Summary: 5th in a seven part series on the incarnation from John 1.
In the June 2002 issue of Astrobiology Magazine, Leslie Mullen began her article titled “Defining Life” with these words:
What is life, exactly? This is a question that keeps biologists up at night. The science of biology is the study of life, yet scientists can’t agree on an absolute definition. Are the individual cells of your body, with all their complex machinery, "alive?" What about a computer program that learns and evolves? Can a wild fire - which feeds, grows, and reproduces - be considered a living entity?
Although one can certainly go to any dictionary and find a definition of “life”, it is interesting that scientists and philosophers still struggle to come up with a definition that all can agree upon. But the effort to come up with a definition or explanation of life isn’t just limited to scientists and philosophers. Here is just a small sampling of what various people have had to say about life:
The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.
And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
In the book of life, the answers aren’t in the back.
The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.
Clarence S. Darrow
Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent.
R. D. Laing
Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can.
We are born wet, naked, and hungry. Then things get worse.
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian.
Some of those quotes are humorous and a few of them are actually quite profound. But I ran across one quote this week that just stopped me in my tracks because I think it really sums up well the most important implications of the passage that we’ll look at this morning:
Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.
As we’ve done each week in this series, let’s begin this morning by reading out loud the beginning words from John’s gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-5, 14 (NIV)
So far, in the first three verses, we’ve discovered that the “logos” is eternal – He is uncreated and has no beginning or end. We’ve seen that He has his own personality which provides us with the ability to have a relationship with Him. We’ve confirmed that He is fully God, with all the attributes of God. And we looked at the “logos” as Creator and found that creation is an ongoing process. This morning we’re going to focus on the first half of verse 4:
In him was life…
John, more than any of the other New Testament writers, focused on the concept of life. Nearly one-quarter of the uses of the word “life” in the New Testament are found in his gospel and when we add in Revelation and his three epistles, we find that 40% of all the references to life in the NT come from John’s writings. But, just as we have a hard time coming up with just one definition of life, the New Testament writers also had to deal with several different aspects of life. Fortunately for them, they actually had three different words they could use to describe life.
Three Greek words for “life”
• psuche = the natural life
That same word can also be translated “soul” or even “mind”. It speaks of the breath of life which animates a body and makes it alive. In the gospel of John, the only time we find this word used is when Jesus speaks of laying down His life where He is referring to His natural life as a human.
• bios = the duration or manner of life