The eternal Word

To Israelites of Old Testament times, God’s word was more than something merely written down or spoken out. It was something active, so that when God expressed his will, that will was carried out. God spoke, and it was done (Gen 1:3; Ps 33:9; Isa 55:10-11). By his active word, God created the universe (Gen 1:6,9,14; Ps 33:6). God’s word had such life and power that people thought of it almost as if it were a person – God’s living agent or messenger (Ps 107:20; 147:15,18).

In John’s Gospel Jesus is called the Word (Greek: logos). Greek philosophers used logos in speaking of what they believed to be the principle of reason in the universe. John may have kept this in mind when he was writing, but he uses logos mainly in the Old Testament sense. The Word of God is the living and active agent of God, which existed before creation and was the means by which God created. It is not just like a person, but is a person – not ‘it’ but ‘he’. He is not just with God; he is God. Though distinct from the Father, he is inseparably one with him (John 1:1-3). He is the source not only of physical life but also


of the full and spiritual life that God desires people to have. He brings the light of God into the world, and not even the darkness caused by sin can put it out (John 1:4-5).

John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus as the light of the world. John called people to faith and repentance so that they would be prepared to receive Jesus, but John himself could not give them the light and life of God. Only Jesus could do that (John 1:6-9).

Jesus’ coming into the world was like the coming of a person to his home town. But the people who lived in the ‘town’, especially his own people Israel, refused to receive him. Any, however, who did receive him, whether Israelites or others, became his true people. Such people are God’s true children. They come into this privileged relationship not through birth into a particular family or nation, nor through the actions of others on their behalf, but only through their personal reception of Jesus Christ (John 1:10-13).

When a person writes or speaks, the words he uses are really part of himself. They may have been in his mind for years, but they remain unknown unless he writes or speaks them. As long as the eternal Word remained with God in the unseen heavenly world, it was to a large extent hidden and unknown, but when God became a human being in the person of Jesus, the Word could be seen and heard by all (John 1:14; see also v. 18).

Although John preceded Jesus, in both his birth and his ministry, Jesus preceded John in that he was the eternal Word. The one who had always existed as God now took upon himself human form and made God known to humankind. He showed people what God was like not by commanding them to keep the law given to Israel, but by supplying grace and truth in unlimited supply to meet all their needs (John 1:15-18).

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