I was taught, somewhere along the way in English class, that when you write a paper or give a speech you should “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” I found out much later that it wasn’t my English teacher who dreamed up the technique. It was Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, who devised the technique more than 2500 years ago. What John has written for us in his Gospel follows Aristotle’s same idea for a well-written paper or speech, but Aristotle never wrote anything like what the Apostle John has left for you and me.
In the first eighteen verses of John’s Gospel we learn that Jesus is God who has come to humanity. John tells us that Jesus is the “Son of God,” the eternal, preexistent, second Person of the Trinity. He became a man, but not just any man. He’s the Anointed One, the Christ. He came to reveal the Father and to open the door to abundant life in the here-and-now, and eternal life forevermore, through His death and resurrection. He died for our sins. John lets us know that those who trust in Him will have life and those who reject Him will be judged and eternally separated from God.
From John 1:18-20:29, John “tells us,” he shares with us the evidence from Jesus’ life, what Jesus said and did, that supports John’s statements about the uniqueness of Jesus. Then, in John 20:30-31, he tells us what he’s told us. Listen to this.
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 NIV)
Oh, I am so thrilled that you have made the decision to come along with me on this journey through the Gospel of John. We’ve barely even scratched the surface and yet my heart is so full of the wonders I’ve discovered the past few weeks. I have no doubt that our time together studying John’s Gospel will have the result upon you and me that it had on one of my favorite preachers, Arthur W. Pink. Listen to what he wrote,
In this book we are shown that the one who was heralded by the angels to the Bethlehem shepherds, who walked this earth for thirty-three years, who was crucified at Calvary, who rose in triumph from the grave, and who forty days later departed from these scenes, was none other than the Lord of Glory. The evidence for this is overwhelming, the proofs almost without number, and the effect of contemplating them must be to bow our hearts in worship before ‘the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.’ (Titus 2:13) (Arthur W. Pink, Expositions of the Gospel of John. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970. pg 10)
I want us to read together the entire opening statements, or prologue of John, so that you can see what I’ve just been describing for you. After we read the first eighteen verses together then we will spend our remaining time taking a look at John 1:1-2.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:1-18 NIV)
There is so much packed into these eighteen verses and John will spend the rest of his Gospel illustrating each of these truths with examples from Jesus’ life. This morning I want us to see what we can learn from the opening verses. Take a look at John 1:1-2 with me. John writes,
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2 NIV)
You may have already recognized it, but if not then I want to point it out to you. The opening words of John’s Gospel are the same opening words of Genesis where we read, “In the beginning…” Where Moses described for us the origin of the old creation, John describes for us the origin of the new creation. The opening verses of Genesis tell us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 NIV) For the longest time there has been a great debate about the origins of the earth and the universe. When did “time” begin? How old is the cosmos? How old is the earth? How long have people inhabited planet earth? There are all kinds of theories out there that people believe.
In the 1600’s, the Archbishop of Ireland, James Usssher, calculated that the first day of Creation took place on Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C. That would make the earth about 6,000 years old. There are others out there who believe that earth and the universe are about 4.55 billion years old. They use radiometric dating to arrive at their conclusion. There are still others who believe that the origin of the earth and the universe fall somewhere between these two dates. The Apostle John isn’t concerned with Bishop Ussher, Carl Sagan, or Stephen Hawking’s theories. He says that before anything came into existence, the “Word” was present. The “Word.” Just what, or who, is the Word? I’m so glad you asked! If you will look at John 1:14 we learn the answer to that important question. John writes,
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV)
Now do you know the answer to the question, “What or who is the Word?” Pretty evident right? Jesus is the Word of God. John has given us some important information about Jesus in the opening two verses of His Gospel. There are three things I want to point out for us.
Jesus Existed From the Beginning
First, Jesus existed from the beginning. Jesus, the Word of God, existed before the heavens and earth were created. John doesn’t say that the Word “became,” he says that the Word “was.” The verb that John uses here in John 1:1 is a form of the verb that Jesus used in John 8:58. A group of Jewish folks were frustrated, angry with what they were hearing. They asked Jesus, “Are you greater than our father Abraham? Who do you think you are?” (John 8:53 NIV) Jesus answered and said, 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV)
The Greek word Jesus used about Abraham’s birth, “???????” (ginomai), means, “to become” or “to come into existence.” The phrase “I am” is a form of the verb that John uses in John 1:1 where he writes, “In the beginning was the Word…” This is important for us to know because one of the points of discussion about Jesus throughout the ages has been about His nature…was Jesus a created being or was, is he, in very nature fully God? John says that there was never a time that Jesus was not. He did not “become.” He was not “made.” He is the eternal Word of God.
The argument over Jesus’ nature wasn’t just a debate of early Church, but it’s a debate that continues even in our day. The Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons both deny the biblical teaching that Jesus, is the eternal Word of God.
Jesus Was With God in the Beginning
Secondly, we can learn that Jesus was with God. When John wrote the first of his letters, 1 John, he said,
2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. (1 John 1:2 NIV)
“The life appeared…” Which life? The one “which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” John is teaching us that there is a unique relationship between the Father and the Son, Jesus, the Word of God. You can also add the Holy Spirit to that unique relationship. What we are learning about is what we call the Trinity. We don’t worship three gods, we worship one God who shows Himself in three Persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Forever and ever the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have shared in a deep, intimate relationship. When Jesus was preparing to go to the Cross, He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Listen to a phrase from His prayer.
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. (John 17:5 NIV)
Deep, intimate fellowship—the Son with the Father, with the Holy Spirit, throughout all of eternity. This is such an important teaching for us to know because there are many in our society, even many within the Church, who deny what the Bible clearly teaches.
Jesus is God
Last of all, we can learn that Jesus is God. Literally, in the Greek New Testament, this phrase reads, “and God was the Word.” What an amazing statement! It is so important for you and me to understand what John is teaching us. He is saying that anything that can be said of God the Father can be said about Jesus, the Word of God. John isn’t the only one who believed this to be true. The Apostle Paul wrote to the folks in Colosse,
17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:17-20 NIV)
He “is,” not, He “became.” “He is before all things…” In Jesus all of the fullness of God dwelled. When you look at Jesus, when you come to know Jesus, you come to see and know God. The writer of Hebrews said,
3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3 NIV)
“The radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…” There are many folks in society today who are admirers of Jesus. People of other faiths acknowledge the greatness of Jesus. They call Him a prophet, they respect His teachings, but that is where their admiration ends. When we talk about Jesus being the only way to God, when we say that it is only through Jesus that we can truly come to know God, when we declare that Jesus came to die for our sins and it is only through His shed blood that we can truly find forgiveness and reconciliation with God…that’s where their admiration ends and their criticism and anger of Jesus’ followers begins. Let me tell you, it is impossible, if you read and take seriously the Bible, for you and me to say of Jesus, “He was a good man, He was a wonderful teacher, He was the most loving person who ever lived, but He was not God.” That line of thinking has been with us since the days of Jesus. Paul warned the folks in Colosse by saying,
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:8-10 NIV)
Don’t be deceived. Don’t buy into the predominate mindset of our day…Jesus, the Word of God, is God. Not a god, not possessing a spark of the divine, but fully God.
There is something else that we need to talk about before we leave here this morning. In the first eighteen verses of John’s Gospel he uses the name “Jesus” only once, in verse 17, but the entire section of Scripture, without question, points to Jesus. In verse 1, John uses the Greek word, “?????” (logos), which is translated as “Word” in your English Bible. We modern-day people are prone to read a section of God’s Word and immediately offer what we think it means. This is dangerous and often causes us to miss out on what God intended. John 1:1 offers us a great opportunity to learn how important it is for us to understand the context and intent of God instead of what we think of a particular verse of Scripture. Let’s read John 1:1 once again.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 NIV)
Let step back in time so that you can understand the power of the “Word.” About 2600 years ago there was a man named Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived in Ephesus, the very city where John would write his Gospel. He said “you can’t step into the same river twice.” What he meant was that the river is constantly flowing so by the time you step in the second time the river has changed. To Heraclitus, and his philosopher friends, life was constantly changing, but somehow life is not a perpetual chaos. For Heraclitus and after him, Plato and Socrates, they attributed the order present in the universe to a divine mind. John MacArthur writes,
To the Greek philosophers, the logos was the impersonal, abstract principle of reason and order in the universe. It was in some sense a creative force, and also the source of wisdom. To the Greeks, then, John presented Jesus as the personification and embodiment of the logos. (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: John. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL. 2006. pg. 16)
John wasn’t Greek and he was not nearly as influenced by Greek philosophy as he was by his Jewish upbringing. The “word of God” in the Hebrew Bible, or what we call the Old Testament, is an action word. The word of the Lord was an expression of God’s power and wisdom. In Genesis, we read, “God said…and it was so.” God gave the word, He spoke, and there was light. (Genesis 1:3) In Psalm 33:6 we read,
6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. (Psalm 33:6 NIV)
In Psalm 33:6 we see that “the word of the Lord” is viewed as the messenger, or agent of the Lord, that accomplished His work of Creation. The most powerful example of the personification of the word of the Lord is found in Isaiah 55:10-11 where we read,
10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV)
The word of the Lord does God’s work, it brought Creation into being, and it accomplishes His work in every generation. In Samuel’s day, it was the word of the Lord that revealed God to Samuel. In 1 Samuel 3:21 we read,
21 The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. (1 Samuel 3:21 NIV)
When Elijah was distraught and on the run, it was “the word of the Lord” that came to him, to give him counsel and encourage him. After traveling for forty days and nights on the run from Jezebel, Elijah spent the night in a cave. There, we read in 1 Kings 19:9.
9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9 NIV)
Jesus is the Word of God
“The word of the Lord came to him.” Is the haze, the fog, beginning to clear? Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Are we seeing what John intends for us to see? The “Word” is not what we think it might be, the “Word” of the Lord is not a group of letters assembled together in some intelligent manner to communicate an idea. No, the “Word” of the Lord is a Person and His name is Jesus. The “impersonal, abstract principle of reason” that the Greeks recognized in the ordering of the universe is not impersonal at all…He is God to come to humanity to reveal the heart of the Father and His name is Jesus.
There are a million and one different ideas of what God is like, but the truth of the matter is that there is very little that we can learn about God apart from knowing Jesus. Romans 1 tells us that the glory of God is revealed through what He has made. You and I can look at the mountains, the vastness of the sea, the intricate design of the universe and know that it just didn’t create itself—there is a Designer behind the Creation. We can know God’s “eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20) by examining what God has made, but it is through knowing Jesus that we can truly come to know God. William Barclay has written,
If the Word was with God before time began, if God’s Word is part of the eternal scheme of things, it means that God was always like Jesus. Sometimes we tend to think of God as just and holy and stern and avenging; and we tend to think that something that Jesus did changed God’s anger into love, and altered God’s attitude to men. The New Testament knows nothing of that idea. The whole New Testament tells us, and this passage of John especially tells us, that God has always been like Jesus. (Barclay, William. The Gospel of John, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1958), 15)
God Has Always Been Like Jesus
Many people, many followers of Jesus look at the God revealed in the Old Testament as a totally different Being than the Jesus we encounter in the New Testament. They talk about the “God of wrath” and the “love of Jesus.” Maybe we better go back and read the Old Testament again after we’ve learned what we’ve learned this morning. God has always been like Jesus and Jesus is an exact representation of God. I love the conversation Philip had Jesus in John 14. Jesus had been teaching His disciples when all of a sudden Philip said,
8 … “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9 NIV)
Before we leave here this morning I have to ask you, “Do you want to know God? Do you want to fellowship with God? Do you want to know what God is like, experience His presence, and worship Him in spirit and in truth?” If you do, then there is only one way to do that my friend. There are many religions in the world. They’ve all got their holy books. They’ve all got their gathering places where the faithful gather for worship. They’ve got some things in common, but there are two things that separates Christianity from every religion that has ever been or ever will be. First, our Founder, our Savior, our King, is alive. You can visit the grave of Gautama Buddha, no one ever claimed that Muhammad rose from the grave, but our Savior lives–His death and resurrection are the focal point of our faith. We celebrate His substitutionary death and His glorious resurrection, the fact that He lives, every Sunday. The second thing that separates Christianity from every other faith is this: In every faith that has ever been there has been an emphasis on what we need to do to get to God–to earn Nirvana, Heaven, or Paradise. There is an emphasis on being “good enough” so that God will love us. What we’ve learned this morning is that God has come to us. That is mind boggling! God, the exalted, holy, righteous, infinite, majestic God has come to us in Jesus. Won’t you come to Him?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114