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God: The Word

• Sam Hodges

Posted in Attributes of God, Bible, Evangelism, Gospel, New Testament, Theology

By Sam Hodges

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-4, 14 ESV)

In the first chapter of the gospel of John, John introduces readers to the Word. He tells his 1st century audience (primarily Jews and Greeks) a number of surprising things about the Word. We’ll look at four of those traits followed by a few points of application/significance.

Four Facts About the Word

1. The Word has always existed: If you go back to the beginning, or, as the Greek word used for “beginning” can also be translated, to the “origin” of all things, the Word was there. John also uses language that indicates the Word was already in existence, having no traceable origin of its own. This speaks to the infinite nature of the Word. D. A. Carson writes: “Stretch our imagination backward as we will, we can find no point in time where we may agree with Arius, who, speaking of the Word, said, ‘There was once when he was not.’”1

2. The Word was in relationship to God: In verse 1, John also tells us that the Word was “with” God. This means that the Word is distinct from God; John is talking about a separate person. But John is not describing two entities that are merely acquainted with one another. The Greek word translated “with”, according to New Testament scholar Andreas Kostenberger, indicates “place or accompaniment, but also disposition and orientation.”2 God and the Word shared (and continue to share) an active relationship.

3. The Word is God: Here’s where things can get a bit confusing. “One might think that either the Word was God, or the Word was with God. John affirms both.”3 So the Word is separate from God, yet the Word is God. If there was any doubt in the minds of John’s readers about the divinity of the Word, John makes it abundantly clear when he states that “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Not only is the Word divine in essence, the Word did the work that John’s readers would have attributed to God—the Word created all things that were made. The phrase in verse 3 “... and without him was not any thing made that was made” makes it clear that the Word is an uncreated being.

4. Jesus is the Word: John explains that the God who created the world has entered it. This is what we call the incarnation—God taking on human flesh. We know him as Jesus (the only Son from the Father in v.14).

What’s the Significance of This?

I’ve never met another Christian who, in normal conversation, refers to God as “The Word.” And I’ve never heard anyone begin a prayer saying, “Dear, Word.” So if we’re not going to use that title to refer to God, what’s the point of being familiar with it? Here are a four thoughts.

1. It’s foundational: It makes sense to know whom you’re worshiping. The first chapter of John gives us the basics about God and Christ. So the four points mentioned above are just things you need to know—it’s Christianity 101. Knowing those things will help you identify false teachers and make you a more effective representative of the gospel when family and friends ask you questions about what you believe.

2. When you read about Jesus, you’re reading about God: When we see Jesus patiently teach his disciples, show compassion to sinners, help the weak, express grief over sin, ask people tough questions, and express anger at the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, we’re getting a picture of what God is like. The temptation is to contrast Jesus, the loving Son, with the Father, the wrathful judge. Jesus shows us that God the Father and God the Son aren’t one-dimensional. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, Jesus is the exact imprint of God (Heb. 1:3). Which is why Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the father” (John 14:9). In a morally confused world that has fewer and fewer role models, we can look to Jesus to see how God wants us to live.

3. God wants to be in relationship with his creation: These verses help us see that we don’t serve an impersonal God. We weren’t created by God and left to our own devices, nor were we created by an impersonal or mechanical force. Instead, the God we know has for eternity been in an intimate relationship with the Word (his Son, Jesus Christ). So He’s a relational being. That truth can be very comforting to those who are suffering or lonely. Those who are hurting sometimes conclude that no one cares about them, or that God doesn’t care about them. And lonely people can be comforted by the fact that they are never truly alone. God is with them and desires to relate to them. These verses reminds us all that, at His core, God is relational, and he has taken the initiative to help us understand what He is like.

4. Make it easy for people: The Greek word John used for "Word" ("logos," pronounced loh-gos) was a commonly understood term in his day. Stoic philosophers used the term to refer to an Eternal Reason that was “the supreme principle of the universe. It was the force that originated, permeated and directed all things.”4 Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher, used the term to refer to a rational principle that mediated the creator’s dealings with a corrupt world. Ronald Nash explains, “Philo described the Logos as neither unbegotten (like God) nor begotten (like a human). As such the Logos is on the borderline between God and humankind, mediating from God to humans like an ambassador.”5

Jews who read about “the Word” would have immediately thought of the frequent references to the “the word” in their scriptures. For example, God uses his word to bring about creation (Gen 1:3). D. A. Carson writes, “That same word that affects deliverance and judgement.”6 But no matter how familiar Jews were with God’s word, John’s description of “the Word” would have surprised them.

By revealing Himself as the Word (logos), John, under the inspiration of the Spirit, builds upon his audience’s existing religious knowledge. In a few words, he corrects misconceptions that the Greeks had about the logos and advanced the understanding that Jews had about God. Paul used a similar strategy when he attempted to introduce the Athenians to the “unknown god” that they worshiped (Acts 17:23). You could even make the argument that Paul’s strategy of becoming all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:22) is, in part, an incarnational approach to evangelism in the sense that, like Christ, Paul “became like” those he wanted to win.

We can looks for ways to build upon the spiritual knowledge that those we encounter already have. When you talk to others about Christianity, find out what they believe, and affirm the things they’ve got right. Then show how what they know connects to the truths that are revealed in the gospel. This does not mean that making the right connection will lead someone to faith. God sovereignly grants faith to His elect. But we can (and should) take advantage of the effects that general revelation is having on those we encounter.

The Word. He’s God the Son, coterminous with the Father, the creator of all that has been made. He co-existed with the Father, then He became flesh. May God give us a richer understanding of who Jesus is and the significance of the incarnation.


1. D. A. Caron, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1991), 114.

2.Andreas Kostenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic 27)

3.Kostenberger, John, 27

4.Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1995), 103.

5.Ronald Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man (Grand Rapids: P&R Publishing, 1982), 64.

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