The Eternal Word

  • September 2017 Issue
Theology Matters

Each year at Christmas we celebrate Christ’s birth, but we do not celebrate His beginning. According to John 1:1, in the beginning Jesus Christ already existed as God. He was with God and He was God. In this verse John speaks of Jesus as the eternal Word, employing a title that portrays Jesus as one who reveals God. John makes it clear that Jesus not only revealed God, He Himself was God. This Jesus who already existed “in the beginning” was the one who made all things (John 1:2).

Jesus came not only speaking the words of God but also embodying all that the Scriptures have to say about God. This is why the writer of Hebrews describes Jesus as God’s last word about Himself: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus is both our Creator and our Redeemer, things that only God can do.

When John says that the Word was “with” God in John 1:1, He differentiates Jesus as God the Son from the Father, who is also God. Jesus is God, but He is not the Father. Jesus is God in the flesh, but He is not the Father simply appearing to take a human form. Jesus is one with the Father in glory and in substance, but He is not identical with the Father (John 10:30). The unique relationship that Jesus has with the Father is expressed in Scripture by the phrase “only begotten Son” or “one and only Son” in John 1:14. This theological language emphasizes the uniqueness of Christ in His nature and in His relationship with the Father.

God exists in a unity of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is the eternal Word, and He is one with the Father though He is not the Father. Arius, a heretic in the fourth century whose teachings continue to be reflected today in groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, believed that Jesus was a created being who was inferior to the Father. Speaking of Jesus, Arius declared, “There was when he was not.” The Gospel of John teaches otherwise. The prologue to John’s Gospel boldly declares that Jesus has always existed as God. There was never a time when He was not.

BY John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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