The 'logos' of God

1 John 1:1-4   John writes about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, “the Word that gives life” (1 John 1:1), who, with God the Father, existed from the beginning of time (see also John 1:1). Although divine, and the very source of eternal life, he became fully human and was seen and touched by John.

1 John 1:5-7   John announces Christ’s message: “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). So Christians can’t be in fellowship with God while living lives clouded by dark and evil deeds.

1 John 1:8-10 If anyone says he doesn’t ever go against God’s wishes, he’s deceiving himself; but if we confess our sins to God, he will forgive us and purify us from what we have done wrong.

1 John 2:1-2   John urges believers not to sin; but if they do go astray, Christ is the means by which their sins will be forgiven.

1 John 2:3-6   He tells them that they can only obey God if they live like Christ did.

The 'logos' of God

At the beginning of his First Letter (1 John 1:1) John refers to Jesus as the ‘word’ of life. This is almost identical to the beginning of John’s Gospel, where he calls Jesus the ‘word’ of God (see John 1:1). In both cases, the Greek word that is usually translated as ‘word’ is ‘logos’.

Although ‘logos’ can mean a ‘word’ in a different context, this is not the real meaning of ‘logos’ as used here by John. The word ‘logos’ is, in fact, a technical term from Greek and Jewish philosophy that was well known at the time John was writing. It was a philosophical term used to describe the latest 1st century ‘scientific’ explanation of how the world had come into being at the time of creation.

The term ‘logos’ was first used by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived in Ephesus (where John was based) about 500 years before Jesus. He used the term to indicate the principle of order that made all the difference at ‘creation’ between ‘chaos’ (which was always there) and the ordered universe as we know it.

The idea of the ‘logos’ gradually developed over the next 500 years. The ‘Stoic’ philosophers with whom Paul debated at the Areopagus on Mars Hill in Athens (see Acts 17:18) identified the ‘logos’ with the reason or ‘divine animating principle pervading the universe’.


Mars Hill, Athens

Mars Hill, Athens, where the Areopagus met


The idea was developed further in the 1st century AD by the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who adopted the term in Jewish religious philosophy to mean ‘an intermediary divine being’. In Philo’s philosophy – well known to John’s 1st century Jewish readers – the ‘logos’ was recognised as the highest of these intermediary beings. Philo even went as far as calling the ‘logos’ the ‘first-born of God’.

In his gospel, John says that, not only was Jesus (the ‘logos’) present with God at the beginning of creation, but, he was God – and the source of all creation (see John 1:1-3). He goes on later in his opening chapter to declare that the ‘logos’ became flesh – was born as a human being, Jesus of Nazareth, who is also the expected Jewish Messiah (or 'Christ') and “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (see John 1:14-29).

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