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Sun, May 31, 1998

4 - John the Baptist

John 1:6-8 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 20 secs

John the Baptist
John 1:6-8
John Lesson #004
May 31, 1998

Expanded translation of the first five verses:

"When space and time began, reason, logic, knowledge, that is, the logos of God, was already in continual existence from eternity past; and logic and knowledge had a face to face relationship with God the Father. Reason, logic and knowledge, that is the logos of God, is identical in essence with God the Father. He, the logos of God, was in the beginning of space and time with God the Father. All things came into being by him; and apart from him not one thing in the universe came into existence that has come into existence. In him was life; and the life was the light of men, and that light which reveals God to man shines continually in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."

The first five verses of this chapter present the logos as the ultimate reality of the universe. What we see in the first two verses is the relationship of the logos to God. In verse 3 we see the relationship of the logos to creation. We will see the revelation of the logos rejected in verses 4 and 5. Then we will see the superiority of the logos to prophets. The logos is a person, not an object or a thing. We know this because in that second clause, the Word was with God, we have pros [proj] plus the accusative which is relationship. The logos is face to face with God. So for the apostle John the knowledge of truth only comes through a deeper understanding of who Jesus Christ is and a deeper understanding of what He has done for us. So in this section we understand that the second person of the Trinity, the logos, possesses full deity. He is one in essence with God and He is also distinct.

If the quality of the Trinity is emphasized too much we end up in either modalism or tritheism. On the other hand, if we emphasize the unity of the members of the Trinity too much we end up with either modalism or subordinationism. If we emphasize their differences, the uniqueness of their personalities and the distinction between them, the we will end up in either subordinationism or tritheism. This is exactly what happened over about a 150-year period of history when the early church tried to work its way through these various concepts. They knew right away they didn't believe in three Gods, and that you end up in tritheism if the equality of the members of the Trinity and their diversity. They are all three equal and there are three distinct persons. That is what is meant by diversity. If we emphasize their equality and their unity, then we end up with what is called modalism.

Modalism was one form that was very popular for a while. In this view you have God who just expresses Himself in three different modes. In the Old Testament God revealed Himself as a Father. Then, for 33 years, He revealed Himself as the Son, and after that He revealed Himself as the Holy Spirit. In other words, He is not three separate persons with one essence, which is the doctrine of the Trinity. He is one person and one essence expressing Himself in three different ways. That was called modalistic monarchianism. Then after a while they realized that that was not right. They were emphasizing something too much, they were emphasizing the unity.

Then they went the other way. They dropped the equality and emphasized the diversity, the difference between the two, and by emphasizing the unity and the diversity they ended up in subordinationism. That was also called dynamic monarchianism. At the time of the baptism by John the Baptist God infuses the power [dunamij = dynamic power] of deity into the man Jesus and He is elevated into a God. So in dynamic monarchianism, because it is emphasizing their distinction, what it ends up with is that Jesus is really a creature; He is not fully God. That was subordinationism.

These are the different views in the early churches. They were trying to weave their way between these three different poles. Is there a difference between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit? Are they just different expressions of the same essence, are they three different persons, are they three different persons with three different essences? Between that they just wobbled around, and it got to a point where there was a man named Arius, a presbyter in the church at Alexandria who taught a form of subordinationism where God in eternity past creates Christ—so he viewed Christ as a creature—and then created other creatures in time, but there was a time when Christ was not. That is Arianism, the same thing that the Jehovah's Witnesses teach today. There is nothing new under the sun. For Arius, Jesus was a god; Christ was a creature, a lesser god, not fully God.

This created quite a stir and upset his bishop, a man by the name of Athaniasius. Athanasius charged him with heresy and so a church council was called that was to meet in Nicea. Constantine was the emperor and he had become converted to Christianity, and he decided that with all this disruption among the Christians he needed to resolve this, so it was sort of politically motivated. They called the council at Nicea to resolve the problem of the relationship of Jesus Christ to God, and to understand and formulate some kind of theological doctrine related to the person of Jesus Christ in His relationship to God the Father. Arius taught that the Son had a beginning; he was not eternal. Eternality is a characteristic that belongs clearly only to deity.

This is just to give an idea of how theology developed. People think that this is just all handed to us on a platter, but it is not. It developed over time.

Arius developed a technical word to describe Jesus. It was from homoousios [o(moousioj], from homo = the same; ousios = being or essence. Arius used the word homoiousios [o(moiousioj], and by adding this one letter it changes the meaning of the word to "like essence." It is not the same, it is a little different. This was called the battle of the diphthongs.

At the council of Nicea there were about 300 bishops who were invited to attend. There were about 10 or 15 in Arius's camp who understood what he was teaching, and there were about 5 or 10 in Athanasius's camp who understood what He was saying and why he was saying it. The rest of them didn't have a clue. This is really standard among most church disagreements and theological disagreements because very few people study the issues enough to understand why it is so vital. Athanasius understood that that Jesus had to be homoousios, the same essence as the Father, because of He was not full deity he could not go to the cross and die as a substitute for our sins. As man He identified with us and was our substitute, but as God whatever He did had infinite and eternal value. So if He was just a man, just a creature, all he could do was die for Himself. Only be being God could His sacrifice have infinite and eternal value. That is why the deity of Jesus Christ is important and why we cannot compromise on it one little bit, and Athanasius stood for it.

At the Council of Nicea they concluded with the following statement which is known as the Nicene creed:

We believe in one God, the Father all-governing, creator of all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father as only-begotten. That is, from the essence of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, uniquely begotten, not created, of the same essence [o(moousioj] as the Father, through whom all things came into being, both in heaven and in earth, who for us men and for our salvation came down and was incarnate, becoming human. He suffered and the third day He rose and ascended into the heavens, and He will come to judge both the living and the dead, and we believe in the Holy Spirit.

By way of conclusion, the Council of Nicea did not invent the doctrine of the Trinity, that is inherent within the Scriptures. But it was the first clear articulation of the doctrine of the Trinity in Christianity, getting it down into the right verbiage. All definitions of the Trinity subsequent to that have built their definitions on what was said and finalized at the Council of Nicea.

The doctrine of the Trinity

1)  The unity of the Godhead is stated clearly in Deuteronomy 6:4 NASB "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" The word translated "one" is the Hebrew word which can also be translated "unity, unique, one of a kind, the Lord is unique, the Lord is a unity." So this verse establishes the fact that there is a unity in the Godhead.

2)  But a plurality is also indicated, that there are plural persons in the deity. For example, Isaiah 48:16 NASB "Come near to Me [God is speaking], listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD has sent Me [God], and His Spirit." There are three divine persons spoken of in this verse.

3)  The name of God, Elohim, also indicates a plurality. In Hebrew the 'im' ending is a plural ending. We would translate it normally "gods," and it is translated that way in some passages where it is not referring to God, where it is referring to false gods.

4)  The pronouns used in relationship to God are plural pronouns, also indicating a multiplicity of personalities within the Godhead. For example, in Genesis 1:26 when God is going to create man: NASB "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth'." God is talking about Himself as a Trinity.

5)  We can say that at least two clear personalities exist in the Old Testament. Genesis 31:11 "Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob,' and I said, 'Here I am.' [12] He said, 'Lift up now your eyes and see {that} all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. [13] I am the God {of} Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth'." Here we have the angel of God saying that He is God. In other passages it is the angel of Yahweh. In Judges chapter 6 the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon. Gideon sacrifices to the angel of the Lord and calls the angel God, and the angel of the Lord refers to Himself as God. So there are these two personalities present, the angel of the Lord and the Lord God. Zechariah 1:12, 13 NASB "Then the angel of the LORD said, 'O LORD of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?' The LORD answered the angel who was speaking with me with gracious words, comforting words." There are these two personalities here indicating that the Old Testament clearly has within it the revelation that God is a unity, with multiple personalities.

6)  All three members are present at the baptism of Jesus. Matthew 3:16, 17 NASB "After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove {and} lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased'."

7)  In the great commission to the church: Matthew 28:19, 20 NASB "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." All three members of the Trinity are mentioned. So it is very clear from the Scriptures that the doctrine of the Trinity is embedded within the Scriptures. It was one of those things, along with other doctrines, that God left to the church, to theologians, pastors and teachers, as they studied the Word, to begin to develop, categorize and systematize the teachings of Scripture to fully understand it and to give to it technical theological vocabulary.

The relation ship of the logos to creation. The logos is not part of the world at all. That is what we find in the eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and various others. Eastern religions are all based on monism. Monism means that ultimate reality is one—all is ultimately one. We would say that within the doctrine of the Trinity—this is very important for people in the history of ideas and the history of thought—there are two big problems that created a lot of controversy over the generations in philosophy was the relationship of what they called the one and the many, or unity and diversity. If we emphasize unity too much we end up saying ultimate reality is one, and that is monism. On the other hand, if we emphasize diversity too much and the distinctions, then we really end up politically in anarchy, because everybody has equal say and equal vote and it doesn't really matter what the whole wants. How do we reconcile the two? Of all the world's religions and all the world's philosophies there is only one that has resolved the conflict between the one and them many (unity and diversity), and that is Christianity. To Christianity ultimate reality is eternity, which is one and three together at the same time. God is unity, He is one; He is diversity, He is three; and they exist co-equally. Politically what that means is the state cannot usurp the authority over the individual and the individual does not usurp authority over the state. There is a balance. It also plays itself out in marriage. What this indicates is that there can be role distinctions within any kind of an organization without destroying equality, because in the Trinity there are three persons who are co-equal in their essence, yet they have role distinctions. The Son is subservient to the Father, the Holy Spirit is sent by God the Father and God the Son.

When we look at the relationship of the logos to creation we see that the Word is not part of creation at all; He is distinct from creation. That is not what we see in eastern religions where everything is part of nature. It is called pantheism: God is equal to all of His creation and God is one. It is part of mysticism. That is why mysticism inherently comes out of any kind of religion that has this thought to it that all reality is ultimately one. This is why mysticism is part of Platonism, why it is part of eastern religions. So in John 1:3 John makes it clear that the logos is distinct from creation, so all creation is subordinate and is to be subjected to its creator.

Then in verses 4 & 5 we see that the logos is equated to light. Light is always used in Scripture to express revelation. He is light; he is the revealer of God, and in verse 5 His revelation is rejected. And there is a contrast that is so powerful throughout all of John's writings between light and dark. We are born in the kingdom of darkness and when we are saved we are transferred into the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:13 NASB "For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." John says 1st in John chapter one that as believers, even thought we are born into the kingdom of light, we can still live like we are in the kingdom of darkness; and we are not to walk in darkness but are to walk in the light. How do we go from walking in darkness to walking in the light? We do it through confession of sin, and we do it by learning and applying Bible doctrine in our lives.  

John 1:6, the witness to the light of the eternal logos. NASB "There came a man sent from God, whose name was John." There is a tremendous contrast going on here between John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. The main point that the apostle John is trying to make here is that Jesus Christ, the logos, is superior to all religious teachers. He uses John the Baptist as his example, because John the Baptist is the greatest of all religious teachers. He had an incredible impact in the Roman empire. He is spoken of by Josephus in his book on the history of the Jews, but his fame spread far and wide throughout the Roman empire. We know that from extra-biblical sources, but we also know it from a little episode in Acts 18 and 19. Remember where John is at this point. He is an old man at the time he writes the Gospel of John, and he is in Ephesus. What happened in Ephesus? There was this group of the disciples of John the Baptist. So we can infer from this that John has to make his point to those around him because there are still some who are following John the Baptist and not Jesus. So he wants to make a contrast with John the Baptist to show that Jesus, the logos, is superior to all the prophets. 

John 1:7 NASB "He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. [8] He was not the Light, but {he came} to testify about the Light."

There are some striking contrasts here that John the apostle is making.

1)  Related to John the Baptist there is the first statement, "There was a man." In contrast, the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to by the title, logos.

2)  The next thing we notice is, "There came a man sent from God, whose name was John." So he comes from God. That means he is a creature. But what does it say about the Lord Jesus Christ? "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being."

3)  The third contrast: John the Baptist came into existence; Jesus Christ always existed. Jesus Christ is fully God; that is the point of everything in this passage.

4)  John the apostle makes it clear that John the Baptist was not the light, but Jesus was the light. John the Baptist was a witness to the light; Jesus Christ is the light who shines in the darkness. The Lord Jesus Christ is superior to John the Baptist.

Why does John come? John comes to give a testimony to who Jesus is. The Bible makes it very clear that there are all kinds of different testimonies in this Gospel. There is the testimony of John the Baptist, the testimony of God the Father, the testimony of God the Holy Spirit, the testimony of the Scripture. If we were to take the time to evaluate every one of these testimonies we would see that none of them are subjective. What often happens in churches is that there is somebody who comes in and gives their testimony. They stand up and say: "Let me tell you about what Jesus did for me. I know that Jesus died for me because He lives within my heart." That is subjective. How do you know it is true? "Because I've had this personal experience." That is not what the Bible says is true. When we look at this it is very objective. How do we know it is true? There are evidences, things that happened in space-time history that are objective, that are demonstrable, that give clear and certain proof as to who Jesus is, who he claimed to be, and that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. So over and over again the apostle John is going to make it clear to one and all that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and he does this primarily through the signs that Jesus performed. There were hundreds of witnesses to all of those miracles. Extrapolated from that we come to the doctrine of witnessing. The doctrine in summation is that every believer is immediately commissioned at the point of salvation into full time Christian service.