The Lively Oracles

“This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.” (Acts 7:38)

This pungent expression, “lively oracles,” is the felicitous King James translation of zao logion, “utterances that are vibrantly alive.” In Stephen’s address, he was referring, of course, to the tables of the law, “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18) and received by Moses on Mount Sinai directly from the Lord.

The Greek word logion is derived from logos (“word”) and occurs just four times. In the other three references, it appears in the phrase “oracles of God” (Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11). These “oracles” are living words precisely because they do come from God. They include not only the Ten Commandments but all the Holy Scriptures.

The word “lively” is the Greek zao, occurring over 140 times and translated variously (depending on context) as “alive,” “live,” “living,” “quick,” etc. It is significant that it occurs, first of all, on the lips of Christ Himself when He said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We are truly alive only through the life-giving words of the living God! “For the word [that is, each individual saying] of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

The Bible is not just a book but the Book. Its content is “for ever . . . settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89), “able to make thee wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15), and is “given by inspiration of God” (“God-breathed”) (2 Timothy 3:16). Its words must guide our very lives! HMM

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