The universal Word (John 1.1-3)

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Like an overture often includes the main themes of a symphony, so the opening verses of each Gospel reveal the key emphases of the chapters that follow. Thus the genealogy in Matthew 1.1-17 declares Jesus as the son of Abraham and of David, who relates to women, Gentiles and sinners. It emphasizes that he is supreme. Mark 1.1 declares Jesus to be the Messiah and the Son of God. Luke1.1-4 underlines the historical truth of what Luke is writing about Jesus. His Gospel is to be trusted. We can therefore follow Jesus with confidence. All that Luke writes about him is true. John’s prologue contains the contents of his Gospel in a nutshell. 
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In the beginning (John 1.1 and 2)
John starts immediately with the statement that God’s Word, Jesus Christ, did not just live for some thirty years in Israel, but he already existed at the very start of creation and even before that. He was not merely a wonderful human being or prophet. In fact he was actually God (1.1). Already John is giving us a prelude to Thomas’ amazing confession, “My Lord and my God” (20.28) which climaxes the whole Gospel. Jesus was with the Father eternally and was sent by the Father into this world.
In 1.1 and again in 1.2 our English translations tell us that the Word was “with God”. ‘Pros’, the Greek word translated “with”, contains the fundamental meaning of ‘towards’. It is a word of movement, not just of position. Likewise 1.18 graphically declares that Jesus Christ is ‘into’ (not just ‘in’) the Father’s bosom. Although Jesus’ absolute oneness with the Father is entirely perfect, true relationships of love include constant movement towards the beloved. So also in our love and relationship with the Lord, let us come closer and closer to him. And that relates equally to our loving relationships within our family, in the fellowship of the church and in our love for our neighbour.
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The Word
The Old Testament strongly emphasizes the Word of God. Both in the Old Testament and in John’s Gospel the Word has a dual function – it creates and it reveals.
“God said . . .  and there was” (Genesis 1.3). His Word is never mere verbiage, it always has definite purposes of achieving something significant. It creates. John will tell how Jesus brings new life, a new creation. In John salvation consists of new life and even eternal life. The climax of his Gospel is therefore not only the cross, but particularly the resurrection. We shall look more at this gift of life and light next week when our blog will look at 1.4 and 5.
Throughout the Old Testament and now in John’s Gospel God’s Word also reveals. In our sinful world we are sated with empty and unreliable words. The German poet Goethe says in his table talk, “Words are given to humanity to conceal our thoughts”. But in contrast the Bible shows how God’s Word lifts the veil which hides God from us. The Word has ‘made God known’ (1.18). Without him God remains a distant and unknown power, irrelevant to life on earth. In our European churches today we have some times become disillusioned with ‘mere words’, but biblically we need to re-emphasize verbal witness to reveal the true beauty, glory and reality of God our Father and our Saviour.
“God created the sun, moon and the whole universe. He also made the most delicate snow flake and the tiniest insect. What a mighty God!” In this way our children are taught the greatness and power of God. Many years ago some Manchester friends of ours, who had never before seen mountains, saw the great snow-covered Austrian Alps. “Wow!”, they exclaimed, “It must have been quite something when God coughed up that lot!” This may be a somewhat un-theological expression of biblical faith in the creation, but it reflects the common form of Christian teaching about the creation. We teach creation to prove the mighty power of God.
In the Bible however the fact of creation leads to a different application. God created everything, so everything belongs to him. God created all people of every nation, so all people belong to him. He is Lord of all, the universal Lord. So John affirms that “through him all things were made” (no exceptions) and for emphasis he repeats it. This teaching about God’s creation necessitates ecological and environmental concern. Then in 1.7 John goes on to state that not only “all things” were made through the Word, but also through him “all people” should believe. Our teaching on God’s creation must also underline evangelistic mission to all nations and peoples everywhere. This emphasis is repeated again and again throughout the first 18 verses of chapter 1.
John was writing quire late in the 1st century and by that time large numbers of Gentiles had flooded into the church. Was it really God’s purpose that the church might even become largely Gentile, that Jewish believers might even become a minority in the church? Or was this somehow a mistake, not within the purposes of God? As we have just noted, John’s Gospel will underline the international nature of God’s church – this is God’s purpose for his church. How relevant this teaching is also now for Western churches! In the West Christians are now a minority in our societies, and our churches are generally rather small. We can easily be flooded with large numbers of African, Caribbean, Asian and other Christians. Little local churches can be taken over by Iranian, Nigerian or Chinese Christians. A cross-cultural emphasis in our church life and teaching has become a vital necessity.
What an exciting adventure  and challenge lies before us as we progress now into John’s Gospel!
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