• In The Beginning Was The Word...
In the Beginning was the Word…
Outreach Letters

In the Beginning was the Word…

  • In The Beginning Was The Word...

In The Beginning Was The Word...

Few statements are more familiar to Christians than the first six words of John’s Gospel which form my title, and few phrases are more often used by Christians than: “the word of God”. Almost two thousand years have passed since John wrote his Gospel. Two thousand years of Christianity. After all this time, can there be any doubt as to what “the word of God” is? Certainly not, most Christians would reply with impressive confidence. As impressive, in fact, as that of the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who were sure they knew exactly what “God’s word” was.

Jesus should have been proud of them. Instead He lashed them with these words: “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but the rules taught by men’.”

What’s this? The very guardians of “the Word” being accused of fraudulently presenting their own teachings as if they were God’s! What a charge to lay upon the esteemed religious leaders of God’s own people! No wonder they hated Jesus, for He exposed those “men of God” for what they really were – the worst kind of confidence tricksters. The kind who claim to represent God and speak His word, while seeking only to gratify themselves and promote their own selfish ends.

But let’s be frank. Such sin did not disappear with the passing of the Scribes and Pharisees. Like a deadly virus their ways were soon picked up by the unscrupulous within the emerging Christian Church. In no time, the infection was rampant. True, some of it has been recognized and dealt with over the centuries but, by and large, it has not only survived – it has thrived. In typically virulent fashion it has adapted and mutated, having found a comfortable dwelling-place at the very heart of respected Christian belief and practice. Yes, the ways of the Scribes and Pharisees are alive and well today, so that God’s voice has been greatly muted – if not completely silenced.

Our times are like those of the Old Testament into which Samuel was born. Like the priestly sons of Eli, many who claim to represent God are merely self-seeking and indulgent – representing only themselves and the system which nurtures them. As a result God’s glory is obscured and “the word of the Lord is rare”.

So, what is the word of God?

In essence, we understand “word” to mean expression – either spoken or written. God’s word, though, has more to do with embodiment than with language.

Jesus came as “the word in the flesh”. He spoke God’s words, yes, but He was much more than a prophet. His uniqueness lay not in what He said but in what He was, for Jesus actually embodied God. To see God you only had to see Jesus. To know God you only had to know Jesus. To touch the heart of God you only had to touch the heart of Jesus.

Is it any wonder John went on to write: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” That’s what the word of God is about.

Jesus came not just to represent God, but to reveal Him. This He could do as no other man before Him had done, for He embodied God. He made His Father known by making Himself known. Which is why He was not content to merely preach, teach or even perform miracles. His desire was to form heart-to-heart relationships – in stark contrast to the untouchable, unknowable “men of God” who opposed Him.

Jesus did not seek mere followers. He wanted friends.

God cannot be revealed, nor can his word be made known, without the existence of heart-to-heart, intimate relationship. This is very different from the “relationship with Jesus” spoken about in evangelical Christianity, which is based on getting from God rather than on giving to God, and which uses God for man’s sake. The relationship which reveals God is not man-centered, it is God-centered. And it must be as total, as wholehearted and as sacrificial as the relationship Jesus had with his Father.

There should be nothing exceptional about this. That’s how it was always meant to be! It was Jesus’ intention that such a relationship with God should be ours as much as it was His.

Hence his prayer at the Last Supper“I pray also for those who will believe in Me… that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You loved Me.”

The word of God is typified in what Jesus was: the living embodiment of God Himself. More to the point, that is precisely what the Church of Jesus Christ was always intended to be.

If the Church fails in this, the word of God cannot exist among His people – anymore than it could have if Jesus had failed to embody His Father. Unless the Church is as much “the word in the flesh” as Jesus was, its existence is pointless.

Look around you. Do you see “the word in the flesh”, God embodied, in that which claims to be His Church? Or do you see another, alternative “word of God” being presented?

Two thousand years on, it is the same today as it was when the leaders of Judaism rejected Jesus, the Living Word of God, in favour of their own fraudulent substitute.

Like Judaism, Christianity has developed its own structures, rules, aims and priorities. Liberally sprinkled with Scripture and emblazoned with the name of Jesus they may be, but their source is neither in Him nor in His word.

Where within the hallowed structures of the Christian system is the passion to “walk as Jesus walked”? Where is the yearning to know Him, not only in the power of His resurrection but also in the fellowship of His sufferings? Yes, they do exist, but only among those who have miraculously survived the system’s deadly conditioning. So far as the system itself goes, embodying Jesus is neither policy nor practice. Using Him, yes. Embodying Him, never.

Because Christianity has become as much a creation of man as had Judaism in the time of Jesus, it is just as incapable of embodying God. It is also just as unwilling. Which helps to explain why it is guilty of a great blasphemy.

The apostle Paul stated that those who minister in Jesus’ name are called to be “ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”.

So do we find Christianity’s ministers emulating their noble predecessor Paul and ministering the Spirit rather than the letter? Though many claim to be, the evidence all around us is that the letter has once again displaced the Spirit. And it is here that we find the blasphemy which dwells in the midst of Christianity.

So many of those claiming to be God’s ministers have rejected the way of His Spirit and have become ministers, not of a covenant which gives life but of one that kills. In so doing, they have become sons, not of Paul who loved Jesus, but of the Scribes and Pharisees who crucified him!

Like those vain men who inflated themselves with knowledge and strove, not for God’s glory but for their own, Christianity’s proponents have rejected God’s desire to be embodied in human flesh. In its place they have set up a blasphemous substitute which is the product of their desires.

They have stifled the true expression of God and have relegated “God’s word” to a place between the covers of a book. Within such man-made confines they can control it. Having made it an object of knowledge and learning, they love to proudly expound it – promoting themselves as wise and learned. Appointing themselves its guardians, they rigorously defend it. Just like the Scribes and Pharisees.

In the manner of all promoters of idolatry they have, for their own ends, attached incredible, mystical significance to the Bible. Such that anyone who dares utter words such as I have written here is instantly relegated to the ranks of the worst of blasphemers.

Yet it is they – who have rejected the desire of God for his Church and deprived His people of their heritage – who are the guilty ones!

Like the “teachers of the Law” of two thousand years ago, who prided themselves in their learning and loved to display their knowledge of the scriptures, these men have made “Bible knowledge” synonymous with the knowledge of God. In this they have succeeded in perverting the God-given Scripture, making it an object of idolatrous worship. As a result we find that the living, risen Jesus is no longer the final authority in his Church – the Bible is! Neither is the Holy Spirit free to be the source of God’s revelation and direction – for that all comes from “Bible knowledge”!

Has there ever been a grosser example of man taking that which God has provided and using it to usurp him?

Am I overstating the case? To the contrary, the only danger is that, within the limits of these four pages, I may yet understate it. One day, as Jesus faced His most vociferous foes – the Bible experts of their day – he hurled this at them: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.”

Those notables, with their carefully cultivated “man of God” image, had taken the position that the study of the Scriptures was the key to Divine life, light and revelation. So far as they were concerned, knowing God’s word was synonymous with knowing the Scriptures. Such knowledge was, they asserted, the key to godliness.

Yet those very Scriptures, which they studied with such diligence and expounded with such pride, were incapable of being anything more than what God himself intended them to be. They were a testimony to Jesus, not a substitute for Him.

The Scriptures themselves were not The Truth. Rather, they were the truth about The Truth. That Truth to which the Scriptures pointed was not to be found in the manuscripts which the Scribes studied in their synagogues, for it was before their very eyes – embodied in Jesus.

While they fell over themselves to excel in the knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures, those “men of god” adamantly refused to recognize the Living Word of God who stood before them in the flesh.

They could not afford to, for recognition of Jesus would have meant embracing His way and bowing to His authority. Which, in turn, would have meant abandoning their ways and their own authority. And that was a price they were not prepared to pay.

As it was then, so it is today. Of the diligent study of the Scripture there is no lack, for men still crave knowledge and love what it does to their egos. As Paul said: “knowledge puffs up”.

But there’s more to it than that, for a documented religious code, formulated by men, has far greater appeal – and is a lot less threatening to the human will – than living in relationship with God and yielding to His will.

There are many (who knows how many?) trapped within the Christian system who have a genuine, heartfelt desire for God. Among them are those who are aware that something is very much amiss, yet are afraid, unsure of themselves or simply lack the confidence to “buck the system”. They are not rebels and do not wish to appear as such. They certainly do not want to be labelled as “unspiritual” and the thought of being ostracized by fellow Christians is a deterrent in itself.

I know what it’s like. I, too, was once in that position.

To come from where I was then to where I am now has been a slow and sometimes painful process. Yet knowing what I know now, and being gloriously free from the need to appease the system, I write these things from my heart and with deep conviction. I know the risks I take and the enemies I make, yet my passion for God’s glory and for His people’s welfare are “in my heart like a burning fire”. I frankly have no interest in even attempting to change the Christian system. It is reprobate; the work of men’s hands posing as God’s. In time God himself will shake it and it will collapse like a house of cards.

My desire is to see Jesus glorified in his Church. It is to see a people, gathered together and led by God’s Spirit, living under the authority of Jesus Christ and being the very embodiment of all that He is.

Only then can the word of God be a reality. And only then can we understand what John meant when he wrote: “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”