12. The Word

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 18 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture this morning is from the Gospel According to Saint John, the first chapter verses one through five. John 1:1-5, and our subject ‘the Word.’

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” 1

I always hesitate to read those verses, they roll out like thunder, and there is a music to them that no one can reproduce. They are magnificent verses. John begins his gospel like Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning,” ‘genesis.’ There is a deliberate parallel. John, knowing by heart the first chapter of Genesis, thinks of that chapter as he describes the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is the account of a new beginning. As Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

But more than man is a new creation. In Jesus Christ we see the beginning of a new cosmos, a new universe, a totally new creation, the great and final Genesis. We are told in Revelation 3:14 that Jesus Christ is: “the [great] Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” 2 So that when we think of the creation of which we are members, we must remember that the beginning is Jesus Christ, and this is a creation without end, whose culmination is perfection and glory. He is the beginning of the creation, of the new creation, and He comes into the old and the fallen creation and the fallen humanity of Adam as its recreator.

The parallel stresses that there is, thus, another beginning, but it is more than a beginning, it is a restoration, a continuation, a completion, and the perfection of the original creation by its creator. Jesus Christ comes as God-man, as the last Adam, and as Paul says in Colossians 1:15, as:

“…the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” 3

In 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 He is called the first fruits of the new creation. In Him the new heavens and the new earth have their beginning. The whole of the first creation of Genesis was not only by Him, but for Him. Paul writes in Colossians 1:16-18 :

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: … And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” 4

One of the serious errors that Christians make is to view creation in terms of the Fall, and the future in terms of the Fall, and to take the Bible to justify an outlook that they should not have. For example, in 1 John 2:17 we read: “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof...” And there are many crepe hangers 5 in the church who look at the world around us and say those words as though: “Now God has spoken and therefore what hope do you have in this world?” But what God says in those words is that the world of Adam, the fallen humanity and everything that it represents is passing away, it has no future; but in Jesus Christ it has a new beginning, and in all that is around us there are the seeds of a new creation, and we are members of that new creation. So that we need to look at the world not as something that is to disappear, but something of which we are heirs, something which will be remade and which in all maturity and perfection will be ours eternally. It is the world in Adam, in other words, which is passing away; the world of fallen man which is being shaken so that only the new creation shall remain.

The goal, we are told, in Matthew 19:28 and Acts 3:21 is the regeneration and the restitution of all things, to bring the purposes of God in creation to completion. John tells us:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 6

The nuance there is very important. We are told that the Word, the second person of the Trinity, is God. That He is one who has both an identity with God, and a distinction. We are not told that the Word was God, until we are first told that there was a distinction - He was with God, and “the same was in the beginning with God.”

Thus we have the separation of persons, He is called the word to set forth the true incarnation, and also His preexistence as very God. He is the head of the new creation, He is the Word, God incarnate.

A generation or two ago, Bishop Westcott said of our Lord’s titles here:

“The personal titles ‘the Word’ and ‘the Word of God’ must be kept in close connection with the same term as applied to the sum of the Gospel in the New Testament, and with the phrase ‘the word of the Lord’ in the prophecies of the Old Testament. The Word, before the Incarnation, was the one source of the many divine words; and Christ, the Word Incarnate, is Himself the Gospel.” 7

Westcott went on to say:

“The exact form (πάντα [panta]) expresses all things taken severally, and not all things regarded as a defined whole…” 8

Now that point is a very important one, because there have been people over the generations who have said: “Indeed God made all things, but you and I are so insignificant in those all things, that there is no personal concern for us.” But as Westcott points out, the meaning is that God made everything individually, that we are all His handiwork in a personal, immediate, and total sense. Hence it is that the whole of creation is the personal handiwork of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and this is why our Lord declares in Matthew 10:29-31 that not a sparrow falls apart from Him; every blade of grass is within His providence, and the very hairs of our head are all numbered.

His creation is total, and it is particular. All things are comprehended in His glorious purpose and Word, nothing is made apart from Him and His purpose, “...all things were created by him, and for him…,” 9 Paul declares.

Then John goes on again to draw the parallel with Genesis 1. In Genesis 1:3 we read: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” In John 1:4 we read: “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” And then he goes on to say:

“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Again the parallel with light, but with a difference. All things, from atoms to men are made by Him, they bear His stamp, His purpose, they move in terms of His meaning and His eternal decree. But the Fall is the rejection of that purpose and that meaning, and of the light thereof. All things fell, but all men, Paul tells us, in Romans 1:18-20, have an inescapable knowledge of God, but men suppress it in sin; men choose darkness. Men demand a world of their own making. But apart from Christ there is only death. He is life, John tells us in 14:6. In Psalm 36:9 we read:

For with thee is the fountain of life:

In thy light shall we see light. 10

There is no wisdom nor counsel nor understanding nor light apart from Him, according to Proverbs 21:30. The only light man can have is the Word of God, His person, and His written Word.

But the Fall brought in deliberate darkness, self-willed darkness which rules all men, and seeks at the same time to comprehend Christ, to blot Him out, because one of the meanings of the verse: “...the darkness comprehended it not.” is ‘the darkness could not blot it out.’’

If fallen man cannot be God he wants no God at all. His life is dedicated to blotting out the light. In men like the Marquis de Sade and Nietzche we see this hatred openly expressed in a desire for the death of God, a desire to reach up and blot out the very sun itself, to make universal darkness; and they revel in the thought.11 As against God’s: “Let there be light” the fallen world says: “Let there be no light.”

But John tells us: “The light shines in the darkness, and the fallen world cannot put it out.” Friday and yesterday in San Diego I had again the privilege of visiting with Otto Scott, the author of Robespierre, James I, and The Secret Six. He is now working on a study of Woodrow Wilson and his era as the culmination of ‘the holy fools,’ and the theme of his study is the verse of Solomon in Proverbs 8:36

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul:

All they that hate me love death.

So that we have seen in our history since the beginning of this century this desire to blot out the light, to will, as it were, a universal death. But John says: “The darkness cannot put it out.” The coming of the Word of God is the world triumph of the light, and if we are of the light it is our triumph also.

John says in his first letter, chapter one verse seven,

“...if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 12

The world is in darkness, it is suicidal, it is murderous, it is determined to see the triumph of evil and of darkness, and today we have politics, the politics of mass destruction and suicide, the politics of darkness. It has noble phrases and slogans, but it works towards the negation of light and life. To expect good of evil men is to disarm ourselves.

Over and over again, the coming of the Lord and the day of the Lord is spoken of in Scripture as the coming of light. It is called ‘the day,’ the time of light, when darkness is banished. The fullness of Christ is the perfect day, and as the head of the new humanity of which we are members, in that perfect world we see ourselves and the world and all things in terms of Him totally. John tells us in Revelation 22:5

“And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”

Let us pray.

* * *

Almighty God our heavenly Father we thank thee that the light has come, and though the heathen rage and take counsel together they cannot blot out the light. Teach us to walk in the light, so that we may share in the glory of that eternal day, of the triumph of thy kingdom and of thy Son. Make us strong in thy Word and in thy Spirit; redeem our nation, and make it a power for thee unto the ends of the earth. In Jesus' name, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all on our lesson? Yes?

[Audience Member] I’ve heard people say that because the Bible says that nobody has ever seen God, that it was really Jesus who spoke to Moses, can you comment on that?

[Rushdoony] Yes, I have heard that statement too, that because the Bible says no one has ever seen God that the appearances in the Old Testament, including the giving of the law to Moses were appearances of the Person. That is an old and established opinion, very definitely where the Old Testament speaks of ‘the Angel of the Lord’ appearing, the reference is to the second person of the Trinity. Whether that applies to the appearance on Sinai we cannot be sure, because we are not told that the appearance there and elsewhere to Moses were the appearances of a person as much as something as Scripture indicates, which was beyond description. We are told he saw, as it were, the reflection, not the person. Yes?

[Audience Member] The Scripture verse that says the Pharisees “strained at gnats and swallowed camels,” do you think it is true that whenever a person strains at gnats they are going to swallow a camel? Is that always true?

[Rushdoony] A very good question, if as our Lord said the Pharisees did, anyone strains at gnats, are they going to swallow camels. Yes, if you start majoring in minors you are not going to be aware of the major issues, and our Lord meant by that that they were so fussy about details of their own making that they were negligent of the very meaning of Scripture. And today we have many people who strain at gnats, who endlessly want to emphasize trifles, trifles that are of man's making, and as a result they neglect the heart of the faith.

Any other questions?

I have an announcement to make now, the matter of the two bills before the assembly this week, which deal with our religious freedom, are Senate Bills 1493 and Senate Bill 1632. These have to do with the freedom of the church from the total control of the Attorney General's office. I think it is very, very urgent that we write to our assemblymen. If we cannot write a letter to defend the freedom of the faith we don’t have much faith. Please, I beg of you, because our freedom is going to disappear here, and the freedom of organizations like ours to exist will not be very long if we do not do something about senate bills 1493 and 1632. Write to your assemblymen.


[Audience Member] Usually when you hear the ten commandments spoken about, you always see the “two tables of the law.” Now, you said the two tables are God’s copy and man's copy, is there a connection between that and your saying the Ten Commandments is a summarization of all the law, are those two things connected?

[Rushdoony] Yes, the law is covenant law, it is a contract; that is what a covenant is, a form of contract. And therefore in a contract there is a copy for both parties. This is why there was a copy of the ten commandments, two copies rather; a copy for each party.

Now, it was a summarization of the whole law, and therefore every part of the law is a part of the covenant. So you might say the Ten Commandments give the chapter headings or the general preface, the summary of all that follows.

[Audience Member] Usually when people talk about the subject, they say the Ten Commandments is one thing and the rest of the law is something else; the rest of the law is cast away. Where did that come about?

[Rushdoony] I dealt with that in the current Chalcedon Report in the book review page when I reviewed Dr. Thompson's book. As he points out, the position of all believers was one of a belief in the law, but with Alexander Campbell, early in the last century, preaching against the law and for ‘New Testament Christianity,’ little by little, even though it was then regarded as a heresy, almost every branch of the church followed Campbell in that doctrine. The Campbelites are the disciples in the Church of Christ groups. But that heresy that Campbell then enunciated has just become prevalent. It is ironic that that was where his heresy began, but in books about Campbell today that is not mentioned, because they bought his argument there.

Well, let us close now with a benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, amen.

1 Jn 1:1–5.

2 Re 3:14.

3 Col 1:15.

4 Col 1:16–18.

5 People who enjoy attending funerals.

6 Jn 1:1.

7 B.F. Westcott: The Gospel According to St. John. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, (1881) 1954).

8 B.F. Westcott. The Gospel According to St. John. London: John Murray, 1908, 4.

9 Col 1:16.

10 Ps 36:9.

11 "Ah, how many times…have I not longed to be able to assail the sun, snatch it out of the universe, make a general darkness, or use that star to burn the world! Oh, that would be a crime .... " Simone de Beauvoir, "Must We Burn Sade?," in Austryn Wainhouse and Richard Seaver, translators and editors, The Marquis de Sade, The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings (New York: Grove Press, 1966), 32.

12 1 Jn 1:7.

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