Dec 15 2010

The Outstanding Ornament

_CES2195During Vespers tonight I’ll be leading a study on the third chapter of John’s Gospel.   Here we’ll confront perhaps the most familiar passage in the Bible—John 3:16.  It seems quite appropriate to be looking at this particular verse at Christmas time.  Here John affirms, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  At Christmas we celebrate God’s love and the incredible gift of His Son.

While doing some research for tonight’s study I learned that the Greek word used for “world” in this verse has an interesting background.  Apparently the word originally denoted an ornament.  In his commentary on the Gospel of John Leon Morris writes, “The universe with all its harmonious relationships is the outstanding ornament, and thus the term came to be used of the universe at large.” 

_CES2310Some biblical scholars question whether the use of the word “world” in John 3:16 includes the planet earth; they claim that it refers only to human beings.  I see no reason why God’s redeeming love would not include the entire cosmos as well.  In Romans 8 the apostle Paul speaks of “the hope that creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (v. 21)  God’s gift of His Son was intended for all the world, not just humans; His saving love is extended to all of Creation.

Recognizing God’s love for Creation is important.  If God loved the world so much He was willing to give His only Son for it, then we too should love the world.  This love will include caring for this planet we call home.  Like precious ornaments we place on our Christmas trees must be handled carefully the ornament called “the world” must be tenderly cared for and protected.  God’s love for the world resulted in its salvation spiritually; our love for the world will help save it in other important ways.


(The junco and cardinal I photographed at my house this week also seem like ornaments on trees.)

Oct 27 2010

The Source of Life

CVSP deer 704The Prologue to John’s Gospel (vs. 1-18) is an incredible passage of Scripture.  Last week I noted how John makes his claim here that Jesus (the “Word”) is one with God and is the Creator of all things: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”  (v. 3) In the next verse John follows this up by saying that Jesus is the source of all  life: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”  As Leon Morris points out, “It is only because there is life in the Logos that there is life in anything on earth at all.  Life does not exist in its own right.  It is not even spoken of as made ‘by’ or ‘through’ the Word, but existing ‘in’ Him.”

For Christians it is important to understand that Jesus is the source of both Creation and life.  It is because of him that everything exists; it is because of him that everything has meaning.  I agree with what William Hull says in his commentary on the Fourth Gospel: “…every person ought to see that God is the powerful and thoughtful creator of the universe in the light of the miracle of life which abounds in human experience.” 

If we understood Christ to be the source of all life perhaps we would have a greater respect for life—all of it.   Furthermore, understanding that life is not a given but a gift, perhaps we would also have a greater appreciation for life—all of it. 

Dolly Sods 648It is because I believe that Jesus is the source of all life I affirm that all creatures and plant species are important.  Christ’s desire was for them to have life, just as it was his desire for us to have life.  It is also because I believe that Jesus is the source of all life that I feel a kinship with the rest of Creation—I share a common Maker with them and, like them, owe my very existence to him.  It is this kinship with the rest of Creation that led Francis of Assisi to refer to various animals as his “brothers and sisters.”

Today I join with the author of the Fourth Gospel in offering praise to Christ for being my Maker and the Source of all life.  I encourage you to join in with us.


(Both the whitetail deer and aster images were taken earlier this month in West Virginia.)

Oct 20 2010

Christ and Creation

RRG Auxier Ridge 277Tonight I will begin teaching a study on the Gospel of John.   It has been said of this Gospel that in it a child can wade and an elephant swim.  This means it is a book that is at one and the same time simple and complex.  Anyone who has ever studied John’s Gospel will know what I mean.

John begins his Gospel not with stories of Jesus’ birth, like Matthew and Luke, but with beautiful words that point to the preexistence of Christ.  In words reminiscent of Genesis 1:1-2 he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.” Then in verse 3 he boldly proclaims, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”  In this incredible text we are told not only that Jesus has always existed but that he was instrumental in the creation of the world.

John emphasized that the Word is responsible for everything that exists.  He states this in a positive (“Through him all things were made”) and negative (“without him nothing was made that has been made”) manner.  John’s teaching is consistent with what the apostle Paul wrote: “…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” (1 Cor. 8:6)  God the Father and God the Son both play a vital role in Creation.

RRG Haystace Rock 192In John 1:3 there is an interesting change in verb tenses.  Biblical scholar Leon Morris notes that “were made” regards Creation in its totality, as one act, but “has been made” conveys the thought of the continuing existence of created things.  There are implications that come with the change in verb tenses.  Morris says this means “What we see around us did not come into existence apart from the Word, any more than what appeared in the first day of creation.”

To me this is most significant when it comes to “seeing Creation.”  It means that all around us Christ is at work in what he has made and is making, and that includes us as well.  The story of Creation is not just an ancient one, it is an ongoing story—one that we participate in every day.   We can actually witness the Creator’s work in progress!  How awesome is that?!


(Both images above were taken this past Saturday at the Red River Gorge Geological Area in Kentucky.)