Who do you say Jesus is? According to a Rasmussen poll, 84% of Americans believe in Jesus. That’s good news until you press them on what they mean by that. Then the answers get a little sketchy. Watch the video below, forgiving those who use God’s name in vain. They are unbelievers who do not know the 10 Commandments.
One author set out to discover what our fellow Portlanders believe about Jesus. The results were disturbing for while most claim to believe in Jesus, the Jesus they believe in is very different from the Jesus of the Bible, which makes him, in the author’s words, an “Imaginary Jesus.” To name a few, there is Legalist Jesus who has a rule for everything; Televangelist Jesus who promises if you have enough faith, you’ll never get sick again; Social Services Jesus who wants everybody’s creature comforts met; Bargain Jesus who will answer your prayers if the price is right; and Hippy Jesus who wants everyone to chill out and live together in peace.
But then this is nothing new! Down through the centuries there have been countless “Jesus’s” who fall far short of what the Bible says about Him—Islamic Jesus who was just one in a long line of prophets; Buddhist Jesus who was a great enlightened master; Jehovah’s Witness Jesus who is the archangel Michael; and New Age Jesus who is a wonderful spiritual guide and guru.
The truth is almost everyone believes in “a Jesus.” But the danger of believing in the wrong Jesus is that it brings the same eternal penalty as believing in no Jesus at all! Using the same name by which God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, Jesus said of Himself in John 8:24, “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” What does it mean to die in your sins? It means to die without forgiveness, condemned to an eternity apart from God’s love.
So this is one question we want to get right. That’s why last week I introduced you to a study that I want to continue today. It’s a study of the Gospel written by John, Jesus’ closest friend on earth, who left no doubt why he wrote it. His goal and the key verse of his book are found in John 20:31, “These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Open your Bible, then, to John chapter 1, the first 5 verses where John clarifies what he means by “the Son of God.” The truth is mind-boggling! He says that Jesus and the Father are One God who created everything there is with the expectation that we His creatures would love Him in return. To see that, John highlights 3 facts about Jesus in these verses: 1) His pre-existence; 2) His co-existence; and 3) His self-existence. In this study let’s focus on—
1. His Pre-Existence
John’s Gospel opens with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The first question that begs to be answered is: What beginning is John talking about? Lacking any clarification on John’s part, we have to assume he’s talking about the same beginning as Genesis 1:1—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
That’s important because it means at the point creation began, Jesus the Son of God already existed. If John had wanted to say that Jesus was part of God’s creation, he would have written, “From the beginning was the Word.” But that isn’t what he said. He said, “In the beginning was the Word.” That is, before time and space began and the world was created, Jesus already existed.
To make it even more explicit, notice what John adds in verse 3. First, he gives the positive: “All things came into being through Him,” followed by the flipside, “And apart from Him (literally in Greek) “not one thing came into being that has come into being.” Consequently, if He made everything and all things came from Him, He couldn’t possibly have been created. He must be eternal, existing with the Father forever before time began.
That’s why John repeats the word “was” 3 times in verse 1. When you see repetition in the Bible, it’s for emphasis. He says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Last week I introduced you to a little Greek, the language in which the New Testament was originally written. I did that explaining that the word “was” (ἦν in the Greek) is a key word here because of its tense. It is in the imperfect tense describing ongoing action. It isn’t just that the Word existed in the beginning; it’s that He existed continuously before time and space began. Time and space are a creation of God. So if Jesus the Son of God existed before time and space began, it means He isn’t a created being; He is eternal, which means He is God, for the only Eternal and Uncreated Being there is, is God!
Then, to leave no doubt about it, he adds at the end of verse 1: “The Word was with God, and the Word was God!” That phrase has been a source of debate by some over the years who say that instead of translating it “God,” it ought to be translated “a god.” So I’ve highlighted the phrase below so you can see it for yourself. Don’t worry! I’m not going to bog you down with a lot of Greek. But you’re smart people and it’s important to see it with your own eyes instead of accepting what somebody else says about it.
The phrase contains 5 words in Greek (καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος) just as it does in English which, if you translate it word-for-word, what does it say? “And God was the Word!” Notice there’s no article “a” before the word θεὸς, which means you could translate it “a god” if you don’t believe that Jesus is the Lord. But that isn’t the natural way of translating it. The usual way to translate it is the way that 99% of the Bible translations do—“And the Word was God.”
In case you’re wondering why John flips the word order around and puts θεὸς (“God”) at the beginning of the sentence, he does it to emphasize the Deity of Christ, that He is by very nature God. That’s why the only valid way of translating it is not “a god” or “the God” (which would eliminate both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit), but simply “God,” emphasizing the Deity of Christ. This is something taught throughout the New Testament—like Philippians 2:6 which says of Him, “Who being by very nature God did not regard equality with God a thing to grasped but made Himself nothing taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men.” Colossians 2:9 confirms this adding, “In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”
But it is emphatically taught in the Gospel of John where we hear Jesus claim to be co-equal with the Father, using titles that belong to God alone like: “I AM the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep;” “Before Abraham was, I AM;” and “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.”
Furthermore, not only has He lived forever as the Son of God; He has also enjoyed perfect love, joy, and unity with God the Father from eternity past. That will be the focus of our study tomorrow—His eternal co-existence with the Father.