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Sunday, May 24, 1998

3 - Deity of Christ

John 1:1-4 by Robert Dean

Additional updated information pertaining to this topic is available in this class: Three Portraits of the Birth of Messiah - John: The Messianic Son of God.

Series:John (1998)
Duration:52 mins 45 secs

Deity of Christ
John 1:1-4
John Lesson #003
May 24, 1998

John 1:1 NASB "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

There are several different beginnings in the Scripture. The first beginning as far as we can tell was the creation of the angels. We know that the angels were first in order of creation because in Job 38:4 we read: NASB ""Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell {Me,} if you have understanding, [5] Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? [6] On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, [7] When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?" In the Old Testament the phrase "sons of God" is a technical term for the angels. At this point there was no division among the angels, they were all together and united, singing together. There has been no Satanic rebellion. Lucifer has not asserted his arrogance and tried to become like God and led a third of the angels in rebellion against God. So we see all of the angels together witnessing God's creation of heaven and earth, which takes place in Genesis 1:1. So first the angels are created, then the universe. Genesis 1:1 NASB "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." In the Hebrew there is no word for universe, so they used the term the heavens and the earth to incorporate everything in the creation. Third, He recreates the earth in the six days of creation. Genesis 1:2a NASB "The earth was [became] formless and void…" That phrase "formless and void," TOHU WAW BOHU in the Hebrew, refers to some kind of divine judgment. Something took place between Genesis 1:1, the creation of the heavens and the earth, and Genesis 1:2 where we see the earth without form and void, and darkness covered the face of the earth. In that we see that God has judged the universe because of the angelic rebellion, the rebellion led by Lucifer against God. Then God recreates the earth in six days in Genesis chapter one. Then the crowning point of His creation on the sixth day is the creation of man. So these are the four different beginnings referred to in the Scripture, but the beginning referred to here in John 1:1 hearkens back to the first phrase in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning."

When God first created the universe it started the space-time continuum. Space and time are related to one another. You can't have space without time; you can't have time without space. So at the very beginning of the space-time principle, this is the arche, this is the beginning. What John is saying is, at the beginning—the verb is in the imperfect tense of eimi [e)mi], which is the verb to be. It means was, or her e the best translation "was existing." So what John does through this verb is to break right through this wall at the beginning of time and go into eternity past. Basically what he is saying is, in the beginning when everything began the Word was already continually in existence. The imperfect tense of the verb is a progressive imperfect of description which denotes continual action in past time. It vividly represents the action as going on and on without end, indefinitely, in past time, with no reference to its completion or its present state. So in the beginning, at the time of the beginning, at this point when everything began, the Word, the logos, was already existing; continuously existing without end. This was one of the strongest ways that John could use to express the eternity of Jesus Christ.

Logos [logoj] is a very interesting word. If you look up in the Liddell-Scott Greek-English lexicon there are three pages of meanings listed. Just a hint of what this word entails: account, reckoning, measure, esteem, consideration, value, relation, correspondence, proportion, ratio, explanation, plea, pretext, ground, reason, a statement of a theory, a logical argument, a proposition, a rule, a principle, a formula, the inward debate of the soul, thus is refers to thought that is then expressed outwardly as a word. There is another Greek word for "word," rhema, which refers to the spoken word. Logos goes beyond the simple spoken word to the thought that underlies the spoken word. Logos means thinking, therefore, reasoning, reflection, deliberation, mental conception. It has the idea of scientific reasoning and right process of thought, logic, abstract reasoning, discursive reasoning, reason as a faculty of the soul, the reason that pervades the universe, creative reason, speech, narration and verbal expression or utterance which relates to revelation. So logos is a title that has a vast array of meanings, it is a title for the seco0nd person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ who is the expression or revelation of God the Father.

John 1:18 is a very important verse. NASB "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained {Him.}" No man seeing God at any time is referring to God the Father. Principle: If no man has seen God at any time, who did they see in the Old Testament? They saw the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Who was it who walked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and taught them about the realities of things? It was the pre-incarnate second person of the Trinity. That is the role of the second person of the Trinity, to reveal God. God the Father is the architect of the plan; God the Son is the revealer and builder of the plan—Colossians 1:16 NASB "For by Him all things were created…" The Holy Spirit is the one who oversaw it, Genesis 1:2. All three members of the Trinity are involved in the creative process. It is the job of the second person of the Trinity to reveal God to man.

"In the beginning the logos continually existed." In Greek are two different words for "being." The first is eimi which means to be; it is the basic verb of existence. In the present tense or the imperfect tense which has to do with continual action it would have to do with continual existence. When Jesus said: "Before Abraham was, IAM," they understood that as a technical title, a technical reference to God the Father. When God revealed His name to Moses as Yahweh that comes from the basic word which means to be. The second word is ginomai [ginomai], and that is to cause to be or to bring into existence. We see this in John 8:58 NASB "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born [ginomai], I am'[e)gw e)imi]" – "Before Abraham came into existence, I continually existed." When He used this word and this phrase he was claiming for Himself deity. This is demonstrated in the next verse by the reaction. They knew what he was saying. "Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him…" They were going to stone Him right there for blasphemy. They knew he was claiming to be God.

"In the beginning was the Word." Ultimate reality in the universe isn't emotion. Today we live in an age of emotion at the expense of reason, and what the Bible says is that if you want to get in touch with the ultimate reality of the universe it is related to reason: logos, logic, rationality. Christianity is not anti-rational, it is not irrational, not some sort of subjective leap into emotional experience or feeling. It is based on cold, hard facts. That is the point of this whole Gospel.

John begins his Gospel to demonstrate the deity of the second person of the Trinity. "…and the Word was with God…" In the Greek the preposition is pros [proj] plus the accusative, which means "face to face with God"—proj ton qeon. A definite article in English is the word "the." It adds specificity. In English there is either a definite article "the" or an indefinite article  "a" or "an" which could be anything in a class or a category. That is not how the definite article in Greek functions. When John writes this phrase the definite indicates the identity of God. He was face to face with God, so immediately we see two different persons. The article emphasizes a specific person. So we see here two persons: the logos and theos. The logos is face to face with theos. So theos here refers to God the Father. When the article is absent, then identity or individual person is not the prominent idea. It can be indefinite, a god, but it can also emphasize quality—the quality of a thing, the essence of a thing. That is how the Greeks often did it, to bring emphasis to a particular word and its essence as opposed to its individual identity they dropped out the article. This is exactly what happens in the next phrase: "and the Word was God." It is in the reverse word order in the Greek: theos en ho logos, [qeoj h)n o( logoj], God was the Word. Why did John put theos at the beginning for emphasis? He also did something else; he left out the definite article.

The Jehovah's Witnesses are really a modern incarnation of a very ancient heresy called Araianism. Arius was a fourth century presbyter from Alexandria who went around teaching that if you go back to eternity past there was a time when the logos began. So Jesus is a god but he is not eternal. In Alexandria there was a man named Athanasius, and knew that if Jesus wasn't eternal then He wasn't fully God. For Jesus to do what Jesus claimed to do, to be the efficacious sacrifice for every human being, then Jesus had to be fully God. So he went into battle against Arius and the result was the Nicene creed, in which they articulated that Jesus Christ was fully God. In other words, they affirmed the deity of Christ. So the Jehovah's Witnesses have come along and picked up this ancient heresy. They pull out their Bible and look at John 1:1 and say: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." What that means is that Jesus is a creature, not eternal God. So if he is not eternal God then He can't die on the cross for the sins of all humanity. Therefore, what are we left with? If Jesus didn't pay the price for us we have to do it ourselves. We have to work our way to salvation. The Jehovah's Witnesses don't have anybody to pay the penalty for them, it's all works.

In the New Testament there are 282 occurrences of the noun theos without a definite article. In only 16 of those 282 occurrences do the Jehovah's Witnesses translate it as "a God" or with a lower case g in their New World translation. Are they consistent with their principle? This is what they hang everything on when they come and knock on your door, that there is no definite article right there. Only six per cent of the time are they consistent with their big principle. That means 94 per cent of the time they are inconsistent with that principle. Furthermore, theos occurs eight times in the first chapter of John: vv. 1, 2, 6, 12, 13, 18. Only two times does it lack the article, which is called anarthrous. Yet, in the New World translation that the Jehovah's Witnesses will bring to your door and say it is "a god," in six of those eight times, 75 per cent of the time in John 1 they translate theos without the article as a capital G, God.

In Greek when there is that word without the article what the author is emphasizing is the essence, the quality of that noun. So when John says, qeoj h)n o( logoj, what he is saying is that the Word is identical in essence to God. He is claiming absolute identity.

John 1:2 NASB "He was in the beginning with God." That means that God the Son was intimately involved at the beginning. [3] All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. [4] In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men." In God part of His attributes is that God is eternal life; man is not. God wants to share His eternal life with man, he wants to give that to every single human being. John 3:16 NASB "For God so loved the world…" But you can't separate the attributes of God except for academic discussion; they all work together; they all correlate together; they all interrelate. We must also recognize that God is also perfect righteousness and perfect justice. What the righteousness of God, the standard of God, rejects then the justice of God must also condemn. What the righteousness of God approves, then the justice of God accepts. So when the righteousness of God looks on sinful man and says all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags, God's righteousness rejects man, so His justice condemns man. But the love of God provides a solution: the redemption solution through Jesus Christ.