Jesus, the Word
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Jesus, the Word

John 1:1–14, Luke 22:39  (ID: 2337)

The Jesus we see agonizing in the garden of Gethsemane is the same eternal Word who created the universe: He is neither merely “like God” nor derived from the Father, but fully divine. In this sermon, Alistair Begg encourages us to study His part in the Holy Trinity. As he reminds us, the Bible teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together are the one God—the same God who planned for, procured, and continues to apply our salvation.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Luke, Volume 13

The Day Jesus Died Luke 22:39–23:56 Series ID: 14215

Jesus 101

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 24401

Sermon Transcript: Print

Can I invite you to take your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter 22? For those who are visiting, we’re in a series in Luke that has been going on since just after the creation of the world, and we’ve reached the twenty-second chapter (although it feels like that)—the twenty-second chapter and the thirty-ninth verse.

We’ll pause and ask God’s help:

Our God, we bless you for your faithfulness to us, and we ask now that there may be a further evidence of that as we study the Bible together. Help us to pay attention, to understand, to believe, and to obey, and to rejoice in the immensity of who you are and what you’ve done. For we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

If you’re using an NIV, you will notice that verses 39–46 form a paragraph which goes under the heading “Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives.” When you read the verses, it seems as though the heading really doesn’t do justice to the extent of the material that is conveyed. One commentator said, in coming to verse 39, “Here we find ourselves in the inner sanctuary of gospel history.” And as we look at these verses, we find that on an evening that was cold enough for a fire, as we read in verse 55, Jesus was sweating profusely. Here, while the disciples slept, Jesus is praying earnestly. Here, in the prospect of his cruel death, we find Jesus acting lovingly, concerned for his disciples that they may pray and not enter into temptation. Here, we discover Jesus almost beside himself with the horror that he was about to experience. And it is to these verses that we need to come in the course of our studies.

However, I found myself pausing in the very first word. And I want to stay with the first word of this paragraph—the first word of verse 39—which is none other than the name of Jesus himself.

I want to say to you that it’s going to be important to take notes this morning if you want to actually stay with this. There is a little note sheet in your bulletin. I will try and be as organized as I can. I’ll be more lecturely than usual. I hope that it will not be the kind of teaching opportunity whereby the material that is in the notebook of the teacher is transferred to the notebooks of the pupils without it passing through the minds of any one of them. There is a great danger in the disbursement of information in that way. I trust that will not happen. But I want to pause here, and I do so very, very purposefully.

As I pay attention to what goes on—it may not always be apparent—as I listen and as I look, as I learn, as I read my mail, listen to telephone calls, and answer questions, I recognize that in a congregation as diverse as this, there are a variety of views about just about everything. And that is part of the intrigue that makes up Parkside. And where those views are in secondary matters and not of pressing importance, we can agree to disagree with one another on issues of marginal significance. But where those diverse views center on the very foundational building blocks of Christian truth, then it is imperative that those of us who are entrusted with the responsibility of teaching and preaching, that we would address those issues. And I’m not suggesting to you for a moment that there is a major issue here, but I am suggesting that it is vitally important that when we use the name Jesus—and we’ve done so in song this morning—when we use the name of Jesus, that we begin to understand just exactly who it is to whom we’re referring and that we do not fall foul of a kind of romanticism or sentimentalism that pours into the name Jesus material that clearly should not be there and allows to escape from that name the very essential truths that are so obviously there.

So I say to you, this morning will appear to have more of a lecture to it than it will in terms of preaching, although I’m not just sure how always to distinguish between the two. This is in keeping with Luke’s statement of purpose in 1:4, where he says, “I’ve organized my material and I have researched it thoroughly so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”[1] “So that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” And the presupposition is that there is a teaching ministry, and as a result of the teaching, there would be the discovery of its truth, and then there would be the conviction as to the very certainty of the truth conveyed.

Now, the material that we’re about to go through can be found in any systematic theology. I can make no claim for originality in this.[2] The study this morning is in concurrence with Paul’s statement to the Corinthians, when he says, “What I received from the Lord, that I also passed on to you.”[3] And I can say quite categorically to you, “For what I read in my books, that I also passed on to you.” And I would anticipate that you could go to Know the Truth,[4] which you’ll find written by Bruce Milne and in our bookstore, and say, “Well, I think he got some of that out of there,” and you would probably be right. Or you could go to the classic piece by Jim Packer, Knowing God,[5] go to the section on the incarnation, and you may discover bits and pieces there. And that’s only to mention two of the many sources to which I am committed and upon which I am dependent.

What I want to do is actually have you leave Luke altogether and turn two or three pages over to John’s Gospel. Because in the prologue of John’s Gospel, which was read for us earlier, we have, if you like, a kind of theological statement which is an extrapolation from the word, Jesus, that begins Luke 22:39. And in verse 14, of course, we have the classic statement concerning the coming of Christ, “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.”

Now, the person of whom John writes, “the Word,” is introduced to his readers in the preceding thirteen verses. And he says a number of things in those verses which are not new to many of us but are important for us constantly to be refocusing on. And I want to give them to you as we go through. I won’t have time to give them all to you, but we can at least make a beginning.

The Word Is Eternal

First of all, we need to notice that the Word is eternal. The Word is eternal. When you think of Jesus, many of you will think instinctively and immediately about Bethlehem, and understandably so, because there, from our earliest years, many of us have recognized that in the story of Christmas, we think of the arrival of Jesus. And it is right for us to think of his arrival, his coming to earth. But if we think of the beginning of his existence in terms of Bethlehem, then we think wrongly. And the existence of the Word does not begin in Bethlehem, nor does the existence of the Word begin in creation.

Throughout the years, the theologians sought to hammer this out and to come up with pithy statements that made sure that no one would be in any doubt concerning verifiable truth. And they said concerning the Word, “There was never a time when he was not.” “There was never a time when he was not.” Conversely, the people who opposed the view used to say, “There was when he was not.” And the response was, “There was not when he was not.” There was never a time when the Word did not exist, because the Word is the Eternal Being. When creation took place, “the Word was already in being.” And the theological terminology, or the words used by theologians to underpin this, are straightforward. They speak in terms of the Word being “unoriginated, uncaused and independent of any other form of existence.”[6]

And so, when you think in terms of the Word, you need to think and remember those kind of words. When your children ask you these deep questions as you’re falling asleep lying on their bed in the evening, you’re going to have to tell them that this Word was “unoriginated, uncaused and independent of any other form of existence.” And then, of course, you’re going to have to tell them what “unoriginated” means, and what “uncaused” means, and what “independent of any other form of existence” means. And by the time you’ve been successful in conveying that to a seven-year-old child, then you will have grasped something of the truth of it for yourself. But until you are able to communicate it to a seven-year-old child cogently, you and I probably do not understand it. Think about it: if you cannot take a complex idea and break it down sufficient for the most limited intellect to grasp, then either you’re just pathetic at communication, or you do not have a solid enough grasp of the concept yourself.

The incarnation, writes Macleod, was “the intrusion and eruption of the Eternal into the existence of man.”[7] “The intrusion and [the] eruption of the Eternal into the existence of man”—not the creation of the existence of the Word, but the perforation, if you like, of the line between time and eternity as the eternal Word appears. The Word is eternal.

The Word Is Creator

Secondly, the Word was Creator. John 1:3—notice: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John—the Holy Spirit directing John—closes the back door on any kind of loophole to the notion that all things were made by him.

Now, this is a vital phrase for not only understanding who Jesus is but also for understanding our world and where it came from—and, again, when our children and our grandchildren ask us, “Where did the world come from, Grandma? Where did the trees come from? We were reading about the Continental Divide in school, Grandpa. Why do you think it is that the rivers drain in that way? Grandpa, why is it that we revolve this way and that way?” and all those vast questions, which, of course, have answers that intersect with science and with cosmology and with physics and everything else. But at the end of the day, you need to be able to say to your grandchildren, “Well, the Lord Jesus made all of this, you know? He is the Creator. The Word is Creator.”

Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it, in the twenty-first century? Because we come out of a week in which just about everything that we find on the secular newsstands and gushing at us from the sources of intelligent communication challenge this very idea and make the Christian feel as if somehow or another, we are obscurantist—we are the silliest of all people to believe such a notion as this: that the eternal God created the universe. I don’t think we need to be pinned back in the corner at all. I think we should go out—not bombastically but certainly cheerfully and boldly—and challenge the silly ideas.

May the 9th, New York Times picked up a piece from Associated Press that had come out of England. It was under the heading “Monkeys-s-s Typing Is-s a Mess-s-s.” I spend my days, my early mornings, ripping up newspapers. If you’ve seen me, you know that’s true.

Give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters, the theory goes, and they will eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare.

Isn’t that what they say? “You’re just a turbocharged monkey. And frankly, we could put monkeys in here, and they could do just about anything. I’m sure they could come up with Shakespeare.” Well, says the article,

Give six monkeys one computer for a month, and they will make a mess.

Researchers at Plymouth University in England reported this week that monkeys left alone with a computer failed to produce a single word.

“They pressed a lot of S’s,” said Mike Phillips, a researcher in the project which was paid for by the Arts Council.

It’s the same in Britain as it is over here. If you can’t find money for dumb stuff, you’ll get it through the Arts Council. You can’t get research money for diseases that involve only a small number of people but are killing them, but you can get money for stuff like this. But that’s a separate issue. That’s almost political. Never talk about politics or religion.

The researchers left the computer in the monkey enclosure of Paignton Zoo.

Paignton is in Devon in South West England. It’s a lovely place. It’s the “home to six Sulawesi crested macaques,” which I imagine is a very fine form of monkey. And having given them the computer,

then, they waited.

Eventually, the monkeys produced only five pages of text, primarily filled with the letter S. At the end, a few A’s, J’s, L’s and M’s were struck.[8]

So you got a half a dozen monkeys and a computer, and they’re just doing like this. And if you’ll pardon me, the final sentence is, “[And] another thing they were interested in was [in] defecating and urinating all over the keyboard.” You get the point fairly clearly, don’t you? Monkeys left to themselves make a mess.

Now, when you read that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and “all things” were created by him,[9] it clearly, categorically flies in the face of contemporary notions of cosmology. And there is no reason to stand back from it. There is no reason to recoil from it. Frankly, there is every reason to stand up and affirm it—to say that we are not here as a result of time plus matter plus chance. We are not turbocharged monkeys. We have our own individual DNA. We were purposefully fashioned by a creator God, and the Word was there in the act of creation.

So, in the song writer’s questions—

Who made the mountains?
[And] who made the trees?
[And] who made the rivers that [run] to the seas?
And who [placed] the moon in the starry … sk[ies]?[10]

—the Christian doesn’t say… Not “Some impersonal, blind, capricious, even malevolent force.” No, the Christian says in answer to that, “The Word did it. The Lord Jesus did this.” The same one who now kneels in the garden is the creator of the garden in which he kneels.

This weekend, NASA is firing a couple of somethings out into a vast orbit on their way to Mars. You will have read of it or seen it. A couple of them hope to land in Mars sometime in January of 2004. What are they going to discover? Well, we don’t know all that they’re going to discover. Indeed, I don’t even know all that they’re looking for. But I’m going to tell you what they may not say when they finally discover it: everything that they will discover is ultimately an expression of the mind of Christ. Everything that they discover—not simply “black holes of sterility and [of] absurdity,”[11] but if they could grasp it, if they would grasp it, everything in the universe is ultimately a coherent expression of the Word’s creative power. That’s what this phrase means: “Through him all things were made.” There is nothing beyond the control and power and creative distinctiveness of the Word. And it is this Word who, along with his disciples, prepares to go to the cross, commends them to the love of his Father, bows down before the sovereign plan of his Father, anguishes in the garden. It is immense! The creator of the universe stoops in wonder!

There is nothing beyond the control and power and creative distinctiveness of the Word.

The Word Is God

Thirdly: the Word is eternal; the Word is Creator; the Word was and is God. That’s what it says there in verse 1, isn’t it? “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This is the baseline. “This is the core of Christian faith.”[12] To say less than this is to deviate from Christian truth.

This week, I noted that in a small parish (I think it was north of Copenhagen in Denmark), a Lutheran pastor was—not defrocked but was granted a leave of absence. The church and the state are trying to work out exactly what to do with this individual. The bishop suggested that it was time for him to stop going into his pulpit. And what was the concern that gave rise to this? Well, he told his congregation over a period of time that there is no God, that there is no such thing as the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, that there is no reality known as eternity, and there certainly is no heaven to which men and women may go. Pretty tragic stuff, isn’t it? Except that at least he was honest. At least he told the truth—that is the only commendable feature I can find in that—as opposed to others who refuse to tell the truth to their congregations; who use the terminology, Christianese terminology, while in their hearts denying the very realities which the truths are intended to convey. “Watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing. Listen carefully to every word I say. Pay attention, lest you would be led away by foolish men who would distort the truth and draw people away after them.”[13] To say less than this—that “the Word was God”—is to move beyond the realm of historic orthodoxy.

Growing up as a boy in Scotland, I can still remember singing a song that we’ve never managed to get off the ground here for a variety of reasons. Some of you may remember it from your past as well—standing in a vast congregation, my tiny voice mingling with others as I held the page of my father and sang, “Who is he in yonder stall at whose feet the shepherds fall?” It was usually Christmastime we sang it. And I can still remember the feeling of the resounding response of the congregation—particularly the voices of men, affirming in the refrain,

’Tis the Lord, oh, wondrous story!
’Tis the Lord, the King of glory!
[And] at his feet we humbly fall,
[And we] crown him, crown him Lord of all!

Now, I’m only five years old, or four years old, or six—I don’t know, all of the above and beyond. I wasn’t able to process all of the theology, but I had a sneaking suspicion that those around me had determined that what they were giving voice to in their songs was that which had taken hold of their minds and transformed their hearts and filled their lives. “Who is he [who] stands and weeps at the grave where Lazarus sleeps?” And then the refrain: “’Tis the Lord.” I’m saying to myself, “God cries? God weeps?”

Who is he [who] from the grave
Comes to [succor,] help and save? …

’Tis the Lord, oh, wondrous story![14]

You see, this is something far vaster than a Jesus that we can kind of hook into and put in our hip pocket, a Jesus who exists to add to the sum of our total happiness. Small wonder that Phillips wrote the book Your God Is Too Small.[15] And many of us have rejected a Christianity because we have been offered such a small God. It neither demands our intellectual persuasion and submission, nor does it demand the vastness of our thought, nor does it call for the crushing giving up of our pride. It all seems so trivial. It all seems so irrelevant. It all seems so extraneous. And frankly, so much of it is. But when we go to the Bible and allow the Bible to be the source of our discovery, then our minds must bow before its immensity.

You see, in saying this as it’s before us—that “the Word was God”—what John is doing is he is assigning to the Word “the greatest divine title of the Old Testament. He is Elohim, the God whose name (in [its] plural form) expresses the most intense and exclusive deity.” Says one commentator, “He is the summation of godhead, the One whose being makes that of all other gods not only superfluous but impossible.”[16] Let me say that to you again. You may not get it this morning, but one day when you’re driving down the street it may hit you: “Oh, that’s what that means as we deal with Islam! That’s what that means as we deal with Buddhism! That’s what that means as we deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses! That’s what that means when we deal with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!” “He is the summation of godhead, the One whose being makes that of all other gods,” with a small g, “not only superfluous but impossible.”

Many of us have rejected Christianity because we have been offered such a small God.

Now, that’s a very exclusive claim, isn’t it? Go back to Jeremiah just for a moment. It’s only one cross-reference I’ll give you, so you only have to go one place, to Jeremiah chapter 10. We’ve been here before, but I need to remind you of it. God, by his Spirit, speaks through the prophet Jeremiah to his people, and he says,

Hear what the Lord says to you, O house of Israel. This is what the Lord says:

 “Do not learn the ways of the nations
  or be terrified by signs in the sky,
  though the nations are terrified by them.
 For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
  they cut a tree out of the forest,
  and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
 They adorn it with silver and gold;
  they fasten it with hammer and nails
  so [that] it will not totter.
 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
  their idols cannot speak;
 they must be carried
  because they cannot walk.
 Do not fear them;
  they can do no harm
  nor can they do any good.”[17]

What a word! What an encouragement to people surrounded by all these inferior gods with a small g! Yesterday morning in the airport, at LAX, I took the religious part of the Los Angeles Times, and I opened it up, and I got to the section that offered to me all the potential places of worship today in Los Angeles as covered by the Times. And I was almost overwhelmed by it. And I found myself taking refuge in this:

Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
 their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
 because they cannot walk.
Do[n’t] [be afraid of] them;
 they can do no harm
 [and they can’t] do any good [either].

And listen, my friends: to the extent that your friends and neighbors and colleagues and children and family and aunts and uncles are tied up with all these gods with a small g, they can do them no ultimate good. And they can do the true believer no ultimate harm. But they must become for us a source of genuine concern. In a world that says, “You’re not allowed to proselytize; you can say that this is important to you, but you can’t say that it is necessary for anyone else,” Christianity says, “No, I’m sorry. If it is as important as you convey, then it is essential for everybody else.”

No one is like you, O Lord,
 you[’re] great,
 … your name is mighty in power.
Who [would] not revere you,
 O King of the nations?
 this is your due.[18]

Now, who is this Elohim? “Hear what the Lord says to you, O house of Israel.” Who is this God? The eternal Word.

So when we say that the Word is God—and the Bible says the Word is God—it “ascrib[es] to him the greatest divine title of the Old Testament.” It says that “Jesus possesses all the attributes of God.” Don’t stumble over that—what I’ve just said to you; it’s an immense statement. “Jesus possesses all the attributes of God. He is eternal, omniscient, unchanging, omnipresent, omnipotent … holy in his mercy” and in his “righteousness and love.” The Word “performs all of the functions of deity: creation,” the “preservation” and sustaining of the universe.[19] Jeff read for us in Colossians, “And in him all things hold together.”[20] Why is that? Because the eternal Word not only creates the universe but sustains and preserves it. He executes government over the affairs of the nations, and he will preside over the final judgment of men and women. The Word “enjoys every divine prerogative. The glory due to him is precisely the glory” that is “due to God.”[21] That’s why Philippians says that “every knee [will] bow … and every tongue confess,” every heart will worship and convey, “that Jesus … is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[22]

Now, I know that some of you are saying, “Well, I’m not sure that this is really that significant. After all, surely the message can just be reduced to ‘Love, love, love. … All you need is love.’”[23] No, that was the Beatles; that wasn’t the Bible. And in point of fact, if our forefathers had operated on such a silly basis as that, none of us would be here this morning to even have the discussion.

And in the early three or four hundred years of the church, the theologians and the minds of the day battled over these very issues. And they battled over single vowels in words. And one of the great battles took place over an iota—over an i. If you’re taking notes, I’m going to give you three words. You may not care right now. One day you might. The first word is the word homoousios. Homo, as in homosexual. Homo, and then ousioso-u-s-i-o-s. The second word is heteroousios, as in heterosexual. Hetero-ousios—same suffix. And the third word is the same as the first word, only after the second o it has an i. So it is not homoousios, but it is homoiousios. Homo-, heteroousios, and homoiousios.

What’s the big deal? Homoousios means “of one substance,” heteroousios means “of a different substance,” and homoiousios means “of a similar substance.” And the battle which gave rise to the creedal statements was a battle between homo and homoi. And everybody who’s done theology has had to write essays on this and work it out for themselves. Some of you have been there. The battle was intense. And orthodoxy repudiated the idea—careful, now; listen—repudiated the idea that Jesus was like God. And I hear people say that all the time: “Well, Jesus is kind of like God, you know.” They repudiated the idea that Jesus was like God, they repudiated the idea that Jesus was different from God, and they insisted that Jesus was God—that “he lacked nothing that entered into the definition of God. What God was, the Word was.”[24]

Now, you need to understand that this is more than simply saying that there was a generic relationship between the Word and the Father, as if somehow or another the Word and the Father belong only “to the same species.”[25] What they were hammering out was this: as they read the Bible and as they took the information as it came to them, they said, “If we understand this properly, what we’re discovering here is that ‘they are one and the same being.’[26] They’re “one and the same being”—which, of course, was an immense thought.

Jesus had encapsulated it when he said to the people around him in John chapter 10, “I and [my] Father are one.”[27] And of course, the people said, “This cannot possibly be.”[28] Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” What does that mean? It means this: that “Jesus is not a second God.” He is not an addition “to the original …. He is Jehovah, the only God,”[29] the God who was and is and is to come.[30]

And this, you see, we need to understand so that we can speak to our Jewish friends. Because many of my Jewish friends are hung up with the Shema. Deuteronomy 6—we say it all the time: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord [thy] God, the Lord is one.”[31] And at that point, they get off the boat. You see, they say, “But ‘the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ And you’re saying he’s three.” We’re saying, “No, we’re saying he is one. And in his oneness there is the immensity of this threeness.”

“Oh,” you say, “I’m going to have to sit down and have a coffee.” Well, I understand. Let’s both sit down and have a coffee. Because this… At best, what we have in the Trinity in the New Testament is not an explanation of the truth; it is an extrapolation of the truth. It doesn’t explain it; it extrapolates it. It teases it out. It works it out. It leads us to those conclusions.

Therefore, it is absolutely vital that we recognize that Jesus “does not derive his being from [his] Father.”[32] Jesus “does not derive his being from [his] Father.” Calvin said he was autotheos, “self-God.”[33] He was “God in his own right,” coequal, coeternal, “possess[ing] the very deity of the Father, including the attribute of self-existence.” If that were not so, then “he could not be the Lord, Jehovah”; he could not be “the Being One.”[34]

The Word Is with God

Now, let me just tell you one last thing, ’cause our time is gone. There are many more; we’ll come back to them. Probably not for a couple of weeks I’ll pluck up enough courage to start this again—maybe give you Father’s Day off. But anyway, we must come back to it.

The last thing: the Word is eternal, the Word is Creator, the Word is God, and finally, “the Word was with God.”[35] Notice that: “The Word was with God.” “He was God with God.”[36] Now, you see, this is where our children, again, they help us out, don’t they? Say, “Wait a minute, Dad. Before you have another bite of your lunch, could you just explain that to me?”

Well, I can explain it to you—“God with God”: “Christ is unreservedly God. But he is not the totality of God.” The Father, who is God, and the Spirit, who is God, along with the Son, who is God, make up the totality of God. Each member is unreservedly God; no one member is the totality of God. Father, Son, and Spirit are not just “different names for the same person.” Father, Son, and Spirit are not just “different faces of the same person.”[37]

I could take you a lot deeper than this, into all the theological terminology. I’m trying to give it to you in sensible bites. But do you understand what I’m saying? People say, “Well, there is one being, and one day he shows up as the Father, and the next day he shows up as the Son, and another day he shows up as the Spirit. I see. That’s what that means.” No, that’s not what it means. This is not one being wearing three masks. This is not one being who simply has three different names. If it were, you could not have the Word being with God. It would mean nothing. If it were, you could not have the Word sent from God.[38] If it were, you could not have God forsaken by God: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[39] How can God forsake God? You see?

Well, in order to rectify that notion, the pendulum swings over the other side. In order to prevent the idea that there is just simply one being wearing three masks, what happens is, in order to fix it, people end up saying, “Well, there are actually three different beings. There are three distinct Gods.” But no, that’s wrong too. There “are, instead, three eternal distinctions within the One God”—“three eternal distinctions within the One God”—distinctions that are “of such an intensely personal kind that each loves the other and … together they constitute a triune life of which the very essence is love.”[40]

Now, let me put it to you in one verse—the most famous verse, probably, in the whole of the New Testament, John 3:16. (We haven’t even touched the whole notion of the deity and the humanity in the person of Christ. We need to do that to get to what’s going on with his anguish in the garden.) “For God” (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, coequal and coeternal) “so loved the world that he gave” (the Father gave) “his … only Son, that whoever believes in [the Son]” (who is one with the Father) “[should] not perish but have [everlasting] life.”

If you’re a Christian this morning, let me tell you what happened to you in this process. And if you’re not a Christian, this will give you an idea of what needs to happen if you are to become a Christian. If you look back on volume two of your life, when, in a moment, in a crisis, over a period of time, you came to trust unreservedly in Jesus, you discovered that God the Father planned your salvation, that he loved you before you loved him. You discovered that God the Son procured your salvation. He died in your place, bore your sins. And you discovered that God the Holy Spirit applied that salvation to your heart and to your life.

Not three separate Gods but one God, homoousios (one substance), three distinct personalities, coequal, coeternal, with a whole universe to care for, came knocking at your door and saved you. And we act proud? And we trivialize the gospel? And we let a secular world jam us in a corner as if we’re nuts?

Show me a worldview that answers these deep dilemmas. Show me a worldview that possesses even the smallest percentage of this profundity. You’re an intellect? There’s enough here to keep you going for the rest of your life. You can’t weasel out of faith on that basis.

Search the Scriptures. You need to understand this. If you can’t explain it to your kids and your grandchildren, you don’t know what it means.

Let’s pray together:

O God our Father, grant that as we think and reflect upon your Word and as we read it and follow up on it and search out its wisdom, that we may understand the immensity of your love and that we might be enabled to communicate it to others. Forgive us for regarding you as too small. We bow before your greatness.

May grace and mercy and peace from the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one of us, today and forevermore. Amen.

[1] Luke 1:3–4 (paraphrased).

[2] Much of what follows relies heavily on chapter 1 of Donald Macleod’s From Glory to Golgotha: Controversial Issues in the Life of Christ (Christian Focus, 2002), entitled “The Word Made Flesh.” For the sake of readability, we have opted to forgo citations of indirect references to Macleod at the present time. Direct quotations are still cited as normal.

[3] 1 Corinthians 11:23 (paraphrased).

[4] Bruce Milne, Know the Truth: A Handbook of Christian Belief (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1982).

[5] J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973).

[6] Donald Macleod, From Glory to Golgotha: Controversial Issues in the Life of Christ (Fearn, UK: Christian Focus, 2002), 10.

[7] Macleod, 11.

[8] The Associated Press, “Monkeys-s-s Typing Is-s a Mess-s-s,” New York Times, May 10, 2003,

[9] John 1:1, 3 (NIV 1984).

[10] Johnny Lange, Hy Heath, and Sonny Burke, “Somebody Bigger Than You and I” (1960).

[11] Macleod, Glory to Golgotha, 11.

[12] Macleod, 11.

[13] Acts 20:28–31 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 7:15.

[14] Benjamin Russell Hanby, “Who Is He in Yonder Stall” (1866).

[15] J. B. Phillips, Your God Is Too Small (New York: Macmillan, 1953).

[16] Macleod, From Glory to Golgotha, 12.

[17] Jeremiah 10:1–5 (NIV 1984).

[18] Jeremiah 10:6–7 (NIV 1984).

[19] Macleod, From Glory to Golgotha, 12.

[20] Colossians 1:17 (NIV 1984).

[21] Macleod, From Glory to Golgotha, 12.

[22] Philippians 2:10–11 (NIV 1984).

[23] John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “All You Need Is Love” (1967).

[24] Macleod, From Glory to Golgotha, 13.

[25] Macleod, 13.

[26] Macleod, 13.

[27] John 10:30 (NIV 1984).

[28] John 10:33 (paraphrased).

[29] Macleod, From Glory to Golgotha, 13.

[30] See Revelation 1:8.

[31] Deuteronomy 6:4 (NIV 1984).

[32] Macleod, Glory to Golgotha, 14.

[33] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.13.25.

[34] Macleod, Glory to Golgotha, 14.

[35] John 1:1 (NIV 1984).

[36] Macleod, Glory to Golgotha, 14.

[37] Macleod, 14.

[38] See John 5:37; 20:21.

[39] Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34 (NIV 1984).

[40] Macleod, Glory to Golgotha, 14.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.