Summary: Understanding what is said in the first three verses of John's gospel.


John 1:1-3

INTRODUCTION: The book of John was written by the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee, the brother of the Apostle James. He was a fisherman by trade, along with his brother and father. He was, as Acts 4:13 indicates, an “unschooled, ordinary man”. Yet he is empowered by God to write this gospel; along with 1st, 2nd and 3rd John and the book of Revelation. The book of John is unique among the four gospels. The first three: Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the “synoptic” gospels. This means they are similar. They have more similarities with each other than they do with John. William Barclay’s commentary speaks of the uniqueness of John’s gospel in that it provided spiritual applications to go along with historical events. John’s aim was not to just tell what Jesus said (historical) but to also tell us what Jesus meant by what he said (spiritual). In accounts of Jesus’ miracles there were in them purposed spiritual applications for the purpose of highlighting the glory of God. The feeding of the 5,000 was followed by a discourse about how Jesus was the bread of life (ch. 6). The healing of the blind man goes into Jesus being the light of the world (ch. 9). Within the story of Jesus raising Lazarus he tells Martha that he is the Resurrection and the life (ch. 11). So John shows us not only the miracle but also the spiritual application to the miracle. John didn’t just want to communicate that Jesus was the Messiah he also wanted to explain what being the Messiah meant. A Jew would have already known all about the Messiah because they had been looking for their Savior for many years. But gentiles knew little, if anything, about the Christ. John wanted to allow his gospel to bring the person and character of Jesus to focus. To convey an embraceable figure of Jesus that would appeal to a more gentile based group. Today we’re going to look at the first three verses.

Vs. 1-2. Here John is like a good novelist. A clever novelist will get you hooked in the opening few sentences. John starts out his gospel with an astounding statement. No lead ins-just straight-forward, here’s what it’s all about kind of statement. A statement that would have the reader saying, “Okay, I’m listening; you’ve got my attention”. This is how John starts out his gospel.

• In the beginning of what? Everything. Gen. 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. In the beginning, before anything was created; Jesus, the Word, was there with the Father and the Spirit. Jesus has existed from the beginning. Gen. 1:26-27. It doesn’t seem to make sense that the text refers to the singular God but with the pluralities ‘us’ and ‘our’. This is the first of many confirmations of the Trinity-one God in three distinct persons. Jesus was there in the beginning. He became Jesus in the flesh (vs. 14) when he was born of Mary but he existed long before that. Jesus said in John 17:5, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Jesus is stating and confirming the reality of what Gen. 1:26-27 tells us. Jesus said in Rev. 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Jesus was not only there in the beginning, he is the beginning. He always was, always is, always will be. John 8:54-58. Why did they want to stone him, for being grammatically incorrect? No, because they knew what Jesus meant by saying, ‘I am’. In Exodus 3 when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and he told Moses he wanted him to deliver his people from the Egyptians Moses asked, “Who shall I say is sending me”? God responded in Ex. 3:14, “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM’ has sent me to you.” So the Jews picked up stones to stone Jesus because when a mere man claimed to be God that was blasphemy and according to the law such a person was to be put to death. But Jesus wasn’t committing blasphemy because he was God. When the Father or Jesus used the term, “I am” they are stating that they are always ‘present tense’. Not ‘I was’ or ‘I will be’ but ‘I am’. God always is.

• Who is the word? Jesus is the Word. How do we know this? Verse three signifies that the Word is referring to a person=”through him”. In vs. 5 says that in ‘the Word’ was life and light. In John 14:6 Jesus said he is, “The Way, the Truth and the Life”. And in John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world”. We see here that these elements of who the Word is-Jesus is. John 1:14 says that ‘the Word’ became flesh. In Matthew 1:23 Jesus is referred to as “Emmanuel” which means, “God with us”. Jesus is God in the flesh. Also in verse 14 it says, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only”. In John 3:16 it says that God so loved the world that he gave his “one and only Son”. John 1:17-18. The mystery is made clear when we see for the first time in John the name-Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word. But why the term, ‘Word’? Logos. [Footnote for vs. 1]. Albert Barnes’ commentary, “This term was used by the Jews as applicable to the Messiah. In their writings he was commonly known by the term "Mimra"--that is, "Word." The term was also used among the Greeks to denote the second person of the Trinity. The term nous, or mind, was commonly given to this second person, but it was said that this nous was the word or reason of the first person. The term was therefore extensively in use among the Jews and Gentiles before John wrote his Gospel and it was certain that it would be applied to the second person of the Trinity by Christians, whether converted from Judaism or Paganism.” So, although the term, ‘Word’ wouldn’t mean anything to us without an explanation, the Jews and Greeks would’ve understood it clearly to refer to Jesus. And John is wise to use a term that would appeal to both Jews and Greeks alike.

• Jesus was with God and He was God. A confounding statement. Jesus was with God from the beginning but he also is God. He’s part of the Trinity-Father, Son and Spirit; three persons but all totally and equally God. 1st John 5:7 (KJV), “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” And now, this ‘Word’ has been made flesh so now we can have an intimate understanding of who God is through Jesus. John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” “God the One and Only”. God in the presence of the ‘One and Only’ Son-Jesus. Until now the visible God had remained a mystery. Adam and Eve were in God’s presence before the fall. But since then, only Moses had been in the presence of God. But, as Exodus 33:18-23 points out, Moses was in the presence of God and witnessed his glory but God would not allow his face to be seen. This is what is meant by, ‘no one has ever seen God’. But now in the person of Jesus there was a physical, flesh and blood manifestation of God who would co-exist with the people. He became one of them. Matt. 1:23, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” These declarations of Jesus being God might be hard to grasp since we have places where Jesus is praying to the Father and using phrases that would make it seem he wasn’t God or equal with the Father. We need to view these verses in light of what Phil 2:5-11. Jesus let go of his equality with God in order to become a human. He was relinquishing his glorious state in order to put on flesh and become one of us. By taking on our weaknesses (pain, sickness, death) Jesus chose to be subject to the Father just as every other human needs to be. In these first verses of John’s gospel his purpose is to establish the divinity of Jesus. Some have a hard time with the divinity of Jesus. How can Jesus be God and man at the same time? As G. Campbell Morgan describes: “He was the God-man. Not God indwelling a man; of such there have been many. Not a man deified; of such there are none save in the myths of pagan systems of thought. But God and man, combining in one personality the two natures, a perpetual enigma and mystery, baffling the possibility of explanation.” Although the concept can be understood I think it’s a hard one to describe. This confounding reality has led to some groups going to great lengths to outright dismiss it. JW’s translation, “The Word was a god.” There is nothing in any of the Greek translations to support this. In fact, the Greek word that they translate to mean, ‘a god’ is the same word in John 20:28 where in their own bible they translate it as God. How can Jesus be ‘a god’ in 1:1 but be ‘God’ in 20:28? What’s interesting is that until the 50’s the JWs went by the ASV bible (which has John 1:1 reading, “and the Word was God”). But since their beliefs were contrary to what they were reading in the bible, instead of changing their beliefs they changed the bible to fit with their beliefs. Granted, we might not be able to figure out this whole Trinity thing, how Jesus can be with God and be God at the same time but make no mistake, whether we can really wrap our brain around it or not, the reality is that it’s true-Jesus is God.

Vs. 3.

• Creator Jesus. Jesus was not created, he is the Creator. Col. 1:15-17. (Explain ‘firstborn over creation’). We see John further emphasizing Jesus’ omnipotence. He is all powerful, as is the Father (equality) in creating all things and holding all things together. One of the heresies John had to confront during his time was Gnosticism. Gnostics believed that all matter was evil and the Spirit was good. They taught that since the literal world is matter, God did not create it. John refuted that by saying all things were created by Jesus. The Gnostics viewed Jesus as a spirit only. Since flesh was matter and matter was evil Jesus was only a manifestation of the Spirit and had no real body. John refuted that by telling us in 1:14 that “the word became flesh and dwelt among us”. That’s why John wrote in 1st John 4:3 that anyone who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh was being moved by the spirit of the antichrist. John is putting creation (matter) in a positive light by saying that matter is a creation of God. And nothing God creates is evil. God did not create evil. Evil is the absence of goodness. Just like darkness is not created, it is the absence of light. What else we see here in verse three is a connection between two of the ways God revealed himself. He first revealed himself through creation and now he has revealed himself through Jesus. The third way he reveals himself is through the bible-his WORD.

• Why? Why was it important that we know that Jesus is God in the flesh? So we would believe. John 1:4-7. In this first chapter we see the apostle John highlighting that John the Baptist’s purpose in coming was to testify to Jesus, that through his testimony about Jesus everybody would come to believe in him. Believe in him why? John 20:30-31. John wants us to believe that Jesus is the Savior so that we would have eternal life. Chuck Swindoll in “The Grace Awakening” wrote, “If our greatest need had been information, God would’ve sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would’ve sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would’ve sent an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would’ve sent an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.”