How would you describe your encounter with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? How has it affected your life? What has it compelled you to do as a result? These are the questions the Apostle John puts forth in the opening statements of his first epistle to the First Century church—and to us. As a disciple, John had the ability and the privilege of standing in the presence of One who embodied all that God is. Both here and in his gospel writings, John describes Christ as “the Word”. This phrase is translated from the original Greek word logos, which according to Strong’s definitions can refer to something said, to reasoning and motive, to the processing and comprehension of the truth, and in John’s context, “the Divine Expression” manifested in Christ.
The importance of Christ as “the Word” cannot be stressed enough. In Christ we find all that the Father sought to speak to us. Nowhere is this illustrated better than in Christ’s words to His disciples in the Gospel of John 12:49-50. Christ came not on His own authority, not to speak His own truth, but to reveal all that the Father sought to manifest in and through Him. Furthermore, the appropriateness of logos is demonstrated in that it is not simply a reference to written or spoken word, but also an indicator of motive and reasoning. Logos is about behavior, about lifestyle, about a way of thinking that affects the very core of one’s being. Christ did not simply speak the Father’s truth, but lived it, made it known through His actions, through His perseverance, through His obedience, and through His suffering.
Christ as “the Word” is also seen in Christ’s fulfillment of the Law. It was not simply that He obeyed the commands. Nor was it a sense of legalism that caused Him to live out those commands. This is who He was. He was the very embodiment of those commands—it was His own character, established long before time, that directed their dictation. Christ didn’t obey the Law out of a sense of ritualistic obligation or out of a prideful motivation. He simply could not be anything other than who He was and is.
Perhaps this is most clearly seen in Matthew 12, where Jesus establishes Himself as “Lord of the Sabbath”. To hear the Pharisees tell it, every command was vitally important and could not be violated. Theirs was a legalistic intention, seeking purity in activity rather than understanding the character of God. Even for us today, it may seem contradictory for Christ to reinforce the importance of the Law while seeming to allow His disciples to violate it. But Christ, as the very Reason for the Law itself, establishes that there are indeed deeper purposes behind the Law than simply for outward purification. In fact, Christ continually clarified that it was the inward state of the heart that took priority over the outward action.
(Perhaps Christ would have gone so far as to likened the Pharisees to Solomon’s treatise in Proverbs 23:6-8: hosts of a legalistic buffet who hoarded for themselves the riches and pleasures of this life while withholding the goodness of God’s knowledge from others. For while they sought to establish themselves as great in the eyes of others, their hearts determined the reality of their eternal significance. It should serve also as an illustrative measure of prevention for today’s believers, as the responsibility to honor God’s gifts of knowledge and wisdom now rests with us—to share it and make it known without selfish ambition or intention.)
How could David “violate” the letter of the Law by eating what was deemed holy? How could the disciples “violate” the letter of the Law by picking grain on the Sabbath? They knew the Lord of the Sabbath. They knew the heart of their King, who commanded them in love and not in legalism. David’s actions and the actions of the disciples were motivated, not by a desire to break the Law for selfish reasons, but rather to unselfishly accomplish the will and purpose of the One they loved.
Therefore, we should understand Christ as logos the embodiment of the Law, not a strict, legalistic master who holds us to every outward letter of His Laws, but as One seeking to make Himself known to those He loves and desires to draw them into a closer understanding of who He is. This is why the Apostle Paul said in I Timothy 1:9 that “law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers…” The Law is a point of reference, merely the surface of a potentially much deeper knowledge of who God is and what He desires from those He loves. Logos is living and active revelation of who Christ is that fosters greater reasoning and understanding and love for the Person of God.
There are a great many things that a stranger might do in my house that I would find offensive. The simple act of taking something out of the fridge without first requesting to do so is a violation of common courtesy in a stranger’s home. Yet if that same act were committed by my son, there is no such violation, for everything that I have is his and is freely given to him.
Jesus emphasized the heart because He recognized that one’s own righteousness was determined by their relationship to the Father. The one who does not know God, who has not entered into a loving and intimate relationship with Him, does not have the same rights and privileges as one who does. The Pharisees, true to the Law though they generally were, had no actual knowledge of relationship with God, and therefore had only the Law to justify them—and condemn them. What they, and even many believers since them, had failed to realize was that the Law was meant to lead to devotion and intimacy with God. To be devoted to the Law is not the same as to be devoted to God.
The Law served to reveal God’s character, but it was not meant to serve as a substitute for knowing God. Righteousness and privilege do not come through the Law but through knowing Him who gave the Law. The Law fosters a sense of responsibility to regulation; having a personal relationship with the Father fosters a sense of personal responsibility to Him. And because it was He who gave the Law, it is He whose very character and will supersedes the Law. Nowhere else in Scripture is this clearer than in Hebrews 8-10, where the writer describes Christ’s priesthood as being one “in the order of Melchizedek”—that is, beyond the Law, greater than the imperfection that the Law exposed in those who received it. Christ is not a priest of the Law but a priest of the heart, making atonement not through the blood sacrifice of animals but by His own blood. Thus Christ not only fulfilled the Law but demonstrated His authority over the Law as the One whom the Law was meant to foreshadow.
David, in fact, may have violated the Law, but He did so without violating the heart of the Father. Had David sought selfishly to break the Law, he would have broken the heart of God. However, David sought only to fulfill the personal responsibility that was an extension of his relationship with God—the importance of which superseded the letter of the Law. Very simply, David’s desire to please his Father motivated him to “take something out of the fridge” so that he could in love accomplish the task that truly pleased the Father.
The disciples, indeed, may have violated the letter of the Law by doing work on the Sabbath, but the core of the command was to “keep the Sabbath day holy”. What could be holier than to dwell with the One whose very holiness determined importance of the Sabbath?
And so it was that the Apostle’s testimony would become one of face-to-face interaction with the Master. It would become the story they told the world—through their writings and through their lives. John himself sought to “proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.” While John’s knowledge of the Messiah would come through personal interaction with Christ, it was not an exclusive understanding. The Gospel’s impact endured because its message compelled the receiver to embrace it with abandon, live it in passion, and share it in love. And in doing so, the common bond by which all believers relate to each other is established through personal relationship with Christ.