In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God. John 1:1
The Fourth Gospel opens with an astounding claim about the Logos, the Word. The implications of this statement are significant because John wrote this book to convince Jews that Jesus was indeed the Messiah (20:31).
The Greek version, rendered literally, reads In the beginning was the Logos …. And what are the opening words of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible?
In the beginning God ….
John was certainly elevating his Gospel to the stature of the Torah. There’s more to it. Just as the Hebrew Torah marks the beginning of a special revelation of God to mankind, so does the Gospel of John announce the arrival of a new and fuller revelation of God through the the Logos.
The phrase – In the beginning … – creates a sense of expectation. The author was about to announce the beginning of something new and wonderful. The new covenant in Jesus Christ was essentially a continuation of what God had done in the past. At the same time, there was a discontinuity too. God was about to discard the shadows of Old Testament symbolism and introduce the reality to which those symbols pointed. The old ways would fade away. The newness of life through Jesus Christ is now available to everyone who believes—to Jews and Gentiles! The true Vine, the good Shepherd, a new unified flock, the fulfillment of the rivers of Living Water that Ezekiel saw, the true light, a new commandment, a new Comforter, and a new mission. The evangelist was poised to introduce all these and more to his people. Why would he choose an opening line other than that of the sacred Torah? In the beginning …
John wanted his Jewish readers to sit up and take notice of the man called Jesus, presented here as the Logos. What all claims did John make about this Logos?
- Just as God Almighty is from the beginning, indicating His eternal preexistence, the Logos too is eternal.
- The Jews knew that everything came into existence through God’s word. John wanted them to know that that Word, was not merely some impersonal creative command that proceeded from God. The Word was a Person who was co-eternal with God, and co-equal with God. “… through Him all things came into being, and nothing came into being apart from Him” (v3).
- The Word was not merely instrumental in creation. He had intrinsic Life in Him. Like God, the Word was indeed the source of Life. In him was life; and the life was the light of men (v4).
- If the divine Logos was a Person with God, it would certainly imply that there is a certain plurality within God. There is indeed just one Godhead. In the one Godhead, there are more than one Person.
John knew that the greatest stumbling block in the path of Jews was the Christian claim that Jesus was divine. By addressing Jesus’ divinity at the outset, the apostle John took the bull by its horns. He knew that Jews believed two ‘things’ emanated from God—His word and His breath (spirit, in Hebrew, is referred to as ruach, literally ‘breath.’) Moreover, to the Jews, the ‘Word of God’ was not an abstract thing; it resided in their sacred scrolls, the Scriptures. The scriptures were the ultimate repository of Jewish wisdom. As Moses said,
Look! I have taught you statutes and ordinances … So be sure to do them, because this will testify of your wise understanding to the people who will learn of all these statutes and say, ‘Indeed, this great nation is a very wise people’(Deut 4:5-6)
The Greek word Logos captures the notion of this ancient, God-given wisdom or learning. John’s opening statement, in effect, meant this: “This Logos which you think is your Scriptures … was in the beginning with God; He was God alongside God.”
John’s commitment to make the gospel intelligible to the Jews made him express the good news in their idiom. A Jew couldn’t deny that the
Word of God was distinct from God. But to believe that that Word was a divine Person who became flesh and dwelt among them required faith. It wasn’t blind faith though. There were undeniable signs that John was prepared to write about. All who took the step of faith were rewarded with a right to become children of God (v12). Those who refused to believe in Jesus opted to remain children of the devil (8:44).
Like John, all Christians are called to be Christ’s witnesses. Are we bold enough to publish the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ? Are we passionate enough to make the Gospel intelligible to our friends and neighbors?
Freely have you received; freely give. If you liked this Bible study, please share it with your loved ones. Thank you.
About Arise & Eat!