Today we start reading the Gospel of John, a most challenging book. The Bible would soon lose our interest if its meaning was immediately plain. Often we have to think carefully about what we read to unfold its full meaning. In His wisdom God caused it to be written the way it is.
Understanding John’s Gospel is made more difficult in some instances because the translators had a fixed idea about its meaning. It begins by using the word ‘Word’. “In the beginning was the Word.” In the Greek this is the word logos, sometimes translated as saying (e.g., John 4:47,49) and the lexicon says it primarily means ‘spoken word’. Genesis 1 is all about what God said to create life on earth. Then under the leadership of Moses, the people heard God’s ‘voice’ from the top of the mountain. God was known by His Word; no one saw God: He was ‘known’ to exist because of His voice and actions.
The translators cause confusion John 1 when they use “him” as a pronoun for ‘Word’. The earliest translations (Tyndale) use the word “it”. The best way to make sure we get the right understanding is to use the noun instead of the pronoun – then you read – “All things were made through a word, and without a word was not anything made that was made” (verse 3). This then fits in with the way God revealed Himself to Moses and the people who came out of Egypt.
But there is a greater meaning to be found, a spiritual meaning – it is this: the words of Jesus had the power to bring eternal life to those that accepted them. The Jews (verse 11) did not accept his words “But to all who did receive him, who believed his name, he gave the right to become ‘children of God’ (verse 12).
Do we want to become children of God? Or just live and die as animal beings so that in the end we are no better than an animal? Very few had access to the written word after the time of Jesus, yet “in the beginning” when the gospel began to be preached and spread forth in the days of the apostles, the good news “the word” revealed was eagerly embraced. But how few are thrilled today at words such as in Psalm 119 (verse 105) “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path”. May that be true of you.
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