Second Reformed Church

Monday, December 29, 2014

"In the Beginning" Sermon: John 1:1-5

“In the Beginning”

[John 1:1-5]

December 28, 2014 Second Reformed Church

            With the help of God, we are beginning a look at the Gospel of John this morning.

            John begins his Gospel, “In the beginning.”

            Does that phrase ring any bells for us?  Did John begin his Gospel in this way to remind us of something – to get us to think of something else?

            The use of this beginning is not an accident, but the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, Who, at the very opening of this Gospel wants us to remember something:

            Genesis 1:1-2:  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2, ESV).

            Near the end of John’s Gospel, he tells his readers – us – why he wrote his Gospel:  “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31, ESV).

            John wrote his Gospel that we would believe thatJesus is the Christ – the Messiah – the Savior that God sent, and that He is the Son of God – that He is One of the Divine Persons of God, and that by believing in Jesus, the Incarnate God, we might have salvation through Him – true and eternal life.

            We need to keep that in mind as we go through the Gospel of John – everything that John wrote was so his readers would be convinced that God came to earth in the person of Jesus – God with us – the Only Savior – and would believe in Him savingly.

            And he purposefully begins his Gospel with the words, ‘in the beginning,” so we would be reminded of the opening words of Genesis.  He wants us to remember something – to understand something right from the beginning of his Gospel.

            Again:  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2, ESV).

            So, what is Moses telling us that John wants us to remember?

            First, all the created stuff has a beginning. The Creation does not have an eternal past.   Time and space and creatures and all the stuff that exists began at a certain time.

            Second, God existed before space and time and creatures and all the created stuff came into existence.  There was a time before creation when there was only God.

            And third, God existed with God the Holy Spirit before anything else existed.  (We’ll learn more about God the Holy Spirit as we go through the Gospel of John, but, let us just note that Moses records that He was before the Creation was called into being.)
            
            So there was a time, so to speak, before the creation, when there was God and God the Holy Spirit – a time when there was only God Alone

OK?

With that in mind, John continues:
            
             “In the beginning was the Word,”
       
              John tells us, first, this morning, that the Word existed before the beginning.  In the time when there was only God Alone, the Word was there.
     
              And we quickly move on:

“and the Word was with God,”

Second, the Word is distinct from God.  Just as we see in the opening words of Genesis that there is God and God the Holy Spirit, we see that there is also the Word.

“and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

Third, the Word is God and was with God from before all things.

Now, so there is no confusion, as we go on in the text of John, he explains that the Word is God the Son, Who incarnate in the person of Jesus.

And so, we have the Doctrine of the Trinity presented in the opening words of John:  there is One God, and God exists in Three Persons, simultaneously, while remaining One God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This truth is outlined very carefully in The Athanasian Creed, and I encourage you to turn to it in the pink book in the pew.  I am going to read the first section of the creed for us, and it may help for us to look at the words as I read them:

“1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

“2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

“3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

“4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

“5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

“6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

“7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

“8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

“9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

“10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

“11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

“12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

“13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.

“14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

“15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

“16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

“17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

“18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

“19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;

“20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.

“21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

“22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

“23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

“24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

“25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

“26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

“27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

“28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity” (https://www.ccel.org/creeds/athanasian.creed.html).

John wants his readers to begin with the understanding that there is only One God.  And before the Creation, only God existed Alone.  And God exists in Three Persons:  Father, Son (the Word), and Holy Spirit.  The Persons are distinct, but They are the same One God.

John wants his readers to understand that Jesus the Savior is both fully human and fully divine, and the Savior had to be to be able to save all those who would believe.  (We’ll see more about this as we go along.)

John did not want his readers to be confused and think that there was more than One God, or to think that the Father or the Spirit incarnate in the person of Jesus.  And he wanted his readers to understand that all Three Persons of the Godhead function in all things, at the same time, but with different emphases.

As he continues:

“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

Fourth, everything that is was created through the Word.

As we put this together with Genesis, we have God the Father creating everything that is, through God the Word, superintended over by God the Holy Spirit.  All Three Persons of the Trinity created everything that is.  The One God created everything that is.

Paul tells us, “[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:15-20, ESV).

Paul affirms what John is arguing – that the Son of God created everything that is, and adds that He sustains their existence as well.

Now, since we have brought this passage in, we need to note that our Mormon friends and our Jehovah’s Witness friends will use this text to deny everything we have just said.  They argue that this proves that the Word – the Son – is not the One God, but the first creation of the One God – since Paul writes that He is “the firstborn of all creation.”

We don’t have time this morning to launch a thorough argument against these heretical religions, but let us just note that Paul continues by saying that the Son is “the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”  The point that Paul is making is not that the Son is a created being, but that the Son is the highest ranking being – and that is because He is the One God.

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

Fifth, the Word – the Son of God – is the Giver of Life.

All things that have life were given life by God.  As Paul said just a moment ago – all things were created through the Son and He sustains them.  We have life because God willed us to life, and we continue to live, because God keeps us living.

Paul explains:

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’  Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

“Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’ So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them” (Acts 17:22b-34, ESV).

Paul quotes the Greek poets and says that they got it right – in God we live and move and have our being.  God – this God Who came to earth in the human person of Jesus – is the God Who gives us life and being and allows us to continue to live.

And not only physical life, but spiritual life – for the Word is the Light.  We are enlightened by God in the Son.  It is only when the darkness of sin and disbelief are expelled from us that we can believe and receive Jesus as our God and Savior.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

So, fifth, the Word is the Giver of Light.

As Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6b, ESV).

            In other words:  it is absolutely impossible to come to God – to be right with God – except through Jesus Alone. 

            Jesus claims to be the Light out of the darkness, the Way to the Father – and He says there is no other Way – there is no other Light that will expel the darkness.

            So when people say they believe there are many roads to God – or that we all believe in the same God – Jesus is saying, “No.”  We either believe in Jesus – and thus we know God and are made right with Him, or we do not – there is no other way.

            The darkness that Jesus expels – the darkness that cannot overcome the Light – is sin and all of its results.

            Consider a dark room – flip on the light, and what happens?  The darkness cannot overcome it – it flees away.

            When Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” He does not mean that only some people come, He does not mean that only a few people come, He does not mean that only sincere people who seek really hard come – He means “no one.”

            We live in a time when a so-called “tolerance” is at a premium.  We are told that it is wrong to say that anyone is wrong.  We are told that the truth is that everyone’s “truth” is right.  Everyone should be on the team.  Everyone should get an award.  The only thing that we should not stand for is someone saying, “this is the only truth.”  But that’s what Jesus says – He is the One Light Who the darkness cannot overcome, because He is God the Word.

            John said he wrote his Gospelso that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31, ESV).

            To begin, John tells us that there is One God, and He exists in Three Persons:  the Father, the Son – the Word, and the Holy Spirit.

            As God, the Son created everything that is – just as did the Father and the Holy Spirit.

            The Son is distinct from the Father, as is the Holy Spirit, but They are the Same One God.

            Physical and spiritual life are given to us by God the Son, and there is no way to be right with the Father except through the Son.

            This is where we begin – understanding that the Scripture teaches that God is a Trinity – One God in Three Persons.  God is One Being, but carries out His Will in Three Persons.  The Son – the Word – is the Only Way to salvation.  God the Son became a human being on that first Christmas to be the Only Way of salvation.

            Ponder these things and understand that it cannot be true that both Jesus is the Only Way of salvation and there are many ways to salvation.

            Let us pray:


            Almighty God, we hear Your Word tells us that there is One God, and the Father is God and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God.  We understand that John is showing us that Jesus – the Word – is God – and human – and must be for Him to be our Savior.  Help us to hold these things in our mind and stand for Jesus as the Only Life and Light.  For it is in the Name of the Only Savior, our God, the Son, we pray, Amen.

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