The Meaning of Life

maxresdefaultBack in my teen years in the 80’s there was a popular show on TV called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  The show featured a group of hyper-intelligent beings who demand to learn “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.”  They ask a supercomputer called Deep Thought which was specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be the number 42.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reflects the mind-set of many people today.  Life is just a random number – it has no purpose or meaning.  After years of indoctrination with evolutionary science (the predominant secular theory of life in the western world) that should come as no surprise. This theory teaches our existence as individuals is an accident based on randomness – a chance encounter between an egg and one of many millions of spermatozoa. There is not one scrap of evidence that any other factor was involved in our creation. Therefore there is no meaning, no significance, and no purpose to our human lives.

Over and against science fiction and secular humanism the Bible sets forth quite a different answer for the meaning of life.  In the opening words of John’s Gospel we find this:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1–2)

In order to understand what John is doing here we need to understand something about the language he is using.  It all centres on one important Greek word:

Picture3It is the word logos.

That might not sound very familiar to you but we actually use this word almost every day without realizing it.  “Logos” gives us words like logic and logistics and logarithms.  It’s at the heart of all those words that end with “logy” like analogy, biology, chronology, psychology and theology.

So what does it mean?

Heraclitus, in the 5th century B.C., started using this word to refer to a principle of order and knowledge that governed all of reality.  The Stoics used it to refer to “the common law of nature, immanent in the universe and maintaining its unity, the divine fire, the soul of the universe.” Philo, a Jewish philosopher used it to refer to “the agent of creation.”  It is also interesting to learn that many Chinese Bibles translate Logos using the word “Tao.”  A dictionary definition of Tao is: “The basic, eternal principle of the universe that transcends reality and is the source of being, non-being, and change.”[1]

John has established that the Logos was there in the beginning.  The next thing he does is attribute to the logos personality and creative power.

 “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.” (John 1:3)

For all the accomplishments and contributions science has made to humanity, it doesn’t give answers for how things happened in the first place.  Science cannot explain existence.  One of the founding axioms of science is the principle of cause and effect. Science assumes that everything has a cause. Anything that happens does so because of some cause. Through the scientific method of experimentation, we are able to determine that cause.

But the problem happens when you keep following the chain backwards. If everything has a cause, then as you follow those causes, you get further and further back in time. But that’s theoretically impossible because it would mean that ultimately there is no cause for everything which would violate the very foundation of science. So there must exist something outside that caused everything. This is the first cause, or the “uncaused cause.” Something, or someone, which itself had no cause, had to set everything into motion.

Now if you ask most people on the street whether they believe in God, this is the argument they will usually fall back on. They will say something like, “Well there must be something – call it God or a higher power or whatever. I just can’t believe that all of this is an accident.”  That’s street language for saying that there must be an uncaused cause.  John says that this is the Logos. He is the uncaused cause.

John’s prologue continues:

“Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)

Life was in him!  Life itself originates with the Logos.  He didn’t just create atoms and molecules and DNA.  He gave them life.  Everything in the world that is has life owes that life to the divine Logos.

A few years ago a group of scientists gathered together in Arizona for a conference to discuss the origins of life. A lot of theories were shared and debated. But at the end of the day, one of the conclusions reached is that we just can’t know. They quoted Nobel-Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman who said, “What I cannot create, I cannot understand.”

Ultimately, no man can understand how life began because we can’t create it. As hard as mankind has tried, he cannot create life from nothing.  And John tells us why.  Because the source of all life is the divine logos, not man.

So where is John going with all of this?  We find out a little further on in the text:

 “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

This divine logos John says, became flesh.  That doesn’t mean he ceased being God.  It means in addition to his deity, he took on humanity and became both man and God.

We see it now don’t we.  All is revealed.  Who is it that John is talking about?  Who is this divine logos that we’ve been looking at in the opening verses of this chapter that became man?

He is none other than Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, the very Son of God.

And John says he took up residence among us.  Some translations use the word tabernacle.  The word in the Greek literally means “to pitch a tent”.  The tabernacle in the Old Testament was tent the Israelites met with God.  It was the place a Holy God met with sinful men.  And John tells us Jesus is the new tabernacle.  Through him sinful men can meet with a Holy God.

But John is saying more than that. This Word – this divine Son of God, made his dwelling amongst us.  He took flesh and blood.  He came and experienced what we experience. He shared our pains and frustrations. And what was the response?

“He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him.” (John 1:10)

And then in verse 11:

“He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” (John 1:11)

  • So blind and lifeless is our world, that we cannot recognize our creator when he turns up.
  • So blind are we, that the light of the world turns up, and we can’t see him.
  • So dead are we, that the life of the world comes, and we can’t comprehend him.

The Word came to his own people, the Jewish people. The one nation who God revealed himself to in the Old Testament. And what did they do with him? They rejected and killed him. Yet, there is hope in the midst of this deep darkness.

“But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

We don’t need to remain dead to God and blind to Him. A way is opened to be free us of our blindness and deadness.  We just need to receive him.

Receive him and you will receive new life.  That’s what happens when you become a Christian.  You experience new birth and new life.  You entered this world from your mother’s womb.  That was your first birth – that’s the old creation, spiritually dead and alienated from God.  You need to become part of the new creation that is spiritually alive to God.  For that you need something utterly miraculous: you need the new birth.

And what’s life like in the new creation?  What is it like to receive the new birth? It is to experience, in all its richness, the fullness of God’s grace –hour by hour, day by day, and year after year.

 “Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness.” (John 1:16)

Literally the Greek phrase reads, “grace instead of grace”[2]

Here’s how it works: you are in need of God’s strength and God’s power, so you call out to him for grace, which he grants freely.  As this grace is appropriated he grants more grace and then even more grace.  Some translations have “grace following grace” or “grace heaped upon grace.”  That’s the picture.  It’s like waves on the seashore; no sooner has one wave washes over you when another follows.

Martin Luther put it this way:

Christ, our Lord, to whom we must flee and of whom we must ask all, is an interminable well…Even if the whole world were to draw from this fountain enough grace and truth to transform all people into angels, still it would not lose as much as a drop. This fountain constantly overflows with sheer grace. Whoever wishes to enjoy Christ’s grace — and no one is excluded — let him come and receive it from Him. You will never drain this fountain of living water; it will never run dry.

John concludes with these words:

“No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son — the One who is at the Father’s side — He has revealed Him.” (John 1:18)

If you want to see God, Jesus is your answer.  If you want to know God, Jesus is the one to whom you go.  Jesus gives meaning to a confused life.  Jesus gives hope to lost souls.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  Without him, there is no hope, no meaning and no life.

Just confused existence.





[2] χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος

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