Muhammad

John 01:06-08, 19-34, “The Witness”

How do you know what you know? In a court of law, the verdict is based not on hearsay or opinions but on facts that have been established by competent and reliable witnesses. So how do you know what you know? How do you know that what you believe about God is right? Is it simply hearsay, what others have told you? Is it just your opinion? Or is your faith in God based on facts that have been established by competent and reliable witnesses?

Today we are going to look at the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Christ.

Grünewald's Crucifixion

Grünewald’s Crucifixion

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light” (John 1:6-8 ESV).

We have all heard about this man called John the Baptist. He was that strange man who lived in the wilderness and was “clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey” (Mar 1:6 ESV).

John the Baptist was a rather strange man, wouldn’t you say?

And one of the amazing things about the gospel is the important role that John had in preparing people for the coming of Christ. We may not have thought about it much, but each of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) give much attention to the ministry of John the Baptist, this man who came before Christ to prepare the way for him.

Seven hundred years before John’s birth, Isaiah the prophet had spoken of John the Baptist as one who would be a “voice crying in the wilderness:

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. 5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” (Isaiah 40:3-5 NLT).

The last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi, had also spoken of the coming of John the Baptist:

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3:1 ESV).

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:5-6 ESV).

That is exactly what the angel Gabriel said about John the Baptist when Gabriel announced John’s birth to Zechariah.

“for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:15-17 ESV).

Yes, even John’s birth was special because his parents were elderly. Elizabeth had been barren. But God intervened and Zechariah and Elizabeth were able to have a son, John the Baptist. He was a forerunner to Christ. He was to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of Christ.

THE IMPORTANCE

The significance of John the Baptist’s ministry is not always seen, but it is clear from the gospels that John’s role in preparing the people for the Messiah was of great importance. As we have said, all four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—give much attention to the ministry of John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah. They speak of…

  • His miraculous birth of parents who had not been able to have children
  • His strange clothing
  • His bold preaching
  • His ministry of water baptism
  • His disciples
  • His baptism of Jesus Christ
  • His courage to confront King Herod
  • His imprisonment
  • His question about Jesus’ mission
  • His execution by decapitation
  • His burial

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. No other religion puts such an emphasis on the forerunner of its founder. In fact, it would be difficult for us to name a forerunner for any other religion.

Who was Muhammad’s forerunner? Who announced his coming?

  • Who was Buddha’s forerunner?
  • Or Joseph Smith’s forerunner?

Look around at the religions and cults that were based on the teachings of a man or a woman and try to find that founder’s forerunner. Who announced that that man or woman would come?

Why is this important?

Because Jesus did not just show up and say, “I am come from God. I’ve had a dream. I’ve had a vision. I receive revelations from God. Follow me.”

No, for 4,000 years the people of God had been waiting for Jesus Christ. The prophets had spoken of him for centuries. They had told about his identity, his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his coming kingdom. The prophets had even told about his forerunner, John the Baptist. And John the Baptist came and when he came, he pointed to Christ.

Furthermore, John did not come after Jesus and say, “Yes, I agree. He’s the one.” No. When John began his ministry of baptism, he did not know who the Messiah was going to be. He only knew that God had told him to prepare the way for the Messiah, and that God had given him a special sign so that he would recognize the Messiah when he came. We will see that sign in a few moments.

With everything else that we have mentioned about John (his birth, his life, his ministry, and his death), the most important thing about John is his witness. John pointed the people to Jesus Christ. As we read,

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light” (John 1:6-8 ESV).

JOHN THE BAPTIST’S PURPOSE

This Gospel tells us clearly:

  • Origin: John the Baptist was sent from God.
  • He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light.
  • Ultimate purpose: that all might believe through him.

Notice that John was not the focus of his own ministry. He did not come speaking about himself. A witness does not talk about himself. He talks about something else. He talks about someone else. He talks about what he has seen. He explains, “This is what I saw. This is what I heard. This is what happened. This is what I know.”

John did not come boasting about himself, or his birth, or his ministry, or his anointing. John’s purpose was to lift up Jesus Christ. His purpose was to point people to the light. John 1:19-22 (NLT) tells us,

This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” 20 He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” 22 “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”

Notice that John the Baptist is not talking about himself. That was not his purpose. His purpose is to point people to the light, to point them to Christ. He doesn’t tell them who he is, but who he is not!

“I am not the Messiah.”

“Are you Elijah?”

“No.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

“No.”

Elijah

John the Baptist did not see himself as Elijah, though the angel Gabriel had said of John, “he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).

And Jesus said that John the Baptist was the Elijah prophesied by Malachi, though the people failed to recognize him (Matthew 17:12).

The Prophet

What about the prophet? The Pharisees asked John, “Are you the Prophet that we have been waiting for?”

What prophet is this? What prophet are they talking about? This is another prophecy concerning the coming of Christ. The Pharisees are talking about a prophecy that Moses had made in Deuteronomy 18:15 about another prophet who would come. Moses had told the Israelites,

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers– it is to him you shall listen–(Deuteronomy 18:15- ESV).

[The LORD said,] I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 ESV).

But when we come to the end of the book of Deuteronomy, we find these words:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, (Deuteronomy 34:10 ESV).

There had been many prophets in the history of Israel—Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and many others—but none had a “face-to-face” relationship with God. They were still looking for him, waiting for him.

“Are you the Prophet?” they asked John the Baptist. No, I’m not the one.

The one who was face to face with God was Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…” That is a face to face relationship with the Father. Jesus was the Prophet that Moses had spoken of. That is another one of over 300 prophecies that Christ fulfilled.

You remember the story of Jesus multiplying the five loaves and two fishes and feeding the multitude of over 5,000 men plus woman and children:

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14 ESV).

Again in John 7,

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet” (John 7:37-40 ESV).

“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” they asked John.

“No.”

So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” (John 1:22 ESV).

John the Baptist is finally forced to say something about himself, but he will only say that he is to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming:

23 John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!'”

This tells us more about the one who would come than it does about John. John is simply preparing the way for the LORD. The one that John points to is the LORD.

JOHN’S BAPTISM

Clearly the Pharisees are not satisfied with John’s answer.

 24 Then the Pharisees who had been sent 25 asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”

John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. John was calling the nation of Israel to repent of their sin. But this was God’s nation! This was the people of God! They were a people of faith! They saw themselves as the children of God.

John calls them to repent. He tells them that being a descendent of Abraham, the father of faith, is not enough. They are unclean. They must be cleansed of their sins. Their lives must be changed. They must repent. No more corruption. No more immorality. No more lying.

John Points to Jesus

But once again, John points to Jesus. He is a witness to the presence of Christ:

26 John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. 27 Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”

John tells them that there was another one. Someone who was present in the crowd. Someone whom they had not recognized. Someone who was infinitely greater than John himself: “Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (v. 27).

JESUS THE LAMB OF GOD

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

John identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God made it clear in the Garden of Eden that without the shedding of blood there was no forgiveness of sins. A price had to be paid. God Himself clothed Adam and Even with the skins of the first animal that was sacrificed. But year after year after year, lambs were slain, showing that the blood of animals has not taken care of the sin problem.

  • Animals are not equal to us.
  • They are not voluntary victims.
  • They cannot take our place. Our sins are offences against God. No one but God can remove those offences.

Then why the sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament? They were a shadow pointing to the reality that is in Christ. Finally, the sin problem would be dealt with. Christ would be our sacrifice. Christ himself would bear our sins. Paul tells us,

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV).

Peter tells us,

… you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT).

John the Baptist points to Jesus as the Lamb of God who will take care of the sin problem. Again in the book of Revelation, we read of Christ our Lamb who was slain:

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:11-13 ESV).

Worthy is the Lamb!

Jesus the Eternal One

When John saw Jesus coming toward him, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’

How is this? John says that Jesus was coming after him. This means two things:

  1. First, Jesus was born after John the Baptist. Elizabeth was already six months pregnant with the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would conceive and bear a son named Jesus.
  2. It also means that John was the forerunner. John’s ministry would come first. Jesus would follow him. Jesus would come after him.

But now John makes the amazing remark that Jesus is “far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.” John says that the reason that Jesus is “far greater” than he is, is that Jesus existed long before John.

If Jesus came after John, how did he exist before John?

John the Baptist is pointing here to the fact that Jesus’ existence did not begin with his birth or his conception. As verse 1 says, In the beginning, the Word was already, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This is what the prophet Micah had said when he prophesied that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem:

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2 NAU).

Christ was greater than John the Baptist because he came from eternity.

Recognizing the Messiah (or the Christ)

When John the Baptist began his ministry, he did not know who the Messiah was.

31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”

John the Baptist was sent from God. He was sent to reveal the Messiah to Israel. But how would John know who the Messiah was? John knew Jesus for they were related; they were family. But he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah. He only knew that Jesus was a righteous man. So when Jesus came to John to be baptized by him,

… John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” 15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him (Matthew 3:14-15 NLT).

That’s when it happened!

10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (Mar 1:10-11 NLT)

Here the Father is speaking to His Son, and the Holy Spirit is descending from the Father and resting on the Son. We see interactions between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not three gods, but three persons in one true God.

John was a witness! He saw it happen!

32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the [Son of God, ESV] Chosen One of God” (John 1:19-34 NLT).

John the Baptist was a man sent from God to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the LORD Jesus. God had told him that he would recognize the Messiah by this: the Holy Spirit would come down on the Messiah and stay. And God told John, “He will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”

John baptized with water. It was preparation for the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. That’s what the prophets had promised:

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations (Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT).

That’s what we need! A new heart! And God’s Spirit within!

Education is wonderful, but education will not give you a new heart. Our problem is that we are sinners by nature. When Adam fell, we fell with him. And we have all chosen to go our own way.

But Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. What sin are you carrying? What sin dominates your life and gets you down and is destroying you? Jesus Christ came to take away your sin. He came to break the power of sin in you. He came to give you a new heart and a new spirit. He came to put His Spirit in you so that you would follow his ways and obey his commandments. You need more than water baptism. You need Jesus to baptize you in the Holy Spirit.

John was a witness to Jesus. No other founder of a religion had a forerunner like John. Every Gospel—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—every Gospel puts John in a place of prominence, but John himself says, “It’s not me. Jesus Christ is the One. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Advertisements

John 01:01-05, 14-18, “God in the Flesh”

We will read from John 1:1-5, 14-18.

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).

14 And the Word 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. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:14-18 ESV)

We have been considering the most amazing event in the history of the universe: the birth of Christ. Why do I call it the most amazing event in the history of the universe?

The birth of Christ is amazing because of who the Christ child is. Gabriel announces to Mary that:

  • He will be great (Luke 1:32).
  • He is the Son of the Most High God (Luke 1:32).
  • The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32).
  • He will reign over the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:33).
  • His kingdom will never end (Luke 1:33).
  • He is called “holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
  • The angels announced that he is the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Matthew tells us that:

  • This child is born King of the Jews (2:2),
  • The place of his birth had been predicted by the prophet Micah 700 years before (2:6),
  • That the prophet Isaiah had predicted that Christ would be born of a virgin, again fulfilling a 700 year old prophecy (1:20),
  • That he is conceived from the Holy Spirit (1:20),
  • That he would be called Jesus because his name means that “he will save his people from their sins” (1:21),
  • That he would be called Immanuel which means that he is God with us (1:23).

This is the most amazing event in the history of the universe because this was not simply

  • the birth of a baby, or even
  • the birth of a baby to a virgin.
  • This was not the beginning of Christ’s existence.

No. This was God who had always existed. God in the flesh. God becoming a man. God taking upon himself humanity. This is what theologians call the incarnation: God came in the flesh.

No other religion has anything quite like this.

  • In Greek mythology there are gods that come down, but the first time the gods get into a bit of trouble, they rely on their divine powers to save them. They show that they are not really human. Christ went all the way to the cross.
  • Hinduism has avatars or incarnations of a sort, but there is no historical foundation for these appearances. Take for example, Krishna. There are no dates or historical evidence for his existence. Furthermore, he was not a moral example to be followed as Christ was. Christ was without sin. Krishna was a trickster and a playboy. Stories are told of him stealing the clothes of girls who were bathing in the river. And when Krishna tries to trick a girl into marrying him, she sees that he is not real because he does not sweat. He did not really become human.

This is quite different from Jesus who “became flesh.” That is he became a real human being. He was born as a baby. He grew up to be a man:

And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him (Luke 2:40 ESV).

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52 ESV).

Jesus got hungry and thirsty and weary. He slept and sweat and bled and died. His existence was a real human existence.

  • Buddhism also has avatars, but it does not believe in the existence of God, so there is no real incarnation in Buddhism.
  • Yet the belief in avatars and incarnations in Buddhism and Hinduism shows a desire for a mediator, someone to stand between us and God, or us and Absolute Reality.
  • Mormonism too believes that men can become gods, but that is the opposite of Christianity. In Christianity, men do not become gods, but the one and only true God – and there is no other God – the one and only true God became a man and lived among us.
  • Look at Islam: The official teaching of Islam leaves no room for incarnation, but Muhammad is venerated as having been sinless, “the great intercessor,” “the supreme example of [spiritual] life and an object of devotion” and nearly of praise. According to Professor Geoffrey Parrinder, for most Muslims, Muhammad “is a personal Lord and friend, the mediator between God and man…”[i]

These various religions show that man feels the need for a mediator, someone to bridge the gap between man and God, someone to make things right between us and God. But in none of them does God really become a man.

Job longed for a mediator between himself and God: “If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together” (Job 9:33 NLT). Someone to stand between man and God. But who could that be? Who could ascend into heaven to represent us?

The importance of the Incarnation is summarized by Professor Parrinder: “If God is unknowable there can be no Incarnation; but if he can be incarnate then he is known as never before.”[ii] The Christian concept of the Incarnation responds to this need for mediation in the God-man, the God who has become man without ceasing to be God.

John, one of Jesus’ disciples, said it like this:

And the Word 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).

So who was Jesus? It is very important that we get this right. Jesus tells us in John 4:

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24 ESV).

God is looking for true worshipers. Worship is not singing a song about worship. A subtle shift has taken place in many churches. We sing about ourselves instead of about God. We say, “I worship you, I praise you, I adore you,” but we have said nothing about HIM.

Praising God is speaking of what He has done, his creative acts, how he performed great miracles, raised the dead, healed the sick, went to the cross, shed his blood to rescue us from sin, died a cruel death, took the righteous judgment of God in our place, was raised bodily from the dead, showed himself alive for 40 days, ascended to the right hand of God where he intercedes for us. Praising God speaks of his work, his deeds, his acts.

Worshiping God speaks of who He is, his character, his holiness, his grace, his love, his righteousness, his throne, his wisdom, his power, his knowledge, his presence…

We must worship God in spirit and truth. We must know the truth about God and His Son Jesus Christ.

ILLUSTRATION

Let’s say that you are a world famous painter. You have paintings in museums around the world. People pay thousands of dollars to purchase just one of your paintings. I don’t know you, but a friend introduces you to me, calling your name, and telling me that you are the painter. But since I’ve never heard of you and don’t recognize your name, I assume that you paint houses. So I tell you that my house needs painting and ask if you would be available to paint it. I have not paid you a compliment. Actually, I have insulted you.

Now consider Jesus. He is the eternal Son of God. He is the image of the invisible God. John will tell us as Paul does and the writer to the Hebrews, that the Son of God created everything that has been created. He created everything that is visible and everything that is invisible. He created all the angels. He created thrones and principalities and powers and authorities. He upholds all things by the word of his power. When he came into the world, all God’s angels bowed down and worshiped him. He is God the Son, but you treat him like a created being, a being that is not eternal but had a beginning like you and me. Does he receive that as praise, as worship? No. You have failed to worship him according to the truth of who He is.

The babe in Bethlehem was none other than God in the flesh. That is amazing. J. I. Packer says that many people find difficulties in the gospel of Jesus Christ in all the wrong places:

  • They find it difficult to believe that the death of Jesus of Nazareth could put away the world’s sins.
  • Or they have doubts about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Is it possible that a dead man could rise again?
  • Others put into doubt the virgin birth. How can we believe that Jesus was born of a virgin?
  • Others find difficulty in the miracles, that he walked on the water, or fed 5000 men plus women and children with five loaves the two fish, or that he raised the dead.

How are we supposed to believe these things?

The real difficulty does not lie in these things. The real mystery is not in the miracles. The real difficulty is not:

  • In the Good Friday message of the atonement, or
  • In the Easter message of the resurrection.

The really staggering Christian claim, as Packer says, is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man… that he took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as he was human.

Here are two mysteries in one: three persons within the unity of one God, and the union of God and man in the person of Jesus.

“The Word was made flesh.” Augustine said that before his conversion “he had read and studied the great pagan philosophers and had read many things, but he had never read that the word became flesh.”[iii]

Packer: “…God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is the truth of the incarnation.

“This is the real stumbling-block in Christianity.”

It is not the virgin birth, or

  • The miracles, or
  • The atonement, or
  • The resurrection.

It is the fact that the Word became flesh. Once we accept the fact that God the eternal Son took upon himself humanity, the other difficulties dissolve.

When we understand that Jesus was the eternal Word of God through the universe was created, it is no wonder that he would speak the word and the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the lame would walk.

John says, “In him was life.” So it is not strange that he should rise from the dead, but rather that he should ever die. But when we understand that the immortal Son of God submitted to death, then it is not strange that his death would have saving power for the human race. Once we understand that Jesus as God in the flesh, everything else makes sense.

The baby born in Bethlehem was God.

More precisely, he was the Son of God, or as Christian theology puts it, God the Son. He was not a Son, but the Son. John tells us four times in the first three chapters:

“And the Word 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).

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18 ESV).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18 ESV).

In speaking of the Son, John begins by calling him the Word.

1.   “In the beginning was the Word” (1:1). Here is the Word’s eternity. He had no beginning. When everything else began, he already was.

“In the beginning the Word already existed” (John 1:1 NLT).

“In the beginning…”

Any Jewish reader reading or hearing these lines would think immediately of the first words in the Bible: “In the beginning, God…” In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

But that is not what John says. He purposely uses the opening words of the Bible to make us think of God, then he says, “In the beginning was the Word.”

The Word! Well, we can hardly think of the beginning without thinking of the Word, for time after time in the history of the creation, God speaks. He speaks words. He speaks the Word:

“And God said…” And it was so.

  • And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Hebrews 11:3 ESV).

So John points us to the beginning. He points us to the Word. And he identifies the Word with God: “In the beginning was the Word.”

2.   “And the Word was with God” (1:1). This points to the Word’s personality.

There is an eternal relationship between God and the Word, for “the Word was with God.” This relationship did not begin with creation, for the Word already existed.

Here we have one who at the beginning was already with God. And yet he is not another God, for John quickly tells us, “and the Word was God.”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 ESV).

Yet, John is careful to maintain a certain distinction between the two, for immediately he tells is

“He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:2 ESV).

3.   “And the Word was God” (1:1). Here we see the Word’s deity. He is distinct from the Father, but he is not a creature. Like the Father, he is divine in himself. “The great mystery here is personal distinctions within the unity of the Godhead.”

Two Gods?

Now there are some who are confused about this verse. They have their own special translation of the Bible. They would not use any translation that has been used by the church down through the centuries. They want their own translation and translate this first verse in their own special way to suit a teaching that is not what the church has taught for 2000 years.

According to their translation, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God.” Now that might be easier to believe, but it does not stand.

  1. The structure of the Greek text in this verse is to put the emphasis upon the fact that the Word was none other than God.
  2. If you translate this verse to say that the Word was a god, then you have two gods. Even if it is Almighty God and a mighty god, that makes two gods. That is polytheism, the belief in more than one god. That is not Christianity.
  3. Verse 3 tells us that the Word was not created, but is eternal. John is very categorical about this. His choice of words is very clear so that we know that the Word himself is not created:

“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3 ESV).

A Single-Person God?

Some people want a simpler God, a single-person God. A man named Michael Reeves has written about this:

The world is already filled with innumerable, often very different candidates for “God.” Some are good, some are not. Some are personal, some are not. Some are omnipotent, some are not. You see it in the Bible, where the Lord God of Israel, Baal, Dagon, Molech and Artemis are completely different. Or take, for example, how the Qur’an explicitly and sharply distinguishes Allah from the God described by Jesus:

Say not “Trinity.” Desist; it will be better for you: for God is one God. Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. Say: “He, Allah, is One. Allah is He on Whom all depend. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him.”

In other words, Allah is a single-person God. In no sense is he a Father (“he begets not”), and in no sense does he have a Son (“nor is he begotten”). He is one person, and not three. Allah, then, is an utterly different sort of being to the God who is Father, Son and Spirit. And it is not just incompatibly different numbers we are dealing with here: that difference, as we will see, is going to mean that Allah exists and functions in a completely different way from the Father, Son and Spirit.  [iv]

So how are we to think of God? Is He simply Creator? Then He needs a creation to be who He is. It seems that He needs us, but that makes him rather pitiful and weak. What was He before He created the universe?

Is He simply a ruler? Then He will be like a police officer to me. I may follow His rules, but not love Him. And if I break His rules and He lets me off the hook, I may be grateful, but I will not be able to really love the Just Ruler.

Jesus reveals to us that God is first and foremost a Father.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV).

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24 ESV).

Before he ever created, before he ever ruled the world, before anything else, this God was a Father loving his Son.  [v]

If God simply a single-person God, then how could God be love? Love is other directed. Again Reeves makes this comment:

If there were once a time when the Son didn’t exist, then there was once a time when the Father was not yet a Father. And if that is the case, then once upon a time God was not loving since all by himself he would have had nobody to love.  [vi]

The Bible affirms that the Lord our God is one Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4), but that is not a simple oneness. The word for “one” in this passage is the same used in the creation account which says that the two, male and female, shall become one.

God is one, but in that unity, there are three eternal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

John 1:2 repeats, “The same was in the beginning with God.”

  1. “All things were made by him” (1:3). Here is the Word creating. It was through him and for him that everything was made that was made. God the Son was not made. He was not a creature.
  2. “In him was life” (1:4). Here the Word gives life. Created things do not have life in themselves. Jesus promises to give eternal life to those who follow him.
  3. The life was the light of men” (1:4). This is the Word revealing God’s truth and His plan.
  4. Finally, “And the Word became flesh” (1:14). This is the Word incarnate.

Those wise men we talked about last week? They did not come from afar to worship a baby. They worshiped God.

We all want someone to put things right between us and God. We can’t ascend into heaven. We can’t send an ambassador. Who would be able to approach God? None of us, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

So God came down himself.

“And the Word 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).

He never ceased being God. And he will always be the God-man.

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5 ESV).

The Son of God became a man that he might die for your sins and mine. Turn to him to be saved. His name shall be called Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins.

God the Son came down that you might be saved.

  • There is no other Savior.
  • There is no other way.
  • There is no other name.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV).


[i] Parrinder, pp. 254-256.

[ii] Parrinder, p. 196.

[iii] William Barclay, The Gospel of John, vol. 1, in The Daily Study Bible Series, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 64.

[iv]   Reeves, Michael (2012-07-03). Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (p. 17-18). Intervarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[v] Reeves, Michael (2012-07-03). Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (p. 21). Intervarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[vi] Reeves, Michael (2012-07-03). Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (p. 27). Intervarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of John”: