Summary: 3rd in a seven part series on the incarnation from John 1.
One of the things I love most about the gospel of John is that the weightiest of doctrines are delivered in the simplest of words. We’ve seen that already in the introduction of his gospel, but the four simple words that we’ll look at in detail this morning may very well be the four most significant words in the entire Bible. As we will clearly see, what we believe about these four words will determine our eternal destiny. So, as we’ve done each week in our journey through John’s description of the incarnation of the “logos” at the beginning of his gospel, let’s read the entire passage so that we can make sure to put this morning’s passage in its proper context:
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)
This morning we’re going to focus on just four words at the end of verse 1:
…the Word was God
But before we do that, we need to take a moment to define three terms that we often use interchangeably, but which have some subtle differences in meaning that are very crucial to our understanding this morning.
“God” (Greek “theos”) = the one true God
In the polytheism of the Greeks, this word also was used to denote a god or deity. But the word was appropriated by the Jews and Christians to refer to the one true God. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT, “theos” is used, with only a few exceptions to translate the word “YHWH”, the personal name of God.
“deity” = The state or quality or condition of being God.
You will notice that this is the word I’ve used in my sermon title and the one we’re going to focus on this morning. In the sense that I’m using it this morning, “deity” is equivalent to God.
"divine" = Having qualities or characteristics possessed by God.
At first glance, the term “divine” doesn’t seem to differ all that much from “deity”. But, as we’ll see, there is a very significant difference when it comes to the identity of the “logos”. There are many who would agree that He is divine – having some characteristics of God – while at the same time denying His deity – that He is in fact God.
Having just brought up one of the common misconceptions about the deity of the “logos”, I thought it might be helpful for us to spend a few moments to discuss a few of those common misconceptions.
Misconceptions about the deity of the “logos”
Although we would expect that many outside the body of Christ would not completely understand the concept of the deity of the “logos”, many of the most common misconceptions actually come from groups that call themselves “Christians” and/or who claim that they believe in the Bible. To me, that’s what makes these teachings even more dangerous. While we can’t look at all of these today, I want to examine three of the most prominent and dangerous of these teachings.
1. The “logos” is just one of many” gods”
This teaching arises primarily from the New World Translation, which was produced by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1961. They translate John 1:1 like this:
In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.
The difference between this and all other legitimate English translations is quite subtle, but also quite significant. They add the preposition “a” before God in the last phrase of that verse and then render the word “god” with a small “g”.
Not only does this translation violate every legitimate principle of translating Greek grammar, it is also inconsistent with how the New World Translation renders the identical Greek construction throughout the rest of its translation. Everywhere else we find the same Greek word in this form it is rendered “God” with a capital “G” and without the preposition “a”. So one can only conclude that this is a deliberate distortion of the truth in order to attempt to support the teaching that Jesus is only one of many Gods.
But even without arguing about grammar, the idea that the “logos” is only “a god” and not “the God” is clearly refuted by the rest of Scripture. To even suggest that there are any other Gods other than the one true God is completely contrary to Scripture. Even if we looked at nothing more that the six verses from John that we’re focusing on for this seven week series, it is clear that the “logos” is the one true God. As only God can be, He is eternal. And as we’ll see in the next four weeks, each of the attributes of the “logos” that we’ll look at in detail confirms that he is indeed God, and not just “a god”.