Sunday, February 6, 2011

BS11-004 The Prologue: The Reality of the Incarnation

The Fruit of Fellowship with Christ
A Series on the Fruit, Benefit, and the Joy of Walking With Christ

The Prologue:  The Reality of the Incarnation
John 1:1a
(Part I)


The last three weeks we examined four key anchor points that help us understand the purpose and meaning of the writing of this letter. We examined the author, determined from external and internal evidence that the author was John the Apostle. The same John who wrote the Gospel according to John wrote this epistle or letter.

The second anchor we examined was the audience. We saw that John wrote to primarily Gentile churches in Asia.

The third anchor point we examined was the age. From external and internal factors we determined this letter to have been written around AD 90-95.

The fourth and final anchor point we examined was the argument of the epistle. John wrote for four (4) reasons:

·        To enhance both his, as their spiritual advisor and their joy in their Christian life. John was anxious that his audience enjoy their Christian life.

·        To keep his readers from sin. John knew that sin robs believers of joy. Christ promised a deep seated, rich, overflowing and sustaining joy in this life. Sin steals joy.

·        To ground them in their assurance of salvation. The flesh and the enemy both attempt to rob us of our assurance of salvation by accusing us of sin, unworthiness, negligence, and ignorance.

·        To warn his readers against false doctrine and teaching. John is clearly intent on refuting doctrinal errors which threaten the churches he has been overseeing from Ephesus. The doctrinal safety of John’s readers is his chief aim. John writes for the practical edification of his children in the true faith.

Now we move from the introduction of this letter to John’s opening prologue in verses 1-4.

But before we do, before we dive into these first four verses, let me draw your attention to three very important thoughts:

[The First thought is this…]

A.      John by-passes all the form of a letter and jumps right in with a very weighty and profound theological prologue.

[How does he do this” He does this two ways.  The first way…]

          1.       John reiterates the foundation of the Christian message

                   [What is that foundation?]

The foundation of the Christian message is that eternal life has been revealed in the incarnate Son of God. In other words, Eternal life is not and cannot be found in any other source.

[Second way…]

2.       John reinforces the central point of our Christian faith

          [What is the central point of our Christian faith?]

The central point of our Christian faith is the cardinal truth that if the incarnation is not real then there is no Christian faith or message! We would be as Paul said, “Men most miserable!”

So, the first thought to keep in mind is that John by-passes all the forms of a letter and jumps right into this extremely important and profound prologue

[The Second thought is this…]

B.      John by-passes all the form of a letter and jumps right in with a           very intense prologue.

[I want you to notice two things about the intensity of this prologue. The first thing…]

          1.       This prologue forms a very long sentence.

Depending on the manuscript that is used for translation, these four verses are one very long sentence or possibly two long sentences in the Greek.

The first three verses form one long sentence and verse 4 forms a second sentence in some translations.

[This is unusual for John for a couple of reasons.]

o   First – this is very unusual for John to be so complicated

                   John is not a complicated writer. He is very simplistic. This is why we love his writings so much and why we usually start new believers with John’s writings. He takes very profound topics and expresses them so simplistically. He is an easy read.                        Not here, we have a long, intense, an complicated sentence.

o   Second – it seems he just got caught up in the subject matter

          Harvey Blaney made this statement, “This prologue gives the          impression that the author was so full of his subject, so overwhelmed by the truth he sought to express, that his thoughts became crowded and his expression complicated.” [1]

          J. L. Houlden wrote, “…as formally at least, bordering on      incoherence...” [2] (In other words…)

          Houlden thinks John got so caught up in his topic that he almost became so complex that he didn’t make sense.

[The second thing to notice about this prologue is the fact that…]

2.       The Prologue is very deep with information that we need to grasp

[Finally, the third thought I want to draw your attention to, is that…]

C.      John by-passes all the form of a letter and jumps right in with a very specific purpose in his prologue.

          John’s purpose is to refute the error and false teaching of the false teachers who have been troubling the churches with the denial of the factual and actual incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, in this very intense, very deep, very purposeful prologue John declares the reality of the incarnation to be very real.

This passage describes three (3) aspects of John’s declaration of the reality of the incarnation as very real. These three (3) aspects are The Encounter by John, The Evidence of Jesus, and The Expectation for Jurors

Our theme is the reality of the incarnation.  The source of eternal life has been revealed in the incarnation of the Son of God. With this subject and proposition, John demonstrates that the Father can only be known through the Son.

[So, without further ado let’s begin by looking at…]

1A     The Encounter by John (VS 1)

O hn apo arkns o akhkoamen, o ewrakamen tois ofqalmois hmwn, o eqeasameqa kai ai ceires hmwn eyhlafwqh peri tou
logou ths zwhs

That which was from beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we gazed upon and hands our handled concerning the Word of Life;

This sentence has four clauses that begin with the word “which.” The word “which” is a neuter relative pronoun. It is used by John to declare or state the reality of the incarnation.

Which was from [the] beginning

Which we heard [verb is 2nd per act ind]

Which we have seen [with] our eyes [vb – per act ind]

Which we have looked upon and our hands have handled of the word of life [v-aor m.d. ind act] [v-aor act ind]

All four of these phrases are the direct object of the verb “declare.” We don’t get to this verb until we reach verse three.

The first clause is related to the fact or the reality of the incarnation.

The other three clauses are related to John’s personal experience with the incarnation, in other words, his personal experience with Jesus Christ.

[So, let’s begin by looking at the first clause…]

          1B     ...which was from [the] beginning (vs 1)

                   The first thing this clause tells us is that John is not writing                      about any new or recent discovery.

                   These words sound similar to the opening words in John 1:1.

                   “In the beginning was the Word…” (John 1:1a, ESV)

                   So, you have to ask yourself what beginning is John referring to              here? What does he mean by beginning?

In John 1:1 the point John makes is that the Word, Jesus Christ, existed before the world was created. It was important for John in his gospel to establish the eternality of Jesus Christ. Jesus existed eternally before God created anything.

John uses the word “which” to show he was thinking about the comprehensive reality of the historical manifestation of eternal life in the incarnate Christ. 

Here in I John 1:1 the point John makes is that Word, Jesus the Christ, existed before the incarnation.

There is a slight difference. Jesus could have existed before the incarnation but possibly not before creation.

John’s focus is not creation – his focus is the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  John’s focus is that Jesus already exsisted and then was revealed in a human form by the incarnation. John does this because of the attack by false teachers on the reality of Jesus being born a man of Mary

John is establishing that Jesus was really born of a virgin in Bethlehem as a man. Remember, the false teachers are saying that “the Christ” wasn’t really real. They said that He just seemed to be real. Jesus just seemed to have an appearance.

What John has in mind here are the events that took place in Luke 1-2 which records the events of the actual incarnation.

Don’t forget John took care of and provided for Mary for a number of years, he had direct access to her about those events.

John is reasserting the truth of John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The 33 or so years of Jesus’ life made the incarnation an abiding reality.

The reason this becomes important is found in I Timothy 2:5; “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (ESV)

Listen, if you are to be saved, if you are to be the recipient of eternal life it is because of the only viable go-between God and man – Jesus Christ. You, your good works, your baptism, your lineage, your church membership cannot appease God. If Christ wasn’t real and if he didn’t empty himself of His God-head, or God-ship and enter into the human form of a man through the virgin birth then you and I are out of luck, and we have no viable mediator.

With this first clause – John establishes that the beginning of Jesus or the incarnation is a reality and it cannot be dismissed or minimized.

The remaining three clauses of verse one tell us of the various aspects of John’s experience with this incarnate being, known as Jesus Christ. These clauses are given to prove that the fact of the incarnation as a true and real reality.

These clauses contain three verbs that are used in the first person and two first person pronouns.

John includes himself with the people that actually saw, touched and heard Jesus speak. John says that he was among the apostles, those early disciples that had firsthand knowledge of the incarnation.


Tonight we looked at the first clause of this long and complicated sentence by John.

Our theme has been “the beginning.” The beginning is not the beginning of time or of an event such as creation, but John uses it to point to the incarnation.

The message of the prologue which proclaims the appearing of eternal life in visible form starts at Bethlehem.

This is a new beginning in God’s manner of speaking to mankind. (Heb 1:1-2)

This is John’s way of marking the continuing reality of the incarnation. James Morgan wrote, “The assumption of human nature by the Son of God is the most stupendous fact in the history of providence.”  [3]

During the first 30 years of Jesus earthly life the fact of the incarnation was an abiding reality, the same as that openly displayed during his public ministry.

[1] Harvey J. S. Blaney, The First Epistle of John, in Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1969), 10:349
[2] J. L. Houlden, A Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, Harpers New Testament Commentaries (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), p.45
[3] James Morgan, The Epistles of John (1865; reprint ed., Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, 1982), p. 4


Seams Inspired said...

Great post, Gregg! It's a lot to digest, but I love that you broke it down so I can understand it. Thanks! Happy Sunday! :o)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Indeed a long post Gregg but you have very cleverly broken it down so we can understand.