“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” John 1:1-5
The first five verses of the Gospel of John are among the most beautifully arranged passages in all of Scripture. Their flow and use of imagery remind me more of poetry than prose which is how most versions of the Bible present it.
That being said, there is an immense amount of truth packed into these few short verses that we often miss. Perhaps it is because we have heard them so many times that we simply assume we understand their meaning. Or perhaps, we have never actually stopped to take the necessary time to thoroughly ponder their significance. Whatever the case may be, the next two articles will delve into these verses in an effort to gain valuable insights into what God is using them to teach us.
John opens his book with some Christology 101. Any question about the identity of the Word is quickly answered allowing John to focus on the life and work of Christ in the rest of his book. Yet, the first five verses make ten statements, which if understood correctly, will aide both our understanding of the nature of Who Jesus really is and help us identify teaching that is contrary to His identity.
Let’s begin by looking at the first four statements these verses make:
1. “In the beginning was the Word.” John echoes the opening words of the Bible from Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning”. The claim that Jesus is present in the beginning is huge. For John to make this statement is essentially to say that Jesus predates time. For Jesus to be present in the beginning He must be eternal, that is, without beginning or end. Since He existed before time, it means He must also exist outside of time. Jesus is transcendent over it and is not constrained by it.
2. “And the Word was with God.” In addition to using the same opening line as Genesis 1:1, John now points to the congruence of the two passages. Genesis states that in the beginning was God and John has now stated that not only was Jesus present in the beginning, but He was present with God. God the Father and God the Son are present in the beginning in perfect unity along with the Holy Spirit, (see Genesis 1:2). Jesus has eternally existed with God.
3. “And the Word was God.” Jesus is God. The weight of this statement cannot be overstated. It helps make sense of claims that Jesus made that He is eternal and that He has an intimate union with God the Father. It asserts both His right to our worship (Exodus 20:3) and His sovereign rule over creation (Psalm 103:19). This statement ought to immediately caution us against any attempt to marginalize Jesus or to relegate Him to a role which is not congruent with His deity. If He is God, He cannot merely be a nice man, a good teacher, a humble prophet, or even a lower form of a god. He is the God of the Old Testament, YHWH.
4. “He was with God in the beginning.” This is a restatement of the first part of verse one. Anytime we see repetition in Scripture it should cause us to pause and consider that something extremely significant is being communicated. The truth that Jesus is eternally existent with God, possible only because He is God, is of the utmost importance since His primary purpose was to bear the penalty of our sin. Only an infinite being could bear the weight of all mankind’s sinfulness and rebellion.
There are six remaining statements we’ll investigate at a later date. In the meantime, let’s open up our Bibles and examine these statements further. As we do so, our challenge is to embrace their truth, not only in an intellectual sense, but in a way that truly causes us to sincerely live in the light of their meaning. We should seek God, desire Him, and press on so that we may know Him at a deeper level.