Accept God’s Promised Savior

Explore the Bible Series

December 23, 2007

 

Background Passage: The Gospel of John 1:1-18

Lesson Passage: The Gospel of John 1:1-18

 

Introduction:  All four Gospel’s emphasize “beginnings.”  Matthew and Luke provide moving nativity narratives and genealogical accounts, thus focusing on the birth and lineage of Jesus.  Mark, on the other hand, began his Gospel with a description of the initial stages of Jesus’ ministry.  Of course, the Gospel of John adds a distinctive understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ, a perspective that predates the incarnation and even the creation of the world. 

 

Most scholars propose a late First-Century date for the Book of John (Some authorities date the book before the Fall of Jerusalem, in A.D. 70).  If we affirm, as I do, that the Apostle John wrote this book, then this Gospel records the reflections of an aged saint of God, moved, we believe, by the Holy Spirit.  The old apostle had many years to study, pray, and meditate on the things he had seen and heard as a disciple of Jesus.  His sublime Gospel expresses a ripe, sweet theology that satisfies the person who reads it with an open heart.  Along, perhaps, with Psalms and Romans, no book of the Bible has helped and encouraged God’s people more than the Gospel of John.  In the pages of this book we discover materials the other evangelists did not record: the story of the marriage feast in Cana, Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, the raising of Lazarus, the farewell address of Jesus, and Christ’s high priestly prayer. 

 

One unique theme that characterizes this Gospel relates to John’s concept of the “Word” (Logos), a theme that dominates our lesson for this week.  Some New Testament authorities believe John borrowed this idea from secular, Greek philosophy (from Heraclitus, the Stoics and Philo), but the text seems to point in a different direction.  The first words of the Gospel (“In the beginning…”) do not draw the mind to the Greek philosophers; rather, they reflect John’s familiarity with the Torah and the creation narrative of Genesis.  Furthermore, the text contains other Old Testament ideas: creation, life, light and darkness, the role of John the Baptist as a prophet from the Lord, and the children of God.  “Word”, therefore, carries Hebrew, not Gentile, connotations. Note John’s observations about the Logos (I owe a debt to George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament for this analysis).

 

  1. John used “Word” to assert the pre-existence of Christ (v. 1a).
  2. John used “Word” to affirm the deity of Christ (v.1b).
  3. John used “Word” to reveal Christ’s agency in the work of creation (v. 3).
  4. John, remarkably, used “Word” to claim the entrance of Christ into the realm of history, the Logos who took on flesh and dwelled among us (v. 14).
  5. John used “Word” to denote that Christ became flesh to reveal God to mankind as life, light, grace, truth, and glory

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   The Word (1:1-15)

A.    The Word and God (vv. 1-2): These verses assert the pre-existence of Christ, the equality of the Word with God, and the Word’s transcendence (That is, he is outside of creation and stands before and above it).

B.     The Word and creation (v. 3): He was the agent of creation (the world was made through him).

C.     The Word and salvation (vv.4-5): The fall of Adam submerged the world in death and darkness, but Jesus came as the source of life and light. Recall our recent Sunday School lessons from Genesis.  God warned Adam and Eve that eating of the tree would bring death, and the tragic summary of human existence leading up to the Flood reveals a world characterized by death and darkness.  Jesus, the Word, came to bring life and light to dying, dismal world.

 

II.                The Word and John the Baptist (1:6-8): In the Early Church, some seekers believed John might be the Promised One, and church history indicates that a “John cult” continued for sometime after Pentecost.  All four gospels clearly portray John as an important witness to the Messiah, but just a witness. Perhaps the Apostle John included this paragraph to correct any misconceptions about the Baptist.

A.    John the Baptist was a man sent from God (v. 6): Unlike the Word, John was a mere man, a great prophet, but just a man, nonetheless.  This remarkable prophet was not a renegade, self-appointed prophet; rather, God sent him for a specific purpose.

B.     John came to bear witness to the Light (vv. 7-8): The text makes very clear that John was not the Light, but he was a witness to the Light of the World.

 

III.             The Word and the Salvation of Mankind (vv. 9-18)

A.    The universal illumination of all men (v. 9): The grammar and vocabulary of the verse seem clear.  Everyone (John uses a singular noun which may mean “every individual man”) has sufficient light to understand something of Christ.  Men do not fail to come to the Light because he does not shine brightly.  God’s common grace reveals something of the wonder and glory of Christ to all (This seems to reflect Paul’s more expansive thought in Romans 1:20).

B.     The hostility of the world to the Light (vv. 10-11): The Word came into the world; yet the world did not receive him.  Indeed, their rejection was so thorough that even “his own” (I think a reference to the Hebrews who served as custodians and beneficiaries of God’s Old Testament covenants and promises) did not receive the Messiah.

C.     The receptivity of those who believed (vv. 12-13): The passage makes clear that receiving Christ means to believe in him, to embrace him as the incarnate revelation of the person of Jehovah. Those who receive the Word gain rights (status, full authority) as God’s children and heirs.  John used the analogy of new birth to describe these children of God.  They, of course, were not his physical offspring; rather, they were born but the sovereign prerogative of God.

 

 

IV.             The Word and the Incarnation (vv. 14-18)

A.    The Word became flesh (v. 14a): This phrase translates an Aorist tense that denotes an action that takes place at a particular point in time.  During the later years of the First Century, an early form of Docetic Gnosticism circulated through the Mediterranean region.  These false teachers affirmed the deity of Christ, but they questioned the true humanity of the Word.  John made clear that the Word became flesh (in the Greek, an earthy, blunt expression).  The pre-existent creator became a human being.

B.     The Word dwelled among us (14b-17): The word “dwelled” translates a term that means “tabernacled”; that is, the Word sojourned with man.  This intimate identification with humankind must have conjured, for John’s Jewish readers, memories of the Tabernacle in the wilderness.  The glory of the Lord dwelled in the Holy of Holies, and symbols of the Lord’s presence, the pillar of cloud and fire, comforted the Lord’s people.  Christ, in the incarnation, became the visible manifestation of the God’s presence.  Grace and truth meet in Christ, and John the Baptist bore witness to the supremacy of Jesus.  John, in a sense, was the last and greatest of the prophets of the Old Covenant, but the majestic images and prophets of the Old Testament yielded to the surpassing glory and sufficiency of the Word.  John summarized the intent of this section, “For the Law was given by through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

C.     The Word’s unique relationship with the Father (v. 18):  This verse reveals the high priestly office of the Word.  In the Tabernacle rites, only the high priest was allowed, once a year, into the Holy of Holies.  The seat of God’s presence, closed to all the people, served as a symbol of the unapproachable, impeccable presence of God, and the people could not see this holy scene.  Unlike the earthy priests, the Word dwelled at the side of the Father, and he came to the world to make the Father known to men.