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The Gospel of John: Manifesting God’s Glory Book 1

Jesus manifested God's glory through 8 miraculous signs in the gospel of John. These are a revelation of the feast of tabernacles.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 3

God and Gods

John 1:1-3 tells us,

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being by [dia, “through”] Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that came into being.

John loved to trace things back to the beginning in order to show the origins of all things. He did the same in his first epistle, where 1 John 1:1 starts out, “What was from the beginning.”

To John, “the beginning” was the start of creation. Yet before the creative sequence began, there “was the Word.” It was obvious to him that someone had to do the work of creation. Today it is fashionable to think that it all happened without any “Intelligent Design” and that everything happens through blind chance, given enough time. John does not attempt to prove the existence of a Creator but only assumes it, letting the creation speak for itself.

The Word is not only a spoken Word but a Person—Christ Himself. He is the Word personified, the Memra, the living Word. Life permeates both God and all that God does and says. This living Word (Memra) “was God” and was “with God.” John raises an important issue here about the unity of God. How can the Memra (Christ) be God and be with God at the same time?

How Many Gods?

Unitarians argue that the one true God (the Creator) was the Logos and that the Word He spoke was simply the words that He spoke. In other words, the word was “with God” in the sense that these creative words were coming from His mouth. This interpretation seeks to maintain divine unity by eliminating a second Person involved in the work of creation.

Trinitarians argue that the one true God was a plurality: “God in three Persons.” Hence, the Son and the Holy Spirit were “with” the Father and directly involved in the creative work. To be “with” means to be distinct, yet in some kind of association or relationship.

Both of these views, however, interpret the Logos in Greek terms, which inevitably conforms to the Gnostic definition of Logos, which in turn traces back to Heraclitus, the philosopher. The church in the fourth century tried desperately to distinguish its view of the Trinity from that which the Gnostics had promoted, but to do so required them to redefine the key Greek words to suit their view. Even so, they were far from unified in their view of the Trinity.

The Unitarian position took many forms as well, but the overall position was that Christ was subordinate to the Father. In other words, the Son was with the Father but not equal in authority with the Father. Within that framework, some said that Christ pre-existed with the Father at the beginning, while others said that Christ came into existence when He was conceived in Mary (Matt. 1:18).

In my view, the entire issue should be approached from a Hebrew perspective, rather than from a Greek mindset. Though the language is Greek, the definitions are Hebrew, because Greek language was being used to express the truth laid down earlier in the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e., the “Old Testament”).

Hence, Christ the Logos should be viewed as the Memra. We ought to use the Jewish definition of the Memra-Logos as our starting point and then make modifications in accordance with New Covenant revelation, especially in John’s gospel.

What is a Mediator?

Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant, and Jesus Christ was the Mediator of the New Covenant. Christ’s role as a Mediator is defined in Gal. 3:19, 20,

19 Why the Law [covenant] then? It was added because of transgressions, having been obtained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.

The law covenant was instituted through Moses, that is, “by the agency of a mediator.” When this “old covenant” became obsolete through Israel’s failure to keep their vow, a new covenant was needed, this time through a different Mediator—Jesus Christ. Whereas Moses sprinkled animal blood (Exodus 24:8), Christ used His own blood.

By comparing the two Mediators, we are given the biblically- inspired definition of a mediator. A mediator stands between two parties and represents each to the other. (Such also is the role of a priest and an intercessor.) To be a lawful mediator, one must be distinct from either party and yet connected to both. Hence, Jesus was distinct from the “only true God” (John 17:3), and because of Jesus’ virgin birth, He was also distinct from mankind—that is, from Adamic flesh that was made a “living soul.”

Hence, Christ was neither the Father nor man in the fullest sense, and yet He was linked to both. He stood somewhere between God and man, and when He was lifted upon the cross, He mediated the dispute between heaven and earth. As such, He was the only One perfectly qualified to be the Mediator of the New Covenant (1 Tim. 2:5).

An Agent Bears Witness to Another

As the New Covenant Mediator, Jesus Christ represented both God and men. As God’s representative, He was God’s agent and functioned through “the agency of a mediator” (Gal. 3:19).

The Jewish Encyclopedia states that the Memra was God’s agent and the embodiment of the living Word itself. John’s gospel shows that he agreed with this. An agent represents the one who has sent him, and to receive the agent is to receive the one sending him. So we read in John 12:44,

44 And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me.”

An agent bears witness to the one who sends him. When an agent speaks the words that he was commissioned to speak, the words are not his own. Jesus said that He did not speak on His own initiative (John 5:30; 8:28, 42; 12:49; 14:10). He only spoke what He heard His Father speak. As such, Jesus is the great Amen of God. Rev. 3:14 says,

14 To the angel of the church in Laodicea, write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this.”

A witness speaks what he has heard or seen personally. The law of witnesses is particularly relevant here, saying in Deut. 19:15,

15 A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.

Jesus Himself made use of this law in Matt. 18:16 to establish truth in neighborly disputes, and Paul also appealed to this law in 2 Cor. 13:1,

1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

For our present purpose, Rev. 3:14 is the most important of all, because it links the law of the double witness to the creation itself. There the apostle heard the Voice telling him that Christ is the Amen of God. Hence, the Memra (Logos) was “with God” in the sense of bearing witness to God. Christ, then, is “the faithful and true Witness,” because He bore perfect witness to that which His Father was speaking, and He was “faithful” to speak all that He had heard.

The Creative Amen

Since all things are confirmed by witnesses, the creation of the world needed confirmation in order for it to come into being. God must be true to Himself, and His own nature demanded a double witness to create all things. For this reason, the Father begat a Son in His own image. The agent had to be “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15) in order to proceed with the creation of the universe in a way that did not violate His own nature.

As soon as the Father spoke, the Son was begotten through His words. We cannot know for sure if this begetting occurred when God said in Gen. 1:3, “Let there be light,” but John seems to imply this by calling Christ not only “the Word” but also “the Light.”

Christ was thus the only-begotten Son at the beginning of creation and not merely when He was born in Bethlehem. Once the explosion of light cut through the darkness, the creative process began. All subsequent elements of the creation were created not BY Him (directly) but through Him (indirectly). John uses the word dia (“through”).

Christ is unique and also pre-existent, and His distinction from the Father made the double witness lawful. When the Father spoke each creative word, the Son bore witness, and it was so. Each day of creation, the Father spoke a new Word, and the Son became the embodiment of that Word by agreeing with all that He had heard.

Later, when Christ was incarnated in Mary and grew up to do His ministry, He continually bore witness to His heavenly Father on earth as He had done in heaven.

Christ’s heavenly ministry as God’s double witness was an integral part of the original creative process. Later, Christ’s earthly ministry as God’s double witness was a work of restoration on account of Adam’s sin. This restoration work was designed to overcome all darkness again and to create the new heavens and the new earth by His “Amen.”

This re-creation, however, differs in another way from the original creation. This time Christ Himself is a Father in His own right, begetting sons of God who bear witness of the light that He spoke and who believe that His words are truth.

So Isaiah 9:6, a messianic passage, refers to Him as “Eternal Father.” Christ Himself has a Father, but He is also a Father in His own right and His children are his agents who say Amen to His word.

We are Christ’s Agents

As agents of Christ, we are His ambassadors. 2 Cor. 5:20 says,

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

An ambassador does not speak on his own initiative but represents the government or king who has sent him. An ambassador is an agent who, if faithful to his mandate, bears witness to the word given him. He is expected to be in agreement with the one who sent him. All that he speaks is but an Amen to what he has heard.

Christ’s children, the sons of God, are a necessary component in the process of recreating the heavens and the earth. These are the Amen people, the body of Christ, who are both part of Him and with Him, depending on one’s viewpoint. Our relationship to Jesus is quite similar to His relationship to His Father. The Logos was with God and “was God. As Christians (“little christs”), we represent Christ, and when we speak, we are Him, not literally, but as Christ’s agents. Hence, we are both Christ (anointed ones) and with Christ (The Anointed One).

It is not inaccurate, then, to refer to Christ as God, as long as we recognize the distinction between “the only-begotten God” (John 1:18) and “the only true God” (John 17:3). Both the Father and the Son were “Gods,” although the Son always deferred to His Father. In the end all things except the Father Himself will be subjected to the Son (1 Cor. 15:27). This confirms their distinction and also shows how Christ is subordinate to His Father.

You are Gods

That Jesus was a “God” comes out also in John 10:30-36, where Jesus cited Psalm 82:6,

6 I said, “You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High.”

Obviously, the psalmist was not telling us that we are all somehow the Creator Himself. Our destiny is to be “gods” in a lesser sense, for a god is simply one who has power or authority in some realm.

Hence, judges were also gods (elohim), as we see in Exodus 21:6, where we read, “his master shall bring him to God” (elohim). The agent of God was the judge who was called to confirm—in the name of God—that the man was truly a voluntary slave and not being forced or coerced into perpetual slavery. The priest (elohim) was to confirm this by nailing the slave’s ear to the door with an awl.

Hence, the law has no problem calling men gods, as long as we understand its meaning as an agent of the one true God.

God and The God

John 1:1 says literally that “the Word was with THE God, and the Word was God.” In this way John seems to distinguish between the two. Without the definite article, it could be translated “a god” or “a God.” So John’s opening statement tells us that Christ was with the only true God, and He also “was a God” in His own right.

For a “God” to be with a “God,” it is apparent that there are two Gods in association. They are distinct, though not necessarily on the same level.

Ivan Panin was a Russian nihilist who was expelled from his country for his involvement in a plot against the Tsar. He went to Switzerland, where he received his education and remained an agnostic until 1890 when he discovered God in John 1:1.

Karl Sabiers, who wrote Russian Scientist Proves Divine Inspiration of Bible during the last year of Panin's life, wrote:

“After his college days he became an outstanding lecturer on the subject of literary criticism... His lectures were delivered in colleges and before exclusive literary clubs in many cities of the United States and Canada. During this time Mr. Panin became well known as a firm agnostic— so well known that when he discarded his agnosticism and accepted the Christian faith the newspapers carried headlines telling of his conversion.”

This conversion occurred in 1890 when his attention was caught by the first chapter of John, in which the article (“the”) is used before “God” in one instance, and left out in the next: “and the Word was with the God, and the Word was God.” He began to examine the text to see if there was an underlying pattern contributing to this peculiarity. Making parallel lists of verses with and without the article, he discovered that there was an entire system of mathematical relationships underlying the text. This led to his conversion to Christianity, as attested to by his publication in 1891 of The Structure of the Bible: A Proof of the Verbal Inspiration of Scripture.

Until his death in 1942, Ivan Panin labored continuously on the discovery of numerical patterns throughout the Hebrew language of the Old Testament and the Greek language of the New Testament, often to the detriment of his health. His conclusion was that if these patterns were implemented intentionally by man, the collaboration of all writers of the Bible—stretched over many disparate years—would be required, in addition to the condition that each of them be a mathematician of the highest order.

In 1899 Panin sent a letter to the New York Sun challenging his audience to disprove his thesis that the numerical structure of scripture showed its divine origin.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Panin

It was because of Panin’s discovery of the numeric patterns in 1890 that he was converted from agnosticism to a strong belief in Christ, testifying that no man could have written a book like this. And how did he make this discovery? He was curious as to why John used the definite article “the” to describe “the God” and then, later in the same sentence, John writes “God” without the definite article.

Being a linguist who knew many languages, including Hebrew and Greek, Panin knew that every letter was also used as a number, since they did not use Arabic numerals as we do today. He began to work with these numerical patterns and was astounded by the patterns in the word of God.

In the Beginning with God

Not only was the Logos “with God” but also “in the beginning with God” (John 1:2). John intended to show Christ’s origin, not with His birth in Bethlehem but with the first spoken Word of the Creator God. Hence, Paul calls Him “the Firstborn of all creation” in Col. 1:15. His pre-existence is clearly established by both apostles, and John will have more to say about this later in his gospel.

Some argue that the Logos was merely a spoken word (logos), not a Person. The Word was powerful but not a living Being. For this reason they say that the pronoun “he” should not be viewed as having personality, because grammatically speaking, logos is a masculine word. Other words were either masculine or feminine without making them into living Beings.

This argument does have merit, but in the end, one must look at the broader context in John’s gospel to know how to interpret logos/Logos. Was it merely an impersonal but powerful word that God spoke in the beginning? Or was this Word alive in the sense of a distinct living Being?

I believe that the word of God is alive (Heb. 4:12) and has the power to create life and living beings on every level. The word was “with God,” not only in the sense that it came from God’s mouth, but also that the outcome was to create a living Being as Christ, followed by many other living beings in the earth.

If the logos of God could create countless living beings, then what would hinder the logos from first creating the Logos as the Firstborn of all creation? Paul’s terminology in Col. 1:15 interprets John’s Logos as a living Being—Christ Himself.

Further, we have the testimony of Peter. Though he was a simple fisherman, he had the revelation of Sonship, having been present at the Mount of Transfiguration. He testifies clearly that the word of God begets the sons of God. 1 Peter 1:23 says that we were begotten (gennao) “through the living and enduring word [logos] of God.”

This shows that God begets sons through the logos. We are these sons. If the logos-word of God can beget living beings, it must follow the original pattern by which God begat the Son of God, the Firstborn of all creation.