At the beginning of his gospel, in some of Scripture’s more mysterious words, John writes, referring to Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). I remember, as a child, puzzling over how it was that Jesus could be called the Word. The Bible as God’s Word I understood, because the Bible is God talking to us, telling us what he wants us to know. But Jesus is a person, not a book, I thought. How can he be God’s word? Yes, it was childish thinking, but even now, I’m not sure I know all of what John meant when he used that name for the eternal Son. Why does John call him the Word?
The Greek word that’s translated Word means “message,” so at the very least, John is telling us that Jesus is God’s message. Jesus is God’s message because he spoke the truth of God, and he also (or even primarily) revealed the truth of God in what he did and who he was.
Later on in the same chapter, John tells us, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). That’s Jesus he’s writing about—Jesus, the Word. As he walked and talked and loved and died, Jesus was showing us the truth of who God is. Do you want to know of God’s grace and love? Look at Jesus. Do you want to understand his holiness? Jesus reveals that perfectly, too.
What’s more, John uses the title Word for the Son in a chapter bursting with Old Testament allusions (Check John 1 with a cross-reference Bible to see what I mean.), so it would be a mistake not investigate what the word of God represented there, because John undoubtedly has that in mind, too. In the Psalms we read that it was “by the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Psalm 33:6), so God’s creative power was called his word. God’s word sustained the world, too (Psalm 147:15-18), and delivered his people (Psalm 107:20). God’s word was the power by which he accomplished his purposes (Isaiah 55:10-11). In the scriptures John had, the term word is used to refer to God’s power and will and mind and presence in creation, providence and salvation. You see where this is going, right? Jesus is the one through whom God accomplishes his before-the-foundation-of-the-world purpose and is his ultimate power of salvation. What God’s word is and what it does in Old Testament revelation was embodied in Jesus Christ.
When we put it all together, we get a picture of Jesus as the embodiment everything that God is: all his communicable attributes—the characteristics of God that we can hope to copy; and all his incommunicable attributes—the characteristics of God that belong to God alone, the ones that were veiled when God’s Son lived among us. In a kind of twist that belongs only in the best and truest story, it’s by the veiling of these attributes of “godness” that the God no one can see becomes visible to us. Jesus is the self-expression of God—God’s own message of himself to us—because everything God is, Jesus is, and we can see and know him. The eternal Word became a human being and lived with us, revealing the unseen God to us, because “the Word was God.”
And as the incarnate Word, Jesus brought us a message about ourselves, too. When he kept God’s law perfectly, he taught us what we ought to be. “His life and teaching,” writes J. I. Packer, “set holiness before us in a way that both instructs and condemns us.” The gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and death reveal the whole truth of our sin by showing, first, how far we fall short of the perfect standard kept by the human Jesus; and on top of that, showing what it cost to make right what our sin made wrong.
The writer of Hebrews says that in Old Testament times, God spoke to his people by means of his prophets, “but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1). Prophets spoke and wrote God’s words, communicating God’s message in the Old Testament scriptures; but the full and final revelation of God is Jesus Christ.
Jesus is God’s ultimate message; Jesus is the Word.
About the author: A Canadian woman, a widow with four grown children and passionate about studying God’s Word. Her favorite Bible verse is 2 Corinthians 4:6: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”. She likes knowing that the same power that brought the whole of creation out of nothing by command is the power that shone in her heart bringing new creation there. And she likes pondering the beautiful and mysterious phrase “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Find her blogging at Rebecca Writes.
the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
You are most welcomed to read a complementary series on The Names of God.
Part one, The Name of God is found here,
Part 2, Taking Refuge in the Name of the Lord, here.
Part three, The Fullness of the Name of Jesus Christ is here.