ACST 31. Christ: The Logos

Jes birth PC-20

Christ is the center of any theology which derives from the Bible, because he is the chief character in God’s story from Genesis to Revelation. The Old Testament is his story concealed; the New Testament is his story revealed. He stands as the central person in all history. He is our way to God and God’s way or reconciling himself to us. He is the truth, and knowing him will set us free. He is the life, because he made the way for humanity to live again.

John described him as the Logos – the Word. He said “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”[1] John was referring to Jesus, because he said “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”[2] With those few words John explained that the person who became Jesus of Nazareth pre-existed his birth at Bethlehem, and became God incarnate (in human flesh) at his birth.[3]

The Old Testament Witness

Jesus once spoke to his disciples about “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.”[4] One would expect there to be a witness to Christ’s pre-existence in those Old Testament books. Notice, for example, Psalm 2:

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

This psalm speaks of the LORD, the God who created the nations. It also speaks of another, whom the LORD calls “my Son.” The LORD speaks to the Son and chooses somehow to beget him on a certain day. The LORD does not create him as a person; he brings him into existence as a human. The One to whom the LORD is speaking is already in existence as a divine being. He is the Son — the “anointed” who is to become King of Zion. The LORD warns the kings of the nations to kiss the Son, lest he be angry and they suffer his coming wrath.

When the Old Testament predicts the birth of this Son, it reveals his pre-existence at the same time. Micah encourages the little town of Bethlehem by saying “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.”[5]

Isaiah says “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”[6] Here again, there is the Lord (divine person #1) and the son (divine person #2) whom his earthly mother will call Immanuel (God with us). Later Isaiah reveals the titles of this divine son. He predicts “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”[7] The son will have all the attributes of his Father, including that of Mighty God (omnipotence) and Everlasting Father (infinity). For a mere created being to accept those titles would be blasphemy. But if the Immanuel who is to come is the same eternal being spoken of in Psalm 2, then it is not blasphemous to give him these divine titles.

Malachi predicts that the Israelites will see “the Lord whom they seek,” and that he will be preceded by a messenger who will “prepare the way before me … says the LORD of hosts.”[8] That means that the Lord that the Israelites seek is the same as “the LORD of hosts.” It is not merely a human Messiah, but an incarnation of the living LORD himself who will appear.

John The Baptist’s Witness

John the Baptist was this messenger to whom Malachi was referring. Centuries later, John was born to Elizabeth and Zechariah. A few months later, Elizabeth’s relative, Mary, also had a son. We know this because Mary was pregnant with Jesus, and visited Elizabeth, but was still able to travel back to Nazareth just before John was born.[9] Travelling forward in time about thirty years, we find that John has become a great prophet, and people come from all over Israel to here him speak of the Lord who is coming.

Among the many things John says about this one who is to come, two things stand out: he says that the coming one ranks before him, because he was before him.[10] The one who is to come ranks before John because John is merely the messenger, but the one who is to come is the Lord. John said “he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.”[11] But that does not explain why John said that this coming Lord “was before me.” John was born first. He was the oldest. John knew that Jesus “was” before him, because Jesus pre-existed his birth.

John the Evangelist’s Witness

The author of John’s Gospel also bears witness that Christ pre-existed his birth. He said “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”[12] Before his birth, he was “at the Father’s side.”[13] Then, the Father sent him into the world.[14] While upon this planet, Jesus knew “that he had come from God and was going back to God.”[15]

In one of his epistles, this same author would explain how God’s love had devised the plan to send his Son to earth, to bring reconciliation to those who accept his sacrifice on the cross. He said “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”[16] The cross was not a mistake. It was the reason that Christ entered time itself.

The vision John sees of Christ on Patmos fills in the picture even more of who Christ is. He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”[17] He was the child that the woman gave birth to, whom the dragon sought to devour, but who was caught up to God and his throne.[18] But he is also the living one, who died, and is alive forevermore.[19]

Paul’s Witness

The apostle Paul refers to Christ in his pre-existent state when he said that although he was rich (in heaven) he became poor for our sake (by coming to earth).[20] Paul encourages believers to “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”[21]

Paul also refers to the incarnation when he says “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”[22] He speaks of Christ’s role in creation by saying “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”[23] Paul essentially agrees with every point that John had made of Jesus being both the Son of God who was born or Mary, and God, the Son who created all things.

The Author of Hebrews’ Witness

The author of Hebrews speaks of Christ as God’s “Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”[24] He expresses again that Christ was involved in creation before he came to this world to bring about redemption. Of particular importance is this author’s exegesis of Psalm 2.

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.[25]

Melchizedek was a shadowy character in the book of Genesis who appears out of nowhere and Abraham gives him a tenth of everything he owns. The psalms predict that the Messiah will be a priest after the order of Melchizedek.[26] The author of Hebrews brings these two predictions together. He asserts that God’s Messiah would be a Son of God who would have “days of his flesh.” During those days he would suffer, and become “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”

Jesus’ Witness

Jesus himself also testified to his pre-existence as the Son of God. His favorite title for himself was “Son of Man.”[27] It is assumed that mostly this title refers to Christ’s true humanity, but the title can also be translated “Son among men” which fits into the whole emphasis in the Bible on the Messiah as God among us. Jesus accepted the title “Son of God” as well.[28] Those who testified to his gospel often used this term for him.[29] He is never said to have become the Son of God. It had been his title before he came, and continues to be his title now.

One day when Jesus was arguing with the Jewish leaders who were opposing his message, he let slip the fact that he was alive back in the days of Abraham. He told them that “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” [30] That was enough for them. They were convinced he was crazy. They said “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”[31] If Jesus did not pre-exist his human birth, they would be right.

Jesus ended the argument by saying “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”[32] This opened a whole new can of worms for the Jews. The title “I am” was a special one for them, because it had been used by God to refer to himself when he revealed himself to Moses. Moses had asked what name he should use when offering God’s deliverance to the Israelites in Egypt. God said “ ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’’”[33] By using this title, Jesus was claiming to have been the God of the exodus.

Jesus actually used that term “I AM” (Greek ego eimi) several times in his discourses in which he described himself.

iams

 

Each of these statements identified Jesus as the LORD of the Old Testament, and thus implied that he was more than he seemed; that he pre-existed his birth.

There was another time when Jesus let it slip that he has been around a while. It was during his high priestly prayer for his disciples and the church that would come from their testimony. He prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”[34] Later he prayed “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”[35] Twice he referred to being with God before the world was created. John would remember those words, and describe his savior as the Word who was with God, and who was God.

The pre-existence of Christ as the eternal Logos is not an easy doctrine to grasp logically. Many have sought after some doctrinal compromise that would allow Christ to be less than what these scripture imply. Some have done so out of the mistaken notion that to call Christ equal with the Father is blasphemy. The scriptures must be the standard to judge all theological premises. The scriptures affirm that Christ is equal with the Father in deity.

However, that is only half of the story. The scriptures affirm as well that Christ was (and is) fully human. Both of those realities must be held in balance if Christ’s identity is to be understood.

___________________________________-

[1] John 1:1-2.

[2] John 1:14.

[3] Technically, it was at Christ’s conception in the uterus of Mary that he became flesh.

[4] Luke 24:44.

[5] Micah 5:2.

[6] Isaiah 7:14.

[7] Isaiah 9:6.

[8] Malachi 3:1.

[9] Luke 1:56-57.

[10] John 1:15, 30.

[11] Matthew 3:11.

[12] John 1:1-2.

[13] John 1:18.

[14] John 3:16,34; 4:34, 5:23,30,37,38; 6:29,38,39,44,57; 7:16,18,28,29,33; 8:16,18,26,29,42; 9:4; 10:36; 11:42; 12:44,45,49; 13:20; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3,8,18,21,23,25; 20:21.

[15] John 13:3.

[16] 1 John 4:9-10.

[17] Rev. 1:8,17; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13.

[18] Rev. 12:2,4,5,13.

[19] Rev. 1:18.

[20] 2 Cor. 8:9.

[21] Philippians 2:5-8.

[22] Galatians 4:4-5.

[23] Colossians 1:15-17.

[24] Hebrews 1:2.

[25] Hebrews 5:5-10.

[26] Psalm 110:4.

[27] Matt. 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40; 13:37, 41; 16:13, 27f; 17:9, 12, 22; 19:28; 20:18, 28; 24:27, 30, 37, 39, 44; 25:31; 26:2, 24, 45, 64; Mark 2:10, 28; 8:31, 38; 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33, 45; 13:26; 14:21, 41, 62; Luke 5:24; 6:5, 22; 7:34; 9:22, 26, 44, 58; 11:30; 12:8, 10, 40; 17:22, 24, 26, 30; 18:8, 31; 19:10; 21:27, 36; 22:22, 48, 69; 24:7; John 1:51; 3:13f; 5:27; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 9:35; 12:23, 34; 13:31.

[28] Matt. 4:3, 6; 8:29; 14:33; 26:63; 27:40, 43, 54; Mark 1:1; 3:11; 15:39; Luke 1:35; 3:38; 4:3, 9, 41; 22:70; John 1:34, 49; 3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4, 27; 19:7; 20:31.

[29] Acts 9:20; Rom. 1:4; 2 Cor. 1:19; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:13; Heb. 4:14; 6:6; 7:3; 10:29; 1 John 3:8; 4:15; 5:5, 10, 12f, 20; Rev. 2:18.

[30] John 8:56.

[31] John 8:57.

[32] John 8:58.

[33] Exodus 3:14.

[34] John 17:5.

[35] John 17:24.

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