We come now to the Doctrine of Christ of the Shorter Catechism and we will study them again into two parts. This doctrine flows logically in connection to the Covenant of Grace we studied last week because Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant (Matthew 26:28). Here the study of Christ’s one person and two natures will definitely occupy our initial focus then we will look at the Office of the Mediator, his name and title, and the designation that comes with the office as prophet, priest, king. After this, we will move on to study about Christ’s humiliation and exaltation. Here we will examine the life, death, resurrection, ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This Lord’s Day we will learn again about the person and natures of Christ. I will again preach it in Tagalog and English because it will come again from my old manuscript. We will examine the content of WSC Q#21 and 22 where it reads:
Q#21: Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
Answer: The only Redeemer of God’s elect, is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever.
Q#22: How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
Answer: Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.
Christ is the divine person with two natures: divine and human. This doctrinal understanding if foundational to doctrine of Christ so we will dedicate a sermon on this topic. The sermon will examine John 1:1, break it down into its part, and preach on its meaning and significance.
Wala ng iba pang pangyayari sa kasaysayan na nagdulot ng pinaka malaking iskandalo sa isipan ng mga tao maliban sa pagkakatawang tao ng Anak ng Dios. Ang persona at ang gawa ng ating Panginoong Hesus, ang ebanghelyo o mabuting balita ng Kristiyanong pananampalataya ay maituturing na katitisuran sa mga Hudyo at kalokohan lamang para naman sa mga Henti. (1 Cor 1:23) Kaya nga gayun na lamang ang pwersa ng buong angkan ng kasamaan na pabulaan at itago ang mga katotohanang ito. Katulad nga ng sinabi ni Pablo: “At kahit ang aming ebanghelyo ay natatalukbungan pa, ito ay may talukbong lamang sa mga napapahamak. Sa kanilang kalagayan, binulag ng diyos ng sanlibutang ito ang pag-iisip ng mga hindi mananampalataya, upang huwag nilang makita ang liwanag ng ebanghelyo ng kaluwalhatian ni Cristo, na siyang larawan ng Diyos” (2 Corinto 4:3-4).
Kaya nga, wala ng mas titindi pang pagpaliwanag at pagtuturo ang kinakailangan patungkol sa persona ng Anak ng Dios upang bigyang liwanag ang katotohanan ng ebanghelyo ni Kristo lalo na sa kanyang pagka-Dios. At sa karunungan ng Dios ayon sa kanyang mga Salita, tunay nga na makaasa tayo na ipakikilala ng Dios ang kanyang sarili sa kanyang mga anak. Ito ang pagpapakilala sa atin ni Apostol na ating pagaaralan natin mula sa kanyang ebanghelyo kabanata isa, kung saan makilala kung sino ang Ang Verbo, ang Anak ng Dios: (1) The Word is Eternal (2) The Word is Personal (3) The Word is Divine (4) The Word became flesh. Dito ay pagaaralan natin ang unang talata ng aklat ni Juan.
Before we begin, let us pray:
Blessed Lord, who has caused Holy Scripture to be written for our learning, grant that we may hear, read, learn, and inwardly digest them, that through the comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which You have given us in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Word is Eternal
For such a short verse, John 1:1 is packed with content and meaning. Apostle John purposely started his book, not with a human genealogy or a birth narrative just like what his companions have done (this is not because it is wrong or invalid but because he had a specific purpose in mind) but a summary or a prologue of the entire book. With just 18 verses, he tried to capture the entire message of his whole book. Which is why the examination of just these few verses would require a serious study from any serious Christian in order to uncover it meaning. This is not because something was hidden in his message. It is plain as it can be but the revelation it contains is truly out of this world: It shows us the eternality, the personality and divinity of God’s Son.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1) says verse 1 and it can be divided into three sections: In the beginning was the Word (1A), and the Word was with God (1B), and the Word was God. (1C). Each word need a commentary because again like I said, John was purposeful in his selection of each. Let us treat first the 1st section: In the beginning was the Word (1A). The subject of this phrase is The Word. The Word there in English came from the Greek word “ὁ λόγος”. Now, a commentary on the use of the word “λόγος”:
Logos or word as a stand-alone “word” only means “a thing” or “something” but in context with the Greeks. The Logos have a special philosophical meaning. It meant for them as the highest principle of the universe, an organizing principle of ordering and making sense of this world. They may attribute some deistic notion over such term but coming from a pagan orientation, the Logos is generally regarded as something impersonal force similar to the force as used in Star Wars. It exist, it is there, it influences the outcome of things in our time and history but it largely mysterious. It is out there but hidden not made manifest. Now this what John was trying to make known, that this impersonal force is indeed personal and divine just like what Paul desired to have made known in Acts 17:23: ” 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”. And because John was a Jew he had access from his Judaism an understanding about the Wisdom of God as a personal force from God himself as someone who was there since creation and ordering redemption in history (Proverbs 8). With fuller revelation that Jesus himself showed and explained to them, he now wrote this summary in John 1:1.
The description that John gave for the Logos was “In the beginning”. Now the phrase is familiar of course to any Jewish boy in his time. This Greek phrase is from the same Hebrew phrase “bereshit” in Genesis 1:1 where is said: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This point is so obvious and so far cult or not this connection can be easily made without any contention.
Which is why in the word “was” comes the most illuminating understanding of them all. The translation in English is quite accurate but needs further explanation. Because in English the word “was” is to be understood as a continuing action from the past (imperfect tense) but the Greek here stands for a copula “to be” (εἰμὶ) or in English as “is” but as an “is” used to equate. It is like saying that “The Word” = “In the beginning”. So in what sense was the Word is equal in the beginning? Not in as a past tense just like what the word “was” means in English but a continuing action from the past. It points to eternity or a time beyond, outside or not in time.
This point is important because we need to know if John was describing The Word as some one who is on the Creator side or in the creature side and being there since the beginning before creation will logically points to Creator. (contrast this with the view of Felix Manalo from INC). This point was reinforce to us by John in the succeeding verses 2 and 3: “He (οὗτος) was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” If creation was after him and because a creature can only come from a creator (a creature creating only creates from first creation and not out from nothing therefore not the act of creation) then The Word coming from before creation is from the Creator side of this.
The Word is Personal
So The Word is Eternal. He was in the beginning with God as reinforced from verse 2. He is from the Creator side of things. This points to his origin as something not made or creator. Now the second phrase says that “The Word was with God”. There we have again the use of “was” same Greek word like I said is used as “continuing action from the past” which points to the reality of The Word’s origin since the beginning. Here comes what fuller revelation that the apostles of the New Testament possess, The Word was with God. The phrase used to describe The Word here is “πρὸς τὸν θεόν” which can be used to mean in the Hebraic sense face to face with God.
Who was “the God” being referred to by John here? Well, the third phrase will give a more complete picture of what John was trying to convey here but suffice to say that John was making a distinction between the Word who is eternally there since the beginning, who is on the Creator side not from the created or creature side and the God whom we will see later passages in verse 18 as the person of the Father. The personal distinction between the Son and his Father was what John gives us. The eternal relationship is what John wants us to see and acknowledge here. It is important because the distinction made here will help us figure out the incarnation of the Son as a person when he wrote in verse 14: the Word became flesh, the reality that the person of the Son while eternal added to his person, not to his being, the human nature or flesh. It was not the person of the Father who was made flesh. Why because as John said in verse 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.” The personal distinction helps us rid ourselves any notion that it was the Father in the Old Testament who became flesh as the Son in the New Testament. This is modalism and is a heresy. There in the beginning an eternal relationship between the persons of the Father and Son but is the Son a second being of God?
The Word is Divine
Now having explained to us the distinct person of the Word is eternally in relation with God, his Father, we come now most revealing part of this verse, the third phrase: “The Word is God”. This phrase is most revealing and yet it is the most controversial because heresy comes for every misunderstanding of this clause. This clause does not contain an “article” attached with θεός or “God” as we would expect because John used it in the second clause where he wrote: The Word was with (the) God. It is not obvious in English because it can be omitted but in Greek it was there. However in the third clause, John did not put it there. It simply says “θεός” or God. The God in the second clause but God only in the third clause. What is then meaning of the omission? What was John trying to convey?
The obvious omission in his Greek writing makes us think that John is not inconsistent. Because if He wrote “the God” there in the third clause just like what he did on the second clause would make him say two opposing things. How can the Word be with God if He was simply referring to the same self “the God”. The made a distinction but immediately obliterate the essence of that distinction by making the Word one and the same as the God.
Now the natural reading of this clause in Greek with the omission of the article which is definite “the God” would render them indefinite as “a god”. A cult was born because of this omission which led them to believe that the Word is simply “a god” in sense an exalted creature like the angels who were addressed as god. But we have to understand that John was a Jew and he is a strict monotheist. He does not believe in multiple beings of god but to only one being that is God. He already address the distinction in the person as we can read in the second clause but having a separate being in that person would result to polytheism which we cannot impose on John. We assume monotheism but not Unitarianism or a belief that there can be only one person in any on being at all time.
So we offer this explanation as what was offered to us since the church began, the term “God” points to his nature as “God” or other words “divine”. The Word, while separate in his person, shares the same being that is God. The view here is the qualitative use of the term “θεός”. The omission of the article does not point to the indefinite use but to the qualitative use. The Word is God. This justifies the succeeding verse explaining that the Word is the source of being and life of all that was created but the person distinction was important because it was not the whole being of God (including the Father and the Holy Spirit) who became flesh but only the Son.
The Word became flesh
Why labor with such details? Can we just accept the mystery without understand what it means? No. Because the essence of the mystery is an act in history which can be examined, received and believed not because it arbitrary or private but historical and public. The whole exercise also allows us to re-calibrate our thoughts about the incarnation.
No one can be bothered to confessed that God was incarnated because most have a low view of God so him coming to us in human form does not entail any admiration or glory. But by laboring to explain and understand what it means for God to be incarnated in the flesh, the Eternal, Personal and Divine Son of God taking flesh, we can see all the glory being referred to by John here: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (verse 14).
With a high view of God we can understand what it took for God to address sin in the world and accomplish the redemption of his people. We can then appreciate and glory the grandeur of this divine work in order to bring salvation to sinners. Again. theology leads to doxology. It enables us to sing wholeheartedly. God brings us to the glory of his persons and his being because we know from the act of his redemption that he deserves all glory and praise. Indeed, God is with Us. Praise God for his saving work!
ZCRC(Imus), Jesus Christ who the mediator of the Covenant of Grace is the God-man. He reconciled us to the Father and brought us to saving relationship with God by the Spirit. This is the gospel of God. Let us put our trust in Him. May the Lord continue to convert God’s people to faith and repentance through the message of his gospel and by the power of his Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.