The Word of God
The primary means by which humankind knows God’s love and favor is through God’s Word. Moravians believe that the Word of God addresses the church in the world through the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
According to the Old Testament, God revealed God’s person and will not just through the mighty acts performed on behalf of Israel and through the giving of the Law, but also through the prophetic interpretation of these acts and the Law. The prophets, priests, psalmist, authors of wisdom literature, and the historians of the Old Testament period spoke the Word of God that gave the acts and the Law of God meaning.
According to the New Testament, God ultimately revealed God’s person in a still more vital way. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews declares, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son” (Hebrews 1:1). The Gospel of John declares that Jesus of Nazareth was nothing less than “the Word made flesh” (John 1:14). God was not content with speaking alone, nor acting alone. Ultimately, God joined word and deed in the life of Christ.
In the ministry of Jesus, God demonstrates that to love God and one’s neighbor is the end or fulfillment of the law.
In the death of Jesus, God demonstrates the depth of God’s identification with and God’s love for struggling humanity.
In the resurrection of Jesus, God demonstrates the ultimate triumph of good over evil and life over death!
The end of Christ’s earthly ministry saw a further development in God’s revelation of God’s self. Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, God gave the Holy Spirit to the church (Acts 1 and 2). The Spirit enabled the disciples to see the true meaning of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Then the Spirit empowered the disciples to preach Jesus the Christ among the nations, summoning all people to repentance, belief, and baptism “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Then as now, those who responded in faith received the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), and became members of Christ’s body on earth, the church.
The Word of God addresses us today in a number of ways.
God addresses us in the Bible.
Moravians believe the Bible to be the humanly produced but God-inspired record of God’s revelation of God’s self in history. The Bible is not a scientific textbook, nor is it merely an historical account of ancient events. Rather, it is a testimony from one generation of believers to another. Accepting this, Moravians believe that the biblical message authenticates itself, summoning people not just to faith but to faithful action!
God addresses us in preaching and teaching.
When the Word of God is faithfully preached or taught, God makes God’s self heard. The preaching and teaching of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament evangelists is echoed in our churches when their preachers and teachers hear God speak in the biblical text, and then, in turn, enable the congregation of which they themselves are a part to hear that same message. The task of the preacher or teacher is to apply the eternal Word to the situation of our world today.
God addresses us in the liturgy and hymnody of our church.
Count Zinzendorf, a leader of the Moravian Church during its eighteenth-century renewal, called the hymnal “a kind of human response to the Bible.” Most of our hymns and liturgies include recitation of the Word as well as response to the Word. Our worship is saturated with passages from the Scriptures, selected and topically arranged to fit a variety of worship situations. For instance, there are general hymns and liturgies suitable for almost any occasion, and special hymns and liturgies designed primarily for use during a particular season such as Easter or Christmas.
God addresses us in the sacraments of the church.
The Word gives meaning to all other rites and sacraments of the church. It is the Word of explanation that gives Christian baptism its meaning both for people who are being baptized and for those who are observing. Without the Liturgy of Baptism, those who do not know the tradition of the church may see baptism as a ceremonial washing, nothing more. Likewise, the familiar words of institution - “This is my body…This is my blood…” - make the Holy Communion more than a mid-morning snack enjoyed at church with friends. To the initiated the sacraments become a visible Word!
God addresses us in nature.
“The heavens are telling the glory of God…Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge” (Psalm 19:1f). Christians believe the natural world to be brimming with the signs of God’s activity and presence.
God addresses us through reason.
Moravians encourage historical reflection and scientific inquiry. We believe that the Christian faith and a scientific worldview are compatible. Because Moravians believe that God is the author of both science and salvation, our congregations sing, May we all science and all truth With eager minds explore; Lead us alike in age and youth Thy wisdom to adore.
God addresses us through encounter with others.
God is still speaking today. We believe that God is the one God behind the many faces of humanity who is calling to us in the needs of those with whom we share our world. The New Testament declares that Christ himself is present in the very persons who in need hold out their hands to us. Today, as in the days of his flesh, Jesus declares, “As you do to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do to me” (Matthew 25:40).
God addresses us in personal experience.
God speaks in many ways. God may address one person through a sermon and another through a sunset. While Moravians think it is essential that the Holy Scriptures remain “our only source and rule of faith, doctrine, and life” (“The Ground of the Unity,” section 4), we recognize that God speaks his unchanging Word of forgiveness and favor to human beings in ways as personal as one’s own experience, and as many as the number of our human family.
The Moravian Church invites all of its members and friends to listen for God’s Word. We are confident that God’s ultimate word to all people is love.
From the Interprovincial Faith & Order Commission of the Moravian Church in America. From the brochure "The Word of God" 2010