One of the most compelling passages in the Bible is found at John 1:14:
“So the Word became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father; and he was full of divine favor and truth.” (John 1:14)
“The Word became flesh.” A simple phrase, but in the context of the preceding verses, one of profound significance. The only-begotten god through whom and by whom all things were created, takes on a slave’s form to live with his creation—for all things were made for him. (Colossians 1:16)
This is a theme that John emphasizes repeatedly in his gospel.
”No one has gone up to heaven except the Son of Man, who came down from there.” – John 3:13 CEV[i]
“I didn’t come from heaven to do what I want! I came to do what the Father wants me to do. He sent me,” – John 6:38 CEV
“What if you should see the Son of Man go up to heaven where he came from?” – John 6:62 CEV
“Jesus answered, “You are from below, but I am from above. You belong to this world, but I don’t.” – John 8:23 CEV
“Jesus answered: If God were your Father, you would love me, because I came from God and only from him. He sent me. I did not come on my own.” – John 8:42 CEV
“Jesus answered, “I tell you for certain that even before Abraham was, I was, and I am.”” – John 8:58 CEV
What does it say about this god named Logos who existed before all other created things—who was with the Father in heaven before time itself existed—that he should condescend to live as a man? Paul explained the full measure of this sacrifice to the Philippians
“Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. 7 No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and became human. 8 More than that, when he came as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, yes, death on a torture stake. 9 For this very reason, God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, 10 so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend—of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground— 11 and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Php 2:5-11 NWT[ii])
Satan grasped at equality with God. He tried to seize it. Not so Jesus, who gave no consideration to the idea that he should be God’s equal. He held the loftiest position in the universe, yet was he determined to hold on to it? Not at all, for he humbled himself and took a slave’s form. He was fully human. He experienced the limitations of the human form, including the effects of stress. Evidence of his slave’s state, his human condition, was the fact that at one point even he needed encouragement, which His Father supplied in the form of an angelic helper. (Luke 22:43, 44)
A god became a man and then subjected himself to death so as to save us. This he did when we didn’t even know him and when most rejected and mistreated him. (Ro 5:6-10; John 1:10, 11) It is impossible for us to grasp the full scope of that sacrifice. To do so we would have to understand the extent and nature of what Logos was and what he gave up. It is as much beyond our mental powers to do that as it is for us to grasp the concept of infinity.
Here is the critical question: Why did Jehovah and Jesus do all this? What motivated Jesus to abandon everything?
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NWT)
“He is the reflection of [his] glory and the exact representation of his very being,. . .” (Heb 1:3 NWT)
“He that has seen me has seen the Father. . .” (John 14:9 NWT)
It was God’s love that caused him to send his only-begotten Son to save us. It was Jesus’ love for his Father and for mankind that caused him to obey.
In the history of humanity, is there a greater expression of love than this?
What God’s Nature Reveals
This series about Logos aka “the Word of God” aka Jesus Christ began as an initiative between Apollos and myself to explain something of the nature of Jesus, who is the exact representation of God. We reasoned that understanding the nature of Jesus would help us to understand the nature of God.
It took me a long time before I could even attempt to write about this subject, and I confess the main reason was an awareness of how ill-equipped I felt to undertake the task. Seriously, how can a measly human comprehend the nature of God? We can understand something of the nature of Jesus, the man, to some extent, because we are flesh-and-blood humans as was he, though we do not enjoy a sinless nature. But the 33 ½ years he spent as a human were just the briefest snip-it of a life stretching back to before creation. How could I, a good-for-nothing slave, understand the divine nature of the only-begotten god that is Logos?
So I decided to adopt the methodology of a blind man asked to expound on the nature of light. Obviously, he would require instruction from sighted people in whom he puts great trust. In a similar way, I, though being blind to the divine nature of Logos, have relied on the most trusted source, God’s only Word. I have tried to go with what it says in plain and simple fashion and not try to conjure up deeper hidden meanings. I have tried, I hope with success, to read it as a child would.
This has brought us to this fourth installment of this series, and it has brought me to a realization: I have come to see that I have been on the wrong track. I have been concentrating on the nature of Logos’ being—his form, his physicality. Some will object that I use human terms here, but really what other words can I use. Both “form” and “physicality” are terms dealing with matter, and a spirit cannot be defined by such terms, but I can only use the tools I have. Nevertheless, as best I could I have been trying to define Jesus’ nature in such terms. Now however, I realize that it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. My salvation is not tied to an accurate understanding of the nature of Jesus, if by “nature” I am referring to his physical/spiritual/temporal or non-temporal form, state or origin.
That is the nature that we have been striving to explain, but that is not what John was revealing to us. If we think that, we are off-track. The nature of the Christ or the Word that John reveals in the last Bible books ever written is that nature of his person. In a word, his “character”. He didn’t write the opening words of his account to tell us exactly how and when Jesus came into being, or whether he was created by or from God, or even created at all. He doesn’t even explain exactly what he meant by the term only-begotten. Why? Perhaps because we are not capable of understanding it in human terms? Or perhaps because it simply doesn’t matter.
Rereading his gospel and epistles in this light reveals that his purpose was to reveal aspects of Christ’s personality that were hitherto hidden. Revealing his pre-existence begs the question, “Why would he give that up?” This in turn leads us to the nature of Christ, which as the image of God, is love. This awareness of his loving sacrifice motivates us to greater love. There is a reason John is referred to as “the apostle of love”.
The Importance of Jesus’ Prehuman Existence
Unlike the synoptic gospel writers, John reveals repeatedly that Jesus existed before he came to earth. Why is it important for us to know that? If we doubt the prehuman existence of Jesus as some do, are we doing any harm? Is it just a difference of opinion that doesn’t get in the way of our continued fellowshipping?
Let come at this from the opposite side of the issue so that we can see the purpose behind John’s revelation about the nature (character) of Jesus.
If Jesus only came into existence when God inseminated Mary, then he is less than Adam, because Adam was created, while Jesus was only procreated like the rest of us—just without inherited sin. Additionally, such a belief has Jesus giving up nothing because he had nothing to give up. He made no sacrifice, because his life as a human was win-win. If he succeeded, he’d get an even bigger prize, and if he failed, well, he’s just be like the rest of us, but at least he would have lived for a while. Better than the nothingness he had prior to being born.
John’s reasoning that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son” loses all its force. (John 3:16 NWT) Many men have given their only son to die on the battlefield for their country. How is God’s procreation of a single human—one more out of billions—really that special?
Neither is Jesus’ love so special under this scenario. He had everything to gain and nothing to lose. Jehovah asks all Christians to be willing to die rather than compromise their integrity. How would that differ from the death Jesus died, if he is just another human like Adam?
One way we can blaspheme Jehovah or Jesus is to question their character. Denying Jesus came in the flesh is to be an antichrist. (1 John 2:22; 4:2, 3) Can denying he didn’t empty himself, humble himself, sacrifice all he had to take a slave’s form, be any less like an antichrist? Such a position denies the fullness of both Jehovah’s love and that of his only-begotten Son.
God is love. It is his defining characteristic or quality. His love would demand he give his most. Saying he didn’t give us his firstborn, his only-begotten, the one who existed before all others, is to say he gave us as little as he could get away with. It demeans him and it demeans Christ and it treats the sacrifice both Jehovah and Jesus made as of little value.
“How much greater punishment do you think a person will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God and who has regarded as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt?” (Heb 10:29 NWT)
Speaking for myself, this four-part series into the nature of Logos has been very illuminating, and I am grateful for the opportunity as it has forced me to examine things from a number of new perspectives, and the insight gained from the many comments you have all made along the way has enriched not only my understanding, but those of many others.
We have barely scratched the surface of the knowledge of God and Jesus. That is one of the reasons we have everlasting life before us, so that we can continue to grow in that knowledge.
[i] Contemporary English Version of the Bible
[ii] New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures