Prologue to the Gospel of John Part 1: Jesus and His Relationship to God
John 1:1-2, Isaiah 55:9
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
John 1:1-2 NASB1995
As I was writing the Advent/Christmas devotionals from the detailed passages at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, my thoughts kept jumping over to the Gospel of John. Steve is also finding some remarkable thoughts in these same passages as we ponder Advent/Christmas/Epiphany. I have decided to deep dive into the mysteries and beauty of the Prologue to the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18) to end this year and possibly go into the first days of 2023. This beloved apostle of Jesus and the immature “Son of Thunder” grew into a man of incredible insight and humility and was the appointed guardian of the mother of Jesus (Mary) by Jesus while He was on the cross. John likely wrote his Gospel after the three synoptic Gospels were made known. Historians cite evidence that John wrote it while leading the congregation at Ephesus as a senior Bishop/Elder and his letters may also have been directed to that church. John was later exiled to the island of Patmos, where he received the Revelation from God. We visited Patmos a few years ago on a cruise and I can just picture this place in my mind as I write this - a small desert-like island off the coast of Turkey, with an Orthodox Church located in the cave of Revelation and the beautiful Monastery of St. John on top of the highest hill on the island. John figures quite prominently in souvenirs from the island and you can get icons, paintings, and other trinkets honoring the saint. We also enjoyed a nice, shady outdoor cafe for a short time in scorching August heat.
John is the only apostle of the twelve who lived to old age, escaping an attempt by the Romans under Domitian to kill him by boiling him in oil (the Emperor Domitian despised Christians, following on and adding to Nero’s attempts to wipe them out). The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke deal with the “what” of the life of Jesus and mostly focus on Jesus the perfect Man by identifying His biblical genealogy or prophetic fulfillments. The Gospel of John examines the “who” of Jesus and firmly grounds us in His Divinity, as part of the Triune God.
The first two verses of the Gospel of John are simply breathtaking! I can read these simple words over and over and realize that the complexity embedded in those words far exceeds any quantum physics set of equations. John uses “Word” several times in this prologue. In Greek, “Word” is Logos, which has many meanings (e.g., speech, word, doctrine, prophecy, discourse, reason, account) but in particular it means this in the Prologue to the Gospel of John, according to the Blue Letter Bible:
In John, denotes the essential Word of God, Jesus Christ, the personal wisdom and power in union with God, his minister in creation and government of the universe, the cause of all the world's life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man's salvation put on human nature in the person of Jesus the Messiah, the second [equal] person in the Godhead, and shone forth conspicuously from His words and deeds.
In the beginning…Jesus was there before our time began and the universe was created in the eternity past. He was WITH God and He WAS God. The doctrine of the Triune God is a marvelous mystery of the Christian faith and is truly incomprehensible by the human mind. Perhaps a drawing from Precept Austin would be useful at this point to help confuse the matter:
The Apostle John was able to somewhat grasp this concept with his words, but they are still inadequate to the task. It is the greatest of mysteries! A superb article about the Trinity can be found on Bible.org and it includes this same diagram. Here is an excerpt from that article explaining this diagram:
The three Persons are the same in substance, i.e., in essence or in their essential nature, but distinct in subsistence which describes God’s mode or quality of existence in three Persons. By mode of existence we do not mean one God acting in three different ways, but one Divine Being existing in three distinct Persons within one Divine Substance or Essence. Again, this is not exactly three individuals as we think of three personal individuals, but one Divine Being who acts and thinks as one within a three-fold personality. This is incomprehensible to our finite and limited minds, but it is the teaching of the Scripture. “In the Being of God there are not three individuals, but only three personal self distinctions within the one Divine Essence.”
Yes, I know that is as clear as mud and looks like an Escher diagram or sounds like a Quantum entanglement (a current theory in physics that is also impossible to understand but deals with an interrelation of particles but also an independence of those particle characteristics over distances). Tri-theism (three distinct Gods) or modalism (a single God acting in three different ways) are errors that have been made about the Trinity. Gnosticism (Jesus was a Spirit, not a human) and Arianism (Jesus was less than God) are also in error. It is, as described in the Bible.org article: Unity in diversity (God is One with three personal “beings”), Equality in Dignity (the three “beings” are equal and most holy), and Diversity in Operation (the three “beings” operate in different ways). I absolutely love this incomprehensibility, being a geek who loves obtuse sciences like quantum physics, because it speaks to our God’s infinite and rational ways that we cannot grasp in this lifetime. Isaiah captures this well:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 NASB1995
Our Savior is there in eternity past to eternity future and is there now. How glorious for those who come to their salvation!
My next devotional will examine John 1:3 - Jesus and His relationship to Creation.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer -
Dear God - You are infinite in Your powers and Your thoughts and Your mystery, but it is all founded in Your Love! I am deeply humbled by the incomprehensibility of the Trinity and know that this is the Truth of our Creation and our Salvation. Amen
“Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org”
Bible.org, Precept Austin and Blue Letter Bible are three excellent on-line Bible commentary and study resources.