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John 1:1 - 18

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The Word Became Flesh (ch. 1:1-18)

 

Much of the first chapter of John addresses the issue of the pre-incarnate Christ.  That means that Jesus didn't start existing in Mary's womb.  He has always existed.  The very name "Jesus" means "Yahweh is salvation."  God told Mary to call her son "Yahweh is salvation" because that is who He is, was, and always will be.  He is in fact Yahweh, the covenant God of the Old Testament.  He is the eternal "I AM" as seen in Exodus 3:14.  "I AM WHO I AM (NIV)." 

 

In the very first phrase we are presented with a theological concept that needs some thought.  John says, "In the beginning was the Word."  Two things need to be clarified here.  One is; what is "the Word"?  Two is; what is 'in the beginning?"

 

The Greek word for our English wor "Word" is "logos."  This has become quite a common word in Christian circles in the last fifty years.  "Logos" means, "an expression of thought, a concept, or an idea."  You might say that the thoughts within our heads are logos.  The suffix "ology," as in "Christology" or "archeology," comes from "logos".  So when you see the word "theology", it means "thoughts about God," or "the study of God."  "Theos" is the Greek word translated as God, thus, "theology." 

 

John says that this certain expression of thought; this concept or idea which he is going to speak about was in existence at the beginning, prior to creation.  This reminds us of Genesis 1:1 where Moses uses similar wording.  John most likely understood this as he wrote these words.  One reason for this is because the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, is word for word with John's statement; "In the beginning."

 

All this speaks to the plurality of God's nature.  Over the centuries we've attempted to figure God out.  I believe to a degree that might be possible, but really, as humans, we can't really figure out God in who He is.  However, we can certainly understand Jesus much better because God becoming human in Jesus is much easier for us mortals to comprehend.  In part, it was for this reason He came to earth.  

 

In my thinking, in the beginning refers to the existence of the Word in the eternal past, if you can say it that way.  In reality, eternity appears to have no past, present or future, yet from a human stand point we can say that the Word was there in eternity past, having no beginning.  This language speaks to the eternal nature of the Word, or Jesus.  It means that Jesus was not created.  He has always been. 

 

The next phrase states the "The Word was with God, and the Word was God."  All Bible teachers understand the Word to be Jesus.  John says here that Jesus was in fact God in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.     

 

By using the word "with" John is suggesting that the Word, Jesus, and God are two separate identities.  They are with each other.  Now remember our definition of "Word", from the Greek word "logos."  John is saying that the concepts and ideas he is going to speak about were with God in eternity past.  They were always with God and never were a time when they werenít with God, but again, John doesn't end there.  He says that "the Word, Jesus, was God."  These words state that the Word, Jesus, and God are more than separate identities.  They are of the same essence, meaning, the Word and God are one in the same.  This would make sense from our definition of the word "Word" as being thoughts within the mind of God.  The ideas and concepts that John is going to talk about are in fact the mind of God, His thoughts, ideas, and concepts. 

 

It thus appears then that part of the Trinity is referred to in verse 1, meaning, that the Word is both separate from God yet is God at the same time.

 

One of the reasons why John wrote his account was to counter the Gnostic argument that was beginning to appear in Roman Greek culture that stated that God could not be united with man.  God is holy and man is sinful.  The two can never be united.  Therefore God created a host of angelic beings to be a go between Himself and man, and, Jesus was one of the created angelic beings.  What John says right away in verse 1 goes against that train of thought.

 

Before I go on I should explain the historical and cultural understanding of logos, the Greek word that is translated into English as "word" here in John 1.  The Hebraic understanding of logos was personal.  For example, Philo, a Hebrew scholar and historian who lived in Alexandria , Egypt (born 25 AD died 50 AD) viewed logos in a personal sense.  Logos was a priestly bridge between God and man.  Jews understood logos in human terms.  That would have been John's understanding. 

 

Jews were the only ones
with an understanding of logos.  Greeks had their views about the word as well, but it was a more impersonal understanding.  For example, Plato understood logos to be some kind of force that kept the universe in order and the seasons changing as they do.  Stoics understood logos in a similar way.  For them, Logos was the force of reason that kept all things in order. 

 

It's understandable to conclude that John used the word "logos" as it relates to the eternal Jesus to help clarify who Jesus was to both the Jewish and the Greco/Roman world.  

 

We often struggle over the concept of two different things being one thing, or, as Trinitarian doctrine puts it, three distinct beings being one.  Modern science has confirmed what John is saying, or so I believe.  At the atomic level of creation molecules are made up of atoms.  Each atom has electrons that circle its nucleus.  A molecule consists of two or more atoms that are fused together because these atoms share electrons. For this reason science tells us that a molecule is every one of its parts at every point in time, yet no single one of its parts at any time.  In other words two separate things can be one thing.                

 

In verse 2 John repeats himself by saying that He, the word, was with God from the beginning.  Some might suggest because John uses the words "from the beginning" that both God and the Word had a point of beginning.  Some sects believe that Jesus was created and that He had a beginning.  Orthodox Christian thinking states that Jesus had no beginning.  He is not a created being.  Again, the word "beginning" probably points back to Genesis 1:1 since the wording here is the same as it is in the creation account of Genesis. 

 

In verse 3 John says that "through Him (Jesus the Word) all were  things made, and without Him was nothing made."  This statement should tell you that if all things were made through the Word then the Word had to have been there before all things were made.  He was not part of the creation of all things.

 

What does "all things" mean?  Does it mean all things in the physical universe, or does it mean all things, including the spiritual universe?  We do know that before the earth, the universe, was created there were spiritual beings, of which satan was one.  There obviously was a creation prior to Genesis 1.  I think John is talking about the physical universe because of his use of the word "beginning" as it relates to Genesis 1.  That being said, whether I'm right or wrong, the Word did create all things, whether spiritual, physical, or, anything else we as humans don't know about.   

 

The idea here is that God (the Father) created all things through the Word, Jesus.  The Word was a central agent in creating all things.  Look at it this way.  If the Word is actually Godís creative thoughts, concepts and ideas, then it is clear and obvious that all things were made by the Word, these creative concepts.  There is nothing hard to figure out here.

 

We now see the Word personalized with the use of the pronoun "Him."  No longer are the concepts and ideas of God merely concepts and ideas, but a Him, a personality.  These concepts and ideas in the mind of God were life in itself, as stated by John in verse 4.  Yes, they were life giving words, but, the Word Himself was life.  The Word is a distinct personality. 

 

When the breath of God was breathed into Adam, Adam became a living being.  Adam became a life.  The breath that was breathed into Adam was God Himself.  Part of God was breathed into Adam and thus he became a living being.  I believe that when Adam fell from God's grace, the godly breath left Adam, leaving him with only a sinful human life.  

 

Then John makes the statement that this "life was the light of men."  The Word, the Life, meaning Jesus, gave understanding to humanity.  Of course, when man fell, this understanding was darkened, but, as Paul says in Romans 1:19 and 20, the creation itself sheds some light on man's darkened understanding of God.

 

Since the fall of mankind, Godís light is not part of manís make up, but it still shines on man in various ways as John says in verse 5.  Again, as Paul states in Romans 1:19 and 20, creation speaks to the fact that there is a God.  This is Godís light shining on man, telling him that there is a God. 

 

Also in verse 5 John tells us that the darkness, that is, man's darkened heart, and really, all of darkness which I believe is the satanic world, does not comprehend, or to lay a hold of as the Greek implies, the light of understanding.  We should know that the Greek verb tense for shines in verse 5 is the present tense.  The light was shining in the darkness as John wrote these words.  The Greek verb tense for did not comprehend is aorist.  An aorist verb is a completed action, thus the past tense in English.  In some place, in some way, the darkened world was presented with the light and the darkened world refused, even could not, grasp hold of it for itself.  This might well be in reference to the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  The darkness had its chance to be lit up by the light but refused. 

 

Here is how I view verse 5 as it relates to the first four verses of John.  First of all, in verses 1 and 2 we learn that the Logos, the Word, is Jesus.  In verse 3 we learn that Jesus created all things.  In verse 4 we note that Jesus is ultimate life and His life is the light of mankind.  The light, the very life of Jesus, sheds understanding about God to us humans.  The verb "was" in verse 4 is a Greek is an imperfect indicative verb.  Imperfect means a continuous action.  Indicative means a certain action.  Therefore, Jesus' life continues to be the light as it was in the past, and continues to be into future. 

 

In verse 5, the life who is Jesus, "shines."'  "Shines" is a present indicative Greek verb.  Present means Jesus' light shines right now.  Indicative means his shining light is a certainty.  There are no doubts about that.  The word "understood" in the NIV, "katalambano" in Greek, means "to lay hold of or to possess for one's self."

Understood is an aorist indicative verb.  Aorist means a completed action.  Indicative means a certain action. As I stated earlier, this one moment of time was probably in relation to the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

At one point in the past the darkness could not give itself to the light. At the moment, I'm uncertain when darkness was given this chance. 

  

My paraphrase of verse 5 is as follows.  "The light, who is Jesus, still shines in darkened places, as it has in the past, but at some point in the past the darkness did not embrace the light, which is the life of Jesus."  

 

The whole point to the first chapter of John is to introduce the reader to Jesus.  He is the light that darkness once rejected but now, at least darkened humanity, has a chance to embrace.

 

Verse 6 says that there "was a man named John who was sent from God."  This John is John the Baptist.  John the Baptist was sent by God.  The word "sent" is translated from the Greek verb "apostello", meaning "to send."   We derive our English word "apostle" from this Greek word.  John was a prophet sent by God to give a clear testimony to the light, who was Jesus.  He was sent from God to announce the coming of this light, the long awaited for Messiah of Israel.  John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the coming Elijah as prophesied in Malachi 4:5.    

 

In verse 7 John says that part of the mission of John the Baptist was to give testimony to the light so that all men might believe.  John preached repentance that would lead to genuine faith which in turn would bring salvation.  John makes it very clear that John the Baptist was not the light himself but only a witness to that light.

 

I need to note here the words repentance and faith.  It is clear from this verse, and verses throughout the New Testament that repentance is a prerequisite to forgiveness of sins.  This is very important but commonly misunderstood.  This means that one can't have real faith, or forgiveness of sins, unless he repents.  Repentance is more than the changing of one's mind.  It is the turning from the sin that rules us, which is only possible with help from the Holy Spirit. 

 

The Greek word translated as "believe" here and in most places in the New Testament is "pisteuo."  This word has nothing to do with merely giving mental ascent to a truth.  That is to say, just believing that Jesus existed, even just believing He is the Son of God, does not save you.  "Pistueo" means "to give one's self to another in a trusting relationship."  Simply put, one is saved after he turns from his sinful way of life and hands his life over to Jesus and trusts Him for all of who he is.  There is a big difference between mental ascent and a trusting relationship. 

 

In verse 8 John makes one thing very clear.  Just in case someone was wondering, and they were, John says that John the Baptist was not the light.  That means, he was not the life that can light every human being.  He in fact was not the long awaited for Jewish Messiah.  We will see later in the chapter that people really were wondering if John the Baptist might be the Messiah.         

 

Verse 9 says that the true light that gives life to every man was coming into the world.  This was the message of John the Baptist.  There was someone coming after him who could bring the light of understanding to mankind.  Once again, this light was a spiritual light, bringing reconciliation to the supreme God of all there is.  At the time of John the Baptist, the light was not yet come to the world, that is why John phrases this in the future tense; that is, "was coming."

 

You might wonder why John said that the light, meaning Jesus, was coming into the world when in fact He was already in the world.  It is true that Jesus was already in the world but His ministry had not yet begun.  He was just an obscure young man that very few people would have known.  His Messianic ministry, although still in the future, wasn't far off.    

 

Although the verb "is coming" refers to Jesus' soon coming ministry, John uses the present tense when he says that the light gives light to every man.  That means before Jesus began his ministry, He was already lighting men.  There may be differing opinions here on just what this means.  One possible way to think of this may be that throughout history, in one way or another, the light of God has been available for mankind.  Paul speaks to this in Romans 1:17 and following.  Light, or Godly understanding can be seen in creation itself, creation that was created by Jesus.

 

Even in Old Testament days, spiritual light was available to mankind if he wanted it.  The prophetic words of the prophets of old were full of spiritual light.  All that being said, that is, Jesus gives light to man, man doesn't always receive the light that is offered him.     

 

In verse 10 John says that the light was in the world and that the world was made through Him.  In one sense of the word, in a spiritual sense, the light was already in the world, but could not be seen or understood by the world.  For this reason the light, that is the Word, had to come to the world in such a way that man had a better chance of understanding and embracing the light.  The light came into the world by becoming human.  The light came into the world in the form of Jesus. 

 

In verse 10 John says that He, meaning Jesus, was in the world.  How should we understand this?  There are two possibilities here.  John as he was writing these words was looking back into history.  Jesus came into the world and the world did not embrace Him when He came.  That's one way to view this. 

 

Another way of viewing this is that John isn't writing these words in a historical aspect decades from the time of Jesus' earthly ministry.  Maybe, especially because of the context, because he was speaking about John the Baptist, he was using that time as his frame of reference.  When John was baptizing people the light was already in the world but the world did not receive it.  In this sense of the word, the light of God has always been in the world from day one.  Mankind just chose not to embrace the light.  In that sense of the word, because Jesus is God and God is everywhere at all times, God was available to man in days past.

 

In verse 11 John says that the Word, that is Jesus, came to "His own," the Jews, but the Jews did not receive Him.  How should we understand this?  The same two possibilities I mentioned above are possible.  If John is thinking in terms of history past, that is, from the time he was writing these words, Jesus did come to the Jews and the Jews did reject Him.  On the other hand, again, if John the Baptist is the reference point here, Jesus' coming to the Jews had to mean God coming to the Jews in Old Testament days.  Jesus being God, and God, meaning Jesus, came to the Jews through Abraham, Moses, and the prophets.  The Jews in Old Testament days in this sense of the word rejected Jesus.    

 

Then in verse 12 John says that some would receive the Word.  Those who believed, that is gave their lives to the Word, meaning Jesus, would become children of God.  We need to note that our modern English concept of believing being mentally assenting to the truth is not what its Greek counterpart meant in Johnís day.  When John uses the word "believe" he means to give ones life to someone in a trusting relationship between the two parties.  Believing is much more than simply agreeing with the truth and stating that you accept the truth.  You give your life to the truth.  That is believing.  Those who did that, and those who do that today, become the children of God.

 

In the Greek text, the verbs "receive" and "become" in verse 12 are aorist verbs.  An aorist verb is a one time action.  This means that the one who believed, he came to this belief at one moment of time.  Then, at one moment of time he became a child of God.  I conclude that the moment one hands his life over to Jesus to begin a trusting relationship with him becomes a child of God that very moment.

 

Verse 13 speaks of being born again.  It's the same message Jesus speaks of in John 3.  When we first believe, first hand our lives over to Jesus, we are born of God.  We become a child of God through a new birth, a spiritual birth.  Again, John is speaking of being born again here.  One who believes receives the Holy Spirit into his life and he becomes a new creation.  It's a creation that has nothing to do with human birth.  It's a spiritual birth, but a birth that is just as real as a natural birth.  It is really that real.      

 

Verse 14 makes things very clear.  John says that "the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us."  John clearly states that the Word, that is, the concepts and ideas in the mind of God, became flesh and lived in human form among mankind.  Another way to say it is that the Word became a man.  John tells us that the One he is talking about existed before entering humanity.  This goes to the point of this section, that is, this One, pre-existed before becoming human.  We know who that man is although John has not yet mentioned his name.  John is taking his time and is leading up to whom he is speaking. 

 

The thing that separates Christians from everyone else in the world, from all religions, is that we understand that Jesus was in fact God in human flesh.  Right now, He is in fact God in what we call glorified human flesh, as He sits alongside God in all power and authority.    

 

John says that "we have seen His glory."  John and others saw the living Word in action. He saw the miracles.  He saw His death, resurrection and ascension.   He touched the nail prints in the hands of the living Word.  He saw the glory of His glorified body.

 

John saw the glory "of the One and Only who came from the Father."  John clearly believed that this man, the living Word, came from God and was God.

 

This man is, and was, "full of grace and truth."  Grace and truth should always go together in our thinking.  We often promote one over the other.  Some promote the grace and love of God to the exclusion of the truth and justice of God.  John says that both grace and truth are apart of this living Word.  Truth and justice is part of the very nature of God and is part of the nature of this God man.  You must not separate grace from truth or truth from grace.

 

The King James Bible uses the word "begotten" to describe Jesus in verse 14.  That is a confusing word for many because it might suggest that Jesus was created at His birth.  That's not the fact of the Bible.  Jesus always existed.  He was never created and He was never born, other than being born into humanity.  We should understand that word "begotten" to mean "unique" here.  Jesus was and is unique.  There is no one like him at all.   

 

In verse 15 John goes back to explain what John the Baptist taught concerning the Word of God, meaning Jesus.  John the Baptist said that Jesus came after him but was greater than he was since He was before him.  Jesus pre-existed long before John the Baptist was ever thought about.  This is how the last great prophet understood Jesus.

 

In verse 16 John says that "from the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another."    All men have been blessed by Jesus in one way or another whether they know it or not.  The fact that they are alive is one such blessing.  Then, Christians have received even more blessings since they have given their lives to Him resulting in many spiritual and eternal blessings.  I imagine that there were simply too many blessings in John's life to write or even talk about.  I can't imagine his life.  He had lived with Jesus.  He saw Jesus die on the cross.  He saw Him raised from the dead, and he saw Jesus return to Heaven.  Then he received the Spirit of God that would have worked many miracles in John's ministry. 

 

In verse 17 John finally tells us the earthly name of the Word who became flesh.  He says, "The Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."  God gave the Law to Moses and Moses passed it on to the nation of Israel , but, when Jesus came, God used Jesus to give us both grace and truth.  Jesus would eventually lay aside the Law of Moses when He died on the cross.  Jesus came to fulfill the Law, and that He did, and will do.  He met every requirement of the Law on our behalf.  God now looks at us who believe and sees us as people who have obeyed the Law in every aspect.  Jesus obeyed the Law, satisfying God's sense of justice, allowing God to accept us as Law obeyers instead of Law breakers, even though we are still Law breakers.

 

Now John clearly states who this living Word is.  He says that it is Jesus Christ.  It took him some time to come to this point but he has been building a case, and now this is the climax of his case.  Remember, the name Jesus means "Yahweh is salvation", and, "Christ" means, the "Messiah".   Jesus was the long awaited Yahweh Ė Messiah, that would bring salvation and restoration to both Israel and the world. 

 

We should understand that even though Jesus held, and still holds, the title of Christ, the Messiah, when He was born into humanity He did not come as Messiah.  He will come as Messiah when He returns to Jerusalem to be the King of the Jews and rule the entire world.   

 

In verse 18 John says that 'no one has ever seen God."  No one has, or could see God.  I donít believe that humans can stand in the presence of God without being destroyed.  God is too powerful and we are too weak.  It is quite possible that we may never see God face to face.  We will see Jesus, the one who can stand before God on our behalf.

 

John says that no one has ever seen God, "but God, the One and Only."  John is saying that the only one who has ever seen God is Jesus.  Why?  Because Jesus is the Word of God, the mind of God Ė Godís thoughts, concepts and ideas.  This is one of a few Scriptures in the Bible that actually says that Jesus is God.  The Deity of Christ is fundamental in the thinking and doctrine of Christians.

 

This section ends with these words, "who is at the Fatherís side, He has made Him known."  When John says that Jesus is at the Fatherís side, he means that Jesus is in a place of authority alongside God.  It does not necessarily mean He is physically at Godís side, and that God actually has a side.

 

John then says that Jesus has made God known.  That is part of the reason why Jesus came to earth.  If God wanted to communicate with man, the best way He could do this was to become a man.  It is like the old analogy.  If a man wanted to communicate with an ant then he needs to become an ant.  This is what God did in becoming a man.

 

At this point I'd like to insert an article I wrote on whether we will ever see God. 

 

"I will see God in my flesh. I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him (Job 19:26 - 27)."  Job expected to see God some day.  "I will see your face in righteousness; when I awake Ö (Psalm 17:15)."  David also expected to see God some day, either after he woke from sleep or woke from death in the next life.  Will Job and David ever see God?  Will we ever see God?   

 

God is invisible to humans (Colossians 1:15) because He is a spirit (John 4:24).  No man, except for Jesus, has ever seen God (John 6:46).  No one can stand in God's presence and live (Exodus 33:20) because He is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29), a fire that will eventually burn the heavens and earth in a torrent of flames on the Day of God (2 Peter 3:7 + 12).  

 

Did Adam and Eve see God?  Even though Adam heard God's voice prior to the fall (Genesis 2:16 - 17) and Adam and Eve heard His voice after the fall (Genesis 3:8), the text is silent when it comes to them seeing God.  We can't base our thinking on silence. 

 

Will we ever see God?  Revelation 22:3 and 4 may shed some light on this but that depends partly on how you view God's nature.  "The throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it (the New Jerusalem) and His servants shall serve Him.  And they shall see His face Ö (NIV)." 

 

According to the grammatical structure of this verse, many but not all, suggest there is one throne that is shared by both God and the Lamb, who is Jesus.  If that is so, then this is a departure from the present reality where both God and Jesus sit on separate thrones.  Jesus now rules from the right hand of God (Acts 2:13, Romans 8:64).  To put it another way, Jesus shares the responsibility of ruling from a place of authority alongside of God.  The term "right hand" as it pertains to ruling in first century culture was a symbolic term signifying one ruling alongside another, not necessarily at the literal right hand of another.  Besides, does an invisible God have a right hand?   Right now, Jesus rules alongside of God, having been given His own sphere of authority (Matthew 28:18, 1 Corinthians 15:27).  He will rule until the day comes when He hands His kingdom back over to God His Father (1 Corinthians 15:24). 

 

The word "throne" is translated from the Greek word "thronos", which can mean a literal chair someone sits on and rules from.  "Thronos" can also mean a place where rule emanates, whether it's a throne, a room, a building, or a city.  The throne spoken of in Revelation 22:3 might be the central location of rule in the New Jerusalem.  As a matter of fact, the New Jerusalem itself is the seat of power and authority for all nations on the new earth.  The throne spoken of here might not be a literal chair that God and Jesus squeeze into.  Of course, how you understand God and Jesus in this verse depends on if you believe God and Jesus are two separate and distinct personalities.  Not all Christians hold to that view.   

 

Revelation 22:3 and 4 state that the servants will serve "Him" and will see "His face".  The words "Him" and "His" are singular pronouns.  They are not plural pronouns.  We're talking about serving one person and seeing one face here, even though there are two personalities who are ruling alongside each other.  Whose face are these servants seeing?  

 

Scripture says that when we see Jesus we see God the Father (John 14:9) because Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30).  Jesus is the visible image of God (Colossians 1:15) and the exact representation of God's being (Hebrews 1:3).  Even though Father and Son are one the words "image" and "representation" suggests a separated duality.  Maybe Job, David, you, and I will see Jesus and by seeing Jesus we see God.  On the other hand Jesus said that the pure in heart shall see God (Matthew 5:8).  He didn't say the pure in heart shall see Me or see God in Me.  The Greek word "horao" is translated into English as "see" in Matthew 5:8.  This word doesn't necessarily have to mean seeing with one's physical eyes.  It can also suggest "to perceive", as in "I perceive the presence of God's face."  Will we see God or simply perceive His presence? 

 

When you and I visit the New Jerusalem at some future date we will have the same physical form Jesus has, whatever form that may look like (1 John 3:2).  Maybe with this new physical form we will have the ability to see God as He is.  Yes, no man has ever seen God, but, we will not be the men and women we presently are when we reside on the new earth.

 

Will Job, David, you, and I ever see God?  I know we will see Jesus, but will we see God?  Well, I'm still not sure.  So there you go, I don't have all of the answers after-all, at least not yet. 

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