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Oh, Lord, we pray now as we come to your Word. I ask that you would help me to speak only what is true and helpful and right, and help these, your dear beloved people, that they may listen with glad hearts and good minds. Lord, may we not be only hearers of your word, but doers. And what we hear this morning, may it not only penetrate our minds, but sink deeply into our hearts, that we may live and love and worship. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Let me tell you something about myself that I think makes me pretty special, let you in on a little secret. This, I believe, sets me apart from almost everyone you know, perhaps everyone else you know. Here’s my little secret; this makes me very special. I still use WordPerfect. I do. I still use WordPerfect. This sermon, these notes right here, typed on WordPerfect. Made some of the people in the office staff get WordPerfect when I came here. That was very kind and condescending of them to do so. I have used it all of these years, even when the rest of the civilized world got rid of WordPerfect in like 1993. I still use it, I like it. I won’t give a commercial for it. The whole world, as you know, runs on Word. So much so that if you see Word capitalized just out and about in your daily life, you are likely to think of a computer publishing program. Ask someone on the street—”Tell me, what do you think of Word?” and they’re likely to make some reference to Bill Gates or Windows or why in the world the default font is Calibri instead of Times New Roman. I do not understand, I always have to go in and change it. Am I in fifth grade?
But there is much more to Word we know as Christians than Microsoft Word. We have been talking about ho Lógos, the Word. The deity we meet in the first sentence in the first verse in the first chapter of John’s gospel. And most of us are familiar with those verses, many of us have them memorized. We know that the Word was with God and the Word was God. We know that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Familiar rhythm and cadence to us.
But how many of us could articulate the theology that is encapsulated in that one word, the Word. Are we more conversant in Bill Gates’ Word, or in the apostle John’s Word? What would you be a better instructor in? What are you more of an expert with?
John Chapter 1. Follow along as I read. This is page 886 in your pew Bibles. We managed to get through two verses last week. I’d like us to speed up considerably and try to get through three verses this week. And I will begin by reading at verse 1 so we can get the whole paragraph.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
I want you to put on your thinking caps this morning as we dig deeper into this word the Word. We talked last week about who the Word is. I want to talk this morning about what the Word does. Calvin comments on verse 3 “having affirmed that the speech is God and having asserted his eternal essence, he now proves his divinity from his works.
So we want to look at what the Word does. Three things. The Word reveals, the Word creates, the Word saves. Those are our three points this morning. The Word reveals, the Word creates, the Word saves.
First of all then, the Word reveals. We know the Word was with God and the Word was God, we saw in verses 1 and 2. But also implied in these statements is that the Word reveals God. In many ways, that’s what the next 21 chapters of John’s gospel are going to flesh out. Literally flesh out in the person of Jesus Christ.
I was reading in the commentaries this week and one commentator noted that you will search in vain to find God showing up in John’s gospel. Now that may sound strange, right? We’ve already seen the word God. But he’s saying you will search in vain to find God the father showing up. Now there’s a lot about this relationship between the Son and the Father, but perhaps with the exception of John 12:28 where there is speech from God directly about and to Jesus Christ, God is not the main character in the book. This is not so much John telling Jesus’ story as it is a book in which Jesus tells the story of God. So yes, God is everywhere in this book if we can recognize him in the face of Jesus Christ.
The Word reveals God. Think again how radical it was for these words to burst on the page in verse 1 “in the beginning was the Word.” Okay, that brings us back to Genesis. “In the beginning God created.” But now we meet the Word, but the Word we saw was not just another synonym for God, he’s just giving a different name, but rather the Word was with God. Okay, that makes sense. Maybe the Word was with God is some sort of emanation, some sort of lesser being than God, but no, that’s not the case. We saw the Word who was in the beginning, the Word who was with God, is the Word who was and is God. Think how radical those few statements are in the midst of a fiercely monotheistic people.
If you grew up in the church, you are used to baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The trinity. But for these people, who are living in the midst of a pagan polytheistic world, and they are fiercely monotheistic, the only people around who say there is one God, no, not all these gods, not a pantheon of gods and goddesses. There is not a god who gets a wife and they have kids. There is one God. He’s the true God. All of your other gods are false gods, they’re no gods at all. There is only one God, hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. They believe in one God, the creator of heaven and earth. And in the midst of this fierce, vibrant monotheism, suddenly we have the Word was with God and the Word was God.
And John says it, and the Christian church believes it, that there is a God with God, but we’re writing to Jews likely and we don’t believe that there are two gods or three gods, there is only one God. So how is there one God and there is a God who is with God who is also God? That’s the mystery of the incarnation and the trinity. Because this God is another God, sort of, but not another God. He is, as the later language would describe, a fully divine person who will reveal to us all the fullness of God. The Word reveals God.
Think of word. What do words do? What does speech do? Speech is how we disclose our identity. You’ve seen on some of those television shows before when they are interviewing some informant of some crime mafia family or someone who just doesn’t want their face shown for some embarrassing story and they sort of distort, they put a black line over their eyes, or they distort their face, sometimes they even modulate their voice and they just sound like this and they talk really strange. But they’re still communicating. There is still something that reveals a bit about them, but you distort their speech so that people won’t know who they are. How do you get to know a person better? Think about it. How would you get to know someone better? By seeing them, or by hearing them? Okay, you just see someone and they can’t do anything to communicate. They just, they just look, they just smile. Or they just look and they don’t smile, like when you sit in church. Mmmmmm. You can’t gesture with your hands, you can’t do sign language, you can’t blink, you can’t do charades. How much would you get to know someone just looking? Nothing. Would you get to know someone’s true identity better with just looking, or with hearing? To have them talk to you. To speak.
Trisha and I got to know each other mainly over long distance. We had met my first year in seminary, her second year in college, and went on just two or three dates and then we were separate for most of the next year as she was studying in England and I was back in Boston at seminary. And so we got to know each other without being in the same physical space, without seeing each other. That was before we could hop on Skype easily or do Facetime, and so we emailed, we talked on the phone, we even did these things, really weird, some of you young people should look it up on the internet—writing letters. It was just bizarre. And you put stamps on things and it took days before they got it. It was so weird. But we got to know each other. We didn’t see each other. What did we have? We had words. We had speech. Which is, incidentally, men, when you come home, and I know you’re tired, but you have to use some of those words because your wife wants to know you and how things went.
This Word reveals the one who speaks the Word. The Word is spoken by someone, it comes forth from one who speaks. In other words, the Word not only reveals some thing, it reveals some one. The Word, capital W, is not just telling us some interesting facts about God, the Word comes from God as his very speech to reveal God himself, to show what God is like. And here’s where I said put on your thinking caps because you think about this theologically, there is so much here just in this word Word. What does it mean that the Son is the Word of the Father? It means that his origin is from the Father, he comes from the Father. Now it’s very careful to say he comes from the Father begotten, not created, and there’s another mystery how He is eternally begotten, but not as humans beget children, but He is begotten from the Father as the Word comes from God. But it also means his eminence is in the Father because he remains with the Father because your Word is with you, saying something about you, and not only that, but as the Word comes from the Father, remains with the Father, it speaks of the shared essence with the Father because the Word is the expression of the Father’s very nature and essence.
So John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has come up with a pretty good word to describe and begin to get us to plumb the depths of what it means that this Jesus… Now remember, we haven’t even gotten to his name yet. We don’t know the name until verse 17. All we know is there is this one called the Word and his origin is from the Father. He remains with the Father. He is an expression of the Father. The Word.
Sometimes you find Christians, sometimes they’re well-meaning but naïve, and sometimes they’re a bit more sinister. And Christians will say things like this, that sound very spiritual. They will say “you Christians, you conservative Christians, you Bible evangelical Christians, you’re all about the word lower-case W, the Bible, but I’m about the Word, capital W, Jesus,” and you hear that and you go “whoaaa, dude, that’s deep, whoa.” But it gets traction. You will hear that. You will find it on a blog, in a book, someone will say that, and it’s a way to sort of say “would you stop paying so much attention to the Bible? You’re all in your notes and doing your Bible studies, but that’s just a little W word, and we got the big W word Jesus. Why are you Bible Christians? I’m a Jesus Christian.” If you’ve got to choose between a Jesus Christian and a Bible Christian, of course, you’re a Jesus Christian. Utter nonsense. All of it. Do not fall into that trap.
There is a reason that the Son of God is called the Word because He is that which reveals to us God, and there is a reason that this book is called the Word, because it is God’s revelation to us. Both a revelation in words and the revelation in the Word both reveal to us the person and character of God. They are not, of course, identical. This is not Jesus. This did not die on the cross for your sins. And yet this Word revealed to us and the Word Jesus Christ revealed to us cannot be separated. They both are the revelation and the means of redemption in God. One in fleshed, one in texted. You cannot separate redemption from revelation, or revelation from redemption. Always beware of those Christians or those movements who want to put a very deep wedge between biblical things that ought to be together. The Bible and Jesus, or law and grace, or God man and fully God. The Word reveals to us who God is. That’s what the Word does.
Here’s the second point. So the Word reveals. Second, the Word creates. Now we’re coming to our text, verse 3. You see these staggering words: “All things were made through Him.” So, if I were to give you a theological test, what things in creation were made apart from the Word? Can anyone name something? I hope you can’t, because it says all things. Now of course we live on the other side of the fall and all things are not the way they’re supposed to be. It’s not saying that what is evil and what is broken and what is fallen is a result somehow of the Word, but everything in creation created good, created through the means of the Word. And you say, well, where is that? Where do I see that God created by the Word? Well, it’s there at the very beginning of Genesis, perhaps so obvious that we missed it before, because God does what to create? He speaks, yes. He says “let there be light.” And what happened? “There was light.” People didn’t have to have a committee about it. They didn’t have to get together. They didn’t have to say “well, should we turn on or not?” No, He said “let there be light,” light happens. Such is the power of his voice, his speech.
The church father Irenaeus said “the Word and the Spirit were like the right and the left hand of God in the act of creation.”
“Without Him,” you see verse 3, “was not anything made that has been made.” So think about what this means. The sun and the moon, they had a good week. We can talk about their 15 minutes of fame, it was like two minutes, but it was a good week for them. They were not made apart from the Word. The mountains that you’ve been at, the lakes and the oceans, the trees, the stars, the grains of sand.
Do you remember a few years ago, this was in the news and making the rounds, that there were some scientists who tried to determine whether or not there are more stars in the universe or there are more grains of sand on this planet? They had a very complicated way of doing it. There wasn’t somebody just counting them and, you know, marking down on a chalkboard, but this very complicated way. And I’m going to trust their science behind it, but they concluded that yes, indeed, there are far more stars in the universe than grains of sand. Can you believe that? There really are. And they had all the equations and all the formulas of what they can see with the Hubble telescope and what that says about all the things that they can’t see. But you think about sand. If you’ve been to the beach at all this summer, you still have sand somewhere between your toes. And you just get a handful of it and you couldn’t sort out all those little specks to count. And there are more stars? And Isaiah says God calls them all out by name? Spoke them into existence? All the animals you see?
I’ve told some of you, my kids have been so excited to see all the wildlife that grows down here in the tropics. We have seen hawks, countless toads, frogs, I think we’re up to 10 or 12 turtles, skinks, little lizards, we have seen three snakes. We have seen more ticks than we would like. But we have just all these animals and they all, maybe not the ticks, but they all are marvelous in some way. Made through the Word.
Sometimes people say how can you Christians believe in the exclusivity of Christ. How could we not? All things were made through the Word by the Word, and you’re going to tell us that we’re supposed to say “yeah, whatever you want to do, you know, however, you want to get up the mountain is fine.” No, we know the One who made the mountain. There is only One. In Him was life.
Notice it says not just life by Him, but life in Him. So if you have life this morning, looking around and that’s a good portion of you, if you have life this morning, you are a debtor to the Word. You may not feel like it, you may not be interested, you may not care, but the Bible says you are a debtor to the Word because in Him only do you have life. I think it’s speaking of both created life, the life we have in God, the life we have as divine image-bearers, and it’s speaking even more ultimately of the eternal life that we have.
Think of we see about creation just in these few verses. ”All things were made through Him, without Him was not anything made that was made.” You’ve got one verse there and you have a whole truckload of theology about creation. What do we see? We see number one, we see creation itself is not eternal. Verse 1: “The Word was with God and the Word was God,” but verse 3 says all things became or were made through Him. Creation had a beginning. The big bang theory: In the beginning there was nothing and then it blew up. Creation had a beginning. Most scientists even recognize that. It’s not eternal. Neither is it dualistic. Dualism in the ancient world was the belief that spirit was good and matter was bad, so physical stuff, bodies, life here on earth, that was bad, that was icky, that was yuck. And spirit was good. And so if you could escape the prison house of your own body and your spirit could be released, then that’s what you were really looking for. Well, we see here what we’ll see throughout the whole Bible, there is no sort of dualism like that because everything that has been made has been made by the Word and it’s been made good. The trees were good and the skinks were good and the mountains were good and the sun and the moon and the stars good, made by the Word.
We also see, here’s the third thing, we see God did not go outside of himself to create. Why is that important? It’s important because almost all of the ancient near eastern myths about creation had the gods or the goddesses, somehow they would hook up or they would find a consort or they’d find a goddess and they would reproduce or these two gods would fight and out of the carcass of the one god, the other god would create the universe. The gods had to go outside of themselves to create the world.
And then Genesis comes along “in the beginning, God.” And John 1 says “in the beginning, the Word.” God did not have to go outside of himself to create.
And here’s the fourth thing we see about creation from just this verse. We see life did not just happen. It exists only in and through the Word, created with purpose, by design, so that God does not somehow need to borrow from anyone else, but he creates by his own right and left hand as it were, by the Word, and by the Spirit. And this Word does not borrow light from God, but is the means by which light comes into existence so that Hebrews 1 can go further and tell us that He upholds the universe by the Word of his power. Think about that. This ceiling, made with steel beams or whatever else, that’s the limit of my architectural knowledge, maybe there’s wood, there’s nails, there’s all sorts of rivets, there’s things… This ceiling doesn’t collapse because God upholds it with the Word of his power, God by his Word says “yep, we’ll keep that another day.” And yes, there are laws of physics and there are laws that we have found, but they’re only laws because God by the Word of his power has chosen to control to uphold them as such.
Without fail, no matter what you think about Jesus this morning, we can be sure that your Jesus is too small, and mine as well. Because when you begin to think of all that God has done by the Word, all He continues to do and sustain through the Word, we realize we are in no danger ever of thinking too highly of the Word. The Word was God’s first self-communication at creation, and it continues in divine acts of salvation. The Word reveals. The Word creates.
Now here’s the final point. The Word saves. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. It’s impossible at this point to not give some eclipse reference, it just is. This is what Alex Young from NASA says: “Even when 99% of the sun is blocked out by the moon,” and we were here in Charlotte 98% totality, “even when 99% of the sun is blocked out by the moon, the amount of light is still 10,000 times stronger than a full moon.” So even when there’s 1% of the sun visible, it is still too bright to look at. That’ll preach. Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
I thought the eclipse was pretty cool and we got together with some people here at church and we were getting on the buildings and looking at stuff. Not this one, you’d kind of fall off, but the flat ones. And we were looking out there. And some of you probably went to other parts where it was 100%. I thought 98% would be pretty much almost 100%. And I thought it would be almost pitch black and owls would come out and snakes would be dancing and the zombies and everything. I thought it would just… And it got sort of cloudy-ish, and it was cool, there were neat shadows and it got a little darker. But if you were here, you saw first-hand what 2% of light can do. Or 1% of light can do. It’s not like you needed your lights to drive around town or you couldn’t read a book. It was 1% was more than enough. Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
You know when you have a movie that you want to go see and you’re really excited for it and you try not to read about it because you don’t want to get a spoiler, and when your friends go and see it and they mention something about it, you just immediately want to tape their mouth shut. “No, don’t ruin it for me!” Well, I’m going to give you a spoiler alert for the story that we’re living in. Here’s the spoiler, I think you’re going to want to hear it: The darkness does not win. That’s the end. The darkness does not win. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it sometimes? Doesn’t it seem like every week there’s terrorism, there’s a mass shooting, there’s genocide in some part of the world, there’s some violent protest. Some of you personally can look back on this past year, you think of a loved one who died, people diagnosed with cancer. Haven’t we seen traffic accidents and sexual abuse and sick kids. Even today we can hear on the news of hurricanes or earthquakes or tornadoes. Don’t we know people gripped by addiction, saddled with chronic pain, people mired in depression? Can’t you look at your own life, some of you, and you see dead-ends, tears, hurts, unknowns, closed doors? Haven’t we seen in recent years Christians around the world beheaded, forced to flee their homes? If we have our eyes open, we see sexual immorality more accepted. Christian conviction increasingly ridiculed. And we witness in just the past couple of years the horrors of a church shooting in Charleston, or grizzly images of baby parts sold for cash. It’s not hard to be discouraged, to despair.
And yet the spoiler is true. The darkness does not win! This image of light was very common in the ancient world, it’s still common today. Everybody talks about light and darkness. But notice the Bible does not say the light was philosophy. Or the light was morality. Or the light was a simple lifestyle. Or the light was a paleo diet. It says the life in the Word was the light of the world. Eternal life, abundant life, real life, found only in Christ. We will not be overcome by the darkness either in our lifetime struggle with sin or in the life to come of eternal bliss because we belong to the One who is the light of the world. John’s realistic. There is darkness. We don’t pretend that that’s not the case. Darkness for John is his way of speaking of the fallen world of sin and Satan, the world estranged from God, the world in rebellion against its creator. And he says in the end, that darkness will not prove victorious. In that protracted fight between light and darkness, light is going to win. And that fight between the serpent and the seed that will come from the woman, that seed from the woman will step on and crush the head of that nasty snake.
Now it doesn’t always seem that way. And sometimes it may feel like it’s the bottom of the ninth and there’s two outs and two strikes and you’re down by six runs. Or it may feel like the fourth quarter, the two-minute drill, and you need to onside kicks and three scores.
But when you have those games and you follow your team and they win like that, don’t you love to go and watch that again? And you almost, like, “look, they’re gonna get behind, oh, here’s another pick six, and now they’re behind by two scores, and three scores, but this is just going to set it up because I know, I wouldn’t believe it, but they did win!” We know the end of the story. We know how it turns out.
So when we get to those deep valleys through the shadow of death, we know it’s not the end. Light will not be overcome by darkness.
You see verse 5, that word overcome? It can be translated, some of the older translations say “understand,” the darkness does not understand it. That’s also true. You could render it with the word “master.” That’s maybe helpfully ambiguous. The darkness has not mastered the light, meaning both the darkness does not fully comprehend the light, and the darkness does not ultimately have authority over the light. Light is more powerful, even when darkness feels more pervasive. Just a little light. Can you shine just a little light into some dark corner of your school, your family, your job, your work, your world? Just a little light.
You know when it’s the dead of night and your child comes into the room and flips on the light switch? Yeah, don’t do that, kids. That’s painful. You know, they could come in, it could be completely dark, no street lights, and it just takes a little cheap flashlight with one single A battery and they turn that thing on and you feel like “ooh, why did I have children?” It’s just a little light. A little light! I have learned how to sleep through lots of noises, but I like it to be as dark as possible so sometimes Trisha and I go back and forth a little bit, “well, I think we need a little nightlight here in case the kids come in.” I said no, that’s what we’re trying to avoid. And if there’s a nightlight or if the bathroom light is on and the door is not fully shut, to me I sometimes will say something very helpful like “honey, that bathroom light is shining with the light of 10,000 suns. Could you please close it?” It’s just a little light. Pierces the darkness.
And you can have a room with 99% totality of darkness…a little light and you might not be able to sleep. It’s that bright. And the darker it is in the room, the brighter the light seems.
Now listen, this is not a pie-in-the-sky inspirational pep talk, just everything’s going to turn up roses for you. Now why can we be confident that the darkness will not win? It’s not because of mere nostalgia. It’s not because dreams come true when we believe. It’s not because we believe somehow in the power of positive thinking. Our confidence is rooted in history. Our faith is based on fact. We do not believe in the triumph of the human spirit, the power of positive thinking. We believe in a baby boy born in a bloody mess in a manger in Bethlehem.
The light shines in the darkness. That happened. It really happened. A real virgin, just as the real prophets foretold. He lived, He died, He rose, He’s coming again.
And He was hated. He was hated by almost everyone who came in contact with Him and his so-called friends deserted him. And yet, and yet, the darkness did not win. It seemed like it. It seemed like it for that long, long holy Saturday. Maybe we were wrong, the disciples thought. Maybe the miracles were a fluke. Maybe there’s nothing to this. Maybe some of you are thinking that right now. Can I really trust this guy? Can I really trust this God? And it feels like that that Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. But come Sunday morning, there was no doubt that the darkness would not win.
Light was spoken, and the very act of speech overcame darkness. All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. From creation to redemption to our final glorification, God sends forth the Word of light to pierce the darkness.
The connections with creation are evident in this passage. Creation is about the Word, creation is about life, creation is about light… All of those same themes are carried into John’s prologue as if to remind us: Christians, if God can summon light with a word in the midst of a universe of darkness, what makes you think He can’t shine in your life? Or in your world? No matter how impossible the odds, this is the miracle, the wonder of the incarnation, the light of the world. Think about it. The light of the world was born in the darkness of night as the Word of God lay in a manger unable to speak. That didn’t seem like a plan that was going to work. But it did.
Light has come. The question is what will you do with that light. Because you all have been introduced to this light. You’re here in church this morning. That’s a great place to be. It’s also a dangerous place to be, because you will be held accountable for what you know about this light, this Word, this Son, this Jesus. What will you do with Him, for Him, through Him, in Him? You may say He’s nothing. You may think it’s all rubbish. You may think it’s not worth all of the crosses that you’ll have to carry. But mark this very well: The darkness does not win.
So repent. Believe. Trust. Obey. Worship. Rejoice. For the true light which gives light to everyone has come into the world, the Word reveals, the Word creates, the Word saves, and the darkness does not win.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we thank you for your very Word, your Son, from you, with you, the perfect representation of your glory. And we pray that the light of the gospel, of the glory of Jesus Christ would shine in our hearts today, to convict of us sin, to lead us to the cross, to give us assurance of salvation, to send us out from this place that we might share this light in a world that is chasing after darkness. We thank you for what you have shown us, what you have spoken to us, and all that we have in Him who made all things. In Jesus we pray. Amen.