John 1:1-5: Rewriting the story of God
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I once read a book produced for a charity called ‘My God’. It was a series of short responses by various celebrities talking about who they thought God was. The book was a mix of the occasional sublime and the mostly ridiculous. There were statements from representatives of the world major faiths…monotheistic and polytheistic, and there was much sentimental and idle speculation.
‘Who is God?’ is one of the most fundamental questions of existence. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much light shed by this book. It simply revealed many celebrities in this world do not know God and in fact worship a God made largely in their own image. Just like so many people in our world.
Who is God?
In John 1:1-5 we hear the story of the Word. We are also being told a story about God and how he is to be understood. John tells us a number of things. At first the Word seems to be identical to God as understood in the Old Testament. The allusion to Genesis 1 takes us there. But almost immediately this is complicated as John tells us in verse 1 that the Word was with God, and the word was God. There is both identity and separation.
The Word is certainly divine. In verse 3 we are told that through him all things were made and that nothing came into being apart from the Word’s agency. Creation is the work of God; the work of the divine. In verse 4 we read that the Word is the bearer of life and light. These are divine qualities and activities.
One of the curiosities of the prologue to this Gospel is that John waits until verse 17 to actually reveal the name of Jesus as the one he is talking about. But reveal it he does, and we understand that Jesus Christ is the Word, life, light, and more besides. Leslie Newbigin makes the point that reading this passage and understanding that Jesus Christ is the Word means ‘that the most fundamental of all words, the word “God” has to be redefined’. The coming of Jesus redraws the map of the Jewish understanding of God that God is one (Deut 6:4).
In the light of the coming of Jesus Christ, Christian believers now understand God to be the triune God: to be Father, Son, and Spirit. The contribution of John’s Gospel to this understanding cannot be overestimated. The Gospel explores the relationship between Father and Son, and Jesus will also teach foundational truths about the person and work of the Spirit in John 14-16.We understand God as Father because Jesus reveals himself to be the divine Son. We understand that loving, other-person centred relationships are at the heart of reality because we understand God to be three persons in relation, albeit one substance.
There is of course mystery here, there is complexity, but there is also clarity as these things are revealed to us as Jesus makes God truly known and in detail, as he tells the story of God (John 1:18). Knowing God in Jesus Christ places the Christian believer in a remarkable position. They know the ‘answer’ to the ‘who is God?’ question…a question that has been answered in so many ways for as long as it has been asked by human beings. This is no cause for pride or arrogance but rather humility and wonder, and worship, understanding that this has been revealed to us in the power of the Spirit, in the face of Jesus Christ.
Today would be a great day to give thanks that we can truly know God as Father, Son, and Spirit, because of Jesus Christ.
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given us your servants grace by the confession of a true faith to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and by your divine power to worship you as One: we humbly pray that you would keep us steadfast in this faith and evermore defend us from all adversities; through Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, Trinity)
Pray with us today's prayer request:
Jesus ‘sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town ..’. Luke 10:1.
In the Anglican Church in Brazil their church planting and evangelism is based on a ‘House of Peace’ strategy. Church members are sent out in pairs to lead a course introducing Jesus to the household. These pairs are chosen by a team with skills in this area. Pray for discernment and revelation from the Lord in sending out believers ‘two by two’.
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