Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | June 3, 2007

Lesson 1 – John 1:1-5

Lesson 1 – Study:  The Word of God – John 1:1-5

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God; the only God,[d] who is at the Father’s side,[e] he has made him known.

Brief Commentary on the Text:

The Apostle John begins this Gospel with an extended introduction comprised of these first eighteen verses.  This prologue introduces the main character of this work while deferring explicit mention of His name until verse 17, Jesus Christ.  The opening statement “in the beginning” alludes to the exact same statement used to open the Old Testament (Gen 1:1).  This is not done by accident, but seems to be emphasizing the significance of the times that commenced with the coming of our Lord as a new beginning or climax in the history of redemption.  In Genesis the creation comes into being by God’s spoken Word, “Let there be light; and there was light” (Gen 1:3).  Thus, God’s Word which called the heavens and the earth (Psalm 33:6) into existence by divine fiat is omnipotent (all-powerful). 1 Not only was God’s Word used to speak creation into existence, but even now holds all things in the universe together (Heb 1:2; Col 1:17). The Word also alludes to the means of God’s revelation, which primarily up until this point in redemptive history was communicated through the means of Prophets (Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, etc).  However, as we will see in the subsequent verses in this prologue that something phenomenally greater has occurred in the embodiment of God’s Word.  (We will engage this concept more in depth later).  This Word however is characterized as a Person, as an “outside revealer of the inward mind of God.” 2 The Apostle uses a significant term in the original Greek text for this “Word” in the term ο λογος, which is where the English term logic is derived.  This term is heavily influenced by the Greek meaning of wisdom and seems to be used intentionally by the Apostle to convey some significance.  It seems to be building upon the concept of Christ’s Divinity, equating Him with the Wisdom referenced in Proverbs 8:22-31 who is said to have participated in the creation of the world.  In fact the themes in verse 2 and 3 seem to be citing this very passage in Proverbs.  Next we see the Apostle using familiar terms that are common for all of his writings in “life”, “light” and “darkness”.  Later in this Gospel we will see the terms used explicitly by Christ Himself in the famous “I am” statements (John 8:12; John 11:25; John 14:6 and also John 3:19-21).

The Apostle John begins this Gospel with an unequivocal proclamation about the Deity of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Although, he explicitly asserts the Deity of Jesus Christ by saying that He was God and that He created the world, he also subtly affirms that Christ is also distinct from God (was with God).  Implicitly embedded within these first few verses of John are the criteria necessary to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity.  Thus, Christ is God, but also separate and distinct from the Father.  This is not a contradictory statement, but resolved in the Trinitarian formula.  This formula in and of itself is a simple way of articulating a complex and mysterious truth that will never totally be fathomed by the mind of finite man. The Apostle goes onto emphasize that it is in Christ that we find life and He is the light for men who are plunged into darkness.  His light is not impotent, however, but has overcome, vanquished and conquered the darkness in every conceivable way. 

Study Questions:

1.  What is different about this Gospel from the other three (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)?

2.  Why does the title of this book include the term Gospel?  What is Gospel?

3.  What does John tell us about the nature of this “Word”?  Who does he say that this “Word” is?       

In the beginning was the Speech:  In this introduction he asserts the eternal Divinity of Christ, in order to inform us he is the eternal God, who was manifested in the flesh, (1 Tim 3:16).  The design is, to show it to have been necessary that the restoration of mankind should be accomplished by the Son of God, since by his power all things were created, since he alone breathes into all the creatures life and energy, so that they remain in their condition; and since in man himself he has given a remarkable display both of his power and of his grace, and even subsequently to the fall of man has not ceased to show liberality and kindness towards his posterity. 3 

4.  What do the Jehovah’s Witnesses and/or Mormons say about this text?  Why do they disagree?

5.  Normally when we think of the word of God, we think of the Scriptures.  Why is it significant that Jesus Himself if called the Word of God?

In the beginning was the Speech:  As to the Evangelist calling the Son of God the Speech, the simple reason appears to me to be, first, because he is the eternal Wisdom and Will of God; and secondly, because he is the lively image of His purpose; for, as Speech is said to be among men the image of the mind, so it is not inappropriate to apply this to God, and to say that He reveals himself to us by his Speech. 4  Logos (λογος) means both reason and word, owing to the fine Hellenic (Greek) perception, that the two processes of thinking and speaking are intimately related, thinking being a sort of inward speech, speaking a sort of outward thought.  The Logos is, therefore, the outward Revealer of the inward mind of God.5 

6.  Do you believe that the word of God possesses power?  Why or Why not?

7.  Have you ever thought or heard about the connection between this passage and Proverbs 8?  Let’s read verses 22-31.

8.  How is life in Christ?  What kind of life, temporal or eternal?

In him was life:  Hitherto he has taught us, that by the Speech of God all things were created.  He now attributes to him, in the same manner, the preservation of those things which had been created; as if he had said, that in the creation of the world there was not merely displayed a sudden exercise of his power, which soon passed away, but that it is manifested in the steady and regular order of nature, as he is said to uphold all things by the word or will of his power, (Heb. 1:3). 6 

9.  What do you think of when you hear light and darkness?  How does John use these terms in his writing?

1 The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary edited by Allen C. Meyers (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans Publishing 1987), 1064

2 Geerhardus Vos (1948) Biblical Theology Old Testament and New Testaments (Banner of Truth Trust, 2000) 344-45

3 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 25

4 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 25

5 Geerhardus Vos (1948) Biblical Theology Old Testament and New Testaments (Banner of Truth Trust, 2000) 344-45

6 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 31

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