The Word Became Flesh

When the apostle John, by the Spirit, used the title "Word" (Gk. Logos) he was using a term not unfamiliar to the Greek mind of his day. The Greeks used it to express the principle, or rationale, responsible for the creation of the universe (1).

What came as a revelation from God through John's writing was the identification of this abstract creation principle with a Person, that of God the Son. That this is a title of the Lord Jesus is quite clear from verse 14 of John chapter 1: "The Word became flesh". God the Son became flesh in order to reveal the eternal God to us.

With that in mind, we might still ask ourselves: "Why this particular title?" We think of how we ourselves use words in order to communicate with each other. We reveal what is in our mind by our words. The eternal God has expressed Himself (His mind) in the One who is the Word. In Jesus, the Word, God has fully revealed His character and perfectly declared His will.

What can we learn about God's Son from the opening verses of John's Gospel, where He is introduced to us as the Word? What sort of Person is He? Seven points have been noted (2).

1.He was "in the beginning" (v.1).

This reminds us of the opening words of the Bible, which take us back to the time of the creation. If it is the Word who is viewed in Proverbs 8 as the

personification of Wisdom, then He personally confirms that: "I was while as yet He (the LORD) had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the beginning of the dust of the world. When He established the heavens, I was there" (vv. 23,26,27). So, what we learn here first of all about the Word is His prexistence. He did not "become", nor was He "made", as is said of other things in the following verses. This indicates His eternity, as confirmed by other texts. "He is before all (created) things", according to Colossians 1:17. This echoes the prophecy of Micah that the One who was to be born in Bethlehem, the Word become flesh, would be One whose "goings forth are from of old, from everlasting" (5:2). The Word is the eternal Word.

We laud the everlasting Word,

The Father's only Son,

God manifestly seen and heard,

And heaven's beloved One.

Worthy the name of Jesus now

That every knee therein should bow.

(J.Conder)

2.He was "with God" (v.1, literally "towards God"). The word (Gk. pros)

translated here as 'with' conveys the idea of communion between distinct Persons. It indicates personal companionship and the enjoyment of fellowship together. This would teach us the personality of the Word, as One capable of complete fellowship with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Such could only be the case where there was equality. The Word is the personal Word.

3. He "was God" (v.1). This statement has been the centre of controversy by false teachers. We may be absolutely clear that to insert the indefinite article ("a") is completely unwarranted grammatically. As it stands, it gives clear testimony to the deity of the Word. This truth is very clear from many Bible portions; two from Matthew will serve as examples. In Matthew 3:1-6 we see how John the Baptist fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3. This latter verse concerns preparing the way for Jehovah, and John relates it by the Spirit of God to his own work in preparing the way for the Lord Jesus, who is thus identified as Jehovah. Matthew takes up another of Isaiah's great prophecies in describing the birth of the Lord Jesus in terms of Isaiah's foretelling of the virginborn Immanuel (1:22,23), whose name means "God with us". Many among the cults profess difficulty with the truth of the "Trinity". It is true that the term itself is not found in the Bible, but its truth certainly is. As Luke records the announcement to Mary by Gabriel concerning the birth of the Lord, we have clear reference made to the deity of the One to be horn, and to the fact of the Trinity. In Luke 1:32,35 the Child to be born is declared to be "the Son of the "Most High" or the "Son of God". It is prophesied that the conception would be a work of the "Holy Spirit" (v.35)' and that the "Lord God" would give the Child the throne of David (v.32). Here we have reference to three distinct Persons, yet all with the same Nature, existing as one God. In the first chapter of John's Gospel, John the Baptist publicly witnesses to the Lord Jesus as being the Lamb of God (v.29) and the Son of God (v.34); thus the Lord is presented in that first chapter as The Word, The Lamb, and The Son. The Word is the divine Word.

In Him, most perfectly expressed,

The Father's glories shine;

Of the full Deity possessed,

Eternally divine.

Worthy of the name of Jesus now

That every knee therein should bow.

(J.Conder)

4. "All things were made by Him" (v.3). Here we find the Word creating. Paul begins his letter to the Colossians with the same truth: "For in Him were all things created ... all things have been created through Him, and unto Him" (1:16). Nothing could be clearer than this, and it must be our final answer to the atheistic evolutionist.

5. "In Him was life" (v.4). Here we find the Word animating. He is the source of all life, whether natural or spiritual. Paul's words to the Athenians (Acts 17:25, 28) certainly apply to Him: "He Himself giveth to all life",

and "in Him we live". Whereas, regarding spiritual life: "this life is in His Son" (1 John 5:1 1).

6. "And the life was the light of men" (v.4). Here we find the Word revealing. He is the true light that lights everyone (v.9). All, without excuse, should have a certain consciousness of God.

7. "And the Word became flesh" (v.14). This is the truth of the incarnation, of how this eternal, personal, divine Word, the Creator, Animator and Revealer of all came into His creation. In Philippians, Paul writes of the Lord emptying Himself and "being made in the likeness of men" (2:7). We read with wonder from Genesis 1:26 how God said, "Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness"; yet here we have the infinitely greater miracle of One who is God becoming in man's likeness. In eternity, as the Son of God, He emptied Himself; in time, as the Son of Man, He humbled Himself. The giving of Himself was something that began in eternity, before He came to earth to be born. There are two points that we need to be clear about. First, that it was not of His Deity that the Lord emptied Himself in becoming flesh. We have already made reference to the fact that He was "God with us", and the Bible repeatedly declares that the One whom the Father sent into the world was "the Son" (e.g. 1 John 4:14). He was "the Son" before and after His birth at Bethlehem. Secondly, we must affirm that He became truly human. The Gospels faithfully record for us the reality of His humanity in describing His tiredness and thirst. Only as One who was truly man could He suffer and bleed and died in our place as the sacrifice for our sins. These truths of His deity and of His humanity are both to be found in John 1:14: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth". Thus, the tiny infant form that was upheld in the arms of Mary His mother, was at the same time the Mighty God "upholding all things by the word of His power" (Heb. 1:3). "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh"! (1 Tim. 3:16). The hymnwriter captures it well:

Mark the sacrifice appointed,

See who bears the awful load;

'Tis the Word, the Lord's Anointed,

Son of Man and Son of God!

(T. Kelly)

As well as John 1, there are two other places in the New Testament where the Lord is presented as the Word. In 1 John 1, and in Revelation 19:11-16 which views the Word as the Judge. How different His return to earth will be from His first Advent in the cattle-shed! For He will come at the head of the armies of heaven to wage the fearful campaign of Armageddon and judge the living nations.

The letter to the Hebrews opens by informing us that God has spoken in His Son, The Word. This not only means through the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth but also and especially through His Person and His actions, for in these the glory of God was seen. In Hebrews 1:2-4, He is given the highest imaginable descriptive titles both in relation to the universe (Creator, Upholder, Heir) and also in relation to God Himself (radiance, image, Son). This glorious and unique Person is presented as the grand finale, or last word, of God's Self-disclosure. With Peter, who was eyewitness of His majesty on the mount of Transfiguration, we may say "such a voice" (2 Pet. 1:17)! Yet, never more awesome than when He answered nothing to His accuse~. The Silent Logos! The silence of the Word then expressed perfectly, as ever, the glory of the eternal God.

References:

(1) The New Bible Commentary Revised (IVP) page 930.

(2) Knowing God (Hodder) J. Packer page 56.

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