The following post has been on my heart to write for some time. Due to length I have divided it into two parts for easier reading. It could not be fully covered in a shorter article and I believe this subject is worthy of serious consideration by all committed Christ followers. Where Shall We Buy Bread Part Two will be posted shortly after Part One. Your feedback and comments are always welcome!
I stumbled over our town’s only Christian Bookstore recently. I say ‘stumbled’ because the last time I remember seeing it the store was two streets south of where it is now. When I asked the man behind the counter how long they’d been in the new place, he replied “two years’. Uh huh, I definitely need to get out more.
I admit I barely glanced at the latest book releases – I was too distracted by the bibles. Buying a Bible these days is evidently a minefield. Hard cover, soft cover; women’s, men’s, youth or children’s; study, parallel, large print, travel, compact, slimline, new believer’s or orthodox. How about the ‘thirst quencher’, a ‘manga’ bible or a’ creative journaling’ bible? And several Christian celebrities like Joyce Meyer and Jack Hayford have even come up with their own bibles….who knew?
Add to those a seemingly endless number of translations and the choice becomes even more head-spinning.
As a younger Christian I was taught the Bible, aka the word of God, was my daily bread. Spending time in the ‘word’ first thing every morning was the eleventh commandment, usually preached by a male pastor whose wife fed the kids, got them ready for school and ironed his shirt while he clocked up his essential time in the word.
My little visit to the bookstore prompted me to do a quick, non-exhaustive internet search on the Bible as our ‘daily bread’. Here are some unaltered quotes from my search:
Website One: “The holy Bible is our bread.”
Website Two: “(Ministry newsletter name) delivers the Word of God as the bread of life daily via email. With a few verses from the Bible and a short word of ministry it will nourish you and strengthen your faith.”
Website Three: “I will eat the word of God every day.”
Website Four: “Bread represents God’s Word. The Bible is spiritual food. Bread is a symbol for Scripture. The Bible says, ‘People do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’ “
So is the Bible our daily spiritual bread? Can reading the written word of God every day really strengthen our faith and make us grow spiritually? I believe regularly meditating on scripture can certainly edify, encourage and comfort us. Here’s what Paul wrote to Timothy about scripture:
Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17 Net Bible).¹
And this in Romans:
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).
The word used by Paul for written scripture was the Greek ‘graphe’, meaning a document. As we’ve just seen, the purpose of the written scripture is teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, patience, comfort and hope – “that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”
However, nowhere in the New Testament do we find bread as a symbol for written scripture. Maybe this is going to be news to some, but our Bibles are not our spiritual bread – Christ is.
But what about this?
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ ” (Matt. 4:4).
Let’s unpack this a little.
Logos and Rhema
There are generally two distinct New Testament Greek words for ‘word’: logos and rhema. Without getting too deeply into linguistics, logos conveys the idea of ‘reason’ and is our source for the English word ‘logic’. In the New Testament logos can be used for the spoken word or the written word. Jesus is called The Word – the living ‘logos’ that was with God and is God (John 1:1). Rhema, on the other hand, usually emphasizes divine utterance.
For instance, Hebrews 4:12 uses the word ‘logos’ in referring to the living Word of God:.
For the word (logos) of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
But Ephesians 6:17 uses the word rhema for the Word of God:
People sometimes define ‘logos’ as exclusively the written word and ‘rhema’ as exclusively the spoken word, but it is not that clear-cut. Logos can be both spoken and written, and rhema can also be written or spoken. Here is one of the best statements I have seen on how both the logos and the rhema can represent God:
“God the Son as the logos word defines, explains and expresses the Father’s thought, and God the Spirit as the breath conveys the rhema word to the recipients and applies God’s essence to them.” (Roger Good)²
Now getting back to our verse in Matthew 4:4, Jesus is responding to Satan who has tempted Him to turn stones into bread to satisfy His physical hunger. He is quoting Deuteronomy 8:30.
Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word (rhema) that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “
So here we have Jesus (the living Logos) quoting written scripture (graphe) stating humanity should live by the ‘rhema’ word (revelatory utterance) of God.
Logos and rhema are not opposites. They are simply the word of God in different stages of declaration as expressed by our three in One, One in three, living God. Logos and rhema are separate yet connected parts of an unfolding process, beginning in the mind of God as divine thought, taking form in human flesh through the Son who is the Living Logos, and quickened as revelatory truth in humanity by the Spirit who is the Breath of God. In this divine process the written word can, when uttered under the unction of the Spirit, become rhema, or revelation, of the living Christ. Equally, the same written word when uttered under the influence of human flesh, is not rhema, and is no more than a quotation devoid of supernatural power. Even Satan can quote the logos word of God, but the result is death, not life.
The “every word from the mouth of God” that Jesus said we are to live by was not written scripture, but rhema: always fresh, always Life-imparting, always Spirit-breathed, always revealing some aspect of Christ.
Many are familiar with the narrative in John 6 which relates the feeding of over five thousand people. A great crowd, after witnessing His healing miracles, had followed Jesus into the wilderness (Luke 9:10). Realising the people are hungry Jesus asks Philip “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” The best the disciples can come up with is five loaves and two fish and Jesus, despite His own weariness, miraculously multiplies them so that everyone can eat and be filled (Jn. 6:1-15)
On the following day many who had eaten the miraculous meal came searching for Jesus. They had seen Him multiply a few small loaves, had tasted and been filled. They knew this was no supernatural food they’d eaten – it was ordinary, everyday, belly filling bread. And they wanted more.
It reminded them of a similar event recorded in their scriptures when their ancestors ate bread in the wilderness on their journey out of Egypt. They started comparing Jesus with their greatest national hero, Moses. Could He provide them with bread for themselves and their families every day? After all, Moses had done so for forty years, hadn’t he? So they asked Jesus for a sign to prove He was as great as Moses. The sign they wanted was more ‘manna from Heaven’.
Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. (Jn. 6:31-36)
God provided Israel with bread, or “manna”, for forty long years. Think of it, for forty years every Israelite woke up each morning to find fresh bread had appeared in their camp overnight. God would rain down the manna each morning, which fell as fine dew on the ground and solidified into paper thin wafers that tasted like honey. Six days a week for forty years the Israelites would collect and eat fresh, heavenly manna until they reached the Promised Land (Exodus 16).
What was going on here? We’ll investigate further in Part Two of Where Shall We Buy Bread.
¹ I quoted the Net Bible in this instance because it is the only translation I found that says ‘person’ rather than ‘man of God’. If Paul had wanted to be gender specific he would have used ‘aner’ the Greek word for a male, but he used ‘anthropos’, which is a human being, male or female. Why do translators persist in translating this phrase as ‘man of God’?
Related Article: Where Shall We Buy Bread Part Two
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.