In the beginning was the Word
When it comes to prayer I think the most common question I’m ever asked runs something like this: “Should I really pray to God about such and such?” So many Christians seem to feel that “bothering God” with the minutiae of their lives is beneath the majesty of the Most High.
God seems to have His life, up there, by Himself, thinking divine thoughts no doubt. And here I am, down here, by myself – little old me. If I am to offer up anything to God, it shouldn’t be my puny, pesky requests! Surely I should offer Him grand acts of devotion and try not to be so needy.
We all fall into such thinking. And it’s just one sign that we need to let the Apostle John revolutionize our thinking. The very first phrase of His Gospel is enough to change the world:
“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.” (John 1:1)
John begins by reminding us of Genesis. The God, in the beginning, was not Word-less but Word-full. Indeed by the Word He made all things (as both John and Genesis make clear). But John wants us to know that God and the Word go way back. Way back before creation. In fact, let me put it this way: it is impossible to ever “rewind the tape of history” and see God without His Word. At all points God has had Another alongside Him.
This “Other” is “with” Him (as verse 1 puts it) and “in His bosom” (as verse 18 puts it). Verse 17 names Him most clearly as “Jesus Christ.” But there are three other names by which He is known in this chapter and they are fascinating. The Eternal Jesus is the Word (v1), the Light (v4) and the only begotten Son (v18).
We could spend years considering what such names mean for Jesus. But, for now, let’s explore what this means for the God in Whose bosom Jesus has ever dwelt.
It means that God is eternally Speaker/ Shiner /Father. Rewind the tape into the depths of eternity and you will only ever see the Speaker communicating His eternal Word, the Shiner radiating His eternal Light, the Father begetting His eternal Son.
This is wonderful news, because these three qualities are quintessentially outgoing characteristics. God is not first God (in all His Godness) and then Speaker / Shiner / Father. No, God has never been anything other than Speaker / Shiner / Father. God is other-centred, to the depths of eternity and to the core of His Being.
Someone who grasped this and its profound pastoral impact was the puritan Richard Sibbes. He wrote:
“God’s goodness is a communicative, spreading goodness. . . . If God had not a communicative, spreading goodness, he would never have created the world. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost were happy in themselves and enjoyed one another before the world was. But that God delights to communicate and spread his goodness, there had never been a creation nor a redemption. God useth his creatures not for defect of power, that he can do nothing without them, but for the spreading of his goodness. . . .
God is a Speaker, a Radiating Light, a Father, a Fountain, a spreading goodness. He is not first concerned for Himself and only then condescends to the concerns of others. His whole being is condescension.
Remember this next time you pray. The direction of His life and being is ever-outwards. We do not exist as a distraction from His divine glory. We have been birthed by that glory – an outgoing glory that delights in affirming and upholding the other.
He is more committed to listening than we are of praying. More desirous of helping than we are of help. For His “goodness is a communicative, spreading goodness.”