John 1:1–4, 10–18comment (0)
December 1, 2011
By Joseph F. Scrivner
Related Scripture: John 1:1–4, 10–18
Bible Studies for Life
Assistant Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University
RECOGNIZE GOD’S GIFT
John 1:1–4, 10–18
Mark’s Gospel begins with Jesus as an adult. Matthew and Luke start earlier with the birth of Jesus. John goes back even further, so to speak, as he initiates his narrative by describing Jesus in terms of a relationship that precedes time.
Jesus Is Completely God (1–4)
The first words repeat the opening of Genesis 1:1. Yet John uses “in the beginning” to refer to a reality outside of creation. John does not begin with a reference to “Jesus.” Instead he refers to “the Word” as existent before time, as “with God,” and yet at the same time “was God.” This divine Word is also the source and light of all creation. Further the Word did not maintain exclusive transcendence. Rather “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us” (14). This Word is the “One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (14b) This is Jesus Christ (17).
This belief about Jesus is a key reason for the animosity of His opponents. Jesus is considered worthy of execution because “He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). Later Jesus is nearly stoned after He asserts, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).
John’s statements are notable because they are explicit regarding Jesus as God. Yet there are comparable claims in other New Testament books.
For instance, when Paul calls on his readers to follow Christ’s example, he cites a hymn that refers to Jesus as equal with God (Phil. 2:5–8). Similarly Colossians contains striking statements about Jesus as fully God (Col. 1:15–20; 2:9–10).
This claim that Jesus is God is a defining belief of Christianity. Indeed John’s central message is evident in this early, ecumenical confession: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through Him all things were made” (Council of Nicea).
Jesus Is Completely Man (10–11, 14–15)
This conviction is remarkable because it holds that God became a finite human. This is the meaning of the Incarnation. While Christians are generally unified on this point, there has been little agreement regarding the implications of this extraordinary proposition. For instance, if humans by definition lack omniscience (before and after the fall), then does this mean Jesus did not exercise omniscience before His resurrection? Is this implied when Paul says Jesus “emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7)? Is this why Jesus said the Son does not know when this world will end (Mark 13:32)?
Likewise did Jesus have the ability to sin but lived a sinless life by the power of the Holy Spirit? One Christian theologian reportedly said, “What is not assumed is not redeemed.” Does this mean Jesus assumed the ability to sin so He could fully redeem humanity from sin? Is this the meaning of the statement in Hebrews that Jesus was “tested in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15)? What about Paul’s statement that God “made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21)? These questions are not idle speculation. Rather they help Christians avoid the dangers of an ancient heresy called “Docetism,” the belief that Jesus only seemed to be human.
Jesus Is Completely Necessary (12–13, 16–18)
Finally the Christian belief in the Incarnation is most important because of what it says about God’s faithful love for humanity. God has not abandoned humanity to its fallen, sinful plight. Instead God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, so that those who believe in Him will be saved (John 3:16). As we reflect on and share this magnificent truth, let each of us meditate deeply on how we can best imitate God’s love in every area of our lives, with believers and unbelievers.