Friday, October 30, 2009

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: O Word of God Incarnate

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 29 Num. 14

In this season of the year, we often gather our families and read the beautiful accounts of Christ’s nativity found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. This is good, but we should not forget John. He, too, gives an important account of our Lord’s entrance into the world. True there are no shepherds or wise men or mangers in his account, but his words are chock full of glory and joy.

Remember the opening verses? “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. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).

As J.C. Ryle has reminded us “. . . there are heights and depths in [this passage] which are far beyond man’s understanding. And yet there are plain lessons in it which every Christian would do well to treasure up in his mind.” Permit me to point to five of these lessons for your edification.

First, note that we learn here that Jesus Christ is eternal (“In the beginning was the Word”). Jesus is here called “the Word” (John explicitly makes the connection in verses 14, 17-18). He was born into the world and born of Mary, but He pre-existed his human birth, and He pre-existed the world itself. Second, we find that Jesus Christ is a person distinct from the Father (“the Word was with God”). Hence, the Word (the preincarnate Son of God) is not only eternal, but also personal (a He not an it), and indeed He is alongside God the Father eternally.

Third, John boldly states that Jesus Christ is very God (“the Word was God”). This is a straightforward assertion of the deity of our Lord. No other estimation of Jesus will suffice. As Robert Lewis Dabney once said: “He who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ is a Christian; he who does not, (whatever his profession), is a mere Deist.”

Fourth, Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things (“All things came into being through Him”). Not only is the Word eternally existent, not only is He personal, not only is He ascribed the name of God, but He is also the Creator (a task which every good Jew knew was performed by God alone).

Fifth, Jesus Christ is the source of all spiritual life (“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men”). John tells us that the Word, the Lord Jesus is the only Hope and Savior of the world because all life and light reside.

By the way, in a nutshell, we have here the rudiments of Scripture’s doctrine of the Trinity. That is, though there is but one true God, there is an eternal personal fellowship between the divine Word and God, the Word shares the name of God, and the Word does the works of God. Correlate with this passage the New Testament teachings on the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit, and you have the doctrine of the Trinity: one God in three Persons.

What a glorious passage on which to reflect in all seasons of the year. Ryle urged: “Would we know . . . the strength of a true Christian’s foundation for hope? Let us often read these first five verses of St John’s Gospel. Let us mark that the Saviour in whom the believer is bid to trust is nothing less than the eternal God. . . . In ourselves we are great sinners. But in Jesus Christ we have a great Saviour.” May you share this message this faithfully and may it be your everlasting comfort.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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