In The Beginning
IN THE BEGINNING
By Mark E. Hardgrove, Ph.D., D.Min.
Text: John 1:1-17, NKJV
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 nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said,'He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'"
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.
This year every sermon, every Sunday, will focus on one thing, and that is the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul told the Corinthian believers, “ For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2-3, NIV). For Paul everything revolved around Jesus Christ “who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6, NKJV). So this year we will keep our eyes on Jesus, because like Peter walking on the water, it is only when we get our eyes off of Jesus that we start sinking beneath the waves.
As we know, the story of Christ, or Messiah, begins in the Old Testament. In fact, the story begins in Genesis 3:15 where God tells the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
New Testament account of Christ begins with the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each of the Gospels begins the account of Jesus at different point in the story. Matthew’s Gospel opens with the genealogy of Jesus, starting with Abraham. Mark’s Gospel opens with John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord. Luke begins with miracle of John the Baptist’s birth as the forerunner of the Messiah. John’s Gospel, however, goes back before any of the other Gospels. John goes back to the beginning, and on this first day of the year 2012, I want to do what John did and go back to the beginning.
This will be a 52 week journey into the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, and I promise you that this journey will change your life. You cannot spend this much time with Jesus and not be changed. In Acts 4:13 the writer Luke tells us that when Peter and John were arrested for preaching the gospel, and brought before the high priest and other leaders of the Temple, these leaders “. . . saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” These ordinary, unlearned fishermen schooled these religious elite, and they did it simply because they had walked with, talked with, listen to, touched and were touched by Jesus. That’s our goal. We want people to know by the words we speak and the life we live that we have been with Jesus and we will never be the same.
I) THE HISTORICAL JESUS
I read a rather long section of Scripture, but I think it is important for us to begin by putting the life of Christ into perspective. In the Birth Narratives we see the humanity of Jesus. Though the conception was miraculous, Jesus was born as a human baby from His mother Mary. Next week we will see that He grew and matured as any human child would have. But before we go any further into the humanity of Christ, we need to remember that before Jesus become flesh and dwelt among us, before He became a baby, before He died on an old rugged cross, back in the beginning, before Bethlehem, before anything, Jesus already was, and He was God.
More often than not, it is the fact of the Divinity of Jesus that becomes the dividing line for truth and heresy. It is the Word made flesh that separates Christianity from other religions such as Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny the Divinity of Jesus and who claim He was at best, an archangel, but certainly not God. It separates us from the Muslims who teach that Jesus was a great prophet, but nothing more. It separates us from the Mormons who argue that Jesus and Lucifer were spirit brothers, co-equal as the sons of God.*
No one can seriously deny the reality of the historical person named Jesus of Nazareth. Even the most ardent skeptics will usually concede that Jesus was a real historical person, but the problem comes when we declare that while Jesus was a man, He was not just a man. The problem comes when we say that He lived and died, but then He rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father where He ever lives to make intercession for the saints.
Many people, even people of false religions will say that Jesus was a man, perhaps a miracle worker, or a great prophet, maybe even an archangel, and nothing more. But John’s Gospel will not allow us to leave it there. John’s Gospel takes us to another level and forces us to face the fact that Jesus was God in the flesh.
II) THE LOGOS
John’s Gospel, right from the first chapter and the opening verses, powerfully puts Jesus into proper perspective with regard to both His Divinity and His humanity. John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” But he also writes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
The Greek word translated “Word” is logos. In the Greek context it signifies the “reason” behind everything that exists. In the Jewish culture it means the “speech” of God, as found in Genesis chapter 1, that calls everything into existence. In fact, the opening words of John’s Gospel are identical to the opening words of the Greek translation of the Old Testament, “In the beginning . . .” Mark’s Gospel opens with the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, but John’s takes us back to the beginning of everything and says that the Word was there, and the Word is the source of the creation of all that is.
John says, “In the beginning was the Word.” There is no possible translation of the Greek language in which John writes, by which anyone can say that there was ever a time when the Word did not exist. Yet we know that only God can be eternal, so John goes on to make this point as well. John says “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Well there you go!
The word can be eternal because the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same word, “was,” that tells us that there was never a time when the Word did not exist, is the same word that tells us that the Word always has been with God, and the Word always has been God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
John goes on to tell us that “All things were made through Him [through the Word], and without Him nothing was made that was made.” Everything that was created began when “God said” and Word went forth. Those who try to say that Jesus is not God must argue that Jesus is a created being. But if Jesus is created then you have a philosophical paradox, because that would mean that Jesus would have had to have created Himself before He even existed. That is impossible by any standard of logic.
So there is no way that it can be argued that Jesus is a created being. Jesus existed as the eternal Word before He came to earth as the baby Jesus. Jesus is eternal because Jesus is God, He is the source of all life and He is the light of men. The “light of men” is a reference to the spark of life, that which makes us self-aware and aware of God’s presence. The Word brings us the light that opens our mind and spirit to the reality of God, to the ability to worship God, and to the willingness to serve God.
III) THE LIGHT
Verse 5 takes us back to Genesis 1:3 where “God said, ‘Let there be light; and there was light.’” When God spoke, Logos moved. When God said, Logos made it happen. When God spoke the Word, the Word made light to shine in the darkness.
John said in verse 5, “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Genesis chapter 1 is speaking of physical darkness, but John is using that imagery, that metaphor, to speak to the spiritual condition of the people in his day. They were darkened in their understanding and they needed a light to shine and show them the way. So John tells us that the light showed up, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
The word that is translated “comprehend,” is from the Greek word katalambano, which literally means “to seize, to take hold of, to overcome.” It is used figuratively to mean “to comprehend, or to grasp intellectually.” Some translations take it in the figurative sense meaning to “comprehend,” as an intellectual exercise, but other translations take it more literally to mean “to apprehend, to overcome, or to overpower.” When understood more literally, it would be translated, “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness is powerless to stop it.”
In fact, when God spoke Logos into the darkness and said, “Let there be light,” the darkness could not stop the Light. When the light comes on, the darkness has to back off. When the light shines, the darkness gives ground. When God says, “Let there be light!” My friends, “there is light.”
When Jesus was born the darkness tried to stop the light as Herod ordered all babies in the region to be killed, but the darkness could not prevail. When Jesus was being tempted of Satan in the wilderness, the darkness was trying to put out the light, but the darkness could not win. When Jesus was died on the cross and was buried in a tomb, darkness thought that it had won, but the light could not be defeated and on the third day the light burst forth and the darkness couldn’t stop Him.
IV) THE WORD MADE FLESH
John asserts, in no uncertain terms that the Word is eternal, the word is eternally with God, and the Word is God. He tells us that the Word created everything that is created, and the Word is the life and the light of men. He goes on to emphasize, through John the Baptist, that this Word is the Light and that the Light gives light to all men. But in verse 14 John tells us that this eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
This Word is eternal, and has always been God, but John tells us that something profound, something mind-bending, almost incomprehensible happens, he says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The eternal stepped into time. Spirit became flesh. God became man and the glory of the Father followed Him into His human condition. John says, “We saw it with our own eyes, the glory of God, full of grace and truth.” The Word, the Light, the Son of God, truth and life, Jesus Christ has come. The eternal Word became flesh.
In his first epistle John elaborates on this reality saying, “We saw Him with our own eyes. We heard Him with our own ears. We touched Him our own hands. And we are telling you that this Life which was with the Father and, was revealed to us, is Jesus Christ, and He can cleanse us from all sin. He can remove darkness and fill our soul with light.”
V) GRACE FOR GRACE
How does He do it? Look at verse 16. John says, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” The Greek word for “grace” is charis. In the Greek John says “we have all received charis anti charis,” which means “grace for grace,” or more dynamically (and perhaps more accurately) “grace upon grace.”
Grace is the unmerited favor of God, and in fact, every day that God gives me life, He is giving me something that I don’t deserve. I don’t deserve the life He has given me, because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death. But here I am, still in the land of the living. Do you know what that is? That’s grace upon grace. It was grace yesterday, it is grace today, and if He grants me tomorrow, it will be grace tomorrow.
My friends, the Word become flesh, He dwelt among us and brought us life and light. The darkness tried to stop Him, but the darkness could not put out the light. I didn’t deserve it, but the Light has shone in my life and I’m alive because today because of grace.
John writes in his epistle
1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2, NKJV)
John says that we should not sin, but then he says that if we do sin, we still have and Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. Do you know what that is? That’s grace upon grace. That’s the nature of God. It’s amazing grace, abundant grace . . . it’s grace upon grace. Heaped on, overflowing, undeserved, but unreserved grace. One song writer said it this way, “If not for grace, where would I be? I’d be hopeless case, I’d be an empty space, if not for grace.”
As we being this journey this year, and begin to walk with Jesus, we need to remember that it is all about God’s love God’s grace. We didn’t merit the love of God that moved Him to send His only begotten Son to take on the form of sinful flesh to seek and to save the lost, but that’s grace. We didn’t deserve the blood of Jesus to be poured out for our sins, but it was grace upon grace. When we fall, when we mess up and stumble along the way and commit a sin, God would be well within His rights to cut us off from the land of the living. But He says we have an Advocate with the Father. We have a high priest in Jesus who lives forever to intercede for us—grace upon grace.
We are going to observe communion in a couple minutes but before we do, I want us to respond to the Word and if we need a double dose of grace this morning, there is enough and then some, for where sin abounds, grace doth much more abound.
*Notes: In the Discourses of Brigham Young, on Pg.53-54 he lets it be known that Lucifer is the second son, the one known as "Son of the Morning."
"Who will redeem the earth, who will go forth and make the sacrifice for the earth and all things it contains?" The Eldest Son said: "Here am I"; and then he added, "Send me." But the second one, which was "Lucifer, Son of the Morning," said, "Lord, here am I, send me, I will redeem every son and daughter of Adam and Eve that lives on the earth, or that ever goes on the earth."