Word of the Week
April 30, 2022
Logos: A Look into the Mind of God
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
John 1:1, 14
I’m more comfortable with words than with numbers. I do pretty well on a crossword puzzle, but not so much with Sodoku.
Words have such power. They can allow us to share our deepest thoughts. Words can enable us to transport someone into a leafy green meadow fenced by giant redwoods with dewdrops glistening in the first rays of the sun that push over the tall fingers of the treetops.
Words heal. Words hurt. The words of a Hitler can ignite world conflict, while the words of a Churchill can inspire a nation to courageous tenacity.
No wonder God chose the Greek word for “word” as a title for Jesus Christ.
John 1 uses the Greek word logos to announce the divinity of Jesus (verse 1) and his entrance to humanity (verse 14). “The Word was God . . . and the Word became flesh.”
What lies behind that title? Let’s examine the word itself.
Logos occurs repeatedly all through the New Testament – well over 300 times! Its root meaning is the verbal expression of a thought. When you take a feeling or an idea and crystallize it into a form that you can communicate to others, you have created a logos.
The list of things you could communicate is endless, and logos can apply to them all. Most Bible versions use a surprisingly long list of translations for the word. Here is a list drawn from the King James Version:
This list will change if you analyze a different Bible version, but it will still be long!
Logos can refer to individual words (1 Corinthians 14:19) or to an entire Gospel (Acts 1:1). It can be the topic under discussion (Acts 8:21). It may be a question (Matthew 21:24) or an unwholesome remark (Ephesians 4:29). It can even be a financial accounting statement (Matthew 18:23). The variety never stops.
We are particularly interested in two crucial uses of logos, two variations on the phrase “the word of God.”
God is beyond our powers of investigation. There is no way we can read His mind. We know only what He has chosen to reveal to us. How gracious of Him to rive us His word, to put His inner reality into words that we could understand. That’s why the New Testament cycles back again and again to the trut that the gospel is the Word, the logos of God (1 Corinthians 14:36; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Technically, the New Testament doesn’t use logos in the phrase “word of God” as a description of the Bible, but there is no reason why we cannot use that phrase ourselves. Revelation 22:7, 9, 10, 18, 19 clearly uses logos to describe the written book of Revelation.
That brings us to the second climactic use of logos as a unique title for Jesus Christ. In addition to John 1:1, 14, He is also called the Word in two other passages.
1 John 1:1 – What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life. . .
Revelation 19:13 – And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God.
Why does the Bible use this title?
I think we find a clue in Hebrews 1:1-2. Even though it does not use the word logos, this passage declares that God has spoken through His prophets (who gave the spoken word of God) and that He has also spoken through a Son. Jesus reveals the Father, so it is totally appropriate to call Him the Word.
Words reveal the hidden thoughts of a person. If I say, “Guess a number between one and ten,” you may guess whatever you want. But you won’t know the number I have in mind until I put it into words.
Similarly, Jesus is the Word who reveals the mind of God. For us to know what God is like, we can look at Jesus. After all, God has chosen to put His reality into a Word.
Greek philosophers and some Jewish thinkers used logos to describe the unifying principle of reality. They even spoke of this Logos as if it were a personality (though this was mostly a figure of speech). Some scholars have suggested that the Gospel of John is referring to this concept in John 1. Although it is helpful to be aware of earlier secular uses of a word, I personally doubt that these philosophers were upmost in John’s mind when he penned the Gospel.
When you look for sample of a word’s usage, the most valuable information comes from the closest sources. Look first at the New Testament itself, and then to the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint. You can feel free to examine earlier Greek writers, but you should use caution in jumping to conclusions.
Q: Could you address Paul’s use of “win” in 1 Corinthians 9? I admit that I cringe when a believer says, “I led ___ to the Lord” as if they had something to boast about. Joy, yes, but all glory should go to God. I think “gain” is a better translation, and our evangelistic efforts achieve gains for Jesus and losses for Satan!
A: You make a good point. We don’t want to take the credit for ourselves when God is ultimately the one who should get the glory. I suspect that most people who talk about “leading someone to Christ” are not purposely hogging the credit for themselves. The terminology might not be precise, but the underlying attitude is the crucial issue.
The Greek word translated “win” in 1 Corinthians 9:19f is kerdainō. It springs from a financial context, and “gain” is an appropriate translation. You can see the connection with money in James 4:13. Jesus talks about “gaining” the world and losing your soul (Matthew 16:26). Paul says he wants to “gain” Christ (Philippians 3:8). The emphasis is on the result, not the methods used to achieve that result.
When Jesus gave the two great commandments in Matthew 22, he said that the whole law and prophets depend on those two commands. Next week we will look at the word “depend” get a clearer picture of what He meant.
©Ezra Project 2022