5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6 There came a man who was sent from God; His name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through Him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognise Him. 11 He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. 12 Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testifies concerning Him. He cries out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’” 16 From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.
Every year during the Christmas season our attention is drawn to the mystery of the incarnation – the amazing truth that God Himself took on human flesh and walked this earth as one of us. It is one of the great mysteries of God that we will never fully understand, certainly not on this side of the grave at least. Closely linked to the mystery of the incarnation is an equally deep yet profound truth – the deity of Jesus. The incarnation is about God becoming man, while the deity of Jesus reminds us that this man who walked this earth 2000 years ago was God Himself. In Philippians 2:6 Paul says of Jesus, “being in very nature God.” Jesus Christ the man is God. He is the eternal God who always has and always will exist. As John says in his opening statement in his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word.” The Word (Jesus Christ) is pre-existent in His very nature.
The deity of Jesus is a crucial doctrine of the Christian faith, but why is it so important, and does it really matter?
The answer to those questions is a resounding “yes”, so my prayer today for us is that God would reveal that truth to us this morning.
Two key verses we will be looking at today are John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” and John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Gospel of John introduces the Lord Jesus Christ with three tremendous statements:
“In the beginning was the Word,”
“And the Word was with God,”
“And the Word was God.”
“The Word” is one of the highest and most profound titles of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Word with a capital W, or “Logos” in the original Greek.
It is quite clear that in the introduction to his Gospel, John is drawing a clear parallel with the opening verse in Genesis 1 – “In the beginning, God.” And he does so with good reason.
The first three gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, are called the synoptic gospels. They are very similar in content, and at times are almost identical.
The main focus of the synoptic gospels is the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. They don’t deny Jesus’ identity as God, but their main purpose is to teach about His life and mission.
John, on the other hand, who wrote his gospel some time later, immediately sets the groundwork. His opening statement declares the eternal identity of the Word of God as Jesus Christ, as God Himself.
The reason that John starts off with this statement, is that it is important. We have to grasp it right from the start. Jesus as God is our reference point, and the cornerstone of the writings of John.
The Deity of Jesus Christ is crucial to the Christian faith. What John is trying to point out to us is that if we think of Jesus as ‘a god’ instead of ‘God’, as some would have us believe, or as merely a prophet according to other religions, then we have missed a fundamental Biblical truth. What John is saying is this: “you have to understand this first – Jesus was, is and always will be, God.”
That is what John spends the first 18 verses of his gospel spelling out in great detail, that Jesus Christ is God. And it is no coincidence that he quotes Genesis 1.
He presents Jesus to us as the One “In the beginning.”
This beginning antedates, or predates, the very first words in the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
There have been countless debates and suggestions as to when the world was created. The date is not important. What is important is that even if we were able to set an exact date for the creation, God was already there.
“In the beginning was the Word.”
The word ‘was’ clearly states that God was already there. It doesn’t say in the beginning the Word started out or was begotten. The word is “Was.” For the English language students out there, ‘was’ in this context is what is known as a durative imperfect, meaning a continued action not restricted by time either past or future.
It means that the Word was in the beginning.
Next question - What beginning? How far back do we go?
Just as far back as you want to go. And then keep going.
Genesis 1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Does that begin God? No, just keep going back billions and billions and billions and billions and billions of years.
The human mind cannot define infinity – we’re just not capable of that. But let’s just suppose that for the purposes of this exercise we could. We can go back all those countless years and say, “this is it – this is the point before creation where it all began.”
Imagine for a moment that point. Now go back another billion billion billion billion billion years. And you’ll find that God was already there too. As John wrote, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’”
“In the beginning, God.” He already was. He comes out of eternity to meet us.
He did not begin. “In the beginning was the Word.” He was already there when the beginning was.
“Well,” you might say, “there has to be a beginning somewhere.” All right, wherever you begin, He is there to meet you. He is already past tense. “In the beginning was the Word.” Six simple words, and there is no one on earth who can put a date on it or understand it or fathom it. This first tremendous statement starts us off.
The second statement which John makes is this, “and the Word was with God.”
This makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is separate and distinct from God the Father. You cannot identify Him as God the Father because He is with God.
“Aha,” say the sceptics, “if He is with God, then He is not God.”
John deals with this in the same sentence with his next words - “and the Word was God.” This is a clear, emphatic declaration that Jesus Christ is God. “The Word was with God and the Word was God” is not a contradictory statement. Rather, in the most mysterious yet perfect and emphatic way, it speaks of the deity of Jesus.
In fact, the Greek is more specific than this, because in the Greek language the important word is placed at the beginning of the sentence and it reads, “God was the Word.” That is emphatic; you cannot get it more emphatic than that.
Do you want to get rid of the deity of Christ?
If you believe the Bible, the word of God with a small w, and if you believe the Word, the Logos with a capital W, then you cannot get rid of the deity of Jesus.
The first three statements in John’s gospel tie the whole thing down. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
There is a danger though, in studying the humanity and the deity of Christ as separate entities. Doing this might help us as we try to understand the mystery of Jesus, but by breaking up the character of Jesus into sections, we in fact, deepen the mystery.
We make it harder to understand, as if it isn’t hard enough in the first place.
His deity and His humanity belong together.
This is why we need verse 14 – “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The three key phrases here are:
“The Word became flesh,”
“The Word made His dwelling among us,” and,
“He was full of grace and truth.”
We will deal with each phrase separately.
“The Word became flesh.”
The Greek language allows us to put it more specifically and, I think, more accurately: “The Word was born flesh.” Mull this over in your mind for a moment.
Here comes God out of eternity, born in Bethlehem, as a little baby. As Philippians 2:7 says, “He made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
Have you ever wondered why John doesn’t even mention Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem?
It’s because he is talking about One who is too big for Bethlehem. Out of eternity, the Word became flesh. God Himself took on human form in every sense of the word.
Let’s move onto the next key phrase in verse 14 – “The Word made His dwelling among us.” This is what we celebrate at Christmas.
In the original Greek, this phrase means literally “He pitched His tent among us.”
Our human bodies are merely little tents in which we live.
This house in which we live is a tabernacle. It is a temporary clay jar that we spend our lives on earth in, and we’re reminded of this each time we face the reality of death. Our lives on this earth are fragile, and as someone once put it, each of us is only one heartbeat from eternity. That is how certain we are that this life will come to an end at some stage. Because you and I live in these little tents, the God of eternity took upon Himself a human body and pitched His tent down here among us. This is the second tremendous statement of John 1:14, and the third crucial phrase is “full of grace and truth.”
Even though God took on human form, at no stage did Jesus stop being God. He did not leave His deity, His “godness” in some kind of limbo until He returned to Heaven at the Ascension. It’s the mystery of the incarnation again. During the 33 or so years that Jesus Christ the human being walked this earth He was fully human, yet He also remained fully God. So when He went to the cross for instance, He went there because He chose to, not because He was forced to at spear-point by the Roman soldiers. When He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and Peter cut off the ear of a Roman soldier, Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54)
Some might say that if Jesus was made flesh, He must have limited Himself, but John addresses that by saying that He was full of grace and truth. The word “full” means that you just can’t have any more. He brought all the deity with Him, and He was full of grace and full of truth when He came down here. It is only God who can possess the qualities of grace and truth in all their fullness.
Let’s look at a couple of examples from the Bible to illustrate this point – in Mark 2 we find four men lowering their paralysed friend through the roof for Jesus to heal, but before physically healing him, Jesus forgives the man his sins. Reading from verse 6, “Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Immediately Jesus knew in His spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and He said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things?’” Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking. Only God can do that.
In Luke 7 Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to his house for a meal, when a sinful woman comes in and washes Jesus’ feet with tears and perfume.
This is what Luke writes from verse 39, “When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is - that she is a sinner.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’” Although Simon kept his thoughts to himself, Jesus still answered him!
At no time did Jesus ever give up His deity, His “Godness” while He took on human flesh.
Just look at His miracles – they were all supernatural events. He “broke” the laws of nature, for the simple reason that He wrote those laws in the first place. Human beings are incapable of performing the supernatural. We are restricted by the laws of nature, but God is able to rise above those things as and when He wishes. And Jesus often did just that, and the reason He could was because He was, and is, the eternal God.
Just as it is vital for us to know that Jesus is God, so it is just as important to know that at no time has Jesus ever stopped being God.
Jesus Christ was fully God, and fully human at the same time. He wasn’t half God and half human.
This is why John opens his gospel by identifying Jesus as the Logos, the Word.
So when Jesus came to Earth as a human being some 2000 years ago, He not only brings the revelation of God, but is Himself, the Revelation.
It’s not about the words He teaches, like one of the prophets, but He is Himself, the Word.
He brings the light, but He is at the same time, the Light.
He brings life, and He is Life.
He proclaims truth, and He is Truth.
He brings us light and life and truth, because He is, as the eternal Word of God, Light and Life and Truth.
When Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life”, He didn’t say, “read the Scriptures, because that is where you will find these things.”
He said, “You’ll find the way, the truth and the life IN ME.”
Do you want to know the truth about God?
Then you have to know Jesus, and who better to reveal the truth about God, than God Himself?
That is why when Jesus speaks, it is truth, because He is truth itself.
God so desperately wants to reveal Himself to us, and that is exactly what He does in the Person of Jesus Christ. Not just in philosophies, or ideas, or by writings passed on from one generation to another.
But God takes His Word, He takes His Will, He takes His Mind and He makes them into a physical thing – something tangible, that the world can see.
Something that we can walk with and talk with, and be loved by.
This is precisely what John is talking about in his opening statement in his first letter: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
A human being cannot save us. No prophet or great moral teacher can bring salvation to the sinner. The death of a good man is not enough to atone for our sin. Only the pure, unblemished blood of the lamb is sufficient for our salvation. God Himself gave His life in order for us to live.
So again – is it really that important for us to have some kind of grip on the reality that Jesus Christ was fully human and fully God at the same time?
If we’re to understand the mystery of our salvation and how it was achieved at Calvary, then yes, very much so. The fact that God Himself hung on that cross and bled and died for us is the clincher. God surrendered Himself so that you could be forgiven.