Undressing God [Part 1]

John 1:1-3, 18 | February 4, 2018 


God wants to be known. The Word who is Jesus the Son is with God and is God.
God wants us to know him.

Undressing God [Part 1]

John 1:1-3, 18
February 4, 2018

It’s often said that, “The bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.” That statement is especially true for John’s Gospel. It’s the Gospel that is both simple and profound. We turn together to look at a new Gospel, the Gospel according to John, so let’s dip our toe in the water of John’s Gospel together.

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1)

 

There are six things I want to say about ‘the Word’.

 

(1) The Word Is Jesus

 

First, ‘the Word’ is Jesus. In the beginning was ‘the Word’. Who or what is the Word? Verse 14 says, “the Word became flesh”, and in verse 17, ‘Jesus Christ’ is named as that Word. Jesus is given many titles in the Bible—‘Lord’, ‘Son of God’, ‘Son of Man’, ‘Judge’, ‘Christ’ or ‘Messiah’, ‘King’, ‘Priest’, and ‘Brother’—but here in verse 1 he is given the title ‘the Word’. So why ‘the Word’? The job of our ‘words’ is to communicate who we are.

 

There is a line in a classic ‘R and B’ song, ‘This Masquerade’ which says, “We tried to talk it over, but the words got in the way.” I suspect that it wasn’t the words which got in the way, but the heart. Without words, a relationship dies. Our words reveal who we are to others. ‘The Word’ is God’s self-expression.

 

How many marriages become shells after the kids have grown up, and now they turn to TV to fill in the long silences? Why is this so? There is no meaningful exchange of words. The job of words is to reveal us to others. And since no one has ever seen God, we need God to speak to us. As ‘the Word’, Jesus is the voice of God, the full revealer of who God is. We are dependent on God to reveal himself to us. And friends, God wants to be known by us. Our God is a speaking God. The author to the Hebrews puts it beautifully, in Hebrews 1:1-2a:

 

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son […]

 

Everything God wanted to say to you, he has said in his Son. So when Philip later says, “Show us the Father”, Jesus says in response, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:8-9). In other words, “What do you think you’ve been looking at for the last three years, Philip?” The Word is Jesus.

 

(2) The Word Existed Before Time

 

Second, ‘the Word’ existed before time. That is the meaning of, “In the beginning was the Word”. He was with God in the beginning.

 

The Gospel of Mark opens with the adult Jesus being baptized in the desert. Matthew and Luke take us back to the birth of Jesus. But John’s Gospel pushes us back in time to the very the beginning. Jesus said of himself that he existed before Abraham (John 8:58), making him at least 2000 years old. But this verse says that Jesus existed before the world was created. He was there at the beginning. The question is, how far back does Jesus go?

 

You and I have a starting point. There was a point in time and space before which you and I did not exist. As far as I know, I was conceived in mid-September 1959 in a house on Bungaribee Road in Toongabbie. I call it ‘the house of conception’. Before that moment, Ray Galea did not exist, except in the mind of God. There was a time when I was not. But there never was a time when Jesus was not.

 

It is also clear that Jesus is not some back up plan injected late in the game to save the world from unforeseen sin. Jesus was there at the beginning. Since the Word is God, it is not surprising that Jesus along with the Father is worshipped both in heaven and earth (Rev 5:11-14). The same idea is picked up in Colossians 1:16:

 

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him

 

There was never once when he was not. That is the difference between Jesus and us, and it is such an enormous difference. What does it mean to know that there was a time when you were not? It means that billions of humans still found it possible to have a great time for millennia never having known you. It should make you humble, to know that you are not at the center of the universe. How could anyone think they are at the center of the universe, when for most of the time they were not around for it? There was a time when you did not exist. There was a time when the universe did not exist. But there was never a time with the Word was not. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but in the beginning, the Word just was.

 

It’s humbling to know that for most of the history of the universe I did not exist, and no one seemed to miss me! Why I would think that I am at the center of the universe, and not Jesus, is both wrong and stupid.

 

The phrase “In the beginning was the Word” means that Jesus existed not only before his birth, and before Abraham, and before Adam, and before atoms, and before angels, but before the world was created. It is clear that Jesus is no ‘Plan B’ to get us out of trouble.

 

So how does this Word relate to God? That leads to our next point.

 

(3) The Word Was With God

 

Third, the Word was with God. Verse 1 again, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”

 

This verse reminds us of the beginning of Bible, Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth”. John is saying, “Let me tell you about this God who was at the beginning. For a start, there is more to this God than meets the eye.”

 

The Old Testament is very clear in teaching that God is one. God alone is God and there is no other. He will not share his glory with another. And all this John believed. But here, John says, “the Word was with God”. ‘The Word’ is not simply a quality of God, like wisdom. Rather, the Word is a person, who is eternal, and who shares eternity with the Father. These are the building blocks of the Bible teaching of the Trinity.

 

There are hints in the Old Testament that there is more than one person in God. In the very first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1:26, we read:

 

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”.

 

Who is this “us”? If God is single-personned, only one person, as the Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses say, who is this “us”? Shouldn’t have God said, “I will make mankind in my image, my likeness”?

 

But these were only hints. But when Jesus arrives, God is no longer hinting—he is telling. There is more to God than we think at first glance. God is three-personned. There are personal distinctions within God.

 

It’s not that God has changed as we go further and further on in the Bible. God has not changed as we go from Old Testament to New Testament—we are just getting to know him better.

 

To use an analogy, it’s as if the picture we have of God goes from two dimensional to three dimensional. If the Old Testament was 2D, the New Testament is 3D. The God of the New Testament is exactly the same as the God of the Old Testament. It is just that the ‘picture’ is enhanced, and there is more depth and perspective to the portrayal of the same God. The picture is sharper, crisper. It’s a high definition image of God, with more detail, and more pixels, in 3D, that we are given in the New Testament.

 

To use another analogy, the revelation of God as Trinity can be likened to a couple who discover that they are pregnant. The pregnancy test they bought at the Chemist is positive. Yippee! We have a baby. But as the pregnancy progresses, and it is time for the first ultra sound, to the surprise of both doctors and parents—there’s not one baby, but two! Wow, we have twins! Twice the yippee, and there goes the sleep. And still the pregnancy progresses, and at the second ultrasound, there’s another surprise—we don’t just have twins—we have triplets! Yippee, there goes friends. There were always three babies there in the womb, but discovering them, seeing them clearly, occurred over a period of time, as the information and the ultrasounds progressed.

 

So it is with God’s revelation of himself, and our discovery of what he is like. God is not single-personned, only one person. He is three-personned, and the revelation of this fact occurred progressively, over time.

 

So friends, we live in the best of days, for we live after Jesus the Word has become flesh. We know what Abraham and Moses and David did not know—that the one God is more than one person. God is Father and Son, and we will also find out that God is Spirit.

 

If God were only one personned, or one person only and not three-personned, we could not say, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). To love means to have someone to love. So the Word—God the Son, Jesus Christ—was both loving toward the Father and being loved by the Father from all eternity. Jesus remembers that love which he shared with the Father before he made the universe, in John 17:24:

 

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

 

There was once when God was alone—before he made everything—but God has never been lonely, even when he was alone. For God is love within himself, so he was never lonely. The Father has always loved the Son. The Son has always loved the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Father, Son, and Spirit could never be lonely, because each person had the other, and loved the other, even when there was nothing except God and only God. God did not create us because he needed us. He is, in the words of the song we sing at church, ‘The Independent God’.

 

You see, God is very different to a lonely man looking for love. God is very different to me, when I proposed to my wife Sandy. I was lonely, and it was not good for Galea to be alone. And the rest of you are the same as me. We come to our marriages from a position of need. It is not so with God. We enter relationships to stop the pain of loneliness. God enters relationships that would create the pain of rejection.

 

But is the Word truly God? Maybe the JWs are right! Did God create the Word? Is the Word a second rate god or sub god? That leads to our next point.

 

(4) The Word Was God

 

Fourth, “the Word was God”. John 1:1 again:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

 

These are the first words of John’s Gospel. No matter what is said of Jesus from here on, we have been told very clearly that Jesus is God. This explains when doubting Thomas finally lays eyes on the risen Jesus. After doubting the resurrection, Thomas is commended for saying of Jesus, “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28). When we read, “the Word was God”, it means “Jesus is God”. And if “Jesus is God”, he is to be worshipped.

 

Eighty years after Christ returned to the Father, Pliny the Younger wrote to Emperor Trajan about the Christians of Bythinia:

 

They [Christians] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, […]

 

Christians have always worshipped Jesus as God—and when Pliny said he was ‘a god’, he was only projecting his own polytheism onto the Christians—for he recognized worship when he saw it. This explains why Jesus thinks that he alone has the right to call you to follow him at the cost of your life. He alone has the right to be placed first before every human relationship in your life. He alone has the right to be the only way to God. And then John confirms that Jesus is God by his next point.

 

(5) All Things Were Created Through The Word

 

Fifth, all things were created through the Word, John 1:3:

 

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

 

Jesus was not looking on from a distance when God made the world. Jesus was there as God at the very beginning, creating the universe. Elsewhere, Paul says that “all things were created through” Jesus and “for him” (Col 1:15-16). All things were made through this Word. So think about it: the world that Jesus died for is the world that he had made. When they crucified Jesus, they crucified the Lord of glory. As Melito the 2nd century preacher put it, “The one who hung the earth in its place, hung there on the cross.”

 

Just in case you missed the point, John repeats it again in verse 3:

 

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

 

This is a watertight statement. John loves to say a truth positively, and then say it negatively. Positively, “through him all things were made”; Negatively, “without him nothing was made that has been made”. As the song says, the very hands that flung stars into space were the very hands that surrendered to cruel nails.

 

Remember that to create is to own. If you make something, it’s yours. So if God made you, you belong to him. We do not belong to ourselves. The tag on your body says, “Made through the Word”. That is why God has the right to judge your life.

 

Our culture says, “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live”. Jesus says, “I made you, so I have the right to tell you how to live.” Jesus says, “I have authority over your body and how you use it. I can say who you can and can’t have sex with.” But relax, you’re in good hands. For Jesus says, “I’ve come that you may have life to the full” (John 10:10).

 

How do I know this? Because God has made himself known. He is not hiding from you. He knows you and wants you to know him.

 

(6) The Word Is God The Son Who Makes God Known

 

Sixth, the Word is the God the only Son, and he makes God known. We all have a problem, according to verse 18: “No one has ever seen God.” No one has ever taken a selfie with God.

 

There are reasons why no one has ever seen God. God is spirit and we are sinners. Even Moses, who came the closest to seeing God, only saw the back of God. He only caught a glimpse of his glory, but didn’t see God himself. But there is only one who can tell us everything that God wants us to know about himself, and that is his one and only Son. John 1:18:

 

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

 

Why is the Son able to make God known? Because no one is closer to the Father than the Son. The Son shared eternity with the Father—the Word was with God—and the Son shared ‘Godness’ or his very nature as God with the Father—the Word was God. The Son is literally in the lap of his Father—this is the Son who has made the Father known.

 

Have you ever seen lovers in the park? The guy is sitting on the ground with his back against the tree, and his girlfriend is nestled in his arms, with her head resting on his chest. She knows him.

 

Jesus is here pictured as laying on the chest of his Father. He knows him, and he wants you to know him. In fact, this Gospel was written so that you would know the Father by believing and keeping on believing in his Son.

 

Conclusion—The Gospel of John Makes Jesus Known; Jesus Makes The Father Known

 

John writes in John 20:30-31 that his Gospel was written “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

 

Since you can’t see the Father, you need the Son to reveal him to you. Since you now can’t see the Son, you need this Gospel to reveal the Son to you. God wants you to know him, and this Gospel was written for that purpose.

 

MBM started 27 years ago. Our vision then was ‘Taking the Mystery out of Christianity’—that is, making God known. The model of ministry has been very simple—introducing people to Jesus from the Bible in loving relationships.

 

Nothing has changed. That is what we are doing here each Sunday, and in our different groups—at youth, at children’s church, in small groups, at Explaining Christianity, in our craft groups, at ESL, at Discovery Jesus. In fact in every ministry at MBM, we have been “introducing people to Jesus from the Bible in loving relationships.”

 

It’s why in term 1 we are starting the ‘nine word challenge’ again. We want every member of MBM to say those nine precious words: “Would-you-like-to-read-the-Bible-with-me?” Whether you say them with a friend or family member, a neighbor or a niece, someone you work or study with, you too can say, “Would you like to read the Bible with me?” It’s another way of saying, “Would you like to know God?” Because God wants you to know him. Then let me introduce you to his Son by reading with me this Gospel of John.

 

When we did the ‘nine word challenge’ last year, in one week, a woman was reading the Bible with a Chinese co-worker in Martin Place, a newly converted Assyrian Christian was reading the Bible with his parents, and another couple are still reading Mark’s Gospel each week with his parents. A teenager offered to read the Bible with his school friend, and an eight year old asked the question and had kids in his class saying yes.

 

As our South West Sydney celebrate their first birthday next week, let’s thank God. In 2017, for the first time, twelve people came to know the Father. As we plan to start the new 4pm service in term 4, we do it so that more people can know the Father. We rejoice in the 6pm service, which has grown from the 30 we started with to 220. We rejoice that so many have come to Christ, and that some from that service are now missionaries. We rejoice in the 9am service, that you have grown in six years from 100 adults to now being 200. And our 10:45am service has been the mother ship. You struggled last year, but you are getting back on your feet.

 

And as you invite friends and family to the Gospel of John with the words, “Would you like to read the Bible with me”, it’s not for you to know all the answers. We want to keep it simple. Let Jesus do the heavy lifting as we read the Gospel of John. Jesus came to make the Father known, so let’s get out of Jesus’ way.

More from this series




John 1:19-34 | February 18, 2018 
Confessing Christ


John 1:4-18 | February 11, 2018 
Undressing God [Part 2]


John 1:1-3, 18 | February 4, 2018 
Undressing God [Part 1]