Commentary on John’s Gospel
It is our prayer that you are blessed through this series.
The Gospel of John
A. God’s Revelation of Himself
B. God’s Ultimate Revelation
The Prologue (1:1-18) (Part One)
Let us now look to John’s gospel to see whom it is that John wants us to trust.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'” And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:1-18)
Perhaps you have heard the story of the four year old busily drawing at the table. Her mother came up from behind and asked her, “What are you drawing, Honey?”
With much concentration going into the artwork, the four year old replied, “I’m drawing a picture of God.”
“But no one knows what God looks like,” her mother tried to explain to her daughter.
“Well, they will when I’m finished,” stated the little girl, undaunted.
We may chuckle at such naïve, immature thinking, but how shall we think of God? What is called to mind when we hear “God”? Is it accurate? Is it truly in accordance with God as He is in truth? How shall we know Him? How shall we know this great and invisible God who is spirit which no one has seen at any time?
One thing is for certain, we shall only know God if He chooses to reveal Himself … and He has!
God’s Revelation of Himself
Q. How and where does He reveal Himself? How do we learn about God?
First, the Bible says we can learn about God in His creation. Romans 1 tells us that at least God’s existence and power are known and revealed in creation (see Rom. 1:20). However, if all we had was the creation testimony, we would still be greatly lacking. For example, would we know of His goodness, His absolute rule over all things, or His merciful kindness?
Besides that, because man is cut off from God, “having his understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God,” (Eph. 4:18) he suppresses the truth that is revealed (Rom. 1:18). In his mind, man distorts things, imagining and creating idols to worship, as opposed to God as He is in truth. These rejections range from very simple brush-offs to the most sophisticated forms of physics and philosophy that attempt to squeeze God out of the picture.
In Mighty Deeds
Secondly, God is revealed in His mighty deeds, where, in human history, He acted in powerful ways. (i.e. His judgment in the flood; the plagues in Egypt etc.) However, these grand displays did not seem to have lasting results. Peter tells us that the flood is virtually forgotten, or explained away like some fairy tale (2 Peter 3:3-7). During the plagues, even from one to the next, hearts were hardened, and Pharaoh and others imagined other causes for the circumstances. They explained away the signs, in their consciences, believing another explanation other than God and that He is the Lord.
Even in John 12:28-29, when God speaks out of heaven and some standing near hear it, soon most are convinced that it was only thunder.
In His Words
Thirdly, God is revealed in His words. Our God is a talking God. He is a personal God and much of His talk has been written down. There is a record of it so that we can read and learn to think in accordance with truth. Many aren’t interested in God’s written words because they don’t know God experientially.
If I handed you two diaries, one belonging to a stranger who had nothing in common with you and the other was a dear friend’s, which would you be most interested in? We approach the writings of someone we love very differently. You see, personal knowledge of the person makes words about that person or by that person so much richer, than when there is no personal knowledge at all.
One of the main reasons that the Bible is a closed and dull book to so many is that they do not know and love its Author – nor the One written about. The more you get to know and love God, the richer the Bible will be. For when you read, the words come together and form a picture that calls to mind someone you know. It is this genuine knowledge of God that is needed.
God’s Ultimate Revelation
But how is it possible to have a personal relationship with a transcendent God who, according to Scripture, is spirit and eternal and invisible? This, too, God has undertaken to overcome in an ultimate revelation of Himself.
In fact, our prologue of verses 1-18, summarizes for us how the Word, who was with God in the very beginning, came into the world to become the Jesus of history, so the glory and grace of God might be uniquely and perfectly disclosed. This testimony will be to some a testimony unto life. To others it will be a witness against them – that they would not humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, despite the light of the Word, as revealed in the gospel of John. This is the ultimate revelation of God. The Word became flesh. If you want to know God, get to know Jesus.
Introducing the Word (v. 1-2)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.“
When you read, “In the beginning,” what immediately comes into the mind of everyone familiar with the Scriptures? Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That’s how the Bible begins; with a word and creation. So, too, in John, but John is going to unveil a “new creation.” It is this “Word” who is the creator of both!
“Logos” (Word) is the expression of an idea or thought. Jesus is the expression of God. This Word, who was in the beginning and who was with God and who was God, became flesh (v. 14) to be the message of God – the expression of the unseen God.
“Logos” is used in other places such as John 4:37, 39. In 1 Cor. 1:18, Paul uses the term logos when he says the “word” (message) of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. The “word of the cross” doesn’t mean that the cross itself is foolishness. It is the message of the cross that is foolishness to them. It is what it expresses.
Why use “Word” (Logos) as the description of Jesus?
Jesus is to the Father what words or speech is to our thoughts. John, who uses so many names of Jesus, selects “the Word” as the descriptor that best summarizes all that he is going to say about Jesus.
In the Old Testament Scriptures, the “Word” is connected with creation, revelation, and deliverance.
For example, in Psalm 33:6 and 9, God speaks and things happen. His word of power creates (see also Gen. 1:3ff).
The Word is also connected with the revelation of God. Over and over we hear the prophets proclaim, “and the Word of the Lord came to me.” (i.e. Jer. 1:4; Isa. 9:8; Ezek. 33:7; Amos 3:1,8)
Thirdly, the Word is connected with deliverance and salvation. In Psalm 107:20, we read, “He sent His Word and healed them and delivered them from their destruction.” In Isaiah 55:11, God says, “So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth. It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” And what is that thing which His Word will accomplish? Salvation! Deliverance! “For My salvation is about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed.” (Isa. 56:1) Physically that was accomplished in a joyous return to the land from Babylon – but ultimately foreshadowing a greater delivering Word!
So in the Old Testament Scriptures, God’s Word is His powerful self- expression in creation, in revelation, and in deliverance. Thus, John uses ‘Logos’ as the best way to summarize who Jesus is. Jesus is the agent of creation who does disclose and reveal God and is the One who brings deliverance and salvation to His people. The ‘Word’ brings it all together. It says it better than any other single title. In the term ‘Logos’, John embodies everything he is going to say in the rest of the book.
This stands out even more when we think of the fact that God’s prophets had been silent for about 400 years. Now that silence is dramatically broken by God’s ultimate creating, revealing, and delivering Word – Jesus!
[Compare Heb. 1:1-4 …
v. 1 – God spoke by prophets (Word of revelation)
v. 2a – spoken now in (literally) His Son. Now He reveals Himself in His Son. His Son is the Word of revelation – God’s
v. 2b – Word of creation
v. 3 – Word of deliverance – “purged our sins”]
“In the beginning was the Word,” … In the beginning of things, He already “was.” He was already existing. He had no beginning. He is the source of all things (v. 3). He always was (John 8:57-58).
“and the Word was with God,” … Literally this says “towards God” or “face to face with.” This is like verse 18 which says “in the bosom of the Father.” In other words, He existed in the closest possible fellowship with the Father and Spirit. He had the supreme delight and joy in intimate closeness with the Father and Spirit. “With God” demonstrates distinction, but intimacy. The Logos is not some force or impersonal principle. The Logos is a living, intelligent Person.
“and the Word was God” … Literally this reads, “and God was the Word.” This shows the oneness of the triune God. The Word is no subordinate or second-class God. He is the creator God of Genesis 1:1. Thomas rightly bowed before Jesus, the Word, and cried out, “My Lord, and my God!”
“He was in the beginning with God.” Verse 2 here really emphasizes His closeness and oneness with the Father and Spirit. He was always with His Father. He was always “face to face” with God, enjoying the fellowship and glory which they had together before the world was (John 17:5).
Next post, part two of John’s prologue.
Murray is the lead church planter and Bible teacher at Grace Fellowship Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He and his wife Cheryl have labored in the Gospel for many years despite the many discouragements along the way. Our brother is associated with “InDepth Studies”, the Acts 29 network of church planters, and more recently the uniquely Canadian C2C church planting network. In new covenant circles Murray is a long time contributor to new covenant thought and discussion.