The Divine Logos – Pt. 2

C. The Roles of the Logos
Although the wording is brilliantly simple, an examination of the Prologue furnishes for us a great deal of help concerning what might be called the “roles” of the Logos. To begin with, the prologue places in front of us these facts:

Ÿ The Logos is a Person (1:3, 4, 14).

Ÿ There are three relations of Christ the Logos recorded in these opening verses. First, there is His relation with the Father “In the beginning” (1:1-2). Second is His relation to the world (1:3, 10). The third relationship of the Logos is that which He bears to humankind (1:11-14).

Ÿ The Logos was active with (Gk. pros) God (the Father). Ridderbos says that this designation “is intended as an indication not only of place but also of disposition and orientation.”[1] Thus, in all respects the Eternal Logos was and is to be identified with God (1:1-2), though not the Father but the Son (1:18).

Ÿ This means that God, in the Person of the revealing incarnate Son (1:14, 18), is the Subject of John’s Gospel.

In addition to the above, three readily identifiable roles can be located within the Prologue. They center upon the great schemes of creation, revelation, and redemption.

Creation[2]

The link with creation is established right off with the very first words of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word” The Apostle is taking the reader back to the creation account in Genesis 1:1ff., and showing that the Logos was directly involved in the creative process. To those who assert that John’s stress is not upon creation as such, but upon the pre-existence of the Logos prior to the creation, we do not think we are forced into a choice between the two. The Genesis narrative implies a creatio ex nihilo doctrine which would necessitate a complimentary doctrine of Divine pre-existence and perlocutory action. John is telling us that the Logos is this same creative God (1:1-2). Then in the third verse comes a clear statement about the creative role of the Logos: “All things were created by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (1:3). The Logos is a Person (N.B., “by Him…without Him”), not an organizing principle or a personified divine utterance. He is the cause of the ontological status of everything, and nothing which came into existence in the creative week owes its being to anything else.[3]

Along with His work as Creator, the Logos is also the Upholder of that creation. The necessary imposition of the curse after the fall meant that God’s providential care of the world was mitigated by the consequential out-workings of sin in history. The world-system (kosmo) in its pride and rebellion does not recognize its Creator, even when He stands before them (1:10). Mankind may not want to acknowledge its Maker (Rom. 1:18-22), but it remains true that without the power of the Logos, there would be no light or life (Jn. 1:4), for as Gerhaardus Vos stated, “By universal consent the furnishing of life and light to the world belongs to the very essence of the Logos task.”[4] Hence, John is restating a function that had already been confirmed before he wrote (cf. Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2-3). The power behind the vast spiraling galaxies, the fiercely burning stars in their motions, and the numberless operations of our planet – including all life, is not Matter, it is the Word! This world was created by Him and is sustained by Him (1:3-10). He is thus both what Vos termed the “organ of omnipotence”[5] and the Framer of Reality (and, therefore, of Meaning).[6] We shall let Vos sum it up for us: “The normal relation to the world by Him who acted as the Mediator of creation, was such that thereafter the world and mankind were dependent for their life and light on Him. He was the Logos in providence, just as He had been the Logos in creation.”[7]

Revelation

The Prologue also calls our attention to the Logos as revelation. As the Author of the life and light of men (Jn. 1:4, 10), He has fashioned them in the image of God, and in so doing has constituted men and women in such a way that man himself reveals his Maker. Perhaps nobody has pointed this out better than Cornelius Van Til. He paints a striking picture in order to get his point across: “Even when man, as it were, takes out his own eyes, this act itself turns revelational in his wicked hands, testifying to him that his sin is a sin against the light that lighteth every man coming into the world…Creatures have no private chambers.”[8]

Because mankind is in spiritual and therefore epistemological darkness, they do not acknowledge the Logos of God (Jn. 1:4-5; 9-11). Unless men realize this there will always be a chasm between man’s own self-identification and a right understanding of his true significance and purpose. The great lexicographer Cremer makes the point that Christ is “Him in whom had been hidden from eternity, and specially from the beginning of the world, what God had to say to man.”[9] The Logos is “the true Light” because He is the one who has placed the sense of creatureliness inside of us; the realization of which we seek to suppress and to run from (Jn. 1:5, 10-11; Cf. Acts 17:28; Rom. 1:18-20).[10] This is why Van Til can write:

By the idea of revelation, then, we are to mean not merely what comes to man through the facts surrounding him in his environment, but also that which comes to him by means of his own constitution as a covenant personality. The revelation that comes to man by way of his own rational and moral nature is no less objective to him than that which comes to him through the voice of trees and animals. Man’s own psychological activity is no less revelational than the laws of physics about him. All created reality is inherently revelational of the nature and will of God. Even man’s ethical reaction to God’s revelation is still revelational.[11]

One of the transformations wrought by the new birth is that God, “has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13); so that we who were partakers of darkness, are now “light in the Lord.” (Eph. 5:8; cf. 1 Thess. 5:5). Thus, as the Psalmist has it, “In Thy light we shall see light” (Psa. 36:9). This brings us to the third aspect of the Prologue’s description of the Logos, the redemptive function.

Redemption

The revelation of God is not given for the purpose of condemnation only (cf. Jn. 3:17). The most astounding truth in the Prologue is that the eternal Logos, “was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14), and that He was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn. 1:29). Vos expressed it well: “The unique feature of the Prologue consists in this, that it views the cosmical function of the pre-existent Christ as a revealing function and places it in direct continuity with His revealing work in the sphere of redemption.”[12] This is an important point as it emphasizes the fact that Christ as the Logos was active in revelation prior to His incarnation, but that His assuming human form (en morfh) was “in direct continuity” with that prior activity.[13] There is no division between the pre-incarnate Logos and the incarnate Logos, Jesus of Nazareth. The grace of God is present in the incarnate Word (Jn. 1:16-17), to save anyone who hears and receives the word of Jesus (Jn. 1:12-13; 5:24; 6:63, 68, etc.). This is the chief purpose of John’s designation of Christ as “The Word of Life” in the opening of his First Epistle. Because He is the Logos incarnate, He is Life (cf. Jn. 1:4; 6:33; 14:6). John chooses this aspect of the Logos function, “because the theme of the Epistle is to be the Life, not as to its historical manifestation in the Incarnate Logos, but as to its essential qualities, in whomsoever it exists.”[14]

To return to the Fourth Gospel, the third function of the Logos is the redemption of the fallen humanity. To quote Carl Henry, “The Word that God has spoken is Christ enfleshing the Father’s will for the redemption of lost men. Jesus is not only proclaimed but is the Word of God. The Word of God is Jesus’ very thought and deed, his very person.”[15] It would behoove us, the, to look further at this truth.


[1] Herman N. Ridderbos, The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 25.

[2] Under this first heading we shall also include the doctrine of Providence, since the Creator is “responsible” for what He has made.

[3] Andreas J. Kostenberger, John, BECNT, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 29-30.

[4] Geerhardus Vos, Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1980), 63.

[5] Vos, 65.

[6] We shall return to this subject below.

[7] Vos, 75-76.

[8] Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics, Second edition, ed, William Edgar, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2003), 78.

[9] Hermann Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1872), 403.

[10] Is it not probable that, at least in part, this is illustrated in certain incidents in the life of Jesus in the Gospels? (e.g. Matt. 26:63-64; cf. Lk. 20:13-19).

[11] Cornelius Van Til, “Nature and Scripture,” in N.B. Stonehouse and Paul Woolley, editors, The Infallible Word, third revised printing, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.,1946), 273-274. We realize that Van Til does not speak of the Logos in the context, but our point (with which we are sure he would agree) is that all revelation is derived from the Logos, Jesus Christ.

[12]Gerhaardus Vos, op.cit. 90.

[13] It is this very truth which has come under threat recently from certain theologians of the Evangelical Left. For example, if we understand him correctly, Grenz is not happy with the Chalcedonian formula, which ascribes pre-existence to the Logos. He states, “[M]any Christians see preexistence as a natural conclusion from the incarnation, understood as the narrative of the Son. Predicating the attribute to the Logos, they conceive of preexistence as referring to the existence – even the activity – of the Logos prior to his assuming human form.” – Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, (Carlisle, UK: The Paternoster Press, 1994), 406. He continues by saying it is “christologically illegitimate” to conclude “that the appearances of the Angel of Yahweh were preincarnation ‘Christophanies,’” or that, “the one who became a baby in Bethlehem called the worlds into existence.” – ibid. Although we have no trouble with the claim that Logos was a title given to Jesus after His ascension (See, for example, F.F. Bruce, Jesus: Lord & Savior, (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1986), 165), we do not agree with Grenz when he says, “When we speculate about the Logos apart from Jesus’ historical life, we lose the significance of the term as a christological title.” – ibid, 403. Indeed, it is impossible for us to read the Prologue without seeing the very thing Grenz disallows. What is wrong with affirming the following proposition? “In 1:1-5, John traces his account of Jesus farther back than the beginning of the ministry, farther back even than the creation. The account must reach back to the eternal, divine Word, God’s agent in creation and the fount of life and light.” – D.A. Carson, The Gospel According To John, (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991), 113.

[14] Robert Law, The Tests of Life, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1909), 355. Although some scholars see the title as a reference to the Gospel (e.g. J. Stott), while others think it can refer to Christ and the Gospel (e.g. F. F. Bruce), we side with Law’s verdict that, “The abstract of the Apostolic Gospel which is there prefixed to the Epistle, as the fountain-head from which all its teaching is drawn, contains the two complementary truths: that Jesus is the “Word” in whom the Eternal Life of God has been fully manifested, and that this manifestation has been made through a humanity in which there is nothing visionary or unreal, and is vouched for by every applicable test as genuine and complete. The Incarnate Word has been “seen,” “heard,” “handled.” – ibid. 91.

In addition to this, as the other usage of the Logos title, in Revelation 19:13, is plainly a reference to Christ, it seems dubious that the high profile “Word of Life” in 1 John 1:1 is an assignation of the Gospel and not Christ Himself.

[15] Carl F.H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority, 3.180.

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