I’ve always wondered about John’s use of the word Logos in the first verse of his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” What exactly does this mean? Of all the terms John could have used to refer to Jesus Christ, why call Him Logos?
In ancient Greek philosophy the word logos denoted an underlying principle of order in the universe, and by extension, the logic behind an argument. English bibles most often translate this Greek term as “word.” But because this Word is God, it obviously means much more than what we mean by the word “word.”
Or does it?
After all my wonderings about this passage over many years, I’ve realized that its meaning is really quite simple and clear. Words, after all, are the primary way in which we communicate. By calling Jesus the Word, John is saying He is God’s way of communicating with us.
Of course, there are certain differences between God’s Word and our words. For one thing, our words are approximate, whereas God’s Word is exactly what He means. Hence we must use many approximate words to try to express something of what we mean, while God uses only one Word—His Son—to say perfectly everything He means.
Another obvious difference is that our words are puffs of air, while God’s Word is a Person. Indeed, God’s Word is Himself. God is the Word, and the Word is God. The Centurion of Capernaum knew this when he said to Jesus, “Just say the word and my servant will be healed” (Mt 8:8). Since Jesus is the Word, for Him to say the word is exactly the same as if He had gone in person to heal the sick servant.
A further difference between God’s way of speaking and ours is that our words usually fall to the ground, whereas His Word is always powerful, effectual, authoritative, and generative. As He says in Isaiah 55:11, “My word that goes out from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire.” This is how the universe was created. God spoke and it was so. Through His Communicator, the Word, who was with Him in the beginning, God communicated life and being to everything that is.
In a sense, one might say that God told a story, and as He spoke, everything in His story immediately sprang into reality. He could just as easily have written it, like a book. For the universe, together with its long history, is not just a jumble of things but a narrative, a story all about its Author. And finally the Author Himself stepped into His own story, lifting it up into an altogether greater reality.
This is what the Gospel writer wishes to announce right off the bat in John 1:1. Listen:
God—the One who made the universe, was here, on Earth, in Person, speaking and acting!
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory! (v 14)
I announce to you that what was from the beginning—the Word of life—we have heard, we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have touched! (1 John 1:1)
What a marvelous Word this is—the one Word that sums up everything we have always longed to say, to hear, to do, to be. The Word which is not just an audible or visible symbol of reality, but which is Reality. It’s as if all the words in this blog post were suddenly to assemble themselves into a living person—the author Mike Mason—who all at once stands before you and speaks.
Thankfully, it is not I who have entered your world in this stupendous fashion, but Jesus, the Living Word of God.
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