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. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-5 (ESV)
Scripture is written with an amazing economy of words. There is not one wasted word, not one bit of filler or fluff, within its 66 books. In order to truly mine the depths of meaning in God’s Word we need to slow down a bit and think about what is being said. And to whom. And why.
The opening of John’s gospel is one of the richest passages in all of Scripture. Here we discover the eternal Logos (λόγος), or “Word”. The λόγος has always existed, alongside God and as part of God.
To understand the importance of John’s choice of words is to understand just what the λόγος is. In Greek philosophy, the λόγος is wisdom, the reason or causation of one’s argument. The λόγος, while translated “word” does not refer to actual written words per se, but to the meaning behind them, the reasoning for one’s thoughts and actions.
This idea was important to the Greeks (Gentiles). Stoic Greeks saw the λόγος as the force behind all of existence. Creation is because of the λόγος.
To Jewish philosophers of Jesus’ day, the idea of the λόγος was equally important. Philo of Alexander (a Greek-influenced Jewish philosopher who taught during Jesus’ lifetime) saw the λόγος of God as the glue that holds all of creation together and keeps it running. In short, the λόγος is the very essence of God.
So, what exactly is John telling us in these first verses of His gospel? Let’s look a little further down in his introduction: “And the Word (λόγος) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, ESV). Jesus is the λόγος – the very essence of God, Who took on flesh and lived with us, fully God and fully man. Jesus lived before His earthly birth, part of the triune God. He is the Light Who overcame darkness.
Moreover, He was active in the creation of the universe. As John points out, all things were made through Him. Nothing could exist without Him. Paul puts an even finer point on the subject of Christ as the λόγος :
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. – Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)
To take it even further, the author of Hebrews opens his letter as such:
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs – Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV).
Jesus, the “radiance of the glory of God”, the “exact imprint of his nature”. In other words, the λόγος of God, His very essence made flesh. If you want to know what God “looks” like, look at Jesus. He was not just a good man. He was no mere teacher. He was human, but He was/is God. He walked this earth, offering forgiveness, performing miracles, teaching wisdom, and loving as no one else before or since.
Jesus endured all the pain and suffering of a common criminal, and did so for a people He knew would reject Him and call for His crucifixion. This Jesus, Who died so we might live, is the very essence of God, Who was present at creation (“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”, Genesis 1:26, ESV, with italics added for emphasis). And yet He took on flesh, lived as one of us, experienced sorrow and pain and suffering, and did so without sin or fault. All so He could be the perfect, only acceptable sacrifice for our sin. He bore our sin, removed our iniquity, and did so as a compassionate act of grace through Love. Who else but the very λόγος of God Himself could do that?