The Word That Was from the Beginning (from Sunday, 11/9/08)
(For those just joining us, every we I post the notes from our Sunday School lessons with the youth group. Click “youth studies” to view past entries or to catch up with the current series.
Keep in mind there are no youth studies on the first Sunday of each month.)
ohn brings us down a spiral in the first eighteen verses—a spiral starting in eternity and ending here on earth in the first century. He opens in the mysterious and dark "beginning," the same beginning of which Genesis speaks. One thing is visible in John's mind: the Word. He first explores the relationship of the Word to God.
John then progresses a bit down the spiral to the created world and its populations. People, people, everywhere, and every one of them are in darkness. Continents are full of dead people walking as if they had life, full of people who need God.
Then the spiral closes in on a particular man—a messenger by the name of John the Baptist (not to be confused with the John writing this Gospel)—announcing the coming light. The focus shifts back to the Word, which now dons human flesh. Then, the spiral finally lands back on John, who is baptizing in the Jordan River.
This will serve as our pattern for our study today.
A.) In the beginning was the Divine Word
<review>We looked at doctrine of the Trinity last time to help us understand the being of the Word. We saw that God is three persons, but one substance. By this, we begin to understand how the Word is Divine or God in essence while not also saying the Word is the only God. We should note John does not say, “the Word was the God” in the Greek, nor is he saying “the Word was a god.” All he says is, "the Word is God of God," or "essentially God," or "Divine."
We should also note John does not say, “in the beginning the Word was created.” Rather, he says “He was in the beginning with God” (v. 2) and “… without him was not any thing made that was made” (v. 3). This is an iron-clad case against the creation of Christ. If Jesus were a creature, then John would have to say "outside of Him was not any thing made that was made." Jesus was not created.
</review>What does this mean, then? When we turn back to that all-too-familiar phrase in Genesis 1—"let there be"—we know that these words of God were uttered by the Word of God! The voice we hear in Genesis belonged to none other than God the Son! And we can begin to track Him through the Bible. Who walks with Adam in the garden: God the Spirit or the visible manifestation of God? Who was that angel Abraham called "Lord?" Who did Jacob wrestle with when he concluded it had been God? Who wrote the Ten Commandments for Moses on the mountain with His Holy finger? And on we could go throughout the entire Old Testament.
When we introduced John, we mentioned that Matthew and Luke have genealogies to tell us where Jesus came from, while Mark does not. Matthew presents Jesus as King, and as such, shows Him to be descended of David. Luke's genealogy tracks Jesus back to Adam—the physician was concerned with the Son of Man. Mark's Jesus is the lowly servant, and no one cares from where a servant comes (to put it bluntly).
These opening verses of John serves as a unique genealogy—one of Divine descent. Of course, Luke has Adam, "the son of God" (Luke 3:38), but this Son of God was different—He was in the beginning with God, Adam was not.
Why does John call Him the “Word,” the Logos?
One possible reason may have been to peek Greek interests. The Platonists, especially, were looking for the logos, and here comes John saying “the logos became flesh.” Certainly, John was not ignorant of the significance of the word logos in Greek philosophy.
Of course, the logos of God also meant a great deal to the Jews. They had not missed the point that God created the world with words in Genesis 1, nor had they missed the fact that there was light before a sun. That the Word, the one with true light and life, became flesh would have been an awesome statement to pious Jewish.
Jesus was the “word” of God, the means God used to speak (Hebrews 1:1). He is truth (John 14:6). Further, when He will return, He will striking dead the unrighteous with the words of His mouth, for He is called “The Word of God” (Rev 19:15).
Why does it matter whether or not Jesus is God, or whether we believe He is God? That brings us to our next point.
B.) The Word is the true light and life of men
What people desperately need is found in God, the One who sent Christ into the world (John 5:24–25). They can pass from death into life, but those who refuse Christ have no life (John 5:40). Sadly, only those who have Christ have life (1 John 5:11–12).
Yet, those who have Christ’s life can experience abundant life (John 10:10). This abundant life is in God, and no, it doesn't necessarily mean a more fun or trouble-free life. It means that you should love God more today than you did yesterday if you have Christ's life. You should enjoy reading your Bible more today than yesterday. That is not to say there won't be dry spots, but, as a general trend, you are finding more and more joy in the things of God.
And, the great news is that those who have the life of Christ never perish (John 10:28)! What a wonderful security. No one can steal me away from God, not even my own thick-headedness.
Yet (and to finally answer the question), those who reject Christ as “the true God” reject Apostolic faith, turning to idols (1 John 5:20–21). That is, those who do not believe Jesus is "the true God" begin to form a God of their own liking, violating the commandments, lack the saving life of Christ, don't believe God, and are classified as remaining "dead" in the sight of God.
There is always hope, however. “The light shines in the darkness” (v. 5). This is an interesting statement. S. Lewis Johnson called this “a statement that presupposes the fall of man.” Huh? Well, look at it this way. You don't need to turn on a light in a well-lit room. Only dark rooms need light.
Darkness describes us without Christ. Christ is the light, therefore we can only conclude that we are dark without Him. Christ is life, therefore we are dead without Him. Perhaps you were thinking, "I don't love God/the Bible/church more every day as like this trend you're talking about." That doesn't surprise me, as the Bible (and my own experience with myself) teaches that our hearts are dark to God without Christ. Those hearts on the Valentine's Day cards are the wrong color—they would be more accurate if they were black.
This means that if you want to have any hope of light and life, you better start living, thinking, and breathing the Bible and its Gospel. Call out to Him, and find Him to be true to His promises.
“Well, I don’t feel like it.” Of course, and I know where you are coming from. This is all the more reason to call out to Him. Do it today.
C.) A messenger (John) announces the coming light
We don't have time to focus on John the Baptist today. Of course, our text doesn't really do so either, so that's okay. The one thing we will say about John is that he preached “so that all might come to believe through him” (1:7). Whenever we preach salvation, we are like John crying out in a dark world, “The light has come!”
Yes, he was a bit weird, and yes, that is what the people of the first century thought of him, too. And people today will think you are a bit weird for believing and preaching this stuff. However, our message is to be like his: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” or “the Gospel is at hand” (more on that later).
One thing we will focus on in the coming months is this idea of the new birth. What about that episode Nick-at-Nite? Jesus spoke of the need to be "born again" or "born from above."
This process is the will of God (cf. Jam 1:18). This new birth is not of bloods or of the will of the flesh. John 3:6 says flesh births flesh. Birds make baby birds, dogs make baby dogs, and people make baby people. There is not a birth progression of flesh, flesh, flesh, flesh, and whoop!... spirit baby. Of all the mutations that may possibly enter the human genome, the birth of a spirit baby ain't one of them.
Nor is the new birth the will of man. No matter how much I want to, I can't make my children Christian. That works in the opposite direction, as well. Just because you are the son or daughter of a Christian, a pastor, a deacon, an elder, etc., does not make you a Christian yourself. God does not have grandkids. Search the Scriptures, and you will only find children of God.
This sets Christianity apart from any other religion. You are not born into it, and you do not “convert” on the sole basis of convincing arguments. You become a Christian only when God regenerates you—when He rebirths you or makes you “born again.”
If you want to be a child of God, do as the Bible prescribes—repent and believe. Need help? Don't worry, even faith and repentance is a gift (Acts 5:31; 16:14; 13:48; 18:27; Eph 2:8; Phi 1:29; 2 Tim 2:25-26), and God will grant to those who seek.
D.) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
There are other incarnation passages we could consider:
- II Cor. 8:9—He became “poor” for us, that we might become “rich.” (Is there money in heaven?)
- Gal. 4:4—God sent Jesus at the “fullness of time”
- Rom. 1:3—Christ descended from David “according to the flesh.”
- Rom 8:3—Christ came in the appearance of sinful flesh
- Phil. 2:7ff—humanness and servant-hood something He put on
- I Tim. 3:16—He appeared in flesh
- Heb. 2:14—He “partook” in flesh and blood
But, now it is time for our humiliation. Why did He go through all of this? To save us. We, who do not deserve the time of day from God have received His greatest gift. Wow.
What's more, He came “full of grace and truth.” Isn’t it wonderful that Christ’s coming into the world in the first century wasn’t to destroy it? He could have, and we wouldn't be here to talk about it.
John contrasts this grace to the Law of Moses in verse 17. The grace of Christ isn’t destroying the Law; it provides a side of God He can’t give to us through the Law (if He could, there would have been no need for Christ). Now we can receive “grace upon grace!”
We must keep in mind that Christ did not only come in grace, but He was also full of truth. As such, grace is not above truth, nor truth above grace. How else would we expect Him to come? He is the mouthpiece of the true God… its impossible for Him not to be true. What's more, He shows us the true Father, something we can’t see through the Law alone.
E.) John in Judea
The spiral has landed us in the desert, right on top of the Jordan River.
We don't know whether Jesus went to the left or to the right after John baptized Him, but we do know that there's a whole lot of nothing on either side. But that is a story for another time.
John is baptizing and attracts the religious leaders, who are curious about his activities and teaching. Who does he say who he is? How does he deal with them? And who did he just excitedly point to over on the bank? We'll find that out next time, so stay tuned. :)