In the Beginning Was the Word
The most important question any of us can answer is “Who is Jesus?” The answer to this question literally spells the difference between (eternal) life and (eternal) death. For the vast majority of the history of Christianity, the church believed and taught that Jesus was the Son of God, the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity. This was a doctrine formerly codified in the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.
But coming out of the 18th century enlightenment and continuing on into the 19th & 20th centuries, more and more questions came to be raised regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ. There were the so-called quests for the historical Jesus. This was a movement that was borne out of enlightenment ideals of naturalism, materialism, and anti-supernaturalism. This movement wanted to “de-mythologized” the Bible—essentially remove anything that smacks of miracle or supernatural origin.
So things such as Jesus’ virgin birth, miracles, and His vicarious atonement on the cross are all out. His care and compassion for the outcasts of society, His attacks against the power structures of the day are okay.
Today many of the “historical quests” for Jesus have been largely debunked. The problem, as it turned out, is that people ended up finding the Jesus they wanted to find. For example, if you believed that Jesus was an itinerant Jewish rabbi, well look-and-behold that’s what you found. If you believed that Jesus was a radical end-times prophet, well golly-gee that’s what you found.
That’s the problem with fallen humanity, right? We were originally made in the image of God, but after the fall into sin, we’ve spent our entire history returning the favor—we make God in OUR image.
The Gospel of John was written to combat all of that. This Gospel, written by the apostle John late in the 1st century (ca. 80-90 AD), has this as its stated purpose:
John 20:30–31 (ESV): Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John wants his readers to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. No other Jesus will do because no other Jesus can save! When you look at the opening verses of John’s Gospel, you see one of the clearest texts in all of Holy Scripture that speaks of the divinity of Jesus Christ and of the Trinity:
John 1:1–5 (ESV): 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 was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. he light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
We learn three things about Jesus from this text, and they’re all important for a correct Biblical view of Jesus:
- Jesus Christ is the Eternal Word
- Jesus Christ is the Creative Word
- Jesus Christ is the Life-Giving Word
That Jesus Christ is the Eternal Word is seen in vv. 1-2 in which John tells us that “In the beginning was the Word.” Before there was anything, there was the Word—the Word is eternal. The Word was also with God and was God. The Eternal Word is in a face-to-face, intimate relationship with God, but also the Word IS God—that it the Word shares fully in the divine essence.
That Jesus Christ is the Creative Word is seen in v. 3 where we learn that “All things were made through Him.” The Word is the creative agent. In Genesis 1, God created all things by speaking—God speaks, things happen, and all things were created through the Word of God.
That Jesus Christ is the Life-Giving Word is seen in vv. 4-5 where John tells us that “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The Word has life, as such the Word can give life, and the Word gives life through revelation. He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), whoever believes in Him will not walk in darkness (i.e., ignorance and wickedness), but have the light of life.
Put this all together, and John is painting a picture of Jesus that blows away any of the so-called “historical” Jesus’. This is the Jesus John wants us to believe in because this is the only Jesus in whom we find eternal life!