And the Word Was God
Text: John 1:1-3
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 nothing was made that was made.
Christmas reminds us of one of Christianity’s most basic and striking claims. In the first century, in Israel, God, the maker of heaven and earth, became man. Conversely, Christianity teaches that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, was God. Indeed, we believe that He is God.
Now, this may not sound like big news to you. Of course, you’ll say. That’s Christianity 101. But I wonder, do we really stop and think about how radical this claim is? This was one of the big claims that eventually showed the difference between Judaism and Christianity. It led to what we know as the doctrine of the Trinity. Only Christianity teaches that Jesus is God.
I also think that most of us would find this really strange if we were witnessing it in the first century. After all, we wouldn’t see people talking about an abstract idea. They wouldn’t simply say, “Jesus is God.” They would be worshipping Him. At some point in the life of Jesus, His disciples began to worship Him and say that, in doing so, they were worshipping the God of the Old Testament, the God of Israel, maker of heaven and earth.
I’d like to spend a few weeks discussing this topic, the deity of Christ. It will make for a natural transition from Christmas, and it will help us strengthen our understanding of one of the basic tenets of Christianity. This morning we’ll look at the first chapter of John’s gospel to see one of the clearest passages of Scripture that teaches the deity of Christ. We will explain John’s logic, and we will see some of the implications of this teaching, what it means to confess that Jesus Christ is God.
So then, let us turn our attention to Holy Scriptures and see this weighty and mysterious teaching. Jesus Christ is God.
In the Beginning
“In the beginning….” –John begins his gospels with these words. What does that remind you of? It ought to sound like the first few verses of the book of Genesis, the opening verses of the whole bible. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). That’s certainly what John’s original audience would have thought. He’s imitating Genesis.
And as you read the rest of John chapter 1, you see that there are more places that sound like the creation story. After all, John goes on to speak of the Word being the agent of creation, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). And again, think of Genesis. How did God create in Genesis? He spoke all things into being—“And God said, let there be light…” He created through His Word. Speaking of light, John also works that in. He says that this Word had light which shown into the darkness. Again, it’s another Genesis parallel.
So, the “Word” of John 1 is the agent of creation, the means by which the God of Genesis created all things. And John is meticulous about his wording, “All things were made through Him” (that is, the Word), “and without Him nothing was made that was made.” Thus, this Word was the prior to all creation, and this Word is what caused all creation.
At this point we also need to say a few things about the use of the expression, “the Word.” In the original Greek, the term used is “logos.” And “logos” has been the source of much scholarly inquiry. It had a rich history in the first century Greek-speaking world, including the Jewish world.
For certain Greek philosophers, the “Logos” was the rational principle or “logic” that held all of the created universe together. The world operated according to a set of natural laws, and this indicated that there was some unchanging intelligent entity in back of it all, serving as a kind of anchor. They called this principle, the “Logos.”
Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish thinker who lived from 25 BC to AD 50 in Egypt. He was teaching and writing in the decades leading up to the ministry of Christ and the birth of Christianity. Philo took the “logos” idea of the Greek philosophers and connected it to the Jewish religion. He said that this rational principle was actually some sort of personal entity. It was the angel of the Lord. He even said it was the “firstborn son” of God.
Now, that’s pretty interesting stuff, especially for Christians looking backwards. But historians have not actually found a concrete link between Philo and early Christianity. There’s no evidence that the early Christians were reading him or had anything to do with him, really. Also, Philo never claimed that his logos was actually God or an object of worship. So, what seems most likely then, is that the term “logos,” and the idea that it was some sort of rational and creative principle linked to the Hebrew God was just “out there” in the air of the first century. It was an expression that a certain intellectual class was familiar with, and the Apostle John then took it and gave it a new meaning. He defined it in terms of what he had experienced with Jesus.
And John went even further than Philo or other had gone in explaining that this “Logos” was a divine person. It had an individual existence. It was from “in the beginning,” it was “with God.” And it “was God.”
The Word was with God
So this Word is a person, and it existed “in the beginning.” John then adds something interesting. “The Word was with God.” “With” is a preposition. It indicates a relationship. You could also translate it as “by” or “towards” God. The fact that John used it shows us that there is some differentiation between this “Word” and “God.” Even though this “Word” is from the “beginning” and is the agent of creation, it is still, somehow, different from “God.” Verse 2 echoes this same sentiment. “He was in the beginning with God.”
The Word was God
And yet, no sooner has John said that the Word was “with” God, than He adds this, “and the Word was God.” That’s a direct statement of identity. Somehow, even though distinct from “God,” the Word also “is God.” This is one of the most direct places in all of the Bible where we are taught the deity of Christ.
Some of you may have heard this verse challenged. If you encounter a Jehovah’s Witness, they will tell you that you shouldn’t translate this verse, “The Word was God.” Instead, they will say that it should say, “The Word was a god.” Indeed, this is how their translation, The New World Translation, reads. They argue this because the original Greek has a definite article in front of the first instance of “God” in John 1, but it does not have the definite article in front of this second instance of God.” And that is correct. The original Greek does not have a definite article in front of this second instance of “God.” But that doesn’t actually prove anything one way or the other.
You see, the Greek language does sometimes use definite articles in order to demonstrate important points. “The God” does occur sometimes in order to show that He is the real God, the great God, the God over and against all competitors. But it actually isn’t the case that every time the Scriptures wish to identity this true God that they use the definite article. That might sound convenient, but it’s just now how the Bible works. Indeed, we can see several other verses right here in John 1 where the true God is obviously being addressed but the definite article does not occur. Verse 6, for instance, says, “A man came, sent from God.” Clearly it is talking about the one true God, but there’s no definite article in the Greek. The same goes for verses 12 and 13—“children of God” and “born by God.” Both verses are talking about the one true God, but neither verse uses the definite article.
And so we can see that the presence of the definite article—the “the”—in Greek doesn’t settle the matter. Can we say more to prove the orthodox position? Yes. Instead of trying to make a tiny point of grammar carry all of the weight, John’s overall logic makes his intended meaning clear. Read the very next verse. John says that this Word is the creator of all things: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3).
Break that down. “All things were made through Him.” How many things were made through the Word? All of them. So, then, is there anything that was made that wasn’t made through the Word? No, without Him nothing was made that was made.
You might try to say that the Word made Himself, I suppose. I’m not sure exactly what that would even mean, but you might try it. But that won’t work because the Word was “in the beginning with God.” Indeed, in other parts of John’s Gospel we are told that Jesus shared the very glory of God before all creation. In John 17:5, Jesus says, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Thus Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is from the beginning. He did not create Himself. And nothing else created Him, since He is said to have created everything that was created. Therefore we are left with only one conclusion, Jesus was not created. He is God.
The Word was with God and the Word was God. Both propositions are true at the same time. He is differentiated from God and He is the same as God. This is what John is teaching us in the opening verses of His gospel. And this Word, we find out, became man and lived on earth. This Word is Jesus Christ. This is where the Christian Church got its doctrine of the deity of Christ. Jesus was with God and Jesus was God.
What Does this Mean For Us?
The deity of Christ is a glorious thing. We could simply meditate on it, that God choose to come to earth and take the form of a human. We could ponder on the mystery of the Word being both “God” and “with God,” and we could think about the ins and the outs of the doctrine of the Trinity. This would be entirely appropriate. Indeed, one of the primary points of application today is simply contemplation. You ought to be thinking about this truth, turning it over in your mind, being overwhelmed be it. The Word was God. This should cause you to worship.
And in fact, this should cause you to worship Jesus. You may not have stopped to think about it in this way, but the only reason that we can worship Jesus is if He is God. The Bible does not allow us to worship any created thing. Indeed, it calls that idolatry. Indeed, it was when people began to worship Jesus during His ministry, that the leaders of the Jews began to become particularly upset (Luke 19:39). And yet, people did worship Jesus, and we are called to worship Jesus today. We do this because He is God.
It is also because Jesus is God that we look to Him for our salvation. You are all familiar with the line from Psalm 124: “Our help is in the Name of the Lord.” Since Jesus is God, we can also say, “Our help is in the Name of Jesus.” His name is the only one by which men may be saved (Acts 4:12). It is in Christ that we are saved. He is our savior. And this is true because He is God.
In fact, this means that our salvation is totally secure. Our Salvation is secure because the Creator of all things is our savior. He who gives life and breath to all things has now given us eternal life. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Who can overcome God? Indeed, Jesus is for us. He has come to save us. And so God is for us. Again, this is true because Jesus is God.
And so this morning, let us remember this basic truth, this elementary principle of the Christian religion. This is what sets us apart from all other religions. This is the basic germ of the whole thing. Jesus is the Word of God, and the Word is God.