deity of Christ

The Word Became Flesh. II: The Word Was God

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:1-5; all Scripture quotations are from the NASB1995).

Image via Pixabay.

The Gospel of John is often called “the theological Gospel.” Whereas the three other three Gospels mainly report what Jesus taught and did, John’s Gospel interjects explanation and commentary. He also shares more “private teaching” that was deeper and more complex than what Jesus said in the other Gospels. John wrote near the end of the first century when several heresies were developing in the church (see his three letters for more background on those). Therefore, his Gospel rebuts many of those false teachings.

One such teaching was the notion that Jesus was not fully God and fully man. Some Christians thought that Jesus was just an ordinary man. Others said He was God but only looked like a real person; they also claimed He only seemed to die on the cross but only fell unconscious and woke up while in the tomb.

In response to these teachings, John writes the verses we read above. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This might confuse us, but it probably made more sense to John’s readers: first-century Jews who knew rabbinic tradition and Gentiles familiar with the philosophy of Plato.

Jews would immediately recognize the Word of God with its many facets. They had their sacred writings, which we now call the Old Testament. But, God’s Word was also a creative force that exercised His power. God spoke the universe into existence at creation (Genesis 1). It was not merely letters on a scroll or the wavelike vibration of air molecules to generate sound. It had power.

Jews would also associate God’s Word with wisdom, which is described as having a personality in the Old Testament, for example, in Proverbs 1:20-33 and 8:22-26:

“Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square; At the head of the noisy streets she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings…” (Proverbs 1:20-21).

“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills I was brought forth; While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, Nor the first dust of the world” (Proverbs 8:22-26).

Image via YouVersion Bible app.

It would not surprise a Jew or a Platonist that the Word was God. Followers of Plato would say that the Logos (the Greek word translated as “Word” above) is the wisdom, logic, and order that guides the universe. What made it different was the idea that this Word or Logos was not only God but also became human:

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

The Word was not just letters on a page, nor was it a set of abstract concepts or ideas. It became a man, Jesus Christ. He became a man, but He was always God. From before the beginning of time, Jesus—the Word of God—was God. He did not grow up and learn how to be God, declare Himself to be God, or figure out how to show us that we are all divine. No, in a unique way, He was God: before He was born, while He lived, after His resurrection, and throughout eternity.

“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…” (Colossians 2:9).

When He was conceived in Mary’s womb, the fullness of deity dwelt within a single-celled zygote, then an embryo, a fetus, a baby, a child, and eventually a Man. At all points in His earthly life, He was God.

The Word and Wisdom that shaped the universe entered creation as a vulnerable child. John wrote that “the darkness did not comprehend it.” Indeed, few understood Him: not those who lived in spiritual darkness, nor the religious leaders, nor even His own family. His disciples usually did not understand Him. Christians who boast that we walk by faith in Him do not fully understand Him. If the idea that Jesus could be fully divine when He was just a single cell within His mother’s body blows your mind, you are not alone. The mystery that Jesus could be both God and man overwhelms our understanding. To follow Him, we must take a leap of faith. We must remember and believe that God is beyond our comprehension. We have to trust Him and not our understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The power that created the universe became human. That power now dwells personally with and in us by His Holy Spirit. Since He can govern the galaxies, He can easily deal with the problems we face. The Life Recovery Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1998) shares the following lesson from John 1:1-13:

“The same Power that created the universe is available to create a new life from our shattered hopes. The light of life that exposes and drives away the darkness of the human race is the same light that brightens the dark corners of our world. This source of all life and true light of the world is the source of all recovery. Eternal life and true recovery are ours when we believe what God says, renounce our tendency to do things our way, and receive the one whom God sent to help us.”

Just trust Him.

Do you have any thoughts about this passage that you would like to share? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, deity of Christ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Word Became Flesh. I: An Introduction

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Version (1995) unless otherwise indicated].

Stained glass depiction of Jesus and John the Baptist. Photo from PxHere under a Creative Commons CC0 license.

Over the past few days, much of the Christian Church world has celebrated the Feasts of the Epiphany (January 6) and the Baptism of Jesus (first Sunday after Epiphany, usually the third Sunday after Christmas). Epiphany celebrates the revelation of Jesus to the nations of the world. Its primary focus is on the coming of the wise men (Matthew 2:1-12); other recommended Scripture readings for the day speak of His ministry to the Gentiles (e.g., Matthew 12:14-21).

The baptism of Jesus, however, brings us back to the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, as He was revealed by God to the Jewish nation while being baptized by John the Baptist:

“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased’” (Matthew 3:13-17).

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke begin by reporting Jesus’ miraculous birth; Luke includes the birth of John the Baptist. On the other hand, John’s Gospel begins before the dawn of time. The Word of God existed with the Father and was God. After that, John bounces his focus between two persons: the eternal Word of God, who became a man, Jesus Christ; and John the Baptist, who bore witness to the coming of the Word, Lord, and Messiah.

Many ministries urge new followers of Jesus to read the Gospel of John before any other book of the Bible. Those who read it for the first time would be wise to keep a few things in mind. First, John wrote with a different emphasis than the other Gospel writers. Matthew, Mark, and Luke read more like a historical account of His life. They record what He did, said, and how He died and rose. They present “just the facts” (as TV detective Joe Friday would say). Luke summarized his intentions:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4).

In contrast, John has a much more stylized, subjective, and analytical approach. Whereas Matthew, Mark, and Luke try to be informative, John is admittedly trying to make a persuasive argument:

“Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).

This different purpose explains the substantial differences between John and the other three Gospels.

In this context, John began his Gospel by introducing Jesus as the Word of God, who existed before the world was created and through whom all things were created (John 1:3). Then, he skipped over the birth and childhood of Jesus (which Matthew and Luke thoroughly describe) and introduced the ministry of John the Baptist. Instead of focusing on his message of repentance, John summarized how his message bore witness to the coming of the Messiah.

Many of the key themes of John’s Gospel are introduced in John 1:1-18. These verses mention such concepts as light, life, grace, truth, belief, glory, and testimony or witness, and they frequently recur in later chapters. John 1:18 speaks of Jesus as “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father.” John 13:23 speaks of a beloved disciple—most likely John himself—reclining near the bosom of Jesus at the Last Supper. The similar choice of wording is striking; perhaps John, thinking of his close friendship with Jesus, was attempting to compare it to Jesus’ intimacy with the Father. Maybe he wanted us to think that Jesus had intimately bound Himself with humanity just as He was already bound to the Father.

If you plan to read John’s Gospel all the way through for the first time, read the first chapter, especially the first 18 verses, slowly and carefully. They set the stage for the rest of the book.

In the coming weeks, I will share a few more meditations on John 1:1-18. The passage offers a lot of insight on the subject of Jesus’ deity. This post provides an introduction to this series of articles.

Do you have any thoughts about this passage that you would like to share? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

More Names and Titles of Jesus (Revelation 19:11-16)

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Version; emphasis added).

Statue of Jesus riding a white horse, Hendersonville, TN. Photo by Brent Moore, via Flickr, published under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

January 1 is New Year’s Day on the secular calendar. On the church calendar, it is the Feast of the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Since it is the eighth day of Christmas, one week after we celebrate the birth of Jesus, many churches commemorate the day that He was circumcised and officially named Jesus by Joseph and Mary. God had told them to name Him Jesus, the name that is above every other name (Philippians 2:9-10). That name, which means “Savior,” was significant.

Scripture lists numerous names or titles for Jesus. He is “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Isaiah 9:6-7 tells us that He is “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Many Christians think that lists four names; some think it is one.) It is probably more accurate to speak of these as different titles Jesus bears, but all of them—like His holy name—tell us something about Who He is. They are not empty words.

Jesus is Faithful and True. We can always trust Him no matter how crazy the world may become.

He is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14). Everything that God ever revealed about Himself was clothed in human flesh when Jesus became a man to save us.

He is Jesus, which means “Savior.”

He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is our Sovereign Ruler. We owe Him full faith and devotion. May God have mercy on us when we bow to and revere earthly authorities instead of Him.

He even has a name “which no one knows except Himself.” Even though the Bible tells us all we need to know about Jesus to be saved, there are things about Him that we cannot even begin to comprehend.

So many names. So much glory. We have so many reasons to worship Him. May we all come to know Him better and worship Him more fully in the year to come.

Which name or title of Christ is most meaningful to you? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christ Meets Us in the Mundane (Micah 5:2)

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2).

“Adoration of the Shepherds,” by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

God could operate from a position of power, but often He does not. He frequently finds a way to accomplish His goals by using the most insignificant, unlikely, unimpressive people and circumstances.

When the ancient Israelites requested a king, God initially chose Saul, a “nobody” from the most insignificant tribe in Israel.

When Saul disobeyed God, He replaced him with David—a ruddy “pretty-boy” shepherd from a small town in Judah. Once again, God chose a nobody to accomplish His goals.

When God became man, He could have chosen to be an earthly king. He had already promised to bless the nations of the world through the descendants of Abraham. So, instead of being born as an earthly emperor in Rome, God came to Judea—an insignificant nation within the Roman empire.

God did not even choose to be born to a prominent Jewish family. Sure, He was born into royal blood—as a descendant of David—but his family was a lesser branch of the royal family tree. Instead of noble power-brokers who rubbed shoulders with the elite in Jerusalem, Jesus’ mother and stepfather were poor folks who struggled to survive.

Photo taken by Michael E. Lynch at RXR Plaza, Uniondale, NY, December 17, 2016.

Perhaps this tells us something about what Jesus valued. He could have chosen to cling to any of His divine qualities. He could have decided to live a life of earthly power and authority that reflected His divine sovereignty. He could have chosen the life of a scribe or Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, flaunting earthly wisdom and education as a shadow of His divine omniscience (all-knowing).

Instead, if there was any divine attribute He chose to reflect for His earthly life, it was His role as Creator. He spent His first 30 earthly years as a carpenter: designing, building, and creating things.

At any rate, He did not choose the world’s ways to save humanity. He did not seek earthly power, prestige, or riches. He did not seek a comfortable life. He came to a tiny town, to an insignificant family, doing a job that gained neither wealth nor a chapter in the history books. While it was not the worldly way to influence people and change the world, though, it was His Father’s way to change the world.

On Christmas, we celebrate a King who was born in a stable, slept in a manger, spent almost His entire life in a country the size of New Jersey, and was brutally tortured and executed. This is not the way people would choose to change the world. We might try to use strength and power to change the world. Jesus chose love, humility, and obedience to His Father’s will.

He met us in the most mundane moments of life. This truth is lost in our Christmas celebration, with the flashing lights, shiny decorations, and feel-good television specials. We seek to find Him in the exciting moments, but He comes to meet us, and calls us to follow Him, in the ordinary moments of life. May this Christmas draw our hearts beyond the celebration and pageantry to the power of an ordinary life saturated with Christ’s presence.

May God bless you and those you love both during your Christmas celebration and throughout the coming year. May the love of God and presence of Jesus in your life bring joy and peace throughout the coming year.

Feel free to share your thoughts about Christ’s birth and Christmas by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ, Holidays | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Divine Name That Says a Lot (Isaiah 9:6-7)

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

“Adoration of the Shepherds,” by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

We wait expectantly. With Christmas less than a week away, children await the coming of Santa Claus. Older children and adults await the holiday celebrations, the presents, and the family gatherings. Some are just waiting for the intense activity to end. We are all looking forward to something.

The ancient Jews also waited expectantly. More than 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of a Messiah who would save Israel. After centuries of exile, followed by domination by the global empires of Greece and Rome, the Jewish people were eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises and their hopes and dreams.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus fulfilled two prophetic names in chapters 7 and 9 of Isaiah. Isaiah 7:14 foretold the birth of a child known as “Immanuel,” meaning “God-with-us”:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

Matthew 1:22-23 tells us that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy when He was born to His virgin mother, Mary. When Jesus was conceived in her womb, God joined us; Jesus was fully human, yet fully divine. God was with humanity in the flesh and, He lived His life as one of us.

Isaiah 9:6 gives another name for the coming Messianic king from the line of David: “Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom,” translated as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” in the NASB. This long name says a lot. [“Abi-ad” can be translated either as “Eternal Father” or “my Father is (the) eternal (one).” This verse does not contradict the historic Christian belief that God the Father and God the Son are distinct Persons within the Trinity.]

This name describes the God we worship. This is the essence of Who Jesus is and what He means to us. Although no New Testament passage explicitly says that Isaiah 9:6-7 is about Jesus, chapters 1 and 2 of Luke mention several of these attributes when reporting His birth.

He is a Wonderful (marvelous, miraculous) Counselor or guide. We can come to Him with our doubts, fears, uncertainty, worries, etc. His wisdom is beyond our comprehension. He will lead and guide us.

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

He is the Mighty God of infinite strength and power. He created all things. No problem or circumstance is beyond His control. Martin Luther translated this phrase as “Held,” or in English “hero.” Pick your favorite superhero: Superman, Captain Marvel, Spider-man, etc. Their superpowers are no match for the power of our Mighty God, Jesus Christ.

Our God is the Eternal Father. He has always been, and He will always be. He will always love and preserve us. Jesus told His disciples, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He will not leave; He will not quit; He will not cease to exist. He is alive forever, and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Finally, Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Biblical peace—shalom in Hebrew—is not the absence of war or hardship. It is the presence of God amid hard times. No matter what comes, God is with us. Jesus brings His peace into our hearts and minds as we put our trust in Him.

God’s answer to the turmoil of ancient Israel and the oppression of first-century Jews was the birth of a child. The answer to all of mankind’s hopes and the Savior of humanity came as a child, died as a man, but lives as both God and man, as God with us always. He brings us His wonderful counsel, infinite power and might, everlasting Fatherly love, and His peace that surpasses all comprehension. I pray that you may experience His presence not just around Christmas but throughout the year.

Which prophetic name of Christ is most meaningful to you? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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