The Word was an ancient Jewish concept brought into the Christian world through the Gospel of John. The title first appears in John’s prologue, which states ‘In the beginning was the Word’ (Jn 1:1). It occurs only three times more in the New Testament: later in Jn 1:1 ‘… and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’, in 1 Jn 1:1 ‘we preach this concerning The Word ...’ and in Rev 19:13 ‘... his name is The Word’. It does also occur Other New Testament references to ‘Word’ e.g. 2 Tim 4:2 are ambiguous, and can more readily be translated as e.g. ‘message’.
The Word also occurs in the Old Testament, but only in the Apocrypha, in the Wisdom of Ben Sirach 18:11, ‘For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, the Almighty Word leapt from heaven [to earth] …’ which is usually taken to mean the Incarnation, when the Word was born in human form in a stable in Bethlehem. Again, the Word is living.
That the Word is Living helps emphasises how Jesus is still alive and, by necessity, points to the power of the Resurrection. For example, a favourite verse for this mindset is Hebrews 13:8 which says that ‘Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday and forever’.
The title Living Word is particularly popular with charismatic and evangelical Christianity. That Jesus is The Word encourages a literal use of Scripture such (see 2 Tim 3:16). Evangelism starting from such a base is most effective when talking to those who feel threatened by choice and require carefully delineated guidance. Conversely, an over-indulgent use of such a position can lead to reverence for the printed word, so care is needed: this path can lead to a Pharisaic searching for Jesus in the Scripture when he is straight before us (cf. Jn 5:39).
For an example of Living Word, see the short modern chorus, ‘Jesus, name above all names, Beautiful Saviour, Glorious Lord; Emmanuel, God is with us, Blessèd Redeemer, Living Word’.