4/11/10

John 1:1-2 - The Word Was... - Part 2

John 1:1-2 – The Word Was…Part 2

1) THE WORD WAS GOD

John 1:1–2 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

Today we deal with one of the more controversial statements concerning Jesus Christ.
  • theos ēn ho logos – The Word was God.

Many liberal scholars say that the translation should read the Word was “divine in quality” or “a god”.
  • This is because theos, ‘God’, does not have an article.
  • But conservative scholars argue that John’s grammar in fact makes it clear:
    • “By placing the article “the” before “Word,” [instead of before God] “Word” must be the subject of the linking verb “was,” and the statement can only be rendered “the Word was God” – NTSK.
    • Not to mention that “there is a perfectly serviceable word in Greek for ‘divine’ (namely theios)” – John MacArthur.

Was Jesus Christ God?
  • Jews don’t think so.
  • Muslims don’t think so.
    • Muslim slogan states “There is no God, but God” – AYBD.
  • Atheists don’t think so.
  • And certainly many Protestants don’t think so.
    • “I reject the virgin birth. I reject substitutionary atonement. I reject the divinity of Jesus. I reject heaven and hell in the traditional sense, and I am not alone” – Darryl, a Presbyterian Minister as quoted from Daniel Dennett’s study on unbelieving clergy.

But John is telling us that the Word, Jesus Christ, is God.
  • Or as C.K. Barrett puts it, “the deeds and words of Jesus are the deeds and words of God”.
  • And he goes on to say that “if this be not true the book [John] is blasphemous” - C.K. Barrett.

The Bible certainly is unified in its assessment of Jesus’ divinity:
  • Jeremiah 23:5–6 (ESV) — 5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch… 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
  • John 20:28 (ESV) — 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
  • Titus 2:13 (ESV) — 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
  • 2 Peter 1:1 (ESV) — 1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
  • 1 Corinthians 16:21–24 (ESV) — 21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

So it is clear that the NT writers considered Jesus to be God.
  • We must ask the question, where did they get this idea that Jesus is God?
  • Did they just make it up or did they learn of it from Christ Himself?
  • If the belief in Christ’s divinity didn’t come from Jesus Himself, then “the belief of the earliest Christians in this regard becomes inexplicable” – William Lane Craig.

With regards to Jesus view of His own divinity:
  • There are liberal scholars (Jesus Seminar) who claim that Jesus never claimed divinity for Himself.
  • And any instance in the Bible where it seems that he does was added in later.
  • There are also Christian movements (Emergent Church) that say we read too much into it.
  • As just noted, however, Christ as God was taught by the earliest Christians.
    • If they didn’t learn this from Christ, one must speculate from where they learned this and why they would teach this and why they would die for something they knew not to be true.

And while it is true that Jesus did not make it a habit of going around telling people, “I am God.”
  • Both His words and even more so in His actions, it is clear that He thought of Himself as God.
  • And both His words and His actions were the source of the NT writers’ claims of His divinity.

We will examine how and why.

Examples of Jesus’ ACTIONS and WORDS and why they reveal that “the Word was God”:
In “A Reasonable Faith”, W.L. Craig examines at least 13 aspects of Jesus ministry that indicate His divinity.
  • We will take a look at the following 4:
    • His approach to teaching and the Law
    • His use of the phrase, “Truly, Truly I say to you”
    • His miracles
    • His view of salvation
One – His approach to teaching and the Law:
A typical rabbi’s teaching style was seen to be authoritative because the source material from which they taught was deemed to have authority.
  • They would quote the law, the prophets or oral law and explain what it means.
  • Jesus, in stark contrast, taught as one who was the very source of authority – even above that of the law and the prophets.

The best example of this is seen in the Sermon on the Mount.
  • In Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, & 43, we see the following method:
    • “You have heard that it was said… VS. …But I say to you…”
  • Here we see that Jesus “placed his personal authority on a par with that of the divine law” and “he adjusted the Law on his own authority.” - Craig

But Jesus’ view of His authority is even more profound than this – see Matthew 5:31-32:
  • “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
  • Here, Jesus claims the authority to actually change, correct and reinterpret the law! (See Mark 10:2-9)

From these examples, we see that Jesus saw Himself as the source of authority for the law.
  • “Jesus seems to assume an authority over Torah that no Pharisee or OT Prophet assumed – the authority to set it aside.” – Ben Witherington.
  • Jewish scholar Ben-Chorin states, “The sense of the unique, absolute authority that is evident from this way of acting remains deeply problematic for the Jewish view of Jesus.”
    • This is because from a Jewish perspective, only God has the authority to give the law.

Two – His use of the phrase, “Truly, Truly [amen] I say to you”:
  • John 3:3 (ESV) — 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
  • John 6:53 (ESV) — 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
  • John 8:51 (ESV) — 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
  • John 8:58 (ESV) — 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

From Jesus’ use of this phrase, we see that He saw Himself as the source of authority for truth.
  • This phrase is historically unique to Jesus.
  • Often, the phrase is followed by a new or revised exhortation that is disobeyed at the listeners own peril.
  • Jesus refers to himself, “I say to you”, when he makes such exhortations.
  • This is why Jewish scholars say, “This ‘I’ is in itself sufficient to drive Judaism away from Gentiles forever” – Ahad ha’Am.
  • A prophet of God would have said, “Truly, truly, God says to you.”
  • Only God would say “I”.

Three – His miracles (one example of many):
  • John 9:1–3 & 6-7 (ESV) — 1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him…. 6 Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Jesus healed the man by His own authority.
  • He gave no credit to anyone else nor did he ascribe the source of the power to heal to anyone else.
  • He did not pray for the healing, He just did it.
  • Matthew 11:4–5 (ESV) — 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.
    • Here Jesus makes a reference to Isaiah 35:1-6 and by implication is saying God is here and is doing what Isaiah say He would do and I am He.

This would not have gone unnoticed by witnesses (especially in light of His claims to be Messiah, etc.).
  • In fact, in Judaism, God is the one who heals the sick of Israel (Howard Kee & W.L. Craig).
  • 2 Kings 5:7 (ESV) — 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

POI – By comparison, the disciples healed in the following manner:
  • Acts 3:6–7 (ESV) — 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.

Four – His understanding of salvation (one example of many):
  • John 14:6–7 (ESV) — 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Who is the source of authority on salvation? God is.
  • But Jesus says He is!
  • Salvation comes from God + Jesus words that He, Himself, is “The way” = Jesus is God.
  • Know Me + is to know God AND See Me + is to see God = Jesus is God.

Summary of Jesus Words and Actions:
  • Jesus knew the OT, Jewish theology and Jewish expectations.
  • He knew His actions were going to be interpreted as one who was taking upon Himself the authority of God.
    • This truth is borne out not only in how the Jews responded to him, but also by how all unbelievers respond to him now.
  • We have examined only 4 of at least 13 facets of Jesus ministry that point to his Divinity.
  • And in just those 4, we see how Jesus purposely asserted and claimed an authority that only God could rightly claim.
  • So the simple truth is He is either God or an insane heretic.
    • “When Jewish scholars do consider the personal claims or self-understanding of Jesus, the majority conclude that Jesus did consider Himself to be the Messiah, though, of course, they consider Him to have been tragically deluded in this opinion” – William Lane Craig.

So the third brush stroke of the context John is painting for us is:
  • “Here is a man who thought of Himself as the promised Messiah, God’s only Son, the Danielic Son of Man to whom all dominion and authority would be given, who claimed to act and speak with Divine authority, who held Himself to be a worker of miracles, and who believed that peoples eternal destiny hinged on whether or not they believed in Him…Jesus did intend to stand in the very place of God Himself” – W.L. Craig.
  • Jesus is God!