In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1–2)
Bible readers young and old have wondered why John begins his Gospel referring to Jesus as “the Word” that became flesh (John 1:1, 14). The Greek term for “word,” logos, is common enough in Greek. It appears over three hundred times in the New Testament, with different meanings in different contexts. But when understood in relation to Christ, the word has been furiously debated.
Yet Christ being the Logos is cause for more than debate; it is cause for worship. As Christians, we insist upon certain truths concerning Jesus as the Word to better appreciate the beauty of his person and work.
John may have used logos in connection with the common Aramaic language he used himself. The Aramaic Targums (loose translations and expansions of the Old Testament scriptures) often refer to the “word [memra] of the Lord.” Hence, “Israel is saved by the Memra of the Lord with an everlasting salvation” (Isaiah 45:17).
Moreover, the standard Hebrew of Hosea 1:7, “I will save them by the Lord their God,” is paraphrased in the Aramaic Targum as, “I will redeem them by the word of the Lord their God.” So the “the Word” is a way of saying the Hebrew name of God (YHWH), such as in Numbers 7:89, where the Palestinian Targums say, “From there [between the cherubim] the Word spoke to him [Moses].” God spoke to Moses, but specifically the Logos spoke to Moses.
“Referring to Christ as ‘the Word’ is a virtual assertion of his divinity.”
Referring to Christ as “the Word,” then, is a virtual assertion of his divinity because of how the Aramaic Targums make use of this title. We rightly take the immediate context of John 1 as evidence for the preexistence of Christ, yet we must also see John’s designation of Christ as “the Word” as evidence for the deity of Christ, since Aramaic-speaking Jews would have understood the terminology as such in their first-century context.
In addition, logos often designates a word or the act of speaking (Acts 7:22). More specifically, logos can have in view God’s revelation, his divine self-expression (Mark 7:13).
The personification of God’s words to humanity are principally and majestically summed up in Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh (John 1:14). The Word is with God, the Word is God, and the Word became human, revealing (unlike any other) the glory of God (John 1:1–2, 18). All things were created through the uncreated Word (John 1:3) for the Word (Colossians 1:16).
Jesus, as the Word, is the Word of life (John 1:4); he gives light to the world and overcomes the darkness. But shockingly, the Word who has life in himself (John 5:26) experiences death on the cross. Through both his death and his resurrection from the dead, “He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God” (Revelation 19:13). Jesus as the Logos is not just the divine Son but the creating, saving divine Son, who reveals God and his purposes.
Logos and Creation
We are missing out on the glory of this title of Christ if we fail to go back to the beginning — an oversight John is careful to avoid, taking us back to the very beginning in his prologue. The distinction in Genesis 1 between God and his creation is clear. Moreover, the Logos is not only the Creator of all things, but the sustainer of all things as well (Hebrews 1:3). The Bible knows nothing of a God who creates and does not also at the same time powerfully sustain his creation by his providential control over all things.
God’s outward works follow a basic pattern: they are from the Father, through the Logos (Son), in the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 8:6). Genesis 1 also makes clear that God is a speaking God (“And God said . . .”). The psalmist tells us, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Psalm 33:6). When God creates, he also reveals, which is why the Son is properly called the Word of God. God does not speak to the creation unless through the Logos.
All truth comes from the Logos, for he is the sacred repository of all truth. The Logos provides the basis for God’s revelation to be communicated to humanity. Quite apart from his role as the Mediator in salvation, he is also the Mediator of all revelation, whether in creation or Scripture. The Logos creates, sustains, and speaks, communicating to all creatures some resemblance of God. He is God’s most powerful self-expression, which is precisely why John personifies the Word in order to highlight God’s ultimate self-disclosure. Apart from the Logos, we could know nothing of God.
Logos and Redemption
The Puritan Stephen Charnock speaks of the Logos as the one who makes continued declarations of God to humanity:
As the beautiful image of reason in the mind, breaking out with the discovery of itself in speech and words, is fittest to express the inward sense, thoughts, conceptions, nature, and posture of the mind, so the essential Word of God clothes himself with flesh, comes out from God to manifest to us the nature and thoughts of God. He which is the word of God is fittest to manifest the nature of God. (Works of Stephen Charnock, 4:132)
“God’s best declaration, his best words to humanity, come (fittingly) through the Logos.”
The Logos has the perfect ability to declare the revelation of God, for his “great end” is to reveal God (Matthew 11:25; John 1:18), whether to angels or men. Indeed, Charnock writes, even for the angels, when they looked upon Christ crucified, stricken by the Father, buried in the tomb, raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven to be enthroned forever as King of kings and Lord of lords, “they learned more of God and his nature, more of the depths of his wisdom, treasures of his grace, and power of his wrath, then they had done by all God’s actions in the world . . . in all those four thousand years wherein they had remained in being.”
In the Logos, all of God’s attributes are manifested and glorified. Natural theology offers sinful man a dim knowledge of God, but because of the Logos, the attributes of God “sparkle” since they have redemption in view. “Christ is the stage,” says Charnock, “wherein all the attributes of God act their parts.” God’s best declaration, his best words to humanity, come (fittingly) through the Logos.
In sum, by calling the Son the Logos, John is offering us a glimpse into not just the nature of Jesus (the divine revealer of God), but also the purpose of Jesus: he is the revealer of redemption, which ultimately comes not only through words but through actions. As the one who conquered death, he is the Logos of God, the only one in whom there is redemption. And this one in whom we have redemption — the Logos — is Yahweh himself.