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)
“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)
John continues to address 5 things about this “Word”. This post points 1-3.
All things were made by this pre-incarnate Word (v. 3)
“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
By pre-incarnate, we mean ‘pre-flesh.’ The first expression of the Word was physical creation. Jesus is the God of creation. He is the Creator, not the created.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn (preeminent One) over all creation, for by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Col. 1:15-16).
Creation is the ground of our responsibility to the God of heaven and earth – to the Word. How often people say that your belief is fine for you, just leave me out of it. The truth is, though, we can’t just leave it, because you are responsible to God. He made you. You were made by Him and for Him. You owe your life and breath to Him. “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Rev. 4:11) So you can’t just say, “Well, that’s fine for you, if you want to believe that and live that way, but I want to follow my own way.” That’s failing to come to terms with reality. He has made you. “All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.” Thus, He will demand an accounting from you at the end of time, and He will get it!
We are responsible to God and accountable to God. It is He who has made us and not we ourselves. Thus, John begins his gospel here – with the truth that we have been made by God, and we’ve been made for God. In fact, we’ve been made by the very Person who became flesh! The Word! We are responsible to Him; the God of Gen. 1:1 – the eternal Word.
The Word gives us light and life (v. 4-9)
“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.“
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.“
He is the source of life and He has given us life, both physical and eternal. Again in these words, we see the parallel to Gen. 1. However, in this passage, it is clear that John is speaking of more than physical life and physical light. That first creation light foreshadows a greater and true and ultimate light – Jesus, the light of the world who gives eternal life! Apart from His life, we do not have light (light is the manifestation of God – of reality – of truth). Apart from Jesus, we are blind and in darkness. We live to please ourselves. We need His life in order to see what is true and good and right.
“And the light shines in the darkness,” … the darkness of this world (a world separated from the life of God). “and the darkness did not comprehend it.” … Jesus Christ came into this world as a beacon to manifest God, but the darkness did not comprehend. It did not understand (see. V. 10). Men had the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ, but they didn’t see it. Their minds were veiled.
In verses 6-9, John the baptizer is introduced. “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 there to witness the light of creation, so this confirms that the “light” John is referring to is not that light. John the Baptist is a witness of the advent of the true light. He is the last O.T. prophet (Luke 16:16) as the fulfillment of all the promises was now here.
John the Baptist was a witness. We, too, are witnesses. A witness is not a priestly mediator between God and men. They are those who bear testimony to God’s truth, especially the great truth that Christ is the one true Savior and light of the World. John, the writer of this gospel account, emphasizes that John the Baptist was not that light. “He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.” John the Baptist did not testify about himself, but pointed to the true light. He bore witness. He didn’t just “live it.” Witnessing is a verbal testimony. It is a legal term (“to bear witness“) of one’s testimony in a court of law. (See Peter in Acts 2:40 and Paul in Acts 20:21). You can’t bear witness with your lives. Your life should be consistent with your testimony and back it up, but it is not your testimony.
John came to bear witness that all might believe his testimony and “behold the Lamb of God.”
(Illustration) During WW II, churches in England met in the dark on Sunday evenings. Once during the sermon, someone accidentally flipped on the lights. There was a gasp throughout the congregation and the message came to an abrupt halt. One man asked, “What happened? Why did he stop?” His neighbor explained, “Someone turned on the light.” You see the man was blind and so if someone did not bear witness of that light, he would never have known the light was shining.
“That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.“
Jesus is the true Light. There is a Greek word “true” that means the opposite of false. This is not the word that John uses. This word means “ultimate” or “real”. It is the ultimate and genuine light beside which all other lights are imperfect and partial. (i.e. as I might show a picture of my wife, Cheryl, and then say, now here is the “true” Cheryl.)
The true Light was now shining – coming into the world (same phrase used in John 6:14, 11:27, 16:28, and 18:37 – always used of the coming of the Light – the Word – into the world.)
When the light shines on men, it reveals how dirty they are (Isa. 49:9). Many don’t like this. They don’t appreciate the Light at all.
That’s why …
The Word confronts us and divides us (v. 10-13)
“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.“
The light shines on every man and divides the human race. The “world” is used most often by John to refer to the created world order which had rebelled against God. (i.e. John 3:16 is emphasizing the depth of God’s love, not the extent. His love is so amazing, because the world is so bad.)
“He came to His own,” … literally “His own property.” (specifically the Jews) and they “did not receive Him” as would seem a righteous and logical thing to do. His own people, the Jews, did not receive Him. This was not because they were worse than us, for they are representative of mankind. They just did first what all men do. For, because of the fall, we are all sinners by nature. We are fallen in every part – mind, heart, and will. Because of the fall, we are condemned and God will punish the sinner. Man continually wants to deny this. He wants to suppress the truth that he is a condemned sinner under the condemnation of God.
Some think that as long as they are sincere, they’ll be OK. Some view God as totally and only a God of love. So they think everyone will be accepted unless maybe they’re really terrible like Hitler. Still others have made some sort of profession of faith and they believe that once you’re in, you’re in. So they think they will be all right. Oh how people have lost the concept that there is one true God who has made us and who will hold us accountable in the end, and that we are sinful and that is not a little problem to overcome.
To some, God is just some “new age force.” Others don’t see the problem to be rebellion against God, but instead they view the problem as:
– or bad genes
– or being abused as a child
– or tough breaks in life
– or similar kinds of things.
At the end of the day, they do admit that yes, they have done some bad things and that they are a sinner, but in their heart of hearts, they really don’t think they are that bad of person. These people do not see their offense as rebellion against the true and living God. Due to this lack of understanding of foundational truths of God and man’s problem, if you tell these people how Jesus died on the cross demonstrating incredible love to sinners and how important it is to have faith in Him, they are hearing you quite differently than what you are actually trying to say. They hear things like, ‘If you really want a full life, try this Jesus stuff. It will help. It will save your marriage, and give you peace within.” Thus, a self-seeking, me-first kind of individual might consider “giving Jesus a try.”
For so many, today, you have to start further back because so many know so very little. To many, “God” is a nice word and “sin” is a word to snicker at. For many, we have to start where Paul started in Acts 17. We need to witness of the God who created us – a God who doesn’t need us. He is the sovereign God who raises up and disposes nations as He will. He runs things and history is moving to an end.
It is horrifying to read that “His own did not receive Him.” If you reject Christ, you will find no shelter in the day of judgment. Your rejection and ignoring of the testimony of God’s own Son reveals your willful rebellion and your desire to be the center and call all the shots. You who think of this but lightly, for you to say, “I don’t care,” is to your own damnation. This really shows how little you grasp of the power of God and His holy wrath against sin. You who wince at pain; you who flinch when you touch something hot; you are hurdling onward to the greatest pain and you will not be able to just flinch or pull away! Oh the horror of that day. Wake up! Wake up, sinner! Do you not see that the wrath of God abides on you? Listen to God’s testimony of Jesus Christ who is the Savior of sinners. God made sure His Word was written and recorded so that it would be sure to us and our consciences.
“But as many as received Him , (to receive is the opposite of reject) to them He gave the right (or privilege) 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.“
Men are not God’s children naturally. We are His offspring (Acts 17:28), but not His legitimate children. The people who are given the honor of becoming His children are described as – having received Him, (not having joined an organization but having received Him)
– having believed in His name, (What does it mean to believe in His name? He has the name which is above every name [Phil. 2:9-11]. So to believe in His name includes bowing to and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of the Father.)
– having been born of God (regeneration). The only ones who are His children have had a spiritual birth. Clearly, these people are not any better than the others. It is God alone who makes the difference.
“not of blood” … i.e. not inherited through parents. All we get through our parents is our sin nature.
“nor of the will of the flesh” … i.e. not by our efforts or goodness. Not by works of righteousness which we have done. You cannot make yourself a Christian by your own will.
“nor of the will of man” … i.e. not the acts or deeds of others. This says that nor can someone else do something to make you a Christian by some rite or ceremony.
“but of God.” A man must be born of God.
This is no common honor to be called the children of God – to be sons of God – to receive the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” To be a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ; we who were by nature children of wrath; is an incredible privilege. Christ Himself bestows this right. We who believe are the children of God based on the authority of God Himself!
The story is told of Napoleon reading a map on his horse, when suddenly the horse reared up and he would have been thrown were it not for the quick response of a lowly corporal who ran forward and brought the animal under control. Napoleon regrasped his horse and said, ‘Thank you, captain.”
“Of what company, Sire?”
“Of my guards,” Napoleon responded.
So the former corporal and newly appointed captain of the guards threw down his musket and went to the headquarters of the General’s staff and took his place among the emperor’s officers. When it was demanded of him what was he doing, he replied, “I am captain of the guards!”
“By whose authority?” they asked.
“By the authority of the emperor!” And that is what matters. You can call yourself captain and so can others, but there is no ultimate authority apart from the emperor.
I am a child of God. By whose authority? The authority of God
Himself and by an act of God Himself! This theme of new birth will be picked up again in chapter 3.
Next post, part three (points 4 & 5) 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.