time is a particularly divine characteristic that God embedded in us.
Art is as well—beauty. No other animal paints pictures. No other animal writes music. No other animal creates architecture. No other animal has a fashion sense. It is human beings, because we’re made in the image of God. So time and art.
There’s also the communal meals. No other animal eats communally. Now, they will gorge themselves at the same time or on the same carcass, but that’s very different from setting a table, setting a time, sending invites, and creating an artistic platter around which our family can gather. That’s different.
But the most important characteristic of God that differentiates us from animals is our language—our ability to think abstractly, to communicate personally and artistically. That is the most divine thing about us.
Now, I’m not saying that you are divine or that your words are inspired. What I am saying is that every act of communication—whether it’s a poem or a sonnet or a song or a sermon—every act of communication has the divine nature in it. Not all communication is derived from God, obviously, but it’s the divine characteristic that gives us the ability to communicate with language with other people.
And here’s why this strikes me so much—because I make a living by words, and you probably do as well. Your words create worlds, and you are never more like God than in the most mundane things of your day. When you get up in the morning and you look at your phone, when you set a time for a meal with a friend, when you create something that is artistic, and when you communicate, you are carrying out the character of God that he embedded in you. Do it well today and do it for his glory, because your words create your worlds.