The Supremacy of Christ as the Word
Text: John 1:1-3
As we step into a study through the Gospel of John, I must say it is with a little fear. On the one hand, no other book in the Bible so effectively presents the history of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. But at the same time, no other book so profoundly presents the theology person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is so simple that we advise first time readers of the Bible to begin in John, and yet it’s so deep that lifelong students of the Bible cannot plumb the depths of it.
So it is with a certain amount of mixed feelings I commence this study. I am fearful that I will not do it justice, and yet I am hopeful that the Spirit of God will enlighten our minds to see the subject of its pages in a fuller and more glorious way than ever before.
As John sits down to write this gospel, it is with a primary aim in mind, and that is to answer the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’
Now Christians would not ask this question, so it seems that John wrote this to help believers tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ. He is giving a compendium of material on the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God, so that Christians could better explain Him to Jews and other inquirers.
Writer – There is much debate over the who the writer of John is, and to be honest, I don’t want to spend half our time this evening dealing with the daft notions of liberals today. While it doesn’t specify who wrote it, the internal and external evidence point to the Apostle John as the writer.
“This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.” Jn 21:24 – it’s a disciple and eyewitness.
We know from the other gospels that the three disciples closest to Jesus were Peter, James, and John, and yet here John is never mentioned, which can only really be explained by the writer not wanting to dwell upon himself.
The early church affirms this view. 2nd century bishop Irenaeus who heard Polycarp preach, a disciple of John, attests that the Apostle John wrote John’s Gospel while in Ephesus, and that is backed up by other ancient documents.
When – Traditionally it is thought to have been the last of the gospels to be written, certainly after the fall of Jerusalem in AD70, and Irenaeus said that it was written to combat heresies that were already rising by the latter period of the first century. That may have been the case, particularly with heresies rising relating to the person of Christ, but John tells us his motivation Jn 20:31,
“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” It’s perfect for beginners.
a) It leaves out a lot of material that is characteristic of the Synoptics, e.g. His temptation, transfiguration, institution of the Lord’s Supper.
b) It adds a lot of material not in the Synoptics, e.g. Ch 2-4, Ch14-17, Lazarus.
I. THE ETERNALITY OF THE WORD – “In the beginning was the Word”
This gospel begins very differently to the others. Like the others, John wants us to know that Jesus is God manifest in the flesh. But unlike Matthew and Luke who do this by narrating the history of the birth of Jesus Christ and the fact that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost in Mary, John gives a theological introduction/prologue of Christ’s existence not merely before His birth, but His existence before the existence of anything else, “In the beginning was the Word…”
With this language, John is deliberately making us think of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created…” In a statement where one expects only God to exist, John says the Word existed, declaring His deity from the outset. John gives us a glimpse of One with an eternal existence.
This hasn’t went without attack. Arius was a third century heretic who maintained that Jesus was a created being. He gained enough of a following that the Christian leaders came together in a council in AD325 and debated the issue for about two months, with the eventual result that Arius was pronounced a heretic, and the church leaders combatted his heresy with the Nicene Creed. Those like Arius and modern day Arians like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, hate John 1, because by a plain reading John is declaring that when time and creation began, Jesus Christ already was by reason of the fact that He is the Son of God.
II. THE PERSONALITY OF THE WORD – “the Word was with God”
The Word is a person with a relationship with God, i.e. God the Father.
Genesis 1 – “and God said” x 10. It was by God’s Word that Creation came into being, and now John is telling us that the word is a person, not just mere words.
Gen 1:26 shows us that God the Father was communing with the Word, “let us make man in our image”. Jn 1:2-3 clarify this thought. Christ is the very Word by which first light and all Creation was made.
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” Ps 33:6 cf. “For by him were all things created” Col 1:16
Christ is the Word.
Now is it significant that we believe in the personality of the Word? Yes. There are those out there who deny it. Modalism/Sabellianism is the belief that God is a single person who reveals himself by three different modes. Like Arius, Sabellius was also a third century heretic. But such heretics are still around today. Oneness Pentecostalism. Any United Pentecostal Church and many others where they baptize in the name of Jesus, and not in the name of the triune God. Heresy.
Can we understand the Trinity? No. But we can understand the plain expression on it in Scripture. The Word is not a mere mask for God, is a person “with God”.
III. THE DIVINITY OF THE WORD – “and the Word was God”
John declares this with crystal clarity, and one of the main things he will do through this gospel is to substantiate this statement. And if you’re here and you don’t believe Jesus is God, it is my prayer that you will fall on your knees like John records of Thomas in John 20, “My Lord and my God”.
The Arians/JWs try to translate this differently saying that if Jesus is God it would say, ‘the Word was the God’, and because it doesn’t carry the definite article before God, John is saying ‘the Word was a God’.
But you don’t have to be able to read Greek. You read John’s gospel and you will notice what I’ve already said, and that is that John spends his time substantiating the claim that the Word was God.
Furthermore, just to be clear, the absence of the article before theos, does not make it indefinite. It is common in Greek when there are two nouns joined with ‘is’ that the first definite article applies to both nouns. Additionally, if the Arians/JWs were consistent, v6, 12, 13, 18, would also need to be changed, but those verses don’t bother them.
There are other arguments, but I’ll leave it there. John wants us to know that Jesus Christ is God, and nothing less than God, and we will see him prove it.
IV. THE AUTHORITY OF THE WORD – v3 (skip v2 as it substantiates v1)
Herein again we have reason to show the folly of Arianism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for in claiming that the Son of God was the first created thing by the Father, they deny the plain teaching of this text. ALL things were made by Him, and WITHOUT HIM was not ANY THING made that was made.
There is no room to move in that text. The first half covers the truth sufficiently, but the second half seals the truth, makes it watertight, and exposes the blindness of the heretics.
The Word is the universal authority. There is no one to supersede Him.
Now, man is always wondering what authority to give himself to, in every age and generation. And in our secular world, instead of people giving themselves to fertility gods, and statue idols, etc, they give themselves to celebrities, or to concepts such as fame, or in an effort to exclude all external authority, they set themselves up as their authority and idol – they worship self.
In all of this, man is trying to make sense of the world, but Christ is the authority. He is the One by whom we make sense of the world, and this is why Peter declared in John 6, “to whom else shall we go, thou hast the words of eternal life”. Christ is everything. Life makes no sense without Him. He is the architect of all.
He made everything, and as you grope around trying to find satisfaction and meaning to life, realize that since Jesus Christ made you, He knows for what purpose you were made, and how you can get a sense of fulfilment. He alone has that authority. He inherited that position by means of His divinity, but He earned that position by means of His humanity;
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” Phil 2:9. And that is why He has the authority to forgive sins.
And that’s your great need if you have yet to cry for mercy. You need someone with the authority to forgive your sins, and the only one is the eternal God, Jesus Christ. He can purge your sins by the sacrifice of Himself, and if you’ll only believe He will pronounce upon you, ‘thy sins be forgiven thee’.
Close – Tell me, do you believe in the Word?
What is it that hinders your believing? Be sure that your sin hinders believing. You cannot continue in wilful sin and yet become a believer; if you cherish sin you cherish the very barrier that blocks you from eternal life.
Until you believe, your danger is imminent. Beware, O sinner, for unless you confess your sin to Christ the living Word, your future state is hopeless. To day is the accepted time for your salvation. I struggle to let any one of you go until I know you have given your hearts to Jesus.
I speak in God’s name, before you have gone from under the sound of the Word, now let the believing look be given: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” It is the cry of the Eternal Word who was made flesh, to bear our sins upon His own body. Despise not those wounds of the Cross, but yield to him as He says, ”Look unto me, and be ye saved.”