TB 258 – 14 Dec 14
Part 1 -
“Through Him, All Things…
Without Him, Nothing.”
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This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
Some of the things that John writes in his gospel are so startling that, even in the 21 st-century, after millennia of Christian history, to grasp them and to utter them seems blasphemous. No wonder in 1 st-century Palestine some picked up rocks to stone Jesus to death. His claims were (and are) breathtaking.
Read John 1:1-3.
I grew up in a Christian tradition that downplayed the celebration of Christmas because of its pre-Christian customs and current materialism, thus paying only minimal attention to Christ’s birth as well. Instead, Christ’s death was elevated, and the scriptures that ask Christ-followers to remember him in death were emphasized. Instead of Christmas, the Eucharist (communion) was the most prominent, even in December.
It is accurate that the cross should overshadow the manger, for even the “no vacancies” in Bethlehem predict the forsaken Christ of Golgotha. But in this Touching Base and the accompanying sermon we are going to turn from the cross and instead focus on the heart of the Christmas story – the Son of God’s incarnation. We need to get things straight. His incarnation and who he is precedes his death and what he did for us.
Our text is highly theological – expounding a “high Christology” – but highly practical. The most theological texts are always the most practical because they are foundational, and everything, including day-to-day living, hinges on them.
This gospel is different from the other three. Here Jesus’ audience may have been the sophisticated
theologians around Jerusalem rather than the Galilean crowds of the synoptic gospels, and so there is less narrative and more of the arguments that might have suited contemporary synagogue teaching.
And Jesus is unmistakably presented as God having taken on a human body and nature.
This begins with the first 3 verses. Read them again. Not only are we starting before the crucifixion, we’re starting way before the virgin birth. “The other gospels begin with Bethlehem; John begins with the bosom of the Father. Luke dates his narrative by Roman emperors and Jewish High Priests; John dates his ‘In the beginning’. Matthew and Luke take us to the cradle and the manger, Mark to the prophecies of old, but John takes us back into the mists of eternity” (MacLaren).
“The Word” is a confusing term, but its meaning can be summarized this way. In the Old Testament, the Word of God is how he accomplished his greats acts – of deliverance, of judgment, and especially, of creation. Read Psalm 33:6 and, of course, Genesis 1 – “And God said…And God said…” Also Isaiah 38:4, Psalm 107:20. Then, in the world of the New Testament and John’s audience, the Word (or logos in Greek philosophy) would have had connotations of something of great significance and that was from beyond the tangible world.
But that is all that Hebrew tradition, Greek philosophy, and the Old Testament can say about the Word. So John, with divine inspiration, then strikes out for new territory, a frontier never-before trammeled, one wild and dangerous. This Word, he writes, that was in the beginning was with or toward God (connoting intimacy and relationship) and, in fact, was God. John is a Jewish monotheist (believing in only one God), but he says this Word was God. He goes on to write that this Word is none other than Jesus, the man he knew so well. As he writes in his first epistle, he has seen this “Word,” has looked right at him, and has touched him. Read 1 John 1:1.
It gets better yet. Read John 1:3 again.
Everything that exists was made through this person. It is stated as a positive – “All things were made through him” – and emphasized in the negative – “and without him nothing was made that was made”. As the writer of Hebrews states, it was through the Son that God the Father made the universe (Hebrews 1:2).
Let’s sum up so far. I’ll state things baldly but I’m treading on holy ground. It is so shocking as to seem blasphemous even after 2000 years.
God is three persons. Each person is fully God. And there is one God.
Like the rest of the Godhead, God the Son has been forever. It was through him specifically that God the Father created the whole universe.
However, “Jesus” has not been forever. It was only when God the eternal Son became a man and took on a human body and nature, that this God-man, entering time itself at Christmas, is called Jesus.
Therefore, the incarnation is “something ‘new’ even for God” (Torrance). There is something different about the Godhead after Christmas. And then, after Easter, God the Son sits at the Father’s right hand, not only as God, but forever as a human as well. Forever.
God stooped humbly to die for us at Calvary, but first he had to stoop humbly to become like us at Christmas.
Is this just a “high Christology”? Just a lofty theological gloss?
If you were choosing a surgeon or a personal bodyguard, looking into his credentials, his resume, and his experience would not be an academic exercise; it would be eminently practical. If you’re choosing a god, if you’re in need of a saviour, if you desire a trustworthy counselor and friend, the above resume needs your consideration. Through him all things…without him nothing!
For an in-depth yet finite little study, search out the passages that refer to the Son of God’s preexistence before he became a man. It takes you to before time began and can reaffirm your faith. Start with Matthew 11:27-30, Romans 8:3-4, 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:1-8. There are more.
For reading or references, see the very readable The Message of John by Bruce Milne (1993) or the not-so-readable He Came Down From Heaven: The Preexistence of Christ and the Christian Faith by Douglas McCready (2005). Both InterVarsity Press.
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