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TEXT: John 1:3-5
SUBJECT: Advent, 2018: The Word and Creation
Christmas is the best time of year to talk to your neighbors and loved ones about Jesus-not because they need Him more in December than they do in July, but because they're more likely to listen now than they would be next summer. So, let's take every opportunity to speak up for Christ this Advent season, and may God give the increase. Amen.
The best way to start talking about the Lord is to start thinking about Him, and the best way to start thinking about Him is to read and hear the Word of God, especially that Word as it pertains to the birth of our Savior.
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us about His birth-about His virgin mother, His flight into Egypt, and all the rest, but John leaves that story for others to tell, because he's after bigger game. As important as Mary and Joseph, the angels and the shepherds, the wise men and King Herod are to the Nativity Story, the central figure is the One who was born that day in the City of David.
Luke connects Him to Adam; Matthew to Abraham and David, but John goes farther, higher, and deeper than the others, by connecting Jesus of Nazareth to God Himself. And more than 'connecting Him'-John goes so far as to equate Him to God! John introduces here, in the Prologue, what he develops throughout his Gospel--
Before Abraham was, I AM.
Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.
'My Lord and my God!
The Jewish man who would sooner die than to give God's glory to anyone or anything else, sees no contradiction between believing in the One True God and-at the same time-believing that Jesus Christ is that God! Not that He's more like Him than others: He is Him. This Jesus, who ate and drank and slept, spat-and bled(!)-is, with the Father and the Holy Spirit-
The same in essence, equal in power and glory.
This is what the Bible teaches from cover to cover, and nowhere more plainly or powerfully that here in the Prologue of John's Gospel.
In the first two verses, John writes of the Word and God Himself. Now, in vv.3-5, he turns to the Word and Creation. The sequence is what you'd expect from a man steeped in the traditions of Israel. For as dear as the Law was to every devout Jewish heart, no one believed it was God's first revelation. Long before Moses brought down the sacred tablets, God had spoken.in Creation, Psalm 19:1-2-
The heavens declare the glory of God
And the firmament shows His handiwork,
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
And while every Jewish man believed this in the First Century, including John, John is the first (other than Christ) to connect this Revelation to Jesus! But I'm getting ahead of myself.Let's take a closer and adoring look at John 1:3-5.
The central character in John's story is the Word. In the first two verses, he's told us this Word: (1) In the beginning, (2) identified with God, and (3) nothing less than God-every bit as Divine as The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
This nearly incredible news boggled John's mind first, and he knows it has had the same effect on the people to whom he's writing. So, in v. 2, he repeats himself, as if to say, 'Yes, that's what I said-The Word is God!'.
All that follow vv.1-2 are but a development of what he's already said. And there's not a dull word among them.
The first thing John says about this Word is that He is the agent of Creation-
All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.
The preposition through is significant because it holds together what seems to be a contradiction. Who created the world? Was it God the Father Almighty? Or was it The Word of God? By saying through Him John affirms the bedrock doctrine of his people-that the God of Israel is the One and Only Creator-
It is He who has made us,
And not we ourselves.
The One True God didn't consult with the pagan gods when He made all things out of nothing. He acted alone-
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
But-and here's where John comes in-God did it through the Word.
The Word of God was the Agent of Creation. This would have surprised no one at the time, because, in Genesis 1, God doesn't use His hands to make the world: He uses His Word. Ten times in that one chapter, God said something, and the something He said happened. The writer of Hebrews picks up on this, telling us that-
The worlds were framed by the Word of God.
John is in complete agreement with this. But he adds to it as well, personifying this Divine Word, sort of like Solomon did with God's Wisdom, but in a much higher way. For, in the theology of John's Gospel, the Word is not merely personified, it is a real Person, a Person, John would later say-
We heard, we saw with our eyes, our eyes have looked upon and our hands have handled.
This Word is God's agent of Creation-not His apprentice, not His go-fer: He is God's Partner, working alongside the Father, doing His will in every detail, but not just taking orders. This Word is no Flunkey; He is God's Executive Officer.
Knowing how shocking this is to his people, John repeats Himself and makes it crystal clear. He starts with the positive-
All things were made through Him.
Then, he says the same thing, in the negative-
And without Him nothing was made that was made.
The wording here is emphatic, and might be paraphrased along these lines-
Not one single solitary thing was made without Him.
(This may well be a swipe at the Gnostics who believed in two gods-the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who made all spiritual things-which are good-and another, lesser, and evil god who made material things-which are all bad). There is no such distinction in Genesis 1, in John 1, or anywhere in the Bible. Each thing God made was good; taken together, they were very good. Sin has corrupted all created things-both spiritual and material-but it has not changed their created nature, or thrown a shadow on God's supreme goodness.
Sorry, this is a bit of a tangent, because whatever John might be saying about the heretics, what he's mostly doing is telling us that the Word of God is God's colleague, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Father in His good creation.
The Word, then, is Agent of God in Creation. And not just way back when, but everything you see right now, He created.
IN HIM WAS LIFE
John adds a second thing about this Magnificent Word. He is the Source of Life-
In Him was life.
Life is a key word in John's Gospel, and most of the time, it obviously refers to spiritual life, either what we receive in the New Birth (John 3) or on the Last Day (John 5). Here, the meaning is less clear-cut. Since he's writing about Creation, John may be saying that all life-plant, animal, human-derives from the Word of God. This is certainly a True Doctrine, and I think it's the main point here. But John knows we're going to read his entire Gospel, and so, even here, he hints that any life there is, it is the Word who gives it: life of the body, life of the soul, Life of the Resurrection, the Word gives it all-and there's no life apart from Him!
Planet Earth was dead before God spoke His Word; and we're dead, dead in trespasses and sin, until God speaks His Saving Word to us.
THE LIGHT OF MEN
The Life that is in the Word serves a practical purpose: it is for the light of men. Of course, God is light-everyone knew that back in the day-and so is the Word of God, but here, the use of that Light is emphasized. It's not shining to be shining. It is shining so we would be led by it; that we might-
Not stumble in the darkness, but walk in the light.
By combining Life and Light as he does, John is once more hinting at the full Divinity of this Splendid Word of God, Psalm 36:9-
With you is the fountain of life;
In your light, we see light.
If God is the Fountain of Life and Light, so is the Word.
Then, in v.5, we have the creation's response to this Light-
The darkness did not overcome it.
Scholars differ on how the word should be understood. From the standpoint of a Greek dictionary, it could mean either 'comprehend' or 'overcome'. But, in context, it almost certainly means the word I just used: overcome.
The world was created.how?
Null and void, and darkness covered the face of the waters.
God's First Word to this dark world was-
Let there be light.
Then what happened? Did the darkness fight against the Light, hold it back for a time, until the Word finally had its way? That's how the pagans described creation-and why wouldn't they? Their gods were oversized men and women, who had, on a larger scale, the same problems we do. But the God of Israel is not a 'blown up man'-He is Lord! And so, Psalm 135:6-
Whatever the Lord pleases, He does
In heaven and in earth,
In the seas and in all deep places.
The sequence is perfectly Biblical because the Bible starts with God Himself-In the beginning, God.and quickly moves on to the creation, created the heavens and the earth. John is consciously following the pattern .
What part does the Word play in creation? John tells us-
All things were created through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.
The first word that caught my eye was through. John doesn't say the Word created the world or that God created it by the Word (as though they worked independently). Rather, he says, it is through the Word that things were created. God the Father Almighty remains Creator of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. But His creative wishes are being carried out through His Word.
God is giving the orders-you might say-and the Word is seeing they're carried out. This is how closely they worked together way back when-and, later, Jesus will say that their partnership has not been dissolved, John 5:17-
My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.
There is no suggestion here of what theologians have called Subordinationism, as though God 'outranks' the Word. In creating the world, they are doing distinct things, but they are working together, as John says a couple of verses before-
The Word is as much the Creator as God is, yet, there is only One Creator. Before the coming of Christ, no devout person would have said such a thing, and even now-after the fact-the relationship between God and His Word is a mystery better adored than understood.
What did the Word make in the beginning? Here, John could not have written more clearly--
All things.without Him nothing was made.
This is a huge enlargement of the Creation Story. Genesis 1 is much narrower in focus than most people think it is. The climax of that Story is the creation of man (male and female) and their being placed in a Garden-Temple to worship and serve the Lord. Everything else is only a lead up. This is why even the stars are passed over as 'next to nothing'. Because-for Adam and Eve-they were little more than a night light! Genesis 1 has a very tight focus and a practical aim.
But John 1? That's something else altogether! It says not one single, solitary thing-from an Archangel to an atom-was made apart from the Word of God. Genesis 1 prepares us for this, as it is God's Word that brings order and life out of chaos and non-life. This is going to become an important theme in the Bible, for it is God's Word that enables Sarah to conceive a child in old age and God's Word that raises Lazarus from the dead.
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