The Gospel of John
Beginning in all wisdom, with the wisdom and the conviction of the Holy Spirit guiding him; see how strongly begins the humble apostle’s Gospel. “In the beginning,” he declares, evoking the creation story of Genesis as his witness to the very words that he is about to write. And yet, in contrast to the words of Moses in the Penteteuch, the apostle here focuses rather than on the account of creation itself, but on the Creator. And not merely the Creator even, but note how quickly he turns the topic from the Father of all to the God the Word, Jesus.
See, we have to recognize one thing about this writing; John was in no way contesting the Father, but rather that the Father had already been revealed unto all manner of men. It was not in the wisdom of our age where we consider that anything could happen without the presence of the Lord, as in the garden, where the vile serpent had convinced Adam and Eve that they could become as God was. No, rather, the presence of the Father, and even the Holy Spirit, was evident to all in creation, to which creation itself bore witness. The Psalmist tells us that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament shows the creation of His hands” (Psalm 18:1 LXX). No, all who existed recognized the existence of the Father; it was rather Jesus to whom John attested, God the Word. Thus, here, in his introduction, we see John evoking creation itself to be the witness to the Creator, and then quickly begins to allude to the new Creation which is in Christ Jesus Himself.
“He was in the beginning with God.” That He was in the beginning with God means that there is no starting point, there is no point where He was not with God. One of the most common heresies throughout the history of the Church is the denial of the divinity of Christ. That He was either never God or that He was born human and became God. And those very heresies which began centuries ago continue unto this very day. Arius and his followers adhered to these false doctrines; Marcion and his followers clung strongly to the inverse, that Jesus was God but that He was not the Father, but rather that the God of the Old Testament was no longer, and that the two were separate gods. This non-Trinitarian stance remains today, wherein the Mormons believe that Jesus was born man and ascended to the state of divinity throughout His life. Christian Scientists, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc, all still hold to these false teachings about the Lord, denying His words that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).
John continues, “The Word was with God, the Word was God.” This is such an important statement, as it shows the contrast between the two. That the Word was with God shows that in the beginning, Jesus, the uncreated being, was with the Father; thereby showing Him to be a separate and distinct Person, fully in communion with the Father, but fully separate. If I am resting after a day’s labor and lie alone in my cell, no one would ever say that “I am with me,” or that “I accompany myself.” However, John doesn’t stop there, he also states that the Word was God. This statement shows that, though they are two separate entities, two separate Persons; they are of one essence. God the Father and God the Word are co-equal, co-eternal. It reveals Jesus to be of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things are made.
But what of the Holy Spirit, one may ask at this point? Again, let us remember John’s purpose for writing his Gospel, one which he himself reveals unto us. John himself tells us that “These words are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” (John 20:31). John goes on to state that “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” See, God the Word (Jesus) is the co-creator of all things, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In Genesis, we read that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (The Father, Genesis 1:1), and that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water.” (Holy Spirit, Genesis 1:2) and “has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:2). I wanted to note, especially from the words of John himself, why his focus is almost exclusively, in this passage, on the Son, lest someone conceive this notion that John is removing the presence of the Holy Spirit from his account of creation. Each of these three Persons of the Trinity are ever present all throughout Scripture, it was in the context of his writing of this Gospel that he focused so strongly on God the Word during the creation, rather than on each of the roles played by each Person of the Trinity. Each of the three were, and always are, equal, with the Son being the Begotten of the Father and the Spirit likewise proceeding from the Father Himself.
John continues to state that, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” It’s this total idea that only God has life in Him, thus the Word is the source of life, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Consider in Scripture how often the unbelievers are referred to as “the dead.” When Jesus calls one man to follow Him, the man replies that he must attend to his father’s funeral, to which Jesus replies, “leave the dead to bury their own.” (Matthew 8:22). Only in the presence of God do we find true life; and yet, when we turn to Him, He grants us to partake of that life, to share with Him in that life. He grants us the grace to walk away from the ways of the flesh, the ways which are dying and are dead. In Sirach, we read “Woe to the cowardly hearts and weakened hands, and to a sinner who walks on two paths….those who fear the Lord will not disobey His words, and those who love Him will keep His ways.” (Wisdom of Sirach 2:12,15) and Solomon teaches us that “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torture will ever touch them. In the eyes of the undiscerning, they seem to have died, and their departure was considered misfortune…but they are at peace. For though in man’s view they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.” (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-3). In Proverbs, we read that “there is a road that seems to be right with men, but the ends of it reach into the depths of Hades.” (Proverbs 14:12). See, in His coming, Jesus allows us, mankind, to be receivers of this divine light. And by receiving and walking in this light, we receive the life from Him as His children, sons and daughters adopted into the family of God. Which is why John, in his epistle, tells us that “whoever walks in darkness and claims to have fellowship with Him is a liar and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 1:6), because Jesus Himself taught us that “He who has My commands and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). And this light, John tells us, this light which we freely receive, shines in the darkness, which indicates both spiritual ignorance and satanic oppression. When we receive this light, we can no longer walk in the darkness of the world, blinded by the lies and teachings of the world, but rather fully embrace the light of the hope of the world to come. No longer chained to earthly lusts and wants, temptations and desires; freed from each of them and fully embracing the light which is the life of the kingdom and our lives walking freely in that light.
See, when we truly receive Christ, when we truly embrace the Father, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are to walk as children of light. And our lives should become something that the world can’t comprehend or overcome. See, the world looks at someone like Teresa of Calcutta, living in poverty amongst the poor and the wretched, refusing earthly gain, and it can’t understand the concept of it. She displays the love and compassion of the Lord and they can’t grasp this concept, so they immediately demonize it. They have to; otherwise others may find the same joy and peace in doing the works of the Lord. They need to vilify her, to make her look bad, otherwise others may try to display the same mercy, compassion, and love; and then any of the world selfish philanthropic actions become exposed for what they truly are, selfish PR gimmicks. The last thing that the world can afford to happen is to find a group of believers actually living “the Way.” They can have people doing studies all day long and never say a word, but to have someone actually holding the strength of their convictions, actually standing with a strength as strong as St Stephen, then suddenly, they must needs to demonize this faith.
The world, Satan…neither cares what we believe, as long as we’re quiet and private about it. Satan is perfectly happy to observe as masses of people memorize verse after verse, Scripture after Scripture, parable after parable; and then go to study groups and argue about interpretations. When Satan gets scared is when he sees groups of Christians who recognize that the first book that follows the Gospels in the printed Bible isn’t the “studies of the apostles,” but rather the “Acts” of the apostles. Where Satan gets scared is when we see a homeless on the street freezing and invite that person into our home, allow them to shower, feed them a real meal. Where Satan gets scared is where he is unable to convince us that our faith is not merely a mental assent, but is rather a way of life that we must embrace. Satan gets most scared when we read the words of Jesus and instead of memorizing them, we actually live them. The world doesn’t care what we say or feel; the world doesn’t care what song we sing on a Sunday morning. The world cares when we carry our faith out of the Cathedral and actually live it in our life. The world doesn’t what we post on social media, the world cares when we actually live out the convictions of our faith.
The moment our faith becomes our warcry; our convictions actually affect our lives; the moment we start living out loud and our faith becomes more than Sunday morning lectures and feel-good platitudes; that’s when Satan must try to silence us. And we, my beloved brothers and sisters, must never allow that to happen.
The apostles were twelve uneducated men; but filled with the boldness of the Holy Spirit, they were able to turn the world upside down. Not through theological debates, not through Bible studies, but by a thorough and intimate knowledge of our God, the Holy Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Lord never changes, my beloved brethern. Jesus Christ is the same always and forever. And we have the same God, the same Holy Spirit, as the apostles; may we have the same faith as well. May our faith never be distilled to mere intellectual assent, but rather may our faith grow to be the conviction to live our faith in action.
May the peace of the Lord be with you all, my beloved family.