A study in the Gospel of John by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
In The Beginning
28 September 2014
Full Audio Message
Saul of Tarsus experienced a major shift in world view, didn’t he? Let’s examine for a minute, the inner workings of his mind. He is the best of the best, zealous for the cause of Almighty God. A teacher named Jesus claimed to be God’s Son, yet didn’t follow the rules of the religious leaders. So they killed Jesus. But His followers aren’t getting the message. Zealous to protect the way of Almighty God, Saul obtained letters from the leaders to arrest those who insist on following Jesus. On his way, Saul is confronted by Almighty God. I don’t think there was any doubt in his mind that this was God speaking to him. But he is puzzled by God’s question, “Why are you persecuting Me?”
This doesn’t add up. Saul doesn’t get it. So he asks, “Who are you Lord?” To which Almighty God answers, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” It was like telling Saul that 2 + 2 = 5. For Saul, the math worked this way: Jesus claimed to be the Son of God but Jesus didn’t follow their rules, therefore Jesus was an impostor. While it’s true that Jesus didn’t keep their rules, He proved that He was the Son of God according to the Scriptures. With the facts, Paul was now able to draw the right conclusion.
Can you imagine how deep that must have filled Saul’s soul with dread? “Why am I not in Hell right now?” What John is doing here in John 1:1-5 is presenting Jesus with the same awe-inspiring soberness: “Jesus is Almighty God. Make sure you don’t reject His Gospel message!” The real Gospel is a game changer.
The real Gospel challenges us with soberly following Jesus and obeying Jesus. If you think obedience is optional, you need to think again more soberly. Once Saul knew that Jesus was Almighty God, he realized that obeying Jesus was no longer an option. There is no trifling with Almighty God. So once he had his orders, Paul resumed his trip to the synagogues but this time with a different message. This time Saul preached Jesus saying, “He is the Son of God!” (Acts 9:20).
John wants to accomplish that same shift in our minds. He wants us to get the facts straight so that we can draw the right conclusion. John wants us to get it. The Gospel is a game changer. We need to preach it as a game changer and live it as a game changer. Follow with me as I read John’s Prologue in 1:1-18. Watch how John systematically shows how this changes everything!
What a way to introduce Jesus! John tells us the answer up front so that we pay close attention to how he came to that conclusion. Each of those themes we read like creation, life, light and darkness will play an important part in proving John’s conclusion. But we’ve heard those themes before, haven’t we? What foundational passage speaks about: creation, life, light and darkness? What do you think John is trying to do by starting off his Gospel with “In the beginning…”?
John hits the “go to the beginning” button. You know that button. Whether you’re listening to music or doing a Google search, there are buttons for fast forward, rewind, go to end or go to beginning. John hits the “go to beginning” button, then takes one more step backward to before the beginning when only God existed. Yes brethren. That’s where we’ll find Jesus.
Message: John opens his Gospel with a powerful threefold description of Messiah’s deity: He is eternal, He is in the closest possible relationship with God, and He is God. So first,
- Messiah is eternal (Jphn 1:1a).
This echoes Gen 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That’s where we first encountered those themes of creation, life, light and darkness. This is important. Who is the primary actor in life’s opening act? It is God. Everything originated from His ideas and by His power.
Word is the common Greek term logos which refers simply to written or spoken words which express inner thought. Words reveal what a person is thinking. What is the background of the Logos?
Logos was used by Greeks in philosophy and by Jews in wisdom literature. But John’s idea is more Jewish than Greek. John uses the Word (the Logos) to express divine communication but it is more than communication. It is a Person who reveals Himself.
The foundation for this was already being laid in the OT. There we find “word” was God’s powerful self-expression in creation (Gen 1; Ps 33:6, Carson, p. 116). In Ps 8:22f it is the wisdom of the Lord that is personified and is portrayed as God’s agent in creation. Wisdom is said to be everlasting, having always been with God and was with God as a “master workman” creating everything.
In Isa 55:11 God’s word is viewed as absolutely sovereign. Only persons can be sovereign. In Ps 29, characteristics that belong to God David attributes to “the voice of the Lord,” showing that God’s word/voice is one and the same with God. Turn to Ps 29:3-9.
In Isa 2:3 and Micah 4:2, the Law of God and the Word of God are pictured as one with God, yet somehow distinct. That lines up with our doctrine of the Trinity where there are three distinct Persons in the Godhead, yet only one essence (one God). This OT background paved the way for the fuller NT revelation which revealed that there are three Persons in the Godhead (Trinity).
So John further develops this OT term “the Word of God”. The word is a Person who is Himself the fullest revelation of God (Heb 1:2). The Word is not a personification for God. The Word is not a force or principle. The Word is a Person and is God. John puts the finishing touch upon a concept that was being built in the history of Biblical revelation.
So the first key fact John tells us about “the Word,” is that the Word is eternal. He is pre-existent. It does not speak of a point in time because time did not exist until it was created by the Word (v. 3). The beginning speaks of a timeless eternity prior to Creation. We could say it another way: “When the beginning began, the Word was already there” (Tenney, p. 29).
The verb was indicates continuing existence in the past (imperfect tense), and is appropriate to express here eternal, unchanging being. The Word predates time. Before anything was created, He was already existing. Jesus created time (John 1: 3) therefore He has to be infinite. Only God is infinite.
- Messiah is in the closest possible relationship with God (John 1:1b).
The Word is in relationship with God and yet distinct. This Word was with God in a special relationship of eternal fellowship. Little words have big meaning in Jn 1:1. The word “with” (Greek, pros), here means “toward,” “in company with” or “in communion with.” The most literal idea in the phrase with God is that the Word was “face-to-face with” God. Why didn’t John say “with the Father”? There are two other members in the Godhead: Father and Spirit. “With” points to a face-to-face, active relationship between persons. The Word is equal with God but distinct. You can’t be “with” someone AND be that someone!
This rules out Modalism, the teaching that God is manifested in different ways—sometimes as Father, sometimes as Son and sometimes as Spirit. People try to illustrate the Trinity by water’s different forms: vapor, liquid and ice. Or the relationships of a man. He can be a father, a son or a brother. But you need to know that those actually represent a heresy that has been long condemned by the Church. Modalism denies a distinction between the three Persons of the Trinity. John teaches that the Word is a Person distinct from God the Father and distinct from God the Holy Spirit.
III. Messiah is God (1c).
The Word is God. There are not two or three Gods. John puts the word “God” in the predicate position, because he’s telling us something about this One called the Word. He’s not saying just that “the Word is divine” because there’s a perfectly good Greek adjective for that. Theos is a noun and identifies WHO the Word is. It asserts that the Word is God.
It is silliness to insist with the JWs that because the word theos in this phrase doesn’t have the article in front (“the God”), that it should be translated “a god.” Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, he uses theos without the article and not even the JWs translate it “a god” (ex: 1:6; 12, 13, 18 “no man has seen God at any time”). John wrote it the way a Greek writer would normally say “the Word was God.”
If John had used the article with the term theos, he would actually have asserted something that denied the Trinity and would have contradicted his claim that the Word was with God. You see, if John wrote “the Word was the God,” he would have denied the Trinity. Only the Word would be God.
- Restatement: Messiah is eternal and is distinct as a person (2).
John skillfully uses repetition here to make sure his readers get his point. He simply restates what he said in v. 1. The Word was pre-existent, distinct as a person and yet fully God. John clarifies the duration of such intimate fellowship between the Word and God the Father and Spirit (He was in the beginning with God). There was never a beginning to their relationship because in the beginning, they were already forever in eternal relationship to each other.
This changes everything! But how? If you are an unbeliever and disobey Jesus’ command to follow Him, you are disobeying Almighty God! Do you realize that if you do not believe, you have been judged already (Jn 3:18)? Maybe you didn’t realize who Jesus really is. But this changes everything!
If you are a believer, does knowing Jesus’ identity change everything for you? What does it do for you when you suffer? What does it do for you when you are tempted to disobey? Does it give you boldness to tell others about Jesus? Do you worship Him as Almighty God? Does it strengthen your weak faith? Does it compel you to serve Him with your whole heart? Does it change everything?