Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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The Word Became Flesh

July 19th, 2009 by Vic

John 1:1-14

One of the mountain peaks of Scripture is John 1:14, “The Word (this word that has just been described in the first 13 verses) became flesh, and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  This is John’s story of Christmas.  Jesus, the living Word of God became flesh.  We call it Incarnation.

Have you ever noticed how the Bible emphasizes the physical presence of Jesus?  Jesus came as a baby.  And you know that birthing is messy.  There were no stained windows in the barn.  Jesus became flesh and tented out among us.

Let’s read 1:1-14 and ask ourselves why is John writing like this?  None of the other gospel writers start like this.  Why does John begin his gospel like this?  If you were going to write the life story of Jesus, how would you start?

John probably wrote this book 40-60 years after the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The church has spread throughout the known world.  The church had begun in Jerusalem among the Jews.  In the beginning all its members had been Jews or familiar with the Jewish ways and the Old Testament Scriptures promising the Messiah.  But by the time John was writing, there were 1,000 Christians ignorant of the Jewish Scriptures for every one familiar with them.

John wanted to tell the story of Jesus in a vocabulary that Greeks and everyone else would  understand.  He did not feel it was necessary for Greeks to know all the Jewish customs to become a Christian.  He wanted to present the Christian gospel to Greeks in their own thoughts that they would welcome and understand.  The answer to his desire was the concept of “LOGOS”.  It was an important word for the Jews and also the Greeks.

The Jews used the word ‘logos’ a little differently than the Greeks.  To the Jews, logos was powerful, a unit of energy.  A word is not just a sound or a symbol on parchment, but it has power to do things.  A spoken word cannot be changed.  Once Isaac had blessed Jacob instead of Esau, nothing could be done to cancel or nullify the words already spoken.  The word was good forever.  The Torah was the word.  In the beginning was the Torah.  For the Jew, the term ‘logos’ often stood in the place of the reference to God or God’s name.  Where does a word start for you?  Where did the Torah, the words of God, start?  In the mind of God.

Now everyone say, “Amen”.  Where did that word we just said together come from and how did it come to be vocalized at this point in time?  It started in my mind.  I asked you to vocalize it.  Your mind calculated all the reasons why it was OK to repeat the word with me and we said “Amen”.  Now if you don’t like being part of what we just did together, what do you say?  “I changed my mind.”  Words reveal the mind.

The Word, as embodying the divine will, is personified in Hebrew poetry. The Word is a healer in Ps. 107:20; a messenger in Ps. 147:15; the agent of the divine decrees in Isa. 55:11.

Personified wisdom (Job 28:12 sq.; Prov. 8, 9) is based on the thought that wisdom is not shut up at rest in God, but is active and manifest in the world. “She stands in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She cries at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors” (Prov. 8:2, 3).

To the Greeks, logos is the only constant in a world where everything is changing.  Logos is the laws of nature.  The laws behind the continuous flux and change of the universe is controlled by the logos of the gods.  Logos is the power that makes the world an order instead of chaos.  The Greek philosopher Philo was a contemporary of Christ who lived in Alexandria in Egypt.  He was with the group of scholars who had translated the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek Septuagint.  He held that logos is the oldest thing in the world and that logos was the instrument through which God had made the world.  He said that the logos is the intermediary between the world and God.  The logos is the rational principle that originated, organized and gave meaning to the universe.  Logos is reason.

Philo’s conception of the Logos, is: the sum-total and free exercise of the divine energies; so that God, so far as he reveals himself, is called Logos; while the Logos, so far as he reveals God, is called God.  In Philo, moreover, the function of the Logos is confined to the creation and preservation of the universe, He does not identify or connect him with the Messiah. His doctrine was, to a great degree, a philosophical substitute for Messianic hopes. He may have conceived of the Word as acting through the Messiah, but not as one with him. He is a universal principle.

Both Jew and Greek agreed that the logos word is the starting point of all things.  It is the ruling fact of the universe.

So John is writing to both Jews and Greeks and saying if you wish to see that logos of God, if you want to see this controlling power of God, if you want to see this intermediary, look at Jesus Christ.  Your logos/Torah has became flesh and lived among us.  This abstract idea that you have been trying to define and understand has become a person.  A visible, in the flesh kind of person has come.  It means more than the abstract ‘universal principle’ associated with Greek philosophy or the convenient semantic substitute for the Jew.  God became a baby.  As Logos has the double meaning of thought and speech, so Christ is related to God as the word to the idea, the word being not merely a name for the idea, but the idea itself expressed.

He is this Word; and any other, prophet or preacher is but a voice (Luke 3:4). Word is an inward conception of the mind; and voice is but a sign of intention. St. John was but a sign, a voice; not worthy to untie the shoe-latchet of this Word.

Now as John begins his story he defines the ‘Word’ to the Greeks enough differently so they have to think.  The word was.

.

1. The Word is eternal. (1:1-2) The spoken word that originated in the mind is eternal.  Both Jew and Greek could just about agree on this point.  In the beginning was the Word.

The verb ‘was’ has the force of continuous action in the past.  The logos continually ‘was’.  The logos existed continuously before creation but was not a part of the creation.

Before time or creation the Word existed.  In the beginning, the Word was already there.  In the beginning the Word was in a face to face relationship with God.  In the beginning, the Word was the agent of the beginning.  The NIV says the Word was with God.  The preposition ‘with’ denotes a relationship that is intimate and close.  It denotes a relationship between persons.  So the Word was in a face to face, intimate relationship with God.

Just as God is eternal, so the logos or Word is eternal.  Rev. 1:8 says that He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.

In our postmodern society we have an increased popular curiosity in the paranormal, the spiritual and the mysterious.  We are seeking something beyond our routine, mundane experience.  Many religious systems demand equal recognition.  There are a ‘babel’ of voices trying to figure out who or what we must believe about God.  “Will the real God please stand up?”  He has!  And John is answering that question.  In the beginning God spoke.

The fundamental yearning of the human heart for ultimate meaning and a sense of personal worth is in us all.  It is the light that lights every man coming in the world.

When Satan gives you time to ponder you will ask yourself some of these questions:

  1. Who am I?  We need a sense of identity
  2. Where did I come from?  We need a sense of origin.
  3. Why am I here?  We need a sense of mission.
  4. Where am I going?  We need a sense of destiny.  What you think about the future determines how you are acting now.  What you think about your future effects everything you think and do.  Even if you do not think about the future, if effects what you do today.  What motivates you is what you think or don’t think about your future.

Do you see what that means?  God’s answer to the cry of the human heart to know truth and meaning is the ‘word’, a continually existing person in whom God made Himself known.  We say God is love.  Love requires a relationship.  Love requires a relationship of some sort.  Jn 3:16  Love requires a Trinity.

John tells us why he wrote this letter.  Jn 20:30-31

To have all your questions about yourself answered, you must believe that Jesus is the word of God.  God has spoken and said, “Jesus”

The Word is eternal.

2. This Word is God. (1:1) John does not say, ‘a god’ or ‘the God’, but God.  The omission of the definite article emphasizes kind or quality.  The word is a description of God.  The essential nature of the Word is Deity.

Verse 14 identifies the ‘word’ as a unique son.  Some translations identify Jesus as the ‘only begotten’ son.  The word ‘begotten’ has changed in meaning since the KJV was written.  For us begotten suggests a new individual being born in time.  The term (monogene) is best understood as meaning ‘one of a kind’ rather than having anything to do with ‘only born’.  Jesus is unique.  There is no one else like Him.  John says the glory that Jesus had was as the glory of a unique Son from a father.  That is a family picture.  All eastern civilizations would understand John.  Within the family, the value of the child is established.  All that belongs to the family, of wealth, fame, inheritance, status, etc. belongs to the father.  The father stands for the whole family.  When the father dies or retires, the oldest son now has that position and receives the major portion of all the riches.  And if the son were an only son, then literally all that is in the father comes into the son.  All the fame, the inheritance, the traditions, the obligations, the wealth, in short all the glory of the father comes to the son.

(1:3) Without Him was not anything made.  That which has been made was life in Him.

This is what John is talking about.  “We beheld His glory, glory as of a unique son of a father.”  That is to say, all there is in the Father is in Jesus.  When you see Jesus, you are seeing the Father.  The whole of God is in Jesus.

The Word is God!  The Word is eternal.

3. The Word is light and life. (1:4)

Life and living was inherent to the Word.  He created everything in our world.  He gave life.  Psalm 33:6 says the Word made all the heavens.  Hebrews says that he maintains all creation.  He keeps things going and existing.

Only man was able to receive light from that life.

He is the light of men.  Light gives us direction.  He is the moral compass.  All people derive their light and life from the eternal light and life.  Moral enlightenment is opposed to moral darkness.  The light has power to overcome the darkness.  The overwhelming darkness of sin is no match for the illuminating power that emanates from the self-existing life and light.  When the darkness is great, Jesus can bring light.  When there is no possible solution, Jesus can create a solution.

Several years ago scientists were theorizing that the universe is a group of interlocking bubbles.  All the galaxies form the outside membrane of these bubbles.  They say the extent of the universe is really unknown.  Every time they create a new instrument to look out a little farther, there is always more there.

In the last few years string theory was supposed to reconcile the subatomic world with the expanse of space.  But the math that describes gravity and the structure of spacetime – relativity – conflicts with the math that describes the interactions of subatomic particles –quantum mechanics.  For the past 20 years the dominant approach to unifying the two has been string theory, which basically says that the universe is made of infinitesimally small, vibrating filaments of energy moving through multiple dimensions.  Now a physicist, Lee Smolin, says that string theory is unconvincing – maybe even non scientific – and that physicists have spent too much time trying to prove string theory and neglected other research. (The Trouble with Physics)

There is some form of energy that sustains the universe.  If this energy was withdrawn, basically nothing would remain.  The Greeks understood this concept.  Without the logos, they said everything would be chaos.  Logos is life and order.  The Word is life.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life.”  He also said He was the Light of the world.  He gives us life to be children of light.

1:5 Shines is present tense.  The light is continuous.

Darkness is moral falsehood, folly, and sin.

Comprehend is better translated ‘apprehend, grasp, seize, lay hold of or take possession not understand or give mental assent.  The light does not destroy darkness and the darkness cannot overpower the light.  They co-exist side by side.

1:6 Not simply sent as a package, but sent as an ambassador.

1:7  The word for witness is martyr.

1:9 ‘True’ is not the opposite of false, but true as real, perfect, substantial, not fanciful, counterfeit, or symbolic.

The word for world is cosmos, arrangement, order, universe.

1:11 ‘Came’ is aorist describing an event at a point in time.  He came to the world as a whole and came to his own family.

1:12 There are 6 words for power in the NT: violent force, natural ability, super human energy, strength, might of God only, delegated authority.  The last is the power we receive.  It is the power of relationship.  “My daddy is bigger than your daddy.”

In verse 12 we see the benefits of receiving the true light and life that has come into the world to light every man.  Those who believe in His name, become children of God.  And we receive the inheritance of children, an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven by God himself.

There are 3 ways you will never become God’s children that are listed in 1:13.  1. Not by your physical birth.  Your family cannot get you to heaven.  2. Not by your flesh.  Nothing you can do will earn you a place in heaven.  3. Not by the will of man.  You cannot have somebody else pray you into heaven.  Nobody else can earn you a place in heaven.

John never uses the word ‘son’ to describe the relationship of the Christian to God.  We are children.  He does not see us as adopted, but given new life.  Paul however regards our relationship from a legal standpoint so describes our new relationship as adoption.

In a broad sense, we are all God’s children.  He has given us all life.  He has created us all.  But if we choose not to obey Him, we are really not His children (1:11).  The whole world is His.  All the people are His children (1:11), but to really know His love we must believe (1:12).  God’s revelation is universal, but His salvation is conditional on our belief.  Anyone who comes to God must first believe that He is then surrender to Him as Lord of his life.

4. The Word became flesh.  This abstract idea of logos that the philosophers had discussed for so many years has become a human.  The Logos became flesh.  The creator and sustainer of the universe became like us.  Our bodies can hold Divinity.  This flesh can be the temple of God.  This is a new concept for both Jew and Greek.

He dwelt or tabernacled or pitched His tent right by ours.  He came close enough to hear and help.  He came to live in our neighborhood.

Are you curious about your new neighbor?  Who is He?  Why did He move here?  Do you want to move to a better neighborhood?  God has come to your neighborhood.

But the glory we saw in Him was not a spectacular display of light.  We did not see a dazzling glow.  We did not see a ghost floating above the ground.  We did not see a David Copperfield with smoke and mirrors.  We saw a man full of grace and truth.  He was the embodiment of grace and truth.  To describe grace and truth, I only need to point to Jesus.  He was grace and truth with 2 legs and covered with skin.  In the last days antichrists will come and deny that God has a body or that Christ came in the flesh.

He was flesh before the resurrection and He was flesh after the resurrection.  A lot of His teaching involved meals.  The flesh is not evil.  We can please God in the flesh.  He commanded us to remember Him as flesh and blood.

Do you know what that means for us?  The risen Christ is a preview of our future.  All Christians will be resurrected like Jesus was resurrected.  He could eat food, but he could also walk through walls.  He could walk with friends, he could be touched and hugged, but he could just disappear out of sight.

When I rise in the resurrection I will still be me.  When you are raised in the resurrection, you will still be you because Jesus is still Jesus.  We will be different.  Like when you see someone after 20 years and you don’t recognize them at first, but you look again and you say, ‘is that really you?’  When we are resurrected we will become all that God wants us to be.  You may see glimpses of that in me now, but I will be changed.

Invest in people.  Invest in relationships.  People are immortal.  You can’t write people off.  You need to reconcile relationships.  It is hard work because other people are selfish like I am.  Look at your kids.  You may see your selfishness in them.

Jesus said, ‘look at my hands and feet.  I still have a body.’  He was both physical and spiritual.  The secularist says the body is all that is important.  You need to grab the gusto.  When you’re dead there is nothing more.  The spiritualist says the body just gets in the way of the spirit.  This world is not important.  The ‘Word’ became flesh and lived among us to redeem both body and spirit.

Do you realize what the means?  You do not have to grab the gusto.  If you are going to have a resurrected body like Jesus there is no physical experience that you will not have in the universe if you are united with Christ.  The Christian will miss out on nothing.

Jesus’ future was a physical, sensory future.  Jesus’ feet touched the ground.  Our future will be physical and sensory.  The best experiences in this life are just a glimpse of what we will have in Christ.  Heaven will be the supreme sensory experience.  You will miss out on no experience if you are in Christ.  We miss out on nothing.  We do not have to panic.  We do not have to go everywhere, experience everything in this life.  The best of everything we experience here will be nothing compared to the new earth.

The word become flesh.  God has acted and is acting.  We live in what He has done and is doing.

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