The Theology of John, Part 1
by C. Caples
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Hello, friends. I want to present a series of expositional articles to you that will begin with the Gospel of John. I call this series, “The Theology of John”. I hope you find them encouraging and insightful. I will be quoting from the English Standard Version, unless otherwise noted. Thanks!
The Theology of John, Part 1.
1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2. He was in the beginning with God.
By way of introduction, the Gospel according to the Apostle John is, as many commentators have suggested, the most theological of the four gospels. This means that we find larger sections of discourse in John’s gospel then in the other three. There is some debate among scholars as to its date, but the vast majority dates this Gospel before the end of the first century.
John’s gospel begins much the same way as the other three, with a thesis statement. Whereas Matthew, Mark and Luke present theses that focus primarily on Jesus’ earthly Messianic ministry (see the first 2-3 verses of each Gospel), John goes right back to before the beginning of time. John is brilliant in his allusion to Genesis 1:1 with his use of the term, “In the beginning…” and this device should not be lost on us.
Verses One and Two: To fully appreciate John 1:1+2 we must go back to Genesis 1:1. Moses writes for us, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. The Hebrew word reisheet is almost identical in meaning to the Greek word arche that John employs. Both words basically mean “a commencement” of some kind. The use of each, however, is slightly different. In Moses’ account, according to the context, we see God at the beginning of His creating the universe. In John’s account, we see the Word before the beginning of the universe. John teaches us that the Word “was with God, and was God (emphasis added).” John doesn’t describe the actual creating of anything by the Word until verse 3. Who, then, is this “Word”?
The Greek word for “Word” is Logos, from which we derive our English word logic. This is significant because, as the word logic indicates, the Word is not merely a verbal expression. The Greek term refers to the thought and creative intelligence of the speaker, which then issues forth in speech. Thus the act of creation wrought by God was originated in His mind and expressed through His Divine Word in explosive creative power.
The term Logos was very significant to John’s Greek readers. The idea of the Word—or the Logos—went back in Greek culture some 300 or more years prior to John’s gospel. Beginning with Socrates, the pagan scholars of the Third century BC began postulating that the gods made the universe using what these philosophers called “forms”. These “forms” were basically pre-existent material that was eternal in nature. The gods used these forms to shape the world, and everything in the visible world—so the theory goes—has an invisible and perfect “form” of itself. The gods then expressed these forms through the Logos, who was the so-called demi-urge, or a pre-existent and created sub-god. That god, who was created by the eternals, was the designer and creator of our world.
John challenges this assertion by stating to his readers (who were possibly newly converted to Christ), “The Logos that your pagan teachers have taught you about all these years is really Jesus Christ. The thing that they got wrong, however, is that God didn’t create Jesus, because He was with God in the beginning. In fact, He was God!” This clearly forms the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity, which we will discuss further down the road.
For now we can see that John’s upbringing in the Law and Prophets prepared Him for the coming of Christ, who then taught John that though He was born He was not created. It is wonderful to think that we don’t have to wait until we read the New Testament to see Christ. We can read about Him on Page One! Remember that in Genesis 1, Moses is describing the Creation week. Thus, any other character description that is not the creation must refer to the Creator. So when we read in verse Two about the Holy Spirit and in verse Three that “God said…” we must conclude that both the Holy Spirit and the Word that God said are non-created and divine.
This is the point that John is stressing to his readers. Jesus Christ has always been. He was there in the beginning before creation, and, as we’ll read next time, He was there with His Father and the Holy Spirit creating all things. He was with God (Greek word pros, meaning “by the side of”), and He was God (Greek word ei, meaning “existence” as God). This powerful introduction to a powerful Gospel is sure to occupy the minds and delight the hearts of all who read it—as it has these two millennia—until the Return of our Blessed Lord Jesus, who “is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8).” Blessings on you and yours in His Name!
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