“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 were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”–John 1:1-4
I love the Gospels.
I love the Gospel of John.
John has such a fascinating view of Jesus and the way he tells the story of the Gospel is beautiful. I love the way he begins telling his recollection of the life of Jesus’ ministry. The first four verses are filled with amazing truths, but they take a little bit of effort on our part to understand and get the full meaning of there complexity. If you’re anything like me, these verses bring up several emotions. Feelings of comfort, thankfulness, and some insight into the creation story and how things were made. There is usually another feeling that we don’t want to mention because it makes us feel…uneasy. That feeling is confusion. In our modern culture, when we read the word “Word,” we automatically associate it with something written. In this context, we think about the Bible. When we read these verses we think, “Wow, how amazing is it that these verses speak of God’s word being present from even the beginning of time and all things were formed through it.” Then, this thought is possibly accompanied by this thought, “Wait, the Bible wasn’t written until later, so how could the word have been with God from the beginning?” Ever had that thought? If I had to take a guess, I would imagine that you’ve felt this way many times reading through the Scriptures. If this is you, I have some news for you, it’s completely ok and it’s normal. While I don’t have the time or the knowledge to dive into every possible question about the Scripture’s, I do want to take a little bit of time and talk about the first 4 verses written in the Gospel of John.
I’d like to take a moment to notice a couple of things in these verses. The first thing I’d like you to notice is the capitalization of certain words, namely ‘Word’ and ‘Him’ and how these two words are synonymous in context. The phrase “word of God” appears often in the Bible and can have a slightly different meaning depending on context and the Hebrew or Greek word used. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” The term translated “Word” is logos, which basically means “the expression of a thought.” 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. This is interesting because to the Greeks, John presented Jesus as the personification and embodiment of the logos. Unlike the Greek concept, however, Jesus was not an impersonal source or principle. In Him, the true logos who was God became a man—a concept foreign to Greek thought. As we see displayed throughout Scripture, Jesus embodied the entire message of God to His people, and that is why He is called the “Logos,” or “Word” of God. So, the “Word” is a person and that person is Jesus. With that in mind, John 1:1-2 can be read, “In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.” When we read these verses with this in mind, it makes so much more sense! There’s also an interesting shift from verses 1 and 2 referencing ‘the Word’ into verse 3 and 4 referencing ‘Him.’ When we have a good idea on the meaning behind the translation of key words in these verses, they become much more congruent and easier to understand.
We see this continue to play out when we continue reading the Gospel of John. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”–John 1:14. When we read this verse, we understand that the ‘Word’ that became flesh and dwelt among us means more than the printed words on a page. It verifies that the ‘Word,’ in this context, is not something written, but a person. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a book turn into a human. The funny thing is that we tend to read the first four verses of John like this. As if the written word of God, the Bible, was with God from beginning and then through some kind of crazy transformation, it turned into a person with flesh and blood. John continues to establish the personification of the Word by saying, “we have seen His glory…the only Son from the Father.”
This gives us fresh perspective when we read through the Bible and we see verses such as Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active.” This isn’t speaking about written words, this is speaking of Jesus, who is the fulfillment of all Scripture! We serve and worship a risen Christ. Jesus is alive! It’s imperative for us to understand that although Jesus affirms the written word of God over and over throughout His life, we don’t worship the Bible, we worship Jesus. This is important to Jesus because he says in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” Later, before the ascension, Jesus tells his disciples, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me,” not the Bible. However, the Bible is a sacred text that Jesus has put His stamp approval on and has given as His authoritative word to His followers. “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.” John 3:35, so the sovereign authority of the Father has been given to the Son. It’s refreshing to remember that the source of our hope is in Christ and Christ alone. It’s refreshing to see that all things created, including Scripture (the written word of God), are a means to point us to Christ. Let us worship Him in Spirit and in truth. He is the logos, the Word, the embodiment of the glory of God who became flesh and dwelt among us.