Missiology, Missions, Theology

In the Beginning… part Deux

Take a look at the opening for the book of John.

In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him. In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. (NCV)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (NIV)

And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (NKJV)

     “In the beginning.” This is a direct quote used very intentionally by John.  John, very much like his original audience, grew up hearing this turn of phrase repeated again and again and yet again.  This is of course because it was the opening phrase of the Holy Scriptures.  The book of Genesis starts in exactly the same way, albeit in Hebrew.  He and his audience heard the phrase read in the temple a thousand times. His own father and mother had probably told him the story of creation as many times themselves, always starting with the first phrase they knew by heart; “In the beginning,”.

No one in John’s original audience for his testament of the Life and person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth could hear or read those words and not be instantly transported to the time before creation.  With this fragment of a sentence, the scene was set, the stage was readied, and the curtain was drawn, for the greatest story ever told.

“In the beginning, was the Word.”  From the total context of the chapter we know that the Word of which he wrote is Christ Jesus the Lord.  But what about someone reading this for the first time?  In the Beginning was the Word.  What word?  Maybe they thought about God.

“In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1)

     The first thing that John establishes is that this Word of which he spoke was not only with God in before creation but was God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)

     Second, he established that this Word did God things, Divine things.

“In the beginning God created” (Genesis 1:1)

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:3)

     Or maybe the original audience thought of the first words that were spoken by God.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; (Genesis 1:3)

     But John makes it abundantly clear that the Word, is not just some vocalization or divine command.  It is a person.  It is a person somehow separate and distinct from God, and at the same instant, it is God.  And so it was before anything that was created, because everything that was created was created through Him.  So this Word is uncreated.  This word is divine, for  everything uncreated is divine.  This Word is creative.  This Word is power.

     This Word is the source of life but also the sustainer of it. Through Him everything exists and consists (Col. 1:17).  The Life that He is, that He provides, was not just for those who heard or read this original letter.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4 KJV)

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:4 NIV)

     It was the light for all people, all people groups, all of humanity! The Illumination that can only be given by and received from Jesus, the Word of God, must be taken into the darkness.

“The Light shines in the Darkness…” (John 1:5)

     Many versions of the Bible translate this verse to say that the darkness did not comprehend the Light.  There are translations that say darkness didn’t overcome the light or overpower the light.  The original word in Greek (transliterated) is katalambano.  This means to overtake, to arrest, to capture or even hold tightly.  Additionally, it is to be understood as to perceive, understand or comprehend.

Consider the way we say that we struggle or wrestle with an idea.  Sometimes we might say that some one failed to grasp a concept.

I think that both ideas of warfare and understanding are in play here.  From the complete context of scripture I believe we can clearly see that God is at war with darkness, sin, and the world.  We also understand that He sees and knows all. Nothing is hidden from Him.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13 NIV)

He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. (Daniel 2:22 NIV)

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You. (Psalms 139:11-12 NKJV)

     So we can see that God understands us even while we are sinners.  And He loves us while we are sinners.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:10 NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 NIV)

 

This makes me think of two things…

1. In The Art of War by Sun Tzu, the author and master tactician said

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

     Well, God knows Himself, and us, completely. Darkness on the other hand knows nothing of the light in the grand scheme of things.  Darkness not only couldn’t overcome the light because it couldn’t understand or comprehend it, but it can never and will never understand it or comprehend it.  The finite can not grasp the infinite, even if it thinks it can.

2. Orson Scott Card’s character of Ender in his science fiction master piece Ender’s Game said something profound.

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.”

     God knows us completely.  Only He can.  He knows us better than we could ever even know ourselves or anyone else.  And God loves us.  He loves us both despite the knowledge He has of us, and because of of that knowledge. His knowledge of us helped Him to not only pierce our darkness, to defeat it, but to transform it.  He has called us…

“out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

     This is Missions.  It is God’s Mission and ours.  It was God’s strategy and it should be ours.  Know your enemy.  Love your enemy.

Standard