Today: [John 1:1-27 Part 1] The Logos of God Among Us: The gospel of John is of a character far different than Matthew, Mark or Luke. The first three gospels are assertive concerning who Christ is. They declare Jesus to an unbelieving world. The gospel of John is a presumptive gospel maintaining that Jesus was more than the spotless lamb, more than a suffering savior, but is in fact the very creative principle from which all glory proceeds in giving the world its existence and mankind his salvation.
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[Jhn 1:1-27 KJV] 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name [was] John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all [men] through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but [was sent] to bear witness of that Light. 9 [That] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, [but] grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him]. 19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. 22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23 He said, I [am] the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. 24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? 26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
The gospel of John stands alone among the four gospels for its unique character and high emphasis on Christology – the examination and declaration of Jesus as Messiah, the Christ of God. The first three gospels are called the “synoptic gospels” because they are very similar in narrative and structure. It is strongly believed that Matthew, Mark, and Luke drew from a common source, often referred to as the “Q” or “Quelle” gospel that is now lost to history. The gospel of John is not one of the synoptic gospels because it is so different from the others. It is generally believed that John was written after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John but interestingly the earliest fragment of the gospels that we have (dating back to the early second century) is a fragment of the gospel of John.
Though scholars debate this, tradition holds that this gospel was written by John the beloved. John was the only disciple to die a natural death, the other eleven all offering up their mortality as martyrs. The gospel of John was written from the city of Ephesus, perhaps the most spiritually pure of the early Christian communities. John lived to such and advanced old age and was so venerated by the early church that he was carried about on a bier when he could on longer walk, so that even in his older years he could visit and teach the congregations in and around the city of Ephesus.
The city of Ephesus had an influence on the message contained in the gospel of John. Ephesus was a seat of learning where the philosophers were studied. One of the concepts that the schools of Ephesus taught on was that of the “logos”. Logos was not a term that originates with John but was picked up from the Greek philosophers Aristotle, Heraclitus and the Jewish thinker Philo to explain who Jesus was to the believing community in Ephesus. The “logos” was understood by the philosophers to be “that which proceeds from God and gives all things their created reality”. Thus when John writes in verse 1 “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…” and that (v. 2) there was not anything made that was made that did not originate in Him, what John is doing is identifying Christ as God and Christ as that principle in eternity past from which all creation springs. In so doing John is establishing the preeminence of Christ and the preexistence of Christ before He was born of Mary and laid in a manger. This may be standard fare for us but for the early community to whom this gospel is addressed this was ground breaking revelation. They would have seen Jesus yes, as the son of God and the spotless lamb but John is saying something much deeper and more profound. Jesus is not just from God, He IS God and in fact the world and creation would not have its existence were it not for Him because out from Him all things were created and in fact all things are sustained on an ongoing basis through Jesus, the Christ of God, the Logos from which all created reality springs and is held transfixed in space and time on a moment by moment basis. This is the truth that John is postulating by calling Jesus “the Word” and using the term “Logos” in the greek language to do it.
We can see then the high character of the gospel of John and chapter one in particular. In its tone and emphasis, John chapter 1 may only lie in comparison with Genesis chapter 1. In Genesis 1 we see creation from the perspective of that which was created, from the outward viewpoint of the observer. In John 1 we see the moment of creation from the perspective of the creator, looking over His shoulder as it were as by the volition of His will He causes all things of created reality to spring forth and be made manifest in their natural substance, including man and all of the world as we know it.
The Logos of God is come to us as light shining in darkness (v. 5) and in darkness (because of sin) we comprehended Him not. What we do not comprehend we dismiss and if pressed will in fact destroy as the Jews destroyed Jesus because He walked among them as a living breathing contradiction to all that they held dear in their dead, religious system. We see John the Baptist coming forth in v. 6 as a living lynch pin between the Old Covenant and the New, heralding in his ministry and His preaching the coming of one who did not just bear the law on His shoulders, He is in fact the very personification of all that the law and the prophets pointed to and so much more.
John the Baptist bears witness of the Light and in this reference we now see that the concept of Jesus as the Logos of God is clarified in terming Him as well as the Light of the world that the world did not receive because it did not comprehend Him from its love of darkness and love of self. He came unto His own (v. 11) and His own received Him not. Thankfully however John does acknowledge (v. 12) that there were those among the Jews and the Gentile nations that DID receive Jesus. You will remember that on the Via Del a Rosa not everyone was crying “crucify Him, crucify Him!” Those that embraced Him in the aftermath of His resurrection, He has given power to become.
As the Logos of God, Jesus gives all men and verily all created the right to exist, but to those that receive Him He gives the right to BECOME. What might we become? He has given us power to become SONS OF GOD. He has given us power to find ourselves in a state described in later writings of John “as He is so are we in the world…” This one statement of John was very controversial in the early centuries of the church for its gnostic character. The gnostics believed that man was saved by secret knowledge. They did not see Jesus exactly as the savior of the world but rather as the bringer of secret knowledge that would save. To say that Jesus gave us power to become was challenging to the orthodoxy of the early church which believed that salvation was vested in the institutions of the church and right relationship to apostolic succession. John’s statement here makes salvation more than the adopting of religious culture and adherence, but a mystical and very personal experience, which of course it is. Later in John we find Jesus speaking of the necessity of being born again. Being born again is not something the church can confer upon us. Being born again is a personal, mystical, intense experience that the church can neither bestow or revoke although they have tried very hard over the centuries, to insist that the can in fact do so.
John the Baptist was the herald of the Light of God but v. 8 tells us that He is not that light. Thus we see that it is not the MESSAGE that saves us but it is He to whom the message points that confers salvation as we come into a personal, intimate relationship with HIm. The subtle nuances of this must be ascertained. We are not saved because we believed John’s message or because we believe any other doctrine. We are saved because the doctrine of John and those that came after Him brought us to the Light, to the Logos of God, to the side of Jesus Himself upon whose breast John laid His head at supper. Jesus is the savior, not doctrine, not the church, not the good opinion of the bishops. We are not saved because of what we know but we are saved because of who we know (and that knowledge is not doctrinal but intimate and personal beyond our ability to actually express in any writing or commentary regarding the new birth). It is mystical, it is experiential, it is a transformational moment in time when we encounter the living Logos of God, Christ Himself in the Person of Jesus and we are forever changed from bearing the image of the earthly to bearing the image of the Heavenly, thus not just accepting the son of God but also becoming in that moment sons with Him, subordinate to Him indeed but in such close communion to Him that He is not ashamed to call us brethren.
Thus in verse 13 we find that we are born again not by blood line as the Jews believed their Jewish lineage made them special. Neither are we made born again by the will of men who choose to accept us into their religious communities and orders. We are born again by the will of God who gave Himself for us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the casual confessor these words have little meaning. They simply wish to receive the sacraments, salve their souls in their carnal lifestyles and go on their way living as they choose. To the one who has seen the Living Lord and sensed His presence near – these things are holy truths, defining the deep raptures of spirit experience in that moment that sins are washed away and you were forever changed when this same living Lord in a moment of time came into your heart and took up residence inside of you forevermore.
What of the law? It is fulfilled. What of John the Baptist? His mandate is finished when he has pointed you to Christ. The law, the prophets, even John the Baptist could only bring for the dread demands of the law, that very law that Paul wrote in Galatians was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Moses gives us the law that points to Christ (v. 17) but Jesus gives us grace and truth. This is the first mention of grace in the scriptures spoken of as applying to anyone other than Jesus Himself. Jesus was the natural inheritor of grace because of His sinless birth. Now He has cleansed us from sin so that the grace by which He walked the earth and verily by which He sits at the right hand of the Father is now bestowed upon us. The grace He exemplified is now released and imparted to us to transform our lives.
What is grace? The theological definition of grace is profound. It is the “ divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life” of one receiving of God’s grace that is given. Paul put it this way “ we shall see Him and be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is…” We are not recipients of grace because we are good or because we have adopted Christian values. We are recipients of grace for one reason – we have seen Him and were undone. We have seen Him and were in that moment reconstituted from our base, darkened and sinful state in a moment of time finding ourselves to be new creations in Christ, wrapped up in an intimate cosmic embrace with the one who gave Himself for us that we might become the righteousness of God within Himself. You don’t hear this kind of teaching because men behind the pulpit don’t think you are capable of understanding it. You don’t hear this kind of teaching because our leaders insist that the message is too high for you, too lofty in expression. In so doing they have denied you the full expression of the reality of what God has wrought in you by Christ Jesus. Of His fullness (v. 16 tells us ) you have received and no overly simplistic, worldly example can express this. You are the redeemed of God transformed by the Logos, brought out of darkness into His marvelous light, changed and transformed by the redeeming influence of His grace.
The God that no man has seen is now made evident and visible in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Old Covenant no man can look upon God and live. In the New Covenant we see Jesus and are forever changed. This is the record of John when He cried out “behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world…” The Pharisees did not understand John and demanded him to give an account of himself. John answers them in v. 23 “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness… make straight the way of the Lord as said the prophet Isaiah…” Thus John forever links the Messianic statements of Isaiah and inexorably identifying not a Jewish political reformer or military revolutionary, but the Light, the Logos, the Grace of God come down from Heaven in the Person of the Galilean, received among the poor, but rejected and crucified by the very people He came to be made known to. The repudiation of John against the Pharisees and Jerusalem’s elite was stinging to them and they demanded why he was baptizing, if he was not the Messiah to come. He then gives a promise that was soon to be initially fulfilled but yet its full import has yet to be experienced among men. John came baptizing unto repentance, and yet even today we are offenders if we refuse the right of baptism as an outward sign of our inward profession of surrendering our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. Water baptism is important but John says for all of this there is a baptism yet to come, a baptism of the Spirit which was fulfilled on Pentecost, but also a Baptism of Fire as John declares in Mat. 3:11 and Luke 3:16.
We have received water baptism. Those of us in the renewalist community embrace as well the baptism of the spirit along with the practice of speaking in other tongues. The baptism of fire however has yet to be released by Jesus upon the earth but we long for it, we press into it as our inheritance knowing that the tongues of fire that appeared above the 120 on the day of Pentecost is but the earnest of an inheritance that will one day be poured out in fulness upon us by Jesus Himself.
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