In the third century an insidious heresy infected the the still young Church of Jesus Christ. A presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt named Arius taught a new doctrine about Christ that seemed to make sense to the human mind, in an attempt to make the Lord Jesus more palatable to non-believers. He taught that Jesus the Son of God was the first creation of God the Father, not eternally with the Father. Frequently the motive of evangelism becomes the seed that produces false teaching in the Church, which is all the more reason for us to zealously guard the faith that we have been delivered. Because of the controversy that this teaching, known as “Arianism” produced in the Roman Empire, Emperor Constantine called a council of bishops representing all of the Christian Churches to a city called Nicaea in the year 312 A. D. Notable among the bishops was one St. Nicholas of Myra, who legendarily defended Christ’s divine nature at the council. The result of this godly council of church fathers was a creed, which, with some additions made at the Council of Constantinople some years later, produced what we confess as the Nicene Creed, a statement that summarizes our Christian Faith, especially when it comes to the person of Jesus Christ, who, being eternally begotten of the Father, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, became man, by taking unto himself a true human nature, in the womb of the virgin Mary. He is and remains God and man in one person forever. Following the Council of Nicaea, this doctrine was preached by great men of God such as the Cappadocian Fathers: Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzus, and Basil the Great, and by John Chrysostom, that “golden-mouthed” preacher at the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. During this time the festival of the Nativity on December 25th was becoming popular in the churches. The Greek fathers used it as a tool to promote the true doctrine of Christ and to systematically eliminate Arianism by setting aside one day in the year to preach on the birth of the God-man. The chief feature of the festival was the preaching of Christ. As Gregory of Nyssa stated, “What better way is there to celebrate Him who is the Word, than by preaching the Word?” One of the key passages the church fathers used to derive the doctrine of Christ was the opening verses of John’s gospel, which says,
John 1:1 KJV* In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God.
The Greek work here translated “Word” is “Logos.” This is a term that the apostle John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is borrowing from Greek Philosophy. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, “Logos” is “(Greek: “word,” “reason,” or “plan”) plural logoi, in Greek philosophy and theology, the divine reason implicit in the cosmos, ordering it and giving it form and meaning.” John makes use of this term from Greek philosophy to teach us that God the Son is that divine reason who controls the cosmos.
In an echo of Genesis 1:1, which begins, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…”, John starts off his gospel with the words, “In the beginning was the Word” aka. Logos. God the Son is from the beginning. He is not becoming as we are. We who are created beings are always changing. Even the cells of our body die and reproduce themselves throughout our lives, so that we are not what we were months ago. In contrast the Word never changes. He is from the beginning. He has no beginning himself. “In the beginning” here indicates that he already existed before anything had begun, meaning that he is without beginning. He was there before anything as we know it, before anything in this mutable creation, existed. He was “with God”, indicating in the original language a close intimacy, that of him who was in the bosom of the Father from the beginning.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
This Word is the Creator. It was he who is indicated by Moses in the words of Genesis 1:3, “God said let there be light, and there was light.” There is nothing made that he did not make. He is the Maker of everything that exists, other himself, that is, God.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Light indicates reason and knowledge, the opposite of ignorance and superstition. Not only Does Christ enlighten, illuminate those who come to him, there is no knowledge that anyone has on earth, except that which is a gift from him. Even those who deny and reject him still retain some glimmer’s of God’s image in them, like when they invent efficient data storage systems or paint inspiring paintings on canvas. This skill and knowledge they owe to the Son of God who is their Creator.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
John the Baptizer was he who was foretold by the prophet Malachi. He was the one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, who wore hair clothing and a leather belt just like Elijah the Tishbite. Malachi prophesies of the one who would prepare the way for the LORD YHWH. This is yet another proof that the to whom John pointed his hearers, that is Jesus of Nazareth, is none other than God himself. He prepared the way for the Lord Jesus by preaching repentance, a turning a way from sin to God, to the nation of Israel, preaching in the desert. He pointed his hearers forward to place faith in him who was to come, whose sandals John said that he was not worthy to stoop down and untie.
9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
God the Son is the origin of all knowledge. Every human being living in this world, or deceased in the past, owes him all credit for any knowledge that he has. He was rejected, not only by those he had created, but even worse, by the nation of Israel that he had taken under his special care and saved from slavery in Egypt, the people with whom he had made a covenant so that they would be his own cherished possession.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
But for all those who receive him by faith, of whatever nation, he grants the power, the authority, the legal adoption papers, to them as adopted children of their loving heavenly Father. This right or status is procured by faith, which is the open hand that simply receives God’s free gift of Christ the Savior, sent for them.
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
This faith does not come naturally to man, who is fallen in sin, and would rather shake his fist at God and spit in his face every day than be adopted into his family. But there is a miracle of grace that the Holy Spirit mentions here, that changes the sinner, making the heart new. Then, instead of hating God, the reborn sinner loves and wants to serve him. This change is not achieved by an act of the will. It is a sovereign act of God upon the soul. It is the Lord Jesus who regenerates, who makes sinners to be born again, by his Spirit working in and upon them.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
This word was made flesh. He became man in the womb of a young woman named Mary, by taking to himself a full yet previously un-impersonated human nature, in one person. This is a very important teaching of Scripture, as the church fathers that we previously spoke of knew well. They knew that it was only through the Mediator who is fully God and fully man in one person forever, that we sinners can be reconciled to our heavenly Father whom we have offended by sin. The Mediator must be God, and he must be one of us, or he cannot be our Mediator, the Christ. He dwelt among us, or literally, he “made his tent” among us, by taking to himself a human nature.
Christ, being God and Creator, became human in order that those who believe in him will be adopted as sons, those who have been born of God unto faith.
Christ is God. He is the true God. He is the one who controls the universe. This means that everyone is obligated to obey him, everywhere. No matter who you are or where you come from, Christ Jesus is God of you. You are required to obey him because you inhabit his universe. Because he works everything out exactly according to his plan, those who are his know that nothing can hurt them. He holds them in the palm of his hand and nothing can ever go wrong. They are in his plan and loving grip.
Christ is the Creator. Everything was made by him. There is nothing in this word that was not made by him. The Creator also has the power to recreate. For although he made everything “very good”, as we learned in Sunday School, yet man has sinned against him. So because of his tender and loving mercy, the Creator became like one of his creatures, in order to restore what had been marred by sin, his image in man.
Christ became a human being in order to bring us adoption as sons of the Father. He accomplished this by dying for us on the cross, taking away the guilt of our sin, and reconciling the Father to us, and us to the Father, so that we would become recipients of the grace of God in him, and beloved children of the Father. The change that he wrought in us is ultimately not dependent upon any contribution of ours or act of our will. It is the gift of God.
Christ, being God and Creator, became human in order that those who believe in him will be adopted as sons, those who have been born of God unto faith. Therefore, let us believe in him. Let us receive this free gift of God with an open hand, let us receive Christ. Let us trust and believe in him every day, when we sin, when we feel guilty, and when we stumble. For even though we have been born again of our heavenly Father, we are not free from sin in our lives entirely. It is a gradual process of restoration, as God’s image in us is brought back more and more, little by little until the day that we die or that Christ returns, whichever is first.
Let us rejoice in the Savior. We who deserve only the wrath of God, have been adopted as his dear children. Let us rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ, who became one of us to save us from the wrath of God that we so surely deserve.
If we have experienced his grace, if we truly love our Father, as his own adopted children, we will not be able to keep this good news to ourselves. We who have experienced love will want others to experience it, too. We will take opportunities to share this good news with others, as witnesses to the grace of God, as he gives us opportunity, to friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, and strangers.
Let us beware of false teachers who teach contrary to the doctrine of Christ as revealed in Scripture, who teach like Arius in ancient times that the Son of God was made like Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses, and also shun any thought that he is less than fully human, like the Monophysites of old who thought that Christ was only of a divine nature, and only appeared as a man, for only the One who is God and Man in one person, the God-man, Jesus Christ the Lord, can save us. He is our Mediator.
Christ, being God and Creator, became human in order that those who believe in him will be adopted as sons, those who have been born of God unto faith. Amen.
The preceding is a synopsis of a sermon preached on December 28, 2014 at the Reformed Fellowship of Bellevue in Bellevue, Nebraska.
*The King James Version is used here since it is free from copyright restriction within the United States.