John opens his gospel with an unusual name for Jesus: the Word.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.John 1:1
After discussing Jesus’ role as the Creator, he transitions to the Savior’s mortal ministry by saying, “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14).
He opens his first epistle in a similar way:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.1 John 1:1
And near the end of that epistle, he testifies, “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7).
Finally, in the revelation which he saw on the Isle of Patmos, John tells us that he saw Jesus sitting on a white horse. “His eyes were as a flame of fire,… and he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God” (Revelation 19:11-13).
As far as I know, John is the only ancient writer who used that title to refer to Jesus, although it also appears in section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants (which paraphrases John 1) and in the book of Moses, where God explains that Jesus created the world under His direction: “By the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth” (Moses 1:32).
Why is this a good title for Jesus? Here are a few ideas:
- God created the heaven and the earth through a series of verbal commands. “God said, let there be light: and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). According to the passage above from the book of Moses, Jesus played a key role in converting those words into tangible outcomes.
- Jesus taught us how to return to God’s presence. His sermons and instructions are essential to His ministry and its impact on us.
- Jesus fulfilled the words of ancient prophets who had testified that He would come. He introduced Himself on the American continent by referencing that fulfillment of prophecy. (See 3 Nephi 11:10.)
- Jesus has entrusted His work to us. Just as He converted His Father’s words into action in the Creation, we can now receive instructions from Him which we can convert into action.
With a name or title that is in such common usage, there are plenty of opportunities to reinterpret scriptural passages as referring directly to Jesus. Here are a few examples:
- Nephi tells us that the rod of iron in his father’s dream represents “the word of God” (1 Nephi 15:23-24). Elder David A. Bednar explained that the imperative of “holding fast” to the iron rod can refer to regular scripture study but can also mean “strengthening the personal connection we have with the Savior…through the covenants and ordinances of the restored gospel” (“But We Heeded Them Not,” General Conference, April 2022).
- Referencing Alma’s desire to “try the virtue of the word of God,” Elder Mark D. Eddy said, “Ultimately, the virtue of the word of God is the Lord Jesus Christ” (“The Virtue of the Word,” General Conference, October 2022, italics in original).
- In the parable of the sower, Jesus indicated that some seed “fell among thorns” which “choke the word” (Matthew 13:7, 22). Elder Neil L. Andersen said, “I like to tie the phrase ‘choke the word’ to the first chapter of John, where John declares the word to be Jesus…. Our faith in Jesus Christ, our determination to follow Him, our love for the Savior can be choked, or prevented from growing, as it is deprived of spiritual light and nourishment” (“Drawing Closer to the Savior,” General Conference, October 2022, footnote 11).
Today, I will remember that Jesus is “the Word.” I will be grateful for His words and the words of His prophets which help me grow closer to my Father in Heaven. I will strive to put His words in action as He put His Father’s words into action.