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