Why does this matter? Children growing up in the church will often hear about the Word of God as referring to the Bible, but rarely hear it used to refer to Jesus or to the work of the Holy Spirit. This leads to ignorance of the work of the Holy Spirit and the centrality of Christ. They might think we cherish the Bible more than the three parts of the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
When "word" is used in scripture, it means the embodiment, expression or thought of God. It is all the ways God uses to communicate with humanity. This can be understood in several ways: 1.) The very immediate way that God speaks into a particular context. This includes the words God spoke to create the world, the messages from the angels and prophets, and the active work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of believers today. 2.) The scriptures themselves which are written accounts of what God is doing in the world. 3.) Jesus Christ.
John 1 clearly focuses on Jesus as the Word of God, with God from the beginning. In Colossians 1:19 and 2:9, it says that Jesus is the fullness of God in bodily form. He is the highest and truest Word of God. There are also places that "word" does refer to the written scriptures.
But most of the time in the New Testament, "word" refers either to Jesus or the witness of the Holy Spirit. In John 5:39, Jesus clarifies this relationship, "You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!" (NLT)
The main passage where I see this confusion played out is in the reference to the Bible as a sword. This comes from Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." The Greek word used here is Logos, the very same word used in John 1. Earlier in the passages it is talking about the impact and power of hearing God's voice. It evokes what Paul says when he talks about the full armor of God, "take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Galatians 6:17 (NLT) Now this could be taken to mean that the Holy Spirit's sword is the written word of God. But I think it makes much more sense to say that the Holy Spirit is the sword and the Holy Spirit is the word of God.
In John 16:13, Jesus says "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth." (NLT) If you look carefully you will notice that Jesus did not say that when the Bible is put together into 66 books, it will guide you into all truth.
The Holy Spirit is real, alive, active, powerful and present today. He is the third Person of the Trinity, the voice of Jesus Christ in our world. The Holy Bible is inspired, true, trustworthy and authoritative and it's purpose is to point to Jesus Christ. We should not use the presence of the Spirit as an excuse to ignore the clear teachings of scripture. That will lead to us falling away. But we should also not elevate scriptures to the point we ignore the presence and power of the work of the Spirit in our lives. That is idolatry.
-John M Troyer