There have been thousands of neighborhood surveys given by Christian organizations and churches over the years. Maybe you’ve participated in one or more of them yourself. A question that is often asked on these surveys is: “Who is Jesus Christ?”. The answer most often given is: “He is the Son of God”. But most of the people who give that answer don’t know what it means nor how they came to that conclusion. In a 1983 Gallup poll, Americans were asked, “Who do you think Jesus is?” 70% of those interviewed said that He was not just another man. 43% stated that Jesus was God among men, 27% felt that Jesus was only human but divinely called. 9% stated that Jesus was divine because he embodied the best of humanity. Also, 81% of the Americans polled considered themselves to be Christians. In John 1:1-3, John gives a brief and concise summary of Jesus’ relationship to God.
I. JOHN’S USE OF THE “WORD” (verse 1)
The passage begins by using the term “Word” to refer to Christ. This term is not used in this way in any of the other gospels. John uses the Greek word “logos” because it was a familiar term in Greek philosophy and literature, and also because it had a special meaning for the Jews.
In Greek philosophy the “logos” was the principle which maintained perfect order in the universe and controlled it. The “logos” also controlled the events of history.
What meaning would “the word” have in the minds of the Jewish readers of John’s gospel? It would turn their thoughts to the first chapter in the book of Genesis where we are told that in the beginning God spoke, and all things came into being. Genesis 1:3 says, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.” If a Jew living during the lifetime of Christ on earth was asked the question: “What happens when God speaks?” His answer would have been, “The thing is instantly done or happens.” The prophet Isaiah records these words that God spoke to him in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which it was sent.”
By beginning his gospel with the use of the term “logos”, John has succeeded in creating an interest and has peaked the curiosity of both Greeks and Jews. “Who is this person you are referring to?” “How can you claim that He is the ‘logos’?” John has succeeded in grabbing their attention and they are anxious to find out what he is going to say next. Now that he has their attention, John makes four statements about Christ’s deity.
Ii. JESUS IS ETERNALLY GOD (1:1-2)
“In the beginning was the Word.” We know that as the apostle John writes about the Word, the “Logos”, he is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ because he says in verses 14 and 17: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” (NASB)
“In the beginning” – John begins his gospel in eternity past. In the Greek text there is no definite article before the word “beginning”. At whatever beginning you might choose, “the Word” already existed. The following is an excuse that is sometimes used by those who don’t believe that Jesus Christ is God: “If Jesus is called the Son of God, He cannot be eternal because He is called the ‘firstborn’, and the eternal Father must be older than His Son.”
However, eternal fatherhood demands eternal sonship. Consider this question: “When did your father begin to be your father?” He became your father at the very moment that you became his child, and not before. Isn’t that correct? Therefore the eternal Father must have an eternal Son.
John is also implying in this verse that, unlike the Greek concept of the “logos”, which came along with creation as part of creation, Jesus Christ, “the Logos” existed before creation. John is stretching their concept of the logos to a much higher level. Contrary to their thinking, the logos is not a force in the universe, but an eternal Person who transcends this universe. Both the Jew and the Greek at the time of this writing would agree that the only Person who could transcend time would have to be God.
III. JESUS IS EQUALLY GOD (1:1-2)
“And the Word was with God” – a unique Person, yet a common entity. He is distinguishable from God the Father, yet eternally God. It is a mystery. We cannot understand how this can be with our finite minds. Genesis 1 says, “The Spirit of God was moving upon the surface of the waters.” He is also a distinct Person, and part of the God-head.
In John chapter 1, verse 2, John says it again using different words: “He was in the beginning with God“. By writing it again, John is saying, “Yes, that’s what I said and that’s what I meant!” The Hebrew word for God in Genesis 1 is “elohim”. It is a plural noun.
There are not three Gods. There is one God in three Persons. I like this definition in the book, Christian Theology in Plain Language: “Three persons who are coequally and co-eternally God”. Expressed mathematically, the concept of the Trinity would be described, not as 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals three, but as one times one times one equals one. People have problems with the Trinity because they can’t completely understand it, but in actuality, the concept of the trinity lies behind the very nature and structure of this universe. For example, we are living in a space – matter – time universe. We express space in terms of length, width, and height. We express time in terms of past, present, and future. We express matter in terms of energy, motion, and phenomenon. Even the tiny atoms that make up our universe are composed of electrons, protons, and neutrons. These aren’t “accidents” or “coincidences” but evidences that the universe reflects the very nature of the Godhead. The apostle Paul makes this clear in Romans 1:19-20 when he says, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
All three members of the Trinity were present at the baptism of Jesus. There was Jesus who had just been baptized, the Holy Spirit who descended from heaven in the form of a dove and rested upon Jesus, and there was the Father, whose voice from heaven said, “Thou art my beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 5:16-17; Luke 3:21-22)
Just before the ascension of Jesus into heaven, He gave His Great Commission to His disciples, and in it He mentions all three members of the Triune God. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:18-19). So the Lord Jesus Himself declares the Trinity of God and identifies Himself as one of the members of that Trinity.
IV. JESUS IS ESSENTIALLY GOD (1:1)
“And the Word was God.” In His essence, in His real nature, and in His attributes, Jesus Christ is God. There is at least one religious sect that says that Jesus Christ is not God because John 1:1 says “The Word was a god“, since there is no definite article before the word “God” in the Greek text. To show the error of this thinking, let’s insert the definite article into the Greek text. Now the English translation would read, “The Word was the God”. This would imply that no divine being existed except Jesus Christ. Such a statement would contradict the previous phrase, “The Word was with God”. It would also contradict Genesis 1, where God says, “Let us make man in our image”. So John purposely did not put the definite article in his text because he wanted to imply that Jesus Christ is God. He is divine, but there are also other divine Persons, namely the Father and the Holy Spirit.
After verse 1, the apostle John never uses the term “logos” again. Why? Because the concept, the force, the spoken word is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And as the eternal Son of God, He has been the true “Logos” from all eternity. From now on John’s focus is on the Lord Jesus Christ because He and “the Logos” are the same.
This has been a “deep theology lesson”, and I’m no theologian! But John realizes that this is a necessary introduction if we are going to understand his purpose for writing this Gospel. Knowing this basic theology will help us to understand the signs Jesus performed, the words Jesus said, and the responses He received as a result, as recorded by the apostle John.
V. JESUS IS THE CREATOR-GOD (1:3)
It is natural, when we think of God, to think of His power to create. Thus John says in verse 3, “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”. If we were to look through the most powerful telescope, we would see galaxy after galaxy, and worlds travelling at incredible speeds. Yet their orbits are so mathematically precise that we can predict an eclipse or a comet’s appearance years in advance. If we were to look into the most powerful microscope we would be able to see the atoms that are the building blocks of all matter. An atom measures about 150 millionths of an inch in diameter. Though they are so small, atoms are like a miniature solar system, with a central nucleus and a number of electrons flashing in orbit around it.
Hopefully, the following illustration will give you a sense of the vastness and complexity of God’s creation. If the molecules in just one drop of water could be converted into grains of sand, there would be enough sand to build a concrete highway, half a mile wide and one foot thick, all the way from New York to San Francisco. That’s about 3000 miles! And God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit made them all – every single atom in the universe!
I encourage you to take some time to reflect upon the vastness, complexity and order of our universe. Take a walk or drive to a secluded spot and observe the foliage and the animals. Or draw the curtains, pull up the shades, open the windows and take in the sights, sounds, and smells. Reflect also upon yourself and how you are made. There is no one like you. You are unique. Your fingerprints, your voice, your hair, your DNA are unique to you. All of these things you observe and consider point to a Creator. Do you know Him? Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Do you know Jesus Christ personally and intimately? If so, your life will be filled with joy, and your actions will give testimony to His presence in you.
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