WAS JESUS GOD IN THE FLESH?

I recently was contacted by someone who became engaged in a discussion with a person who said the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus was God nor did Jesus ever make such a confession. One who makes such a statement reveals their lack of understanding what the Bible teaches  about who Jesus was. There are many places in the Four Gospels where Jesus affirms He and the Father are One (John 10:30) and there are numerous NT passages which confirm Jesus was God in the flesh (I Tim 3:16). But there is arguably no passage in the NT which affirms the deity of Jesus and that He and the Father are One more than is found in John 1:1-3, 14. These profound verses read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” And John 1:14 reads, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Wow!! What verses. Let’s examine them closely.

John says of Jesus that He was/is the “Word” ( λόγος logos) (1:1; 14). One of the distinctive terms he uses is the Greek word logos. Matter of fact, logos is a keynote theme in the Fourth Gospel. Logos is translated “Word” throughout John. While John uses logos to denote sometimes the message of Jesus or the sum total of Jesus’ teaching, it was applied to Christ Himself, which is the distinctive feature of John in the use of the term. Logos  means “a word, being the expression of thought, putting  words together and so to speak; an utterance.” Logos is derived from the verb lego, meaning “to say, to speak, and to tell.” When speaking, logos is the expression of one’s thoughts. Logos signified the outward expression of  inward thought; words expressing what is in the mind. John is saying that Jesus is God expressed. Christ is the expression of our Creator; He is the Creator being expressed in human form. In Christ, God is revealed, expressed and explained. Jesus as the Word is the divine “Communicator par excellence.“[1]

What prompted John to use the term logos? What is the background of the term “Word” John used to describe who Jesus was/is? An understanding of the background of the word logos will shed light in answering the question, “Was Jesus God in the flesh?”

Logos in Greek Sources
The use of logos in a philosophical sense had a long history before its use in John. The earliest Greek writer to give expression to a logos principle was Heraclitus (500 B.C.)[2] He believed that logos was that one abiding principle in the universe that was not subject to change. Logos was the unifying principle, the Law or Reason which accounted for the stable pattern in the ever-changing world. He believed the logos principle pervaded everything.

Plato (400 B.C.) tied the logos principle to his theory of ideas. Behind all things there must be thought, the logos being the giving of expression or verbalization to ideas in the mind.[3] Ideas are abstract, but the self-expression or verbalization of one’s thoughts and ideas was the logos. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) applied the word logos to refer to a reasoned discourse or an argument. Christ is the reasoned discourse and argument of God!

The Stoics (third-century B.C.) believed the logos was the source of all things. The logos was creative and pervaded all things. While pantheistic, the logos created and held all things together.

In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (second-century B.C.), the term logos is used for the Word of God; it is His creative power from heaven and that which exists by His sustaining power (Psalm 33:6).[4] In Alexandria there was a Jew name Philo (ca. 20 B.C.-50 A.D.), who was steeped in Hellenistic or Greek thought and philosophy, whose teachings and system of thought were developed around the logos.[5] He sought to combine the two, Greek and Jewish thought. He used the term some thirteen hundred times in his writings. He lived during the time of Jesus. He was influenced by both his Hebrew and Greek background. For him the logos was God’s instrument for fashioning the world; the logos was the rudder that guided all things in their course, impersonal Reason which created and preserved the universe. Philo wrote that “the Logos of the living God is the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevents them from being dissolved and separated.”[6] Philo taught the logos was eternal, the power in creation and revelation.

Having looked briefly at the background of how Logos was used in the Greek world, seeking an understanding of how logos was used in Jewish sources will prove profitable.

Logos in Jewish Sources
First, in the OT the logos, or the Word of God, has extensive meaning. The logos is God’s creative power (Genesis 1, Ps. 33:6, 9), His sustaining power (Ps. 147:15-18), His judgment (Hosea 6:5), His will accomplishing its purpose (Is. 55:11), His means of revelation (Jer. 20:9, Ez. 33:7), the whole message of God to man (Ps. 1199, 105), His Wisdom (Prov. 8), and the logos is pre-existent (Prov. 8:27).

Second, in the Apocryphal writings the idea of logos is found. In the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon, the logos leapt down from heaven as a warrior. “Your all-powerful Word (logos) leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior carrying the sharp sword of your authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death…” (Wisdom 18:15-16). In other texts the logos is said to penetrate all things because it is the breath of the power of God. Logos is pictured as eternal light. The logos is also found as coming forth from the mouth of the Most High God.

Third, is the rabbinic idea regarding the Torah (first five books of OT). The rabbis taught the Torah, as the logos or the Word, was pre-existent and created before the foundation of the world.[ 7] The Torah was regarded as being in the bosom of the Father and was an intermediary between God and the world. They believed the words contained in the Torah, penned by Moses, are life for the world. That gives sense to why John said Jesus Christ, as the logos, was superior to Moses the law-giver (John 1:17). Whereas the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth came though Jesus Christ. Being in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18), Jesus fulfilled the function of the pre-existent Torah and is able to give life to the world.

Jesus as the Logos
When you consider the Greek and Jewish background for the word logos we can understand better why John declared Jesus the Logos.

Greek readers would read John’s Prologue and understand him to say the one rational principle of the universe became flesh; the Reason and Wisdom by which all things were created and exist became flesh; the one abiding principle in the universe, in a world of change, became flesh and dwelt among us. The divine Reason, the creative power that pervades all things and holds all things together became flesh and dwelt among us. Reason and Wisdom, the universal Infinite Personality, came to dwell with us as a man and walk on earth amongst us.

Jewish readers would read John’s Prologue and understand the Evangelist to say God’s creative power, His sustaining power, His judgment, His message, His wisdom, His power, His revelation, His will accomplishing purpose, His eternal written Word (Torah) became flesh and dwelt among us.

John’s message is clear to both Jew and Greek, Jesus Christ is the incarnate Logos; the One he is writing about is God who took upon Himself the form of a servant and came in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7).

John makes five affirmations about the Logos, about Christ.

First, Jesus is eternal. “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). He always was. Was means “expressing continuous timeless existence.” [8] There never was a time when the Word was not. Rather than being a created being, Christ always was before creation. He existed not merely as a principle or an idea; He was a Person.

Second, Christ is equal to God. “The Word was with God” (John 1:1). In the Greek “was with (Gk. pros) God” means the Logos, Jesus, in timeless past was face to face with God. This speaks of equality and intimacy, “the Word having the same nature as God.” [9] In ancient times if one entertained two guests of equal rank they would be seated on an equal basis. So, Christ was not a lesser created being of God. He was equal with God.

Third, Christ was God. “The Word was God” (John 1:1). Christ is not one of many created beings coming out of God. Christ is eternally God, is equal with God and is God Himself. John 1:16 tells us in Christ is the fullness of God (Colossians 2:9), the state of being God; God in all His divine essence and fullness. That is who Jesus is; in Him is found God in His fullness. Frank Stagg writes in New Testament Theology, “As the Logos, Jesus Christ is God in self-revelation (Light) and redemption (Life). He is God to the extent that he can be present to man and knowable to man. The Logos is God.” [10]

Fourth, Christ is the Creator. “All things were made by Him” (John 1:3). He created into being the universe. The Logos (Jesus) is the One found in Genesis 1 and 2.

Fifth, Christ who is God in all His fullness, became flesh (John 1:14), dwelt among us and “declared God” (John 1:18) in our midst and exegeted Him. The Greek word translated “declared” in John 1:18 was used to speak of giving an interpretation of a text, to reveal what the text says, and also was “often used for publishing or explaining of divine secrets.” [11] Jesus is the Exegesis and Explainer of God; He interprets and reveals Him. And of His fullness have we received, grace for grace. The Creator became the Redeemer, and Jesus makes that clear when He told Philip, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Conclusion
It is clear just from John’s Prologue that the Beloved Apostle is affirming that Jesus was more than a mere man, but that He was the God-Man, He was God become flesh who dwelt among us. To come to any other conclusion than that Jesus was/is God is to close one’s eyes and mind to John’s wonderous  declaration that Jesus, the Word (Logos), “was God” (John 1:1-3). And our God who became a man (Jh 1:14), Paul declares why He clothed Himself in flesh and dwelt among us, “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing [counting] their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19).

Yes, our God became a Man….and Jesus, the eternal Word  (Logos), not only offered the Sacrifice for our sins, He was the Sacrifice! O, what a Savior!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] Cleon L. Rogers, Jr, and Cleon L Rogers, III, Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Michigan: Zondervan, 1998), 175.

[ 2] For a thorough examination and an excellent treatment of the word “Logos,” see Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1981), 321-330.

[3] See C.K. Barrett, “The Philosophers and Poets,” Chapter 4 and “Philo” Chapter 10, The New Testament Background (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1995).

[4] Dale Moody, The Word of Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1981), 132-140.

[5] See Barrett, “Philo,” Chapter 10, The New Testament Background (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1995).

[6] Philo, De Somm. II. 45.

[7] See W.H. Howard’s summary, Christianity According to St. John (London: Duckworth, 1943), 48-52.

[8] Rogers and Rogers, Linguistic, 175.

[9] Ibid, 175.

[ 10] Frank Stagg, New Testament Theology (Baptist Sunday School Board, 1962), 138.

[11] Rogers and Rogers,  Linguistic, 178.

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