A MADMAN OR A PROPHET?

We are clearly living in a USA, as the theologian Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) described, which is now in a “post-Christian era.” America began as a nation founded on Biblical principles and a strong belief that guidance from “Divine Providence” was behind its formation. How, then, did we get to the place in our country where we now see the abolition of belief in a Supreme Being and the belief there no longer exists absolute moral values which were given to us by our Creator for the purpose of guiding human behavior and the preservation of order in society?

When the USA was barely a hundred years removed from the signing of the Declaration of Independence, there was a “prophet” living in Germany who “prophesied” the day would come when Western civilization would declare God to be dead, reject the Christian faith, and adopt the philosophy of nihilism. The word nihilism comes from nihil, a Latin root meaning “nothing” or “that which does not exist.” Nihilism is the belief that there is no basis for absolute truth and rejects the existence of all religious, ethical and moral principles. Nihilism believes that established moral, social, religious and political systems must be destroyed in order to pave the way for the replacement of new forms of moral and political structures. Nihilism advocates anarchy and revolutionary activity to achieve such an objective.

One would have to be blind not to see that the dark shadow of nihilism is falling across this land in the advancement of godless secular humanism; in the formation of groups and movements, many with Marxist connections, who are calling for the destruction of traditional moral values; lawlessness, violence, and vandalism in the streets; disrespect for authority and law and order; the calling for the removing of all statues and monuments that have any hint of being offensive; and the call for replacing the current religious and economic systems, which are considered obsolete, with new ones that will rest on the shifting sands of relativism.

How did we get to this point in our society? In the nineteenth century there lived in Germany a philosopher named Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). He was a self-proclaimed atheist, who “prophesied” that Western culture would eventually reject Christianity, declare “God is dead,” and nihilism would be embraced. How right he was! Nietzsche’s views were extreme, and many of his day considered his views bizarre. Eventually his extremist writings pushed him to mental and emotional exhaustion, and he spent the final years of his life in a state of insanity. While some label Nietzsche a madman, some of his views have proven prophetic.

The son of a Lutheran pastor, Nietzsche attacked Christianity relentlessly, declaring  “God is Dead.”  He “prophesied”  the day would come when Western culture would proclaim the “death of God.”[1] He contended the “death of God” would occur when Western man’s consciousness rejected Christian values and morality and dismissed Christian “truth” as being the ultimate ground and support of all reality. According to Nietzsche, “Nihilism is the belief that everything deserves to perish, to be destroyed…This includes the belief in God and an essentially moral order [as] untenable.”[2] Once God is rejected, traditional values must be abandoned, as well. With Christianity rejected, according to Nietzsche, man will be forced to look within and rely upon himself where “there is no one to command, no one to obey, no one to transgress.” [3] If the God of the Bible does not exist, reasoned Nietzsche, then the moral values taught in the Bible will no longer have sway in society.[4] Once Biblical values are rejected man will face an ominous dilemma, for to proclaim the death of God is to deny what once gave society ultimate meaning and value, and there will be no alternative but to embrace nihilism, which will bring chaos.

Nietzsche  foresaw the day when Western culture would enter a state of culture decline and man would find himself helplessly caught between two worlds, one dead and the other powerless to be born. Nietzsche feared when the Christian worldview was no longer the dominant influence of the thought of Western culture, it would be replaced by a liberalism that was incapable of giving birth to a new world. He was correct in his prediction. Liberalism today is giving birth to a culture that is still born, bringing forth a cultural of death not renewed life. Ignoring history doesn’t change the fact that Western culture is rooted in Christian values, and to remove those values the foundation of society dissolves into dust. And that is exactly what we are witnessing today as nihilism begins to pervade our culture and society.

Nietzsche being an atheist, he rejected the premise that there existed absolute truth and values; therefore, once Nihilism is embraced, man is free to be his own God and create his own morality and ethics. [4] However, what Nietzsche didn’t comprehend (and all those who follow such thinking), is that once God is declared as non-existent, society implodes because culture is built on the quicksand of ever-changing relativism. Nietzsche was confident that through reason man could find alternative truth and morality by which he could live. He falsely thought man could become fully human without God, but in reality, without God man becomes less than human. The consequences of living without God and morality only leads to hopelessness, despair and self-destruction.

Time has proven Nietzsche’s basic “prophecy” correct, in that Western culture has gradually denied that God is necessary and the abandonment of Christian values. This has resulted in the denial of absolute truth and that moral values exist, which has led to the embracing of nihilism and chaos in society.  Philosopher Peter Kreeft succinctly states, “One need not share Nietzsche’s atheism to agree with his historical, not theological, dictum that “God is dead”—i.e., that faith in God is dead as a functional center for Western civilization, that we are now a planet detached from its sun. One need not share Nietzsche’s refusal of morality and natural law to agree with his observation that Western man is increasingly denying morality and natural law…” [6]

As Christians we should not be resigned to the current societal climate in which we are living, we must be courageous trumpeters who are consistently sounding the alarm of the dire consequences that result when God is dismissed from culture and Biblical values are abandoned. It is painfully clear that we are living in a society that no longer views life from the perspective of a Biblical worldview, but sadly a godless humanistic view of life is sweeping the land.[7] Man refusing divine revelation, he is left to his own version of what is truth and reality, which has no fixed ethics. It is up to Christians to proclaim without apology the truth that reality is found in the revelation God has given to humanity in Jesus Christ and through His inspired Word, the Bible. The “freedom” that nihilism promotes leads to chaos, bondage and ultimately collapse.

Francis Schaeffer wrote shortly before his death, “Learning from the mistakes of the past, let us [Christians] raise a testimony that may still turn both the churches and society around—for the salvation of souls, the building of God’s people, and at least the slowing down of the slide toward a totally humanistic society and an authoritarian suppressive state.” [8]

Nietzsche’s “prophecy” of descent into nihilism is being fulfilled in our current culture and as Christians we must be about the business of defending the reality of revealed truth found in Jesus Christ. What we are witnessing today in actuality is not the death of God, but we are witnessing the death of man spiritually, morally, socially, and further alienation from his Creator. As man distances himself from his Creator, his love for his fellowman also wanes….and while shouts call for exhibiting respect for the integrity and sanctity of human life the opposite occurs because God who gives value and dignity to human life has been rejected.

Unless there is repentance on behalf of Christians, prayer for a return to a Christian worldview permeating society, and a proclaiming with boldness the truth of the Gospel that Christ redemptive grace embraces all humanity, the “prophecy” of Nietzsche will be fully realized in a culture that will drown in the dark and deathly waters of nihilism. There is no hope outside Jesus Christ, individually or societally.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kaufman (New York: Penguin Books, 1960), 95-96.
[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, tr. Walter Kaufman (New York: Vantage Books, 1967), 18-19.
[3] Nietzsche, Portable, 143.
[4] Norman L. Geisler and Paul D. Feinberg, Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), 408.
[5] Francis Golffing, The Genealogy of Morals, (New York, 1956), 288, 296-298.
[6] Peter Kreeft, C. S. Lewis for the Third Millennium (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 107.
[7] Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (Westchester: Crossway Books, 1981), 17-18.
[8] Francis Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Vol. IV (Westchester: Crossway Books, 1982), 274.

SHE NEEDS OUR PRAYERS

I have a dear friend, She needs our prayers. Her birthday is only a few days away. On the Fourth of July  She will celebrate Her 244th birthday. I have known this friend all my life, sixty-eight years now. She is in intensive care on life support. Matter of fact, She has been on extended life support for some time, but in recent days Her condition has become critical to where I am not sure that She will survive.

My friend was born surrounded by God-fearing men and women who believed in the freedom of the individual spirit, who believed that God granted people certain inalienable rights that allowed them to pursue their dreams. My friend has been a proponent of the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, which is granted to all by the Creator and who engage in that pursuit with a creative spirit and a willingness to work hard, which in turn opens many doors of opportunity.

My friend in years past sought to exhibit a character that took the moral high ground, believing in the sanctity of life, the sacredness of family, and that marriage was between a man and a woman. She defended those who were victims of injustices and punished those who sought to trample her virtuous Constitution.

I have grown-up being proud of Her. Every time I see Her banner gracefully unfurled in the gentle breeze, I still get a lump in my throat as I think of all those who have defended Her honor. When I hear “Her Anthem” played, I stand proudly and patriotically in respectful  thanksgiving for what She means to me and millions more.

Over the years my heart has been broken as the one I honored and loved has grown sick and whose health is rapidly deteriorating. I am not sure She is going to make it. Her once family values have been attacked and thrown to the curve. Her moral foundation is being replaced with the sand of relativism. Her purity has been soiled by those who care not for the Biblical moral values which She has embraced for so many years.

The fundamental historical foundations on which She was built has been shaken to the core. A soul that was once anchored by principles of liberty and constitutional laws, has drifted toward the sandy shore of a government of dependence and give-a-ways that threaten to leave Her shipwrecked on the rocky reefs of indifference.

Once frugal and thrifty, She is now enslaved by foreign lenders because of leaders who have greedily taken advantage of Her financially. Sadly, they have put Her on a train ride that is leading to inevitable financial derailment. It pains me to watch it happen, but the crash is certain.

Once so strong and vibrant, with a voice that caused others to tremble when they even thought about encroaching on the freedoms of others, now has been weakened by naïve compromisers and freedom-hating extremists who seek to strip Her of Her once strong hand of enforcement and have made Her vulnerable to Her enemies. Her weaken state grieves the hearts of all who once felt safe under Her mighty and protective wings.

It pains me to watch Her reputation being tarnished by those who wish to erase Her history and teach Her noble heritage never occurred. While She has not lived a perfect life and has made mistakes along the way, She doesn’t deserve the disrespect She is now receiving from those who want to remove from memory any testament of Her noble past. Many of Her children from the past, who have helped shape and impact Her admirable character, are being dug up and their contributions are being defamed, discarded and destroyed.

She is the last bastion of democracy, the last hope for those seeking escape from the hands of tyrants and European socialism. Now the influence of those on the radical left with socialistic agendas is molding Her into an image that Her birth-parents fought to never see happen. In recent days I have felt the hot tears of Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Hancock, and Henry as the democracy they gave us is becoming a government more akin to a man named Marx.

She has survived a lot of hard knocks and punches in Her life, but She is struggling to survive amidst a current onslaught of orchestrated attacks by those who are bent on destroying Her and replacing Her with a fabricated aberration  no more sturdy to last than a house of cards in a wind storm.

Some blindly say, “Oh, She is not sick, all is well.” No, all is not well. May I say, her banner now flies limply in the sky, monuments honoring Her that once dotted the landscape are being removed, and attempts are afoot to silence the singing of her song in public gatherings. She is not the same anymore. Change has occurred. She is on life support and my heart is broken. I am not sure She will recover. While Her flag has draped many a coffin through the years, if  a turn around in Her health doesn’t occur soon, She will go the way of all nations who have imploded, and Her flag, which once flew so elegantly in the sky, will be placed lifelessly over Her remains.

She needs our prayers. It is no longer, “God Bless America” – it is now “God Have Mercy on Her.”  As Her birthday approaches, please pray for Her.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THE MARCH TOWARD MARXISM

We are living in a day when there is the constant push to purge the USA from the principles that made this nation the greatest nation on earth. The Radical Left are hard at convincing the citizenry that Marxism (socialism) is the economic path to utopia. However, Marxism is a two-sided coin that seeks to not only bring about (1) economic change, but (2) purge society of God. Let us briefly examine this two-sided coin.

Economically the USA has been a capitalist nation. Capitalism by definition is an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition and supply and demand in the free market. Capitalism has resulted in the USA being the richest nation on earth, and the envy of the rest of the world.

In recent years we have seen the push to replace capitalism with socialism, which history has proven does not work and always brings economic collapse. In a socialist system production and distribution decisions are made by the government, and individuals rely on the state for everything from food to healthcare. The government determines the output and pricing of all goods and services. Socialists argue that shared ownership of resources and central planning provide a more equal distribution of goods and services and a more equitable society. Socialism promises much, but delivers misery. Socialism always fails because sooner or later the nation runs out of everyone else’s money!!

The term “socialism” and “Marxism” have become synonymous in our society today. While there are some subtle differences between the two, Marxism has become equated with socialism. Suffice it to say, Marxism paves the way for socialism and if Marxian principles and ideas are carried out to there conclusion, then Marxism leads to Communism. Today in the USA the March toward Marxism is most prevalent, and if embraced the nation is headed for collapse like every nation who has traveled down the Marxian Road.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) was born in Trier, Prussia in 1818. His parents were Jewish who in 1816 converted to the Lutheran Church. While Karl Marx was baptized into Lutheranism at age six, he later became an atheist. Attending the University of Bonn, but because he was constantly getting into trouble, he enrolled at the University of Berlin. There he studied law and philosophy. His rebellious nature found him challenging established ideas on every front, religion, philosophy, economics, ethics and politics.

Marx held capitalism in complete disdain, claiming that it would be the ruination of all societies, leaving them no alternative but to claim socialism as the  answer to survival. Marx contended that capitalism would inevitably lead to a revolution by the working class due to the strain that it placed upon what he perceived as oppressed workers. Marx dreamed of creating a society where there was no distinction  between rich and poor. Marx was unhappy with the societal climate of his day, and taught in order to change society the economic structure of the country must be changed (socialism). Marx envisioned a revolutionary society in which everyone’s needs are met, and no class divisions exist.  His mantra was, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” (Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program, 1875) This system, we equate with socialism, was Marx’s vision for the perfect society.

Interestingly, the ten principles Marx advocated in his co-authored work with Friedrich Engels in 1848, The Communist Manifesto (Chapter 2), are the same ten principles the Radical Left are advocating today. The ten principles are:
1. State control of real property.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralization of the country’s financial system in the hands of the state.
6. State control of means of communication and transportation.
7. Increase state control over means of production.
8. Equal liability of all to work.
9. Control over where people live.
10. Free education.

The goal of Marxism is the disappearance of all class distinctions and all production being placed in the hands of the state, the citizenry dependent on the state to supply their every need from the womb to the tomb. It is clear to see, this nation is Marching toward Marxism.

Now the other side of the socialistic coin. While the Radical Left paint a bright picture of the state providing one’s every need, the other side of Marxism is not spoken of today….a godless society that has no need for religion or a Supreme Being of any kind…the state is supreme.

The goal of Marxian proponents is to not only change the economic system of the USA, but to rid society of any reference to Deity. Marx wrote in 1841 that he was “against all gods, heavenly and earthly, who do not acknowledge the consciousness of man as the supreme divinity…Religion is only the illusory sun…. Man makes religion, religion does not make man. In other words, religion is the self-consciousness and self-feeling of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself. Religion is the opium of the people…. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness” (Marx, On Religion, 1841, 41-42).

Marx saw Christianity as a barrier to his economic system, and called for its abolition. He believed where Christianity flourished it served as a “superstructure for capitalism.” He saw Christianity as an enemy of the state because the principles of Christianity embraced the individual spirit over the state and each person’s right to work hard, and with God’s help, to engage in producing through entrepreneurial endeavors, create and develop economic ventures (Marx, On Religion, 135).

In Marxism, socialism can’t thrive where Christianity flourishes, because the individual, who has been created in the Image of God and for whom Christ gave His life, takes priority over the state. Marx called for the dissolution of ideas created in society through its history of “views and conceptions” and replace them with revolutionary new ideas (Marx, On Religion, 88). Marxism espouses revolution.

The destruction of monuments we see today are not an accident, there is an orchestrated agenda to radically change America. The Radical Left and all the movements that have attached themselves to Marxism, are not only seeking to change the economic system of the USA, they are seeking to purge society of its history; in the words of Marx to see the “dissolution of the old conditions of existence.” (Marx, On Religion, 88). The current destruction of monuments and statutes is but a prelude of what is coming next. They are next coming after the church’s symbols, monuments and emblems, and to silence the church. That is the progressive advancement of Marxism.

This November is the most important election in USA history. I wish there were better choices, but there is not. The question one must ask, “Will we hold on to what is left of the USA, tattered and torn as She is, or will we head down the road to full-fledged Marxism?”  If we choose Marxism (socialism) then we have chosen the road to collapse. It is a godless and economic road of self-destruction.

It is past time we woke up. I pray it is not too late.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

WHY PATRIOTISM IS IMPORTANT

Let me say at the outset, I am a Christian. Almost fifty years ago I pledged my allegiance to Jesus Christ. I am a citizen of a holy nation (I Peter 2:9), of a continuing city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 14:14). While my physical birth in 1952 found me being born a citizen of the USA, my spiritual birth in 1970 found me being born into the Kingdom of God. Even if the USA collapsed and ceased to exist, the Kingdom of God is eternal. Without question my first loyalty is to my Savior and His Kingdom of which I am a citizen. That being said, is it ok for a Christian to express patriotism to their earthly homeland?

As a United States citizen, there are those within Christendom who contend that a Christian should not express loyalty or patriotism to any earthly  kingdom or nation. Without question, in the current climate of the day showing expressions of patriotism is under fierce attack. By patriotism is meant to be unashamed to show a love, devotion, and loyalty to one’s country. While it is the Christian’s responsibility to first and foremost be obedient citizens in the Kingdom of God, in Romans 13:1-7 the Apostle Paul discusses the responsibility of  Christians being prayerfully supportive and respectful  of  civil government. It is appropriate  for a Christian to be supportive and express patriotism, to exhibit  respect and a desire for the  country to thrive. Patriotism is one of the finer qualities any citizen should possess. When patriotism is properly understood it creates a responsible citizenry.

It was by God’s grace I was born in the greatest nation on the face of the earth. From the moment I saw the light of day, my parents instilled in me the importance of patriotism. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear the National Anthem and see Old Glory waving in the breeze. I am unapologetically a patriotic flag-waving,  flag-standing citizen. Now, being patriotic doesn’t mean I agree with everything that goes on in this nation, it doesn’t mean I am blind to the nation’s shortcomings and the corrections that need to be made, but what it does mean is that I believe in the ideals for which the flag stands; it means I am respectfully honoring and grateful to the over one million patriots who have given their lives that the flag might fly; what it does mean is that I am thankful, even in spite of Her shortcomings, to live in the greatest nation on earth; what it does mean is that I am thankful to enjoy freedoms that citizens of other nations only dream of; and what it does mean is that I am thankful, even in our differences, there is that which unites all citizens in a Brotherhood, and that is being an American in a free society.

Patriotism is an important thread in the fabric of our nation. If patriotism is absent there will be a rip in the seam that will eventually unravel the cord that holds the nation together. Patriotism is the spark that creates a fire in the nation’s spirit. It is important that we return to being patriotic Americans. Patriotism is important for several reasons.

First, patriotism is important because without it our freedoms will be lost. John Adams, our second President, stated, “I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. I can see that the end is worth all the means to defend it.” Daniel Webster stated, “God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.” A people who have lost their patriotism and love for their country will not defend it, and will eventually lose the freedoms so many fought to preserve.   Without patriotism, freedoms can’t be maintained but will eventually be lost.  We owe our freedoms  to the patriots who fought for our country and those guarding it. Let us be cognizant of the words of Ronald Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.”

Second, patriotism is important because without it we soon lose our courage. Love for country inspires courage to defend it. We need more citizens who are made up of the “stuff” of Nathan Hale who said before being hung, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” It took courage for those 56 brave men to sign their names to the Declaration of Independence, most of them losing their fortunes, family and lives. Their courage came from a patriotism that bolstered them to fight for ideals they believed worth dying for. When patriotism is lost, courage is lost to defend the ideals upon which this nation was founded. Sadly, today many don’t respect the hardships of our Founding Fathers and our Armed forces who protect us. Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it; it flies from the collective breath of each courageous patriot who died protecting it.

Third, patriotism is important for without it we lose appreciation for our heritage, we forget where we came from. When as a nation we fail to teach the history of this great nation and begin to take our freedoms for granted, we then lose appreciation for our glorious heritage. With history today being erased, rewritten and no longer being taught as in years past, surveys show that with each passing year more and more people don’t know why the Fourth of July is commemorated. Thomas Jefferson stated, “How little do Americans know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy.” Patriotism is important for the protection of a country’s culture and historical heritage. When we no longer teach of the hardships of the Pilgrims in the New World and of the faith and fortitude of our Forefathers who fought for freedom, lack of appreciation grows and the freedoms we take for granted will slip through our fingers like sand.

Fourth, patriotism is important because without it we lose sight of the faith that made America great. America became great by a people who held to the conviction as stated in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Four times in the Declaration, God is mentioned. The revisionists in their attempt to rewrite history seek to dismiss the faith of our Forefathers. While not all the Founding Fathers were individually Christians; nevertheless, they founded this country on the basis of a faith in a Divine  Creator from whom we receive our unalienable rights. John Adams, a signer of the  Declaration of Independence, stated, “The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite….  And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty.” George Washington stated, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.” When we  view patriotism as unimportant and  fail to acknowledge that we began as a nation “under God” we are a nation destined to go under.

Fifth, patriotism is important because without it we soon lose our unity. When a ball team loses its loyalty to one another, unity dissolves and defeat will result. Part of the Declaration of Independence reads, “For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives our fortunes and our sacred honor.” We may all have our differences, but one truth that should unite citizens in Brotherhood is that we are blessed to be Americans who live a free society. As we watch patriotism vanishing before our eyes today, we are witnessing, as well, the eroding of our nation’s unity. We need to be united and stand together for the progress of the country for its improvement.

Sixth, patriotism is important because without it we lose our identity as a nation. Sadly, there is the push today to dissolve our nation’s identity and blend in and be like other nations, and in the process, we are losing our uniqueness. We are like no other nation on earth. The USA is the envy of the rest of the world. We need to remember, our identity of who we are as a nation is wrapped up in a people who have a glorious heritage like no other nation, who can be proud of those who have fought and defended her honor, and who aren’t afraid to stand up and speak out and take action against evil and wrong around the world. When patriotism is deemed as unnecessary, we will eventually lose our identity as a great nation.

Seventh, patriotism is important because without it Old Glory will cease to fly. My heart breaks today as many hold the flag in contempt. There are those who say, “The flag is just a symbol.” But behind that symbol is the reality of the faith and courage of our Forefathers, the blood, sweat and tears of countless brave men and woman who have sacrificed that Old Glory might fly, and the noble ideals which has made America great for 244 years. While we continue to strive for “a more perfect union,” as stated in the  Preamble to the United States Constitution, when we begin to hold the flag in contempt and lose our patriotism the ideals which we long to see become a reality, will begin to vanish like the morning dew before the heat of a summer sun.

Yes, patriotism is important, it is essential for the survival of a nation. While as a Christian I only bow my knee to the Lord Jesus Christ, on the Fourth of July I will patriotically and unapologetically stand when the flag passes by.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

 

WHAT A SENTENCE!

One of the cardinal rules in writing is not to make sentences too long. A good sentence should be concise, containing no unnecessary words. It is easy to make a sentence too wordy, and in the process lose the reader. When we come to First John 1:1-4, the Apostle introduces his epistle with a sentence that covers four verses. In the Greek it is one majestic sentence of 87 words (in KJV 108 words)! Leon Morris writes that, while profound in its content, the entire four verses of the prologue being “but one highly compressed and complicated sentence in the Greek.” [1] It is as if John doesn’t know where to begin and where to end. What a profound sentence it is! It is a sentence which contains so many sparkling diamonds of truth it would take a lifetime to unpack all the treasures contained within.

While the majority of English translations put a period after verse 3 for the sake of readability, 1:1-4 is a sentence bursting with heaven’s illuminating brilliance whereby John with each inspired word seeks to pierce the darkness with the radiance of the Light of Christ. (The ASV translates it as one sentence). The four verses read: “1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (KJV)

The aged disciple of Christ writes what reads more like a sermon than a letter, to churches in Asia Minor about 95 AD. The content of his eighty-seven-word opening sentence is like a musical filled with soaring crescendos. It is so rich in truth a whole commentary could be written on just those four verses, so just the hem of the sentence’s garment will be touched. Seeking to unpack some the golden nuggets found within 1:1-4, it is hoped it will whet the appetite of the reader to dig deeper into the text. O, what a sentence.

I. The Eternality of the Word
First, we discover The Eternality of the Word in verses 1-2. John refers to Jesus Christ in his epistle as he did in his gospel, as the Word, the Logos – more specifically the “Word of Life.” In Greek Philosophy “Logos” was that one abiding principle in all the universe that never changed and was the force by which all existed; the Logos was the Ultimate Reason which controlled all things. John informs the Logos was more than an impersonal force, but a Person in whom was life, eternal life. That person was Jesus Christ. Two truths John reveals about the Word of Life, Jesus Christ.

(1) The Eternal Existence of the Word. John says, “That which was from the beginning” (v. 1). The Greek word translated “was” (ἦν) is in the imperfect tense, it speaks of continuous action in past time. “Was” emphasizes the preexistence and divine character of Christ. Christ, the Word did not come into being at some point in time. Christ has eternally existed from “the beginning” (v. 1), thus He is not a created being.

(2) The Eternal Equality of the Word. The Word was not lesser than God, but was God. John writes that the Word was “with the Father” (v. 2). The Greek phrase “with the Father” (πρὸς τὸν πατέρα) indicates one who is facing the Father, one who is on an equal plane with the Father. The Word, who is eternal, is eternal life Himself. John is clearly teaching the Trinity, that one God exists as three Persons. “With the Father” reveals that Christ and the Father are equal and one, yet distinct in their person. While there will always be a mystery about the Triune Godhead, the majestic words “with the Father” cause us to bow in worshipful awe.

II. The Entrance of the Word into the World
Second, we discover from John’s opening sentence The Entrance of the Word into the World (v. 1-2). Two truths stand out about the Logos, Christ’s entrance into the world.

(1) The Word came to Earth as a Man. John says twice in verse 2 Jesus was “manifested.” He who was eternal, He who was equal with God, He who was God, became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). The word “manifest” (phaneroo) means to make visible or known what has been hidden or unknown. The word was used to speak of a bright light appearing, like the sun. It is in the passive voice, meaning that God coming to earth robed in flesh was totally separate from any action of man, but it was God who took the initiative. Man is a recipient of God’s action in His revealing Himself. While creation teaches us there is a Supreme Being, we could not know God personally apart from Him taking the initiative to revel Himself in Jesus Christ. In Christ the invisible God became visible. John is clearly affirming the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

(2) The Word was Examined by Man. John is not writing about hearsay information, but as an eyewitness. He says he actually heard Jesus speak, looked upon Him, and handled Him with his hands (v. 1). When John says he handled Christ, the word he uses (ἐψηλάφησαν) means “to examine closely, to handle with a view of investigation.” John in describing his examination and encounter with Jesus uses the perfect tense, which means that which happened in the past still has lasting results in the present. He is saying, “What I heard Jesus say is still ringing in my ears and what I saw him do is still in my mind’s eye 60 years later. What I heard, I can’t unhear; what I saw, I can’t unsee.” To all the naysayers who contend Jesus was not a historical person, John knew for a fact He walked on earth, because he saw, heard, and touched Him, and He was more than a mere man. John affirms Christ was God become flesh. He is the revelation of God seen in human form. Upon careful examination and investigation of Christ, John was convinced beyond all doubt that He who was called the Word was the transcendent God invading time.

III. The Enduring Witness for the Word
Third, we discover from John’s opening sentence The Enduring Witness for the Word (v. 2-3). John makes it clear that which he heard, saw and touched, he bore “witness” to (v. 2) and “declared” to others (v. 3). The word “witness” (martureo) means to testify of and was used to speak of someone who was a witness in court. It is in the present tense which means he was an ongoing witness for Christ. The word translated “show” (v. 2) and “declare” (v. 3) (anaggello) means to proclaim, report unto, to bring tidings from. It was used to speak of one who heralded news to the town. It is in the present tense, meaning he kept on proclaiming what he saw and heard. As to John’s certainty that Jesus was the Word, two truths present themselves in his enduring witness and declaration of Jesus Christ.

(1) John Declares Christ as Fact. Once again, the Apostle says he is declaring what he had seen and heard (v. 3). It is a fact. John is saying, “We deliver nothing by hearsay, nothing by tradition, nothing from conjecture; we have had the fullest certainty of all that we write and preach.” Again, John uses the perfect tense, meaning what he saw and heard had so impacted him that the voice of Christ is still ringing in his ears and what he saw he can’t unsee. Because John had a personal encounter with the Living Christ, he can’t help but declare Him, and continue to declare Him. The Good News that is worth proclaiming is that God in Christ has visited earth to restore the brokenness of humanity.

(2) John Declares we are Called into Fellowship. John declares Christ is the God-Man, therefore, we have been called into fellowship with one another and with the Father and the Son (v. 3). Fellowship with one another in Jesus Christ, issues from a real, practical, fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The word translated “fellowship” (koinonia) means “belonging in common to, participation in/partnership in.” It carries with it the meaning of communion, participation, share a common life, and partnership. In Hellenistic literature it was used to describe partners in business, joint owners of a piece of property, or shareholders in a common enterprise. The idea is that of one person having a joint-participation with another in something possessed in common by both. The word koinonia indicates the setting aside of private interest and desires and the joining in with another or others for common purposes. John says for the Christian that common interest and purpose is Jesus Christ, the Living Word. Fellowship with Christ and with one another is the bond that ties believers together.

The kind of relationship John describes is only possible because Jesus is who John says He is in 1 John 1:1-2, the Word of Life. If someone invited you to have a “personal relationship” with a past historical person you would think them foolish. One cannot have a genuine “spiritual” relationship with a dead man. But with the eternal God who became man and who arose from the dead we can have a relationship with Him and one another.

IV. The Explanation for Writing
Fourth, we discover from John’s opening sentence The Explanation for Writing (v. 4). He writes, “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” “These things” of which John is writing refers to the entire contents of the letter. As the reader digests the contents of what John penned, his prayer is that the reader will be filled with the joy of all that the Living Christ accomplished. The word translated “be full” means complete overflowing joy. It is in the perfect tense, meaning joy that continues and persists throughout the believer’s life. John desires his readers possess the assurance of knowing that they are in fellowship with the one in whom eternal life is found, for there is where true joy is found. Throughout the letter John hammers home the truth that our joy comes from knowing that in Christ we have eternal life (5:13), knowing God is love (4:16), loving our fellowman (2:9-10), not living in habitual sin (3:6-7), knowing that greater is he that lives in us than he that is the world (4:4), knowing we have an “Advocate” when we do sin who cleanses us from all unrighteousness (2:1-2), living in such a way that we will not be ashamed before Him at His coming (2:28), and in this world we can live as “overcomers” (5:4). When the Christian is cognizant of those truths, there is created a joy within that the world can’t give.

John wants his readers to realize that Christ is the source, object and center of the Christian’s joy. It is a joy that can only be found in an abiding relationship with the Living Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. It is entering into abiding fellowship with Christ and fellow Christians that John desired for his readers and desires for you and I. Expressing that desire, John brings his lengthy sentence to an end.

Conclusion
As one can see, trying to plumb the depths of John’s opening sentence is like trying to dive into the deepest depths of the ocean or ascending to the highest mountain peak. One would have a better chance of counting the sands on the seashores of the world than to ever fully grasp the wonder of John’s thoughts as he searches for words to describe the magnificence of Christ and how He affected his life.

O, what a sentence. O, what a Savor!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

Footnote

Leon Morris, “I John,” The New Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1970), 1260.

 

HE LOVED OUT LOUD

Me and my father 1958

As Father’s Day approaches I pause for a time of reflection. My dad died in 2001, at age 88. I was 49 years old at the time. During those 49 years I never remember my dad saying to me the words, “I love you.” He never said it, but I knew he did. Those three words  did not easily flow from his lips. Born in 1912, he was raised in an era when “real men” had a tough veneer, worked hard, and didn’t utter those words for fear of appearing too “soft.” Did he love me? I never doubted that for a minute. He loved out loud. He showed me love by his actions.

My dad worked hard to make a living and provide for his family. It was his love for his family that motivated him to relentlessly labor to supply for us the necessities of life.

As a boy, when my father was not working, he would take me fishing and hunting. While I was never very good at either, I treasure the memory of those strings of fish glistening in the summer sun, hearing the sound of that covey of quail as they ascended from the thicket, and watching that squirrel jump from limb to limb as I missed my scurrying target.

As a youngster he  showed me how to make rabbit gums so I could catch the fleet footed creatures, which I in turn  sold to a neighbor for fifty cents a piece. He was teaching me at a young age the value of honest work and the satisfaction of earning alittle money on my own.

As a lad some nights bad dreams would invade my sleep and I would wake-up hollering at the monsters that I knew were about to tote me off. My father would come into my room, assuring me they were not real. He would confidently say, “Go back to sleep. Everything is ok. You were just having a bad dream.” With those reassuring words the monsters would vanish for the night.

When I was in the ninth grade I decided to go out for football. After a week of being beaten and bruised from being tackled by huge lineman, I told my father I was going to quit. He offered no sympathy, but firmly and sternly said to me words which still echo in my ears, “No, you are not going to quit. You decided to go out for football and you will follow through with your commitment to the end of the season. You don’t quit something just because it gets tough.” I thought he was being rather severe in his insistence I stick it out, but he was teaching me a valuable life lesson…you don’t throw in the towel because the road gets alittle rough and rocky. His firmness and sternness was actually an act of love in preparing me for the “tackles” experienced in life.

When in high school I ran track. I ran the mile. While my dad worked second shift from 3-11 pm, he would get off work long enough to come watch me when I raced. In my mind’s eye I can see him now standing over by the corner of the bleachers waiting for me to run. Upon crossing the finish line notching another victory, I would glance toward the bleachers and receive from him an approving nod.  I would glance back a second time,  but like a shadow at dusk he was gone. He had gone back to work.

While I did not think so at the time, he showed his love by disciplining me in a place that seemed to have easy access for this long reach. I see now his discipline was for the purpose of “teaching” me to make right choices not wrong ones. Wrong choices can bring hurt that lasts a lot longer than a lick or two on a certain part of the anatomy.

When I graduated from high school I received a partial track scholarship to attend college. I was not sure where the other money was coming from, but my father knew. He went and borrowed the money. I know, for he took me with him when he went to the bank. My dad only finished the ninth grade and he was taking out a loan so I could achieve an education he was not able to receive.

When I graduated from college my father bought me a car and told me he was proud of me. That may have been as close as he ever came to uttering those three words, “I love you.”

When I married he was my best man. As I left the church for the honeymoon he pressed some money into my palm as he firmly shook my hand and said, “Drive carefully.”

My father was a master mechanic. He would always work on my car and check it out when I came home for a visit. Before beginning the journey home he would hand me some money and say, “Get you some gas before heading up the road.”

Through his retirement years he showed that same love to his grandchildren that he showed me. Every time the kids did well on their report cards, he would give them some small gift, usually money, to let them know he was proud of them.

R.C. Merritt at age 85

After my mother passed away in 1999, when I would call him to see how he was doing he would always inquire how the kids were doing. And being the mechanic he was, he would always advise me to keep my car in good running condition.

One spring day in late May of 2001, my father, who had lived almost fourscore and ten, stepped into the house after mowing his lawn and fell dead on to the floor he had walked upon for over four decades. Having worked all his life that was the way he had wanted to go.

Do I wish I could have heard my father say, “I love you?” Of course I do, but it doesn’t really matter. I can honestly say it was never an important issue with me. He never said it, but I knew he did. His love was shown by his actions and that was all that mattered.

While every day we should make sure we tell those in our families we love them, but even more importantly may we show them love like my father showed me: loving out loud.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

IS THE GOSPEL RELEVANT?

In a day of depressing headlines and the uncertainty that has fallen across our land like a huge dark shadow, a voice proclaiming good news would be a welcome sound. Every time our nation faces a moral or spiritual crisis a question arises from the depths of the collective predicament society finds itself, “Is the Gospel relevant in the face of such mounting woes?”

The answer is, “YES!”

The Gospel is not to be a sterile theological term to be argued and debated behind the four walls of the church, but is a message to be boldly proclaimed of its sufficiency to confront the issues of society. The word “gospel” means “good news.” The word “gospel” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word godspel, which means “good story” or “good news.” The Greek words often translated as “gospel” are euangelion and euangelizo. meaning “to bring or announce good news.” The Christian Gospel is not a message contrived by man but initiated by God. The Gospel is about a Person. The power of the Gospel is found in the One who is the subject of the Gospel, Jesus Christ.

The Gospel is relevant because it is true. The Gospel of Christ transcends political forces, and has survived the rise and fall of kingdoms and nations. The Gospel can not be divorced from social concerns. The Gospel is a verb, it is an action word. The Gospel is able to penetrate the worst of humanity to turn ashes into beauty. Where there is found injustice, the Gospel calls for accountability and responsibility. Where there is hatred, the Gospel beckons us to love one another. Where there is confusion and chaos, the Gospel calls us to walk in peace. Where personal revenge is sought, the Gospel extends forgiveness. Where there is darkness, the Gospel’s Light illuminates. Where there is fingering pointing, the Gospel points us to the One who with His finger of grace writes in the sand, “I do not condemn thee, go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Where there is doubt, the Gospel brings faith. Where there is destruction, the Gospel brings re-creation. Where there is loneliness, the Gospel surrounds us with God’s presence. Where there is uncertainty, the Gospel brings assurance. Where there is weakness, the Gospel infuses strength. Where there is hopelessness, the Gospel instills hope. Where there is death, the Gospel breathes forth eternal life.

Yes, the Gospel seeks to invade the societal concerns that confront us. The Gospel is sufficient and powerful enough to take our tragedies and turn them into treasures, to turn our pain into a purposeful path, and take that which sin has deformed and bring about transformation. The Gospel of Christ invites us to come and drink from the fountain of living waters, in order that His healing streams may quench the thirst of our souls and turn our parched land into flowing springs.

If you have not,  will you not today embrace the Gospel, the Good News found in Jesus Christ. In the midst of societal questions and confusion, we need a renewed encounter with the Gospel of Christ….for He is the answer.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

‘Fill Up What is Lacking in Christ’s Afflictions’ – What Did Paul Mean?

Someone recently asked me what Paul meant when he wrote to the Colossian believers, “I Paul am made a minister, who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind (lacking) of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s’ sake, which is the church.” (Col 1:23-24). What did Paul mean by “fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh?” A literal translation reads, “And in my flesh I complete (fill up) what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the church.” This is a much-disputed verse, but I believe the general sense of it can be made clear.

Let it be said, Paul was by no means inferring that Christ’s suffering and death was not sufficient payment for our sin and that he or any other saint must do something to “fill up” or bring to completion the atoning work of Christ. He is not saying there was anything deficient in the sufferings which Christ endured to atone for our sins. By no means does this verse teach Christ’s atonement is defective and that the sufferings of the saints in some way are necessary to supplement His work on our behalf. Nothing in Paul’s writings ever contradicted the Apostle’s belief that Christ’s death was absolutely totally sufficient and complete to atone for sin.

So what did Paul mean when he said that something in Christ’s afflictions was “still lacking?” The Greek word translated “fill up” or “complete” in Colossians 1:24 occurs only here in the NT. It is the word antanaplēróō which is made of two words that mean “corresponding to” or “in place of” and “fulfill” or “complete;” meaning to “fill up or complete what is wanting or lacking.” Paul, and the early Christians, recognized that suffering or persecution for the cause of Christ was an accepted reality. For Paul, union with Christ involved union with Christ’s sufferings (Phil. 3:10),  and he was willing to suffer for the sake of the Body of Christ, the Church. There is nothing “behind or lacking” as to the atoning efficacy of the sufferings of Christ, but there is much yet to be endured by His followers for the further spread of the Gospel and the building-up of His Body, the Church. Paul’s sufferings were for the Church’s sake and the furtherance of the Gospel. Paul in enduring persecution for the Gospel’s sake, which corresponded to sufferings as Christ endured from persecutors during HIs earthly ministry , was for the purpose of advancing the message of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. The enemies of Christ when persecuting Paul were in reality persecuting Christ. Whatever the church suffers can be considered additional sufferings by Christ Himself. Because Christ’s enemies had not filled up all their hatred on Him, they turned their hatred on those who, like Paul, preached the gospel. Paul in prison as he penned Colossians, writes that the church was benefiting from the fact that he has suffered and continued to suffer for the cause of Christ; as his sufferings furthered the spread of the Gospel. Such suffering brought him joy because the sufferings Christians endure are a continuation of what Christ endured on earth and in that sense the Christian is identified with His afflictions.

The “afflictions of Christ” are the afflictions “which Christ endured.” T.K. Abbott comments, “Paul’s description of his troubles as the afflictions of Christ in his flesh [means] that ‘Christ’s afflictions are regarded as the type of all those that are endured by His followers on behalf of the Church”[1] J.B. Lightfoot has written, “It is a simple matter of fact, that the afflictions of every saint and martyr do ‘fill up’ the afflictions of Christ. The Church is built up by repeated acts of self-denial in successive individuals and successive generations.”[2] As Christ suffered persecution, there is plenty of suffering left for Paul and for each Christian to endure.

So in summary, when Paul writes about identifying with or filling up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, there is at the heart of his thinking a commitment to suffer to the extent that Christ suffered, without, of course, any idea of atoning value, for the purpose of the spread of the Gospel. He is saying that the sufferings he and other saints endure in the spreading of the Gospel are in the interest of the Body of Christ and knowing that one can rejoice. Until we join Christ in glory, Christians will experience some of the same suffering and persecution that Jesus Christ experienced. Paul’s motivation for enduring and rejoicing in the midst of persecution was that it benefited and built up the Body of Christ.

The French philosopher and theologian Blaise Pascal once remarked that “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world.” [3] Pascal reminds us that as we follow Jesus the enemies of the Savior, when they persecute Christ’s followers, they are persecuting Him. As previously stated, whatever the Church suffers can be considered additional sufferings by Christ Himself. The Church is the Body of Christ and when His Body is suffering, the Savior is in agony, as well. Yet the afflictions Christians endure for the cause of Christ, in the end is a demonstration of the triumph of divine love for those whose salvation Jesus purchased with His precious blood.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] T.K. Abbott, The Epistles of Paul to the Ephesians and to the Colossians (Edinburgh: T & T Clark), 232.

[2] J.B. Lightfoot, Colossians (London, 1879), 166.

[3] Blaise Pascal, The Provincial Letters (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1866), 48.

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.

THE POWER OF A TOUCH

The pandemic has brought much change throughout society and in our personal lives. We could all list ways our lives have been affected and what we miss most about the personal sacrifices we have been asked to make. One common practice that I have missed in all the “social distancing” is the simple touch experienced between fellow sojourners…. the shaking of someone’s hand, the warm touch of an affirming hand placed on the shoulder by friends, a mutual hug by two individuals who express their caring for one another. “Social distancing” has reinforced the truth that touch is an essential human need. The exchange of a touch is fundamental to the human experience. The magic involved in a touch often transfers messages that the verbalization of ten thousand words cannot communicate. When we greet one another with a friendly and firm handshake, place a supportive hand on another’s shoulder, or embrace another with an encouraging hug, our bodies release neurological chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin that make us feel good, while at the same time inhibiting chemicals that cause stress.

Jesus knew the power of a touch. We see him extending His divine hand of mercy on numerous occasions, often to those who had been ignored by society: lepers, blind, beggars, outcasts. The hand of the Master transferred to them hope, encouragement, assurance, forgiveness and healing. His touch always changed the life of the one who felt His divine hand on their flesh.  The Greek word translated “touch” in the NT is “haptomia” which means “to attach oneself to, to touch, to cling to, to fasten to, to lay hold of.” It is found 36 times in the NT. Interestingly, “haptomia” comes from “haptó” which is used five times in the NT and is used to refer to “fastening fire to a thing, to kindle, set on fire” (Luke 8:16, 11:8, 15:18, 22:55; Acts 28:2). When we receive a touch from another person, especially the Savior, there is kindled a spark, a fire in our soul and spirit which can not come from just mere words spoken to us.

Oh, how I miss the touch of fellow believers whose affirming touch always kindles within my soul those sparks that burn inwardly, helping me to experience the warmth of love, kindness, assurance, caring, encouragement, and leaves me greater enriched than before their gentle touch. Touch is a powerful means of communication. Touch is how we first learned to communicated as infants before a word was ever verbalized.

We must never underestimate the power of a touch. Studies have shown that athletic teams that touch one another through high-fives, chest bumps, hugs, fist bumps, and pats on the back, perform much better than teams that don’t.[1] Those non-verbal gestures speak of confidence, cooperation, a close-knitness between teammates and fosters a sense of connectivity. As well, research has shown that physical aggression and violence is not as prevalent in adults where there was consistent physical affection during the childhood years. Homes where children have been deprived of physical affection are left with a hole in their emotional soul.

We all know from experience, physical affection and the touch of a caring friend or a loved one soothes our psyche, reduces our stress, can lower our blood pressure, and actually change our outlook on a bad situation. No words are spoken…only a touch. But it is a touch of caring, encouragement, compassion, empathy….it is touch of love. A touch is an expression of love that doesn’t have to be spoken but is joyfully conveyed to the emotions.

The magic of a touch instills security and assurance in the midst of uncertainty and upheaval. Just think how a mother’s touch enhances attachment and signifies security between mother and child. When our knees seem to buckle and legs are shaky, a touch on the back or an arm around the shoulder by a friend or loved one can work wonders. A gentle, caring touch can whisper, “I believe in you. I am praying for you. You are going to make it through this difficult time.” When a weary traveler experiences the touch of a caring friend, such a touch speaks words of encouragement to one who is about to throw in the towel.

A touch can convey positive reinforcement to another who needs such bolstering. As one who has been involved with coaching high school runners for some forty-five years, when an athlete receives positive reinforcement by an arm around the shoulder, a hug after a stellar performance, a high-five after a great workout, that athlete will give you 100% when race day comes because the gestures of touching tells them you genuinely care about them. I remember one young man who came from a home where there was no father and the mother worked two jobs to put food on the table. Every day that young man would come up to me and like a shadow stay on my shoulder, and he would stay there until I put my arm around his shoulder and tell him I was proud of him. He would grin and off he would go to do his workout. He always gave me 100%. What he needed was positive reinforcement which came through a caring touch. We never outgrow the need for such touches!

While we have been told “social distancing” has been necessary to flatten the curve of this pandemic, I sure do miss the power involved in a touch. We were created to be community beings. Oh, let us pray for that day when we can get back to “touching” one another again. We don’t realize how important an action is until we are  not allowed to engage in  it any longer. So, when it is announced “social distancing” is no longer necessary, don’t be surprised if in those first few days when I shake your hand, I might hold my grip a little tighter and  longer than I used, too.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

Footnote

[1] Kraus, MW, Huang, C & Keltner, D., “Tactile Communication, Cooperation, and Performance: An Ethological Study of the NBA,” Emotion, October 2010, Vol. 10, No. 5, 745-749.