Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on January 10, 2016.
Open your Bibles with me this morning to John, chapter 1. Last week we began our journey through the Gospel of John by setting the stage. We did this by examining, very briefly some context that surrounds this amazing piece of God inspired literature. We looked at the Genre, Author, the Purpose.
As I stated, the purpose of the Gospel of John is not difficult to figure out because he tells us exactly why he wrote this book in John 20:31, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” It is with this purpose in mind that we begin our study today in John, chapter 1. Please follow along with me as I read the first 18 verses.
I have spoken about this before, but when I was in law school they taught us two ways to write in regards to legal persuasion. One way was named IRAC and the other was named CRAC. IRAC stood for Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion. The idea is that you laid out the issue or the problem, you then applied the rules that were relevant, you then plugged the issue into the law through analysis, and out came a logical legal conclusion. CRAC on the other hand stood for Conclusion, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion. It is the same idea as IRAC, but you began you with the end. You begin with your conclusion. You didn’t hide you cards, or build up to a climax, you came out of the corner swinging, so to speak.
This is exactly what the Apostle John does in his Gospel. Verses 1- 18 are jammed pack with overarching grand conclusions about who Jesus Christ is and why He is relevant. John is not letting the reader come to their own conclusion as much as he is telling them what they should expect to see. Verses 1-18 are what is called the prologue, a preliminary discourse, of the Gospel of John.
And it is in the prologue that we can see an introduction of many of the themes of this Gospel, such as Christ’s divinity, the world, light and darkness, life, truth, new birth, believing. These are the beginnings of threads that are weaved throughout the fabric of this Gospel. And it is because of these later teachings on these topics that I will skip over most of those things today. But there are a few that I think are unique to these first 18 verses.
The first thing I want to direct our attention to is how John chooses to introduce us to the hero of the story. He does not call Jesus by name, or by title, such as the Christ. Instead he introduces us to him be referring to Him as the Word. Verse 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This may seem odd, for there are not a shortage of ways you can refer to Jesus, as I stated you could call him the Christ, but you could also refer to Him as the Son of God, the Son of Man, Son of David, the King of Kings, the True High Priest, the Prince of Peace, the Root of Jesse, the Lamb of God, the Seed of Eve, etc, etc. But John did not choose any of these names, instead John, inspired by the Holy Spirit picked “The Word” Why?
The Greek word for Word is logos. Very few of you know this, but this was one of my top choices for the name of this Church, but others thought it was too heady. So we went with Cornerstone, which is good too. Logos means a word, something that is said, an expression of a thought, a discourse, a doctrine proclaimed.
The word logos played a prominent role in Greek philosophy. It finds it roots in a Greek philosopher named Hereclitus who lived around 500 B.C. Hereclitus believed that logos provided the link between rational discourse and the world's rational structure. Another Greek philosopher also was drawn to the word Logos, Aristotle who lived around 350 B.C. Embraced the word logos as one of the fundamental things that separated us from animals. It was the ability to reason and persuade. From that point a group of people known as the stoics picked up the ball and ran with it, and understood the term logos to mean a rational principal, and believed their was a logos to all creation that would explain why everything exists.
These Greek philosophers and philosophies found their way into the Jewish teaching, especially the Hellenist Jews. One such Jewish Philosopher was Philo of Alexandria. He lived around the same time as Jesus. And would have died about 30-40 years before John wrote this Gospel. Philo, who I do not believe was ever a follower of Jesus, believed that logos, was an intermediary divine being. Philo said this of logos, “the Logos of the living God is the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevents them from being dissolved and separated."
So is this why John, a Jew himself, and who regularly encountered Hellenist Jews chose to describe the Son of God as the Logos? Perhaps to some degree, but I think there is a greater reason. One that Philo of Alexandria may have been on the edge of discovering.
When you read through the Old Testament, Genesis through Malachi, the one dominant theme you see is the Word of God. From the very beginning we see Elohim, the plural word for God, creating the heavens and the earth by speaking them into existence. He then creates a creature in His image with the ability to communicate and being communicated with. God then chooses to reveal Himself to humanity through words. He speaks to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, and the prophets. It is through His Word that he reveals himself, his expectations, his plans, His promises, and His Love. DA Carson says this, “In short, God's Word in the Old Testament is his powerful self-expression in creation, revelation and salvation.” God is a God who speaks, and without Him speaking we would have no knowledge of who He is. It is only His Word that provides us a glimpse into His glory.
And it is, I believe, with this in mind that John says, Jesus is the logos. By this profoundly deep statement, John is saying that Jesus is the ultimate expression of God's revelation. Jesus is not just a word from God, but is THE Word from God. And you can see this understanding as you work through the first 18 versus. Verse 14, “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.” Verse 16, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Verse 18 “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Jesus is the full revelation, the full expression of Elohim we see in Genesis 1:1. And as we have said many times before, this makes sense, for all of the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ.
Perhaps this is why John says in verse 9, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” The light of Logos does in fact shine down on every man. Everyone is without excuse. For some, when they see the evidence of the Son of God, they run from the light, for others they run to the light. As John says in verse, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” As much as our secular schools love Aristotle, there may not be a greater truth about him then to say that he was merely a fool. He spent his life chasing after truth, but failed to see the fullness of truth, the ultimate truth, that being the Glory of the only Son from the Father, and because of this spends all eternity separated from the Source of that truth. So as John begins, he desires to have us know what Jesus is not just a carpenter's Son, but he is the full summation of God's revelation. But that is not all he wants us to know.
In the Beginning
It is believed that John wrote this Gospel several years after all the other Gospels were written, perhaps even 20 years after the other Gospels were written. If that is true, which I believe it is, that means that the Apostle John would have read and been very familiar with Matthew, Mark and Luke.
When you look at the other Gospels, and their beginnings you find something interesting. In Chapter 1 of Matthew, He reaches back to Abraham. In chapter 1 of Mark he reaches back to Isaiah. In Chapter 1 of Luke he reaches back to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.
John, as he surveys each one of these other Gospels, he makes a decision to reach back farther than any of them and go all the way back to the beginning. He desires to strike the same bell that was first struck in Genesis 1:1. It is as if John saw something lacking in each one of their Gospels and he wanted to provide a more complete picture of who this Jesus was, so what does he say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
This leads us to the question, beginning of what? John answers that question for us in verse 3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” So beginning of what? Beginning of all things that were made. Before the world existed, before the Universe existed, before time existed, before the angelic hosts and principalities existed. As John starts his book he directs our attention to a point where all there was, was God. And as we peer back into that point before time began, we see Jesus, both with God and God himself. And in this monumental declaration we see an express teaching of a portion of the Trinity, the Father and the Son.
This is important. In our text this morning we see an explicit teaching of the eternal nature of Christ. We have touched on this before at Cornerstone, but you can’t say it enough. Jesus is not a created being. He is eternal. If you kids as you, where did Jesus come from, your answer is that he has always existed. He has no beginning. He is forever. Will they understand this? No, but that is ok, because neither do I. This is one reason that Jesus is Holy. He is set apart beyond our comprehension.
Not everyone believes that Jesus is eternal. For example the Mormon’s and the Jehovah Witnesses. Both of these cults do not believe in the eternal Son. They strip Jesus of one of His greatest attributes, his equal eternal nature with the Father. Therefore they have created a false Jesus who they follow, and therefore they are not true followers of Jesus Christ.
If you run into one of these two groups, which you probably will, they may try to argue with you about Jesus not being eternal. In fact, their desire to evangelize you through undermining Jesus' eternal nature is proof that they are followers of Satan. Think about it, who proselytizes by starting off minimizing the greatness of their Savior. But this is exactly what they do when they engage with you. The are true followers of Satan, twisting God's Word to strip Christ of His glory.
If you want you can end the argument very quickly by taking a piece of paper, drawing a line down the middle and marking one side, “All things Made” and the other side “All things Not Made” Then read verse 3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” And tell them to mark which side Jesus belongs on. If they are intellectually honest, they have to mark the side “All things Not Made.” John expressly states, “without him was NOT ANY THING made that was made.” The logic is very basic. However, because God in His grace has not opened up their eyes to see the truth, they follow a counterfeit Jesus, and therefore they have a counterfeit Christianity, which is of course no Christianity at all.
John makes it explicitly clear the story of Jesus does not begin with Zechariah, it does begin with Isaiah, it does not begin with Abraham, but it begins before all beginnings.
And this is the launching pad for John's Gospel. It is the conclusion in which John proclaims and desires all readers of this book to come to. And we will see that John spends they next next 20 chapters providing eye witness evidence that “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.”