May 26, 1998
When receiving entries for a writing contest, I was startled by the title on one manuscript: “I AM A WORD.” It was entered in a category asking writers to explain why they thought they should be writers.
We use words to communicate ideas, inform, teach, inspire and encourage. We use words to express our sense of personal identity, to tell others who we are, how we think and what is important to us.
Words are symbols for ideas or things. Using symbols has some risk for confusion because the listener may picture something different than what the speaker is trying to convey.
For instance, when we hear “word” we think of a collection of letters (written or spoken) that represent something. But when the ancient Greeks used “word” (or “logos” in their language) they had a different idea. For them, logos represented the basic element or “soul” of the universe, an undefinable reasoning or wisdom that controlled all things and could express itself in some understandable way. For that reason, “logos” is translated into English as “speech” or “word.”
People in the Western world usually avoid thinking in abstract terms. We are far more apt to use concrete words. For instance, if I say, “I am a woman.” my hearers would agree. If I say, “I am a word,” they might raise their eyebrows and mutter, “Oh sure, and what does that mean?”
My point? Language changes have limited our understanding of who Jesus is and what He said about Himself. John’s gospel begins with: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John is referring to Jesus as “the Logos” or “the Word.”
In the Greek culture where He was born, “logos” or “word” was a powerful expression of an infinite being. By using this term, John knew his readers would make some connections. For the Jew, the Old Testament was God’s written expression of His revelation to them. Now John is saying that Jesus is the living expression of a Being who is the “soul of the universe,” God Himself. He once revealed Himself to Israel and that revelation was recorded in printed form. Now He is revealing Himself in a human body to all who will accept Him.
Those who knew the Scriptures understood that God speaks. Now His expression was through a living man, Jesus Christ. When Jesus spoke, because He was “logos”His words were God’s words.
Does this heady stuff make any difference? Is it important today? Only if it is true. If Jesus Christ is God in human flesh, we must consider Him. What is God communicating to us through Him? Why are His words important? What is the message of His life?
If our universe is closed, God could not come in. However, Jesus said, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” In a world where “logos” can inhabit a human body and interact with people, it is possible to know God.
The Bible affirms that Jesus is more than a good man, more than a teacher or a prophet. His sinless life of doing good, and His death and resurrection prove He is more than mere human. He claimed to be God incarnate.
We need to consider what this means for us. If we believe what He said about Himself and take Him up on His offer of forgiveness and eternal life, He promises that we will enter into a relationship to One we can know personally, not just as a vague entity the Greeks called “the soul of the universe” but God Himself.