In the beginning was the Word John 1:1-5

What is Jesus Christ really like? Who was Jesus, really? Archbishop William Temple said that the other Gospels give us a perfect photograph of Jesus. John’s Gospel gives us a perfect portrait of Jesus.
Some stories like to keep the punchline or the twist in the plot to the very end. The stranger who turns out to be the long-lost brother, or the king in disguise. In some ways Mark’s Gospel is like that. We don’t really know who Jesus is until the empty tomb. Matthew and Luke give away more from the beginning, as the nativity accounts reveal Jesus to be Immanuel, God with us, the one who will save His people from their sins, and the Son of the Most High God. But writing His Gospel, the apostle John doesn’t want his readers to be in any doubt who the central character is.
So John begins his Gospel with a Prologue, an Introduction, in which he summarises the whole message of Jesus Christ: who Jesus is, his role in creating the world and how he redeemed the world, and the most fantastic good news of how ordinary people like you and me can become God’s children. This wonderful passage has so much to teach us that we will take three weeks to explore its riches and today I am going to unwrap just the first few verses. John doesn’t begin with the birth of Jesus. He takes us much further back and further away – outside space and before time, to the beginning of everything that is.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word,
It is no coincidence that John’s Gospel starts just as the Book of Genesis starts the whole Bible with the words “In the beginning.” John takes us back before the beginning of time and space when there was nothing but God. And he introduces us to a person who he calls “The Word.” “The Word” was there right from the beginning.
I promise not to use too much Greek in these sermons on John but it will just be less confusing if I tell you now that the Greek word for “The Word” here is “The Logos.” Now I can talk about “The Logos” and you will know that I am talking about this person John calls “The Word.” Who is “The Word”? Who is “The Logos”?
Some people think that the background to John talking about “The Logos” is in Greek philosophy. The Greeks used “The Logos” to refer to their idea of the rational principle which lies behind the universe. But I think it makes much more sense to look for the background to “The Logos” in Jewish thinking at the time of Jesus.
Our words are the way we communicate with others and reveal ourselves to others. Our words embody our thoughts. We read in Genesis chapter 1 how God spoke into the darkness, and there was light. Whenever God speaks, things happen. Time and again God’s words brought everything into being. It was the Word of God, the Law and the Prophets which gave birth and life to the nation of Israel and sustained them in their faith. And the Word of God was God’s revelation to the prophets who said, “The Word of the Lord came to me”. So “the Logos,” “the Word,” is how God expresses Himself and communicates with the world. The Logos is the embodiment of God’s thoughts. The Logos is how God reveals Himself to the world.
More than that, in Jesus’s time the Jews had a version of the Old Testament which was their equivalent of the Message or the Living Bible. The Targums were a combination of paraphrase and commentary and in the Targums the phrase “The word of God” was sometimes used to avoid using God’s name. So for example in Genesis 3:8 the Targums said, “The Word of God used to walk in the garden with Adam and Eve.”
So the Jews already had a sense that the Word of God, the Logos of God, was something very very important. John tells us that the Logos was there at the beginning of everything. But more than that,
the Word was with God,
Here and again in verse 2 John tells us that the Logos was with God. But there is significance in the choice of word for “with.” John said that the Logos is “pros” God, which means more than just two thing being located with or alongside each other. The word is used of two people being together in each other’s presence. So saying that the Logos was “pros” God is not about objects in proximity but about persons in relationship. A good translation would be that “the Logos was face-to-face with God.” The Logos is revealed to be a Person who was alongside God in the beginning.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
This means more than saying “the Logos was divine.” It would be better to say, “What God was, the Logos was.” “The Word was fully God.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that the Greek only says that “The Logos was A god.” That is how their New World translation represents John 1:1. It is true that that might conceivably be a permissible translation of the verse. “The Word was A god.” But from the Greek, that is highly improbable. The much more obvious translation is that the Logos was indeed God.
John is not saying that the Logos was another God or a different God. He is saying that the Logos is both God, and yet at the same time with God. This Logos is actually God. This is a mystery. We can’t get our heads around the fact that the Logos is both God and at the same time a distinct person present with or alongside God. But that is what the Bible says.
John clearly believed that Jesus was God. In John 10:30 Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Which is pretty clear. Jesus was saying, “I am God.” In John 20:28 Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus did not correct Thomas, but accepted the title of God.
John writing this Prologue definitely believed that Jesus was God. That’s why he wrote, “The Logos was God.” So here we have this mysterious figure, the Logos, a person who was both with God and also God Himself.
John 1:2 He was with God in the beginning.
From the very beginning, before creation, the Logos was there with God. This brings us to the idea of pre-existence. The Logos existed face-to-face with God, before anything else existed.
Time for a spoiler. If you don’t want to know the surprise waiting for us in verse 14 turn away now. Later in the prologue, but not until next week’s sermon, John is going to tell us that the Logos, the Word of God, became a human being as Jesus of Nazareth. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” There, I’ve given the game away. The Logos is going to be revealed to be Jesus Christ. John is going to tell us that Jesus of Nazareth was at the same time the Logos, the Word of God, who was with God in the beginning and was indeed Himself God. What an amazing thing! Is it possible that Jesus knew that he was the Logos, who existed with God before the creation of the world? Did Jesus know that he was pre-existent?
`Later on in the Prologue in verse 15 we read this.
15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”
On the face of it, “he was before me” doesn’t make sense. John was Jesus’s older cousin. He was Elizabeth’s son and Elizabeth was already six months pregnant with John when Mary went to see her to tell her she was also expecting a baby. So when John said, “he was before me”, that implies that John recognised something very special indeed about Jesus. John was talking about Jesus’s pre-existence, not his birth date.
In John 8:58 Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus was claiming to have been alive before Abraham. Jesus knew about his pre-existence. Actually, even more than that, Jesus used the name, “I am” which is the Jewish name for God. Hearing that, the Jews took up stones to punish Jesus for blasphemy because they understood by that saying that Jesus was actually claiming to be God. Jesus of Nazareth certainly knew that he was more than just a man.
We get more glimpses of Jesus’s self-knowledge in John 17. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed these words.
John 17:5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
So here is the incredible truth. The Logos was there with God before the universe was created, and Jesus of Nazareth knew that He was that Logos, living as a human being.
But John has much more to tell us about the Logos, the Word of God.

John 1:3 Through him all things were made;
Not only was the Logos present with God when the universe was created. The Logos was the agent of creation. That would be no surprise to the Jews. In the acts of creation in Genesis 1 we find repeated, “God said”, “God said.” Psalm 33 declares that God created the world through His mighty Word.
6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

God made the world THROUGH His Word, the Logos. We can see here the three persons of the Holy Trinity working together in Creation. God the Father spoke the Word, God the Son was the Word that was spoken, and God the Holy Spirit was the breath which carried the Word and brought the whole of creation into existence.
without him nothing was made that has been made.
EVERYTHING was made by the Word – nothing excluded – no exceptions.
Colossians 1 contains a very early Christian hymn which repeats these glorious truths about the Logos who became a human being as the Lord Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. And Jesus Himself knew that was true. On John 14 He said this.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
The visible image of the invisible God. Just as our words reveal and embody our unseen thoughts, so the Logos reveals and embodies the unseen God. Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. Then the Bible tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ was the agent by which God created not only the earth but absolutely everything that exists. Everything was created not only BY him but also FOR Him. He is before all things – not only in a temporal sense that he existed when they did not, but also in the sense of pre-eminence. He is more important than everything else put together – supreme over the whole of creation.
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. So Jesus was indeed completely God. He was there with God in the beginning. Indeed He was God Himself.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:4-5)
John moves on from telling us who the Logos is to explaining how he brought salvation, light and eternal life to this dark world. We will come back to the rest of the story until next week. So I will just leave you with this taster from the end of the Prologue.
16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
John makes clear that this Logos he has been talking about is indeed Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son. This is who Jesus Christ is. He is God the One and Only. He is The Logos, the Word of God, who is at the Father’s side, who was and is with God and who was and is Himself God. Who better to reveal God than God the Son – the agent of creation? Only God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, could make him known. Who else could reveal God but God Himself, born as a human being? Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Who better and who else could bring light into the darkness and give eternal life to a lost world. That is the person was born in that stable in Bethlehem and laid in a manger.
John 1 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. ….
Back in Tunbridge Wells Donald Eddison was a retired Church of England Vicar. Donald couldn’t get on with people who referred to our Lord in a familiar way as just “Jesus”. Instead he insisted that we should always use the full title of “The Lord Jesus Christ.” From the very first verses, John’s Gospel starts off by reminding us that whenever we are reading about Jesus of Nazareth we should always bear in mind that we are thinking about the Logos, the Word, the Creator of the Universe, God’s One and Only, the Light of the World and the source of our eternal life. The New Living Translation puts it this way.
1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
That is who Jesus is! This is whose birthday we are preparing to celebrate!
O come let us adore Him.
O come let us adore Him.
O come let us adore Him.
Christ the Lord

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