Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Scripture: John 1

Last week I toyed with starting a three year series reading the Bible through as Christian Scripture. Genesis 1 seemed a good place to start. John 1 is the NT parallel to Genesis 1, so I go here for Week 2, with a sprinkle of John 14-16.

Three points someone might preach for the second week of this supposed three year (we'll see) cycle are:

1. God has always had a word for the world.
2. Christ is the embodiment of God's word to humanity.
3. The Spirit continues the work of Christ in the world.

1. God has always had a word for the world.

The main character of the first 13 verses of John is the logos, a concept that certain Jews took from the Stoics and developed. For the Stoics, the logos was the divine mind that governed all things. We all had that "implanted word" inside us as well. So God had a word, a will for the creation, from the very beginning. This divine word was the mechanism of God's creation. God spoke and the world existed.

Note: John is not thinking of the Old Testament here, although no doubt he did understand the "Jewish Scriptures" to be another example of God's word in action. But the Jewish understanding of logos was much bigger than the Old Testament and of course the New Testament wasn't even a collection at the time yet.

2. Christ is that word made flesh

Christ came to earth as the embodiment of that word of God. It is possible from John 1 to distinguish the word and Jesus, but the rest of John leads in a different direction. John, in a way none of the rest of the NT does very explicitly at all, presents Jesus not only as pre-existing his coming to earth but as being conscious prior to his existence on earth. "Glorify me now with the glory we had before the world began," John 17:5 says. This implies a level of pre-existence we do not find explicitly anywhere else in the NT.

But the key is that God's presence and glory were on earth in the person of Jesus Christ. He walked around on earth like the wilderness tabernacle was the wandering presence of God on earth in the days of Moses. Most rejected him. But as many as received him received the power to become the children of God.

3. The Spirit continues the work of Christ in the world.

The Spirit authenticates the teaching of the disciples as the teaching of Christ (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit leads Jesus-followers into all truth, into the very word of God for the world (15:26; 16:13). He will convince the world of its sin, of what righteousness is, and of the coming judgment (16:8-11).

Next week, Colossians.

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