The Invincibility of the Divine Word
2 Timothy 2:9
Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even to bonds; but the word of God is not bound.

As a word expresses a thought, and so places one in a definite relation to another, so the Word of God is that by means of which He places Himself in a definite or thinkable relation to us. It is an expression of the purpose of God; that purpose in accordance with which He seeks to place Himself in a relation of abiding concord with the children of men, on the basis of which all men may be brought into the perfect knowledge and love of God. By the declaration that the Word of God is not bound, I understand the apostle to assert that this word, as a revelation of the purpose of God to bless and save men, must infallibly succeed in making that purpose known, and must also, from the very nature of the case, effect in some sense and way the realisation of the purpose itself. In so far as the Word of God is concerned, there is nothing to prevent the salvation and everlasting blessedness of every human being.

1. The Word of God is not bound by either of the two conditions of all created existence: the conditions of time and space. The Word of God is not bound as regards time, because it is the revelation of a purpose that runs through all time, originating in eternity and reaching unto eternity. It is true that the revelation is made in time. It moves in the line, works on the plane, and manifests itself through the sphere of the natural World; still its distinctive feature is this, that it is a revelation of that which exists in the supernatural: and, therefore, while existing in time, it also transcends time, and cannot, in the whole extent of its existence, be limited by time. And yet there are people who practically believe that the Word of God is bound as regards time. What is the error of all traditionalism, if it be not this, that nothing is good for us in the matter of religion, but that which has been handed down to us as a finished result from the past; and that, therefore, a new truth is necessarily not a truth at all, having no right to call itself a truth, except on the explicit understanding of its being the merest echo of an idea uttered long ago. Space, again, is that in which we have the notion of the comprehension of existence. It is that in which all things exist, and are held together, each in its own place. Space itself has no outline, but everything, as existing therein, has a Given outline, within which it exists. But the Word of God is not bound as regards space. And yet there are those who would confine the Word of God not merely to this earth, which is but a speck in the boundlessness of space, but would limit it still further to some particular spot of the earth. The people who believe in consecrated places, and make pilgrimages to them, in the hope of getting spiritual benefit thereby, are the unhappy dupes of the delusion that the Word of God is bound — bound as to place.

2. The Word of God is not bound by either of the two highest forms of supernatural existence, viz., Christ and the Church, It is in the person of Jesus Christ that God has placed Himself in a definite relation to us. Hence Christ is spoken of as the living or incarnate Word, God manifest in the flesh. Is not the Word of God, then, it may be said, as thus embodied in the person of Christ, in some sense limited or bound? It exists under the conditions of human nature; appears in a particular country; is spoken in a particular language; submits to the restrictions of a somewhat limited sphere, experience, and term of life; and have we not in all this that which fulfils, in the most complete sense, the notion of the conditioned or bound? In a word, is not the Incarnation at best a mere anthropomorphism, under which we have only a partial view of God? To this objection it may be answered in a general way that the supernatural is not necessarily bound when it moves in the line, works on the plane, and manifests its power through the sphere of the natural world, any more than a father is bound, when he freely stoops to take the hand of his child, and keeps pace, for a time, with the shorter step of the little one, in order that the child may ultimately be brought up, as nearly as possible, to the level of the father; and no more is God, as the self-existent One, bound when He reveals Himself under the forms of nature, or comes as Christ into a more definite relation to us, in order that we may be able thereby to think ourselves up to the ideas of God. At the same time, it must be admitted that if the supernatural came down into any form of permanent subordination to the natural, it would undoubtedly to that extent be bound. Accordingly, up to the time of the first advent, or prior to the ascension of our Saviour, to the right hand of God in heaven, there was a sense in which the supernatural was bound, to some extent, in its relation to the natural. That partial and temporary dispensation has given place to the dispensation of the Spirit, under which those former limitations and restrictions have passed away. If, then, the Word of God is no longer bound, even as it was by the circumstances of our Saviour's life upon the earth, how can it be bound by any other individual, such as an infallible Head of the Church upon the earth, by an historical succession of apostles, or priestly caste of any kind, in whose hands alone that Word is supposed to reside, and by whom alone saving grace can be communicated to their fellow-men? The exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God in heaven and to the absolute supremacy of the whole world, puts an end for ever to all such pre tensions. But the objection may still be pursued under the form of the Church. We require to lay hold of some clear idea of the Church in its relation to the Word of God. Undoubtedly it is the Divinely-appointed expounder of that Word; but so long as the Church is broken up into so many little sects, and so long as spiritual matters are disposed of by the merest majority, it may be even of a sect, it is difficult to see how the whole truth of the Divine word ever can be brought out before the world, the only organ through which the Holy Spirit speaks in fullest form being a truly Catholic Church. In the existence, then, of such a body there is no restraint put upon the Word of God, because the creed of that Church would be the ever-growing and ever-brightening expression of the mind of God as contained in the sacred Scriptures.

3. The Word of God is not bound by either of the two essential qualities of personal being; viz., thought and speech. If every idea is the identity of a thinking subject and an object thought, the one absolute law of thought is the law of identification. No doubt thought in its course reveals a number of opposites or contradictories, but its last function is to unite the whole. There cannot be legitimately different schools or types of thought, any more than there can be different laws of thought in different individuals, or different principles of understanding and reason in different parts of the world. Therefore, we deem it a fallacy to say that men cannot attain to unanimity of sentiment in regard to the highest of all subjects; because they have only to be true to the deepest principles of their own intellectual being in order to come to the most perfect harmony in respect of all these important matters. If so, the Word of God is not bound when it comes under the conditions of human thought, seeing that, in its essential principles, it is one with the very laws of thought themselves. But it may still be objected — and this is the last point with which we have to deal — that if the Word is not bound by the limits and laws of thought, it is so by the limits and laws of speech. As regards the Bible there need not be much difficulty. It is simply a record of spiritual facts. It merely notes the different points in the historical development of the Divine purpose. It professes, indeed, to be a veritable history of the supernatural, as a phenomenon working itself out, in, and through the natural. And it is altogether to be tested from the point of what it claims to be. The letter of the Bible is no more a fetter on the living purpose of God than any word or letter is to the thought of which it is the free and adequate expression. It is not so evident, however, that the Word of God is not bound, when we come to the written creed of the Church; and on that account some sections of the Church dispense altogether with a written creed. It becomes, therefore, a question as to what the creed of the Church is, and what the relation of the Church to her creed. And the whole question seems to resolve itself into this — that on a basis of perfectly clear and immovable conviction, about which no one can have any real difficulty, who believes in God at all, and without which the Church, as a whole, can have no existence, every one ought to be free to carry out in detail, to the minutest and remotest ramifications of thought, those subordinate shades of spiritual life and conviction that belong to the experience of one individual as compared with another. In such a case the creed would only be an arrangement, in their simple and natural order, of the leading conceptions of Divine revelation; and thus the whole mind of the Church would be left perfectly free to explore the depths, to bring out the riches, and to reveal the glory of the Divine Word.

(F. Ferguson.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.

WEB: in which I suffer hardship to the point of chains as a criminal. But God's word isn't chained.

The Example of the Apostle's Own Sufferings
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