Christ, the Word of God
April 1st, 1985 @ 12:00 PM
CHRIST: THE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-1-85 12:00 p.m.
The series of messages this week are surrounding or concerning the theme “The Deity of Our Lord Jesus Christ”; the witness of John, the sainted apostle, to Jesus our Lord. Tomorrow, it will be Christ: the Power of God; on Wednesday, Christ: the Love of God; on Thursday, Christ: the Way to God; on Friday, Christ: the Atonement of God, the sacrifice of God; and today, the beginning message, Christ: the Word of God.
In the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, the apostle John sees the Lord in His second coming. And he describes that majestic return of our Savior to earth in these words:
And I beheld heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon it was Faithful and True . . .
His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns…
He was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
The apostle begins his Gospel with that same nomenclature: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made” [John 1:1-3].
We worship our Lord, we bow before Him, we call Him and on Him as our Lord Christ, God revealed to our souls. Why are we not idolaters? The worship of anything other than God is idolatry. Why are we not idolaters worshipping Jesus? The twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke closes like this: “And,” as our Lord was ascending up into heaven, “He reached forth His hands and blessed them… and as He ascended upward, they worshiped Him” [Luke 24:50-52]. The disciples, the apostles, worshipping the ascending Lord Jesus: why are not they idolaters?
The climactic closing verses of the fourth chapter of the Revelation, describing the Lamb of God upon the throne—the verses are these: “And the four cherubim. . .and the four and twenty elders fell down… and worshiped Him who liveth forever and ever” [Revelation 4:8-10]. Why are not they idolaters? It must be, it has to be that Jesus is God! If He is not, we are idolaters; they are idolaters. But if Jesus is God, we are the true worshippers of the true Lord God in heaven [John 20:28-29]. And that is the sublime and extraordinary purpose of the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John: to present the deity of Christ [John 20:31].
In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John [John 12:41], the apostle identifies the marvelous, marvelous christophany, theophany, of God, in the sixth chapter of Isaiah with Christ. Isaiah saw the Lord Jehovah “high and lifted up, and His train filled the earth” [Isaiah 6:1]. John says that Isaiah saw the Lord Jesus Christ in that glorious vision: a christophany, a theophany, a vision of the preexistent Christ [John 12:41].
It is thus in the New Testament with regard to all of the revelations of Jehovah Christ in the Old Testament. When Jacob wrestled with the Angel at the River Jabbok and called it Peniel, “I have seen the face of God” [Genesis 32:24-30], that was a christophany, it was a theophany; it was an appearance of the preexistent Christ.
When the great lawgiver Moses heard the voice of God in the burning bush, that was a christophany, a theophany [Exodus 3:2-12]. He was listening to the voice of Jehovah, Jesus the Lord Christ. When Joshua saw the Warrior standing by the wall of Jericho, Joshua asked: “Who are You?” [Joshua 5:13]. And He replied, “As Captain of the host of Israel am I come. . .Take off your shoes, for the land whereon you stand is holy ground” [Joshua 5:14-15]. He saw Jehovah Christ, the preexistent Christ; it was a christophany; it was a theophany. This Lord Christ is our Lord and our God; and we bow in worship before Him. The climax of the Gospel of John is in the twentieth chapter, when the doubting apostle Thomas exclaims: “My Lord and my God!” [John 20:28]. Jesus is our Lord God.
In the close of the 1700s, there was gathered in London England a group of brilliant literary geniuses, such as Charles Lamb and William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge. And as the group gathered in conversation, they began to speak of what they would do if the great men of the past were to come and join them. One of the men said, “If William Shakespeare entered the room, we would all stand up in honor of the tremendously gifted poet of Avon.” And Charles Lamb said, “But if Jesus the Christ were to come into the room, we all would kneel and bow in worship and adoration. He is our Lord God.”
Thus it is that the Fourth Gospel begins: “In the beginning was the Word” [John 1:1]. There are translations of this New Testament who will leave that word in the Greek: “In the beginning was the Logos.”
By the time John wrote this Gospel, toward the end of the first Christian century, the word logos had become a metaphysical and theological and philosophical expression in the Greek world for the idea, the concept, the design, the thought, as well as the expression, the realization, the activity. We have sort of done the same thing with that word logos in our own English language: logic, logical, illogical—logos. And it appears in a thousand different words in our language: “cosmology,” kosmos, the world, and logos, the study of the cosmic universe. Or geology: ge, the word for world and logos, the study of the earth. Or biology: bios, the word for life and logos —biology. Or zoology: zoo, zoo, the word for animal, and logos, the study of animal life. Or philology, the love and the study of literature and words—that kind of a thing was universal in the Greek world. Logos —and John applies it to the Lord. He is the ideal of God; and He is the expression of God: both of them are in Him [John 1:1].
And when John writes this: “En arche ēn ho logos;” he uses the definite article; the word ‘ho’ logos, ‘the’ logos. That is, our Lord Jesus Christ is not just a concept of God, of which there were innumerable ones in the pagan world; but He is the concept of God. He alone, Jesus is the Lord God [John 1:1].
Now that sounds dogmatic—all of these other gods are just human conceptions—but there is one ho logos—there is one Lord God [Deuteronomy 6:4]. I admit and would submit to that; that is dogmatic. But truth is always dogmatic!
One of the phenomena you’ll find in human history is this: the Roman Empire—of all of the great empires of the world—the Roman Empire was gracious, and kind, and lenient, and understanding in its administration of the provinces that they conquered. They were allowed their own government; their own kings; and especially their own religion. It was unthinkable that the Romans would persecute any religion, yet they did the Christian religion and did it for hundreds of years. Why?
If you’ve ever been in Rome, the most perfectly preserved of all of the great buildings in the ancient world is the Pantheon in the city of Rome: Pantheon, pan theon, the “all gods.” It was built by Agrippa, the friend of Julius Caesar, in 44 BC. And in that Pantheon were gathered together all of the gods of all of the provinces that Rome had conquered. And they graciously extended the invitation to all the gods to be a part of the Roman Pantheon.
Here, after they conquered Egypt: “Here,” the Romans say, “here is a place for Isis and Osiris, the gods of Egypt. Welcome to our Pantheon.”
“And here is a beautiful place for Baal and Astarte, the gods of Assyria.”
“And here is a wonderful place for Mithra, the god of the Parthians.”
“And here is a beautiful place for Artemis, Diana of the Ephesians.”
“And here is a magnificent place for Jove and Juno of Attica, of Athens.”
“And here’s a magnificent place for Hercules and Helen of the Peloponnesians.”
“And here from Etruria, here’s a magnificent place for Venus and Adonis.”
And when they began to preach Jesus, the Romans said in their Pantheon: “And here is a wonderful place for Jesus of Nazareth and of Judea!”
And the Christian said: “Not so! Not so! He is the Lord God! Not one out of a thousand others! He is the great pantokrator—the Creator and Sovereign God of the whole world.” And that was why the Romans persecuted the early Christians.
I have to close; may I do it with just one other observation about John in his presentation of the Lord Jesus? He speaks of His incarnation in a marvelous word. In this first chapter: “In the beginning was ho logos, the Word” [John 1:1]. Then in the fourteenth verse, he will say: “And the Word,” the Lord God Christ, “was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father)” [John 1:14]. Ancient Greek manuscripts are like this: “The glory of the only begotten God, full of grace and truth” [John 1:14].
Then he will repeat that again: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son. . .He hath declared Him” [John 1:18]. That word is monogenēs, “only begotten,” and John loved it. For example, in John 3:16 you have it: “God so loved the world, that He gave His monogenēs, the only begotten Son of God.” In Christ, in Christ we have God made flesh [John 1:14]; we have God incarnate! Would you like to see God? Look at Jesus [John 14:7-9]. Would you like to know God? Know the Lord Jesus! Would you like to love God? Love the Lord Jesus! Would you like to follow the Lord God? Follow the Lord Jesus! Would you like to shape your life in the will of God? Do it in the great words and commandments of the Lord Jesus. The God-Man; John would say the monogenēs, the incarnation of God, is found in the Lord Jesus [John1:14].
When I was a boy they discovered Carlsbad Caverns in southeastern New Mexico, and I made a trip down there from the Panhandle of Texas to look at that marvelous discovery. That’s the first time I ever saw a stalagmite, those calcite columns that reach upward from the ground. It was the first time I ever saw a stalactite, those calcite columns that reach down from the ceiling toward the earth. And as I walked through that tremendous, miraculous natural phenomenon, as I looked, there was one of those tremendous stalagmites reaching up from the ground that had met a great stalactite coming down from above. And they had met, and there was a great column, a mighty column, where the two had met; from the ground reaching up and from heaven reaching down. And in after years, they have called that great column “The Rock of Ages.” And they’ll turn out the lights, and a guide will sing the “Rock of Ages.”
The God-Man, Christ Jesus; our humanity reaching up toward heaven and God’s hand reaching down toward earth, and they are conjoined in the incarnation of Jesus our Lord Christ [Matthew 1:20-25; John 1:1, 14].
If Jesus Christ is a man, —
And only a man, —I say,
That of all mankind I will follow Him
And Him will I follow alway.
But if Jesus Christ is a God, —
And the only God, —I swear,
I will follow Him through heaven and hell,
The earth, the sea, and the air!
[“The Song of a Heathen,” Richard Watson Gilder]
Christ, the Word, the incarnation, the expression, the revelation of God [John 1:1].
And our Lord—oh, that we just knew better how we could exalt Thy glorious name, and love and serve Thee the more! Bless these students, and bless these families, and people, and all of us as we gather this pre-Easter week to sit at Thy feet, dear Jesus [Matthew 11:28-29], and to offer to Thee the worship and adoration of our souls. In Thy wonderful and saving and loving name, amen.
THE WORD OF GOD
I. Why are we not idolaters?
worship of anything other than God is idolatry (Luke 24:51-52, Revelation
II. If not idolaters, then Christ is God
A. Purpose of Gospel of
John is to present the deity of Christ
a theophany (Isaiah 6:1, Genesis 32:30, Exodus 3:2, Joshua 5:13-15, John 20:28)
III. John’s presentation of the Lord Jesus
A. In the beginning was
Logos – theological, philosophical expression in Greek
ho logos – definite article, “The Word”
a. Welcomed in the
Pantheon; Christians refused
B. The incarnation
1. The only
begotten Son (John 3:16)