1.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Thus, the book of John begins the same way that the entire Bible begins, with the three great words, “In the beginning.”  Yet in Genesis we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Yet here there is no mention of creation.  Rather, we read that “In the beginning WAS the Word.”  Thus this Word was not created, as the heavens and the earth were, in the beginning.  Rather, the Word already was.  I would define “the beginning” as the beginning of time.  I have described this as the one moment that has ever existed when there was an “after,” but no “before.”  And in this moment, the first moment ever, the moment when the heavens and the earth were created, one great fact was true: the Word was.  He was not created then, as the heavens and the earth were.  Rather, He WAS in the beginning.  This does not mean that He existed “before time,” for there is no such thing.  There is no such thing as “before the beginning.”  Yet He WAS in the beginning, and if there had been no beginning, He still would have been.  This is difficult for us to grasp, for there is nothing else in our universe or our experience of which this is true.  Yet it is true of the Word.

Now what exactly is this “Word”?  In Greek, “Word” is logos.  The idea is that one’s words are an expression of oneself.  For those of you who have met me personally, I can say that not one of you has ever “plugged into” me and gotten to know me directly somehow.  The way you have gotten to know me or to know anything about me is by the ways I have expressed myself to you.  These ways are two: first by the words I have said, and second by the things I have done.  My words have told you what I am like, and my body language and my actions have likewise told you what I am like.  Thus, these expressions of myself have given you an idea of what I am like.  Never have you had a chance to scan my heart and soul directly.  Rather, you have only gotten to know me by the expressions of myself that you have seen and heard.

The word logos carries with it this idea of expression.  It is said that the ancient Greeks realized that there must be a God, but they also believed that He was far and away beyond human comprehension.  They could not reach Him, could not reason Him out, could not get to know Him by any means that they had.  Thus they yearned for some sort of “expression,” some logos of God, some person or thing that could express God to them and show them what He is like.  They called this theoretical expression of God the Logos.  And John starts out his book with the startling fact that he is going to set forth this very Logos to us!

The Jews likewise admitted the existence of a Logos, only their view of Him was not based on wishful thinking or conjecture, but rather upon the evidence of their Hebrew Scriptures.  For example, they knew that the Bible declared, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Exodus 33:20.)  Yet earlier in the same chapter, it was declared, “So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11a.)  How could this be, unless Moses somehow talked not to God, but rather to some expression, some Logos, of Him?  Moreover, we read of many such face-to-face meetings with God, such as that of Abraham in Genesis 18.  An even more direct reference to this Word is in Samuel 3:7-8, where we read, “Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor was the word of the LORD yet revealed to him.”  Then, a few verses later, we read, “Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel!  Samuel!’”  What was this “word of the LORD” that was not yet revealed to Samuel?  Moreover, Who was it Who came and stood and called to Samuel?  This was the Logos, the expression of God, the enigma that the Jews struggled to understand.  And John starts off his book by declaring for us who and what this Word is.

We read that the Word was with God in the beginning.  Thus God, like the Word, WAS in the beginning, and did not somehow come into being or be created in the beginning, as everything else was.

Then we read that the Word was God.  Some in groups that deny the absolute Godhood of Christ have pointed out that in Greek there is no definite article “the” before “God” like there is before “Word.”  Thus, they suggest that this should read, “the Word was a God.”  Yet these show forth little understanding of Koine Greek.  The definite article “the” before “Word” is there not to show that it was “the” Word as opposed to “a” Word, but rather to mark that word “Word” as the subject, so that we would not mistakenly think that we are to read “God was the Word.”  Definite articles are assumed, and are unnecessary in Greek.  The lack of an article before “God” does not indicate that the article should be the indefinite “a,” but rather that “Word,” not “God,” is the subject.  The Word was not just “a” God.  He was God, in every sense of that word.  This is a wonderful truth, and it sets forth for us clearly what it is that John is going to prove to us and help us believe in this book.

2.  He was in the beginning with God.

Again we have emphasized the fact that He was not CREATED in the beginning, but rather that He simply WAS in the beginning, and thus had no beginning.  Time was not necessary for His existence, as it is for all other things.  He could and did exist without it.

3.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

The word “God” in Hebrew has special reference to two things: the Creator and the Judge.  These follow from one another, for the One Who created all things is logically the One Who has the right to judge them.  His right to do so stems from the fact that He is the Creator.  And here John makes the clear and undeniable statement that this Word or Logos of God that he is talking about not only is God, but is also the Creator.  It was neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit apart from Christ Who made the world.  He was the Creator, and nothing was made without Him.

4.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

He is not only the Creator, but He is also represented as the source of life itself.  This doesn’t mean simply that He was alive, but rather that He is the originator of life, and that all life flows from Him.  Moreover, that life that is in Him is the light of men.  Without that source of life, we would be in the darkness of nonexistence.  Only through His life are we enlightened by life and health and our very being.

The word “men” here is anthropos, and indicates all humanity, not just males in particular.  There was a time when this would have been obvious, but many today are refusing to understand it and have a chip on their shoulders about such things.  To translate anthropos by “humanity” would not be at all foreign to the meaning of the Greek word used here.

5.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

We are brought from Creation and the light of men to consider the current dark state of mankind.  Humanity has fallen from God, and the peoples are covered in darkness.  Yet in that darkness the light of the Word shines.  And the darkness could not overcome it.  That is the meaning of “comprehend” here.  No matter how dark and terrible our world may seem, it will never overcome the light of the Word of God.  Let us rest in that wonderful truth!

6.  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

The Lord breaks into this great witness about the Word to introduce this character John to us.  He gives us no clue as to who he is, other than that his name is John.  Many here have attached this John to John the Baptizer, as he is mentioned later in this chapter in verse 15.  Yet does John the Baptist really fit as the John mentioned here?  We will consider this in reference to the next verse.

“There was” indicates not that he was pre-existent, as the Word was, but rather has the idea that he came to be suddenly or that he “arose.”  Since I hold with the Word of God that no man since Adam and his wife has ever come into existence suddenly without going through the natural process of birth, I believe that this man John did not come into being suddenly, but rather that his sending from God was what occurred suddenly.  Thus the idea is that there suddenly arose out of nowhere, as it were, a man sent from God.  Yet sent to do what?  To preach in the wilderness, as John the Baptist did?  But this mission did not come about suddenly.  Rather, it had been predicted six hundred years before by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 40:3,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.’”
Thus John the Baptist’s ministry did not occur suddenly, but was in fulfillment of a prophecy made six hundred years before!

The word “sent” is the Greek word apostello, the verb form of the noun “apostle.”  It means not just a simple sending, but rather a commissioning with authority.  This John was sent by God with the authority to do some great thing.  Let us look at the next verse to figure out what that something was.

7.  This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.

The first two phrases might well fit John the Baptist.  He came as a witness, and he bore witness of the Light, even Christ, as he himself testified in John 1:31.  Yet does the last phrase in this verse fit John the Baptist?  Was he really sent “that all through him might believe”?  His testimony as to why he came is given in John 1:31, that “I did not know Him, but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”  John the Baptist’s purpose was to reveal Christ to Israel.  That is why he came.  That is why he taught.  Yet does that fit with the ministry of the John mentioned in this verse?  This John was sent that all through him might believe.  Revealing Christ is not the same thing as having all believe in Him through you.  John never called upon anyone to believe in Christ.  He was the one who pulled back the curtain, if you will, and announced Who it was Who was standing on the stage for all Israel to see.  Yet he never called upon even one person to believe, not to mention “all.”  Thus this statement does not fit John the Baptist nor his ministry in the least.

But if this John mentioned here is not John the Baptist, who is it then?  I believe that there is only one John who will fit.  That is the John who is the author of this book!  In the first five verses of this book, we had many amazing, staggering, almost unbelievable statements made.  Someone at the time this was written who was reading this book for the first time might be thinking by the time he got done with the first five verses, “Who is writing this book?  Who does he think he is, to make such incredible statements?  Is he claiming to be this Word himself?”  Thus, to answer such questions that were certain to arise, I believe that John broke into the narrative here to explain his own authorship.  He was not writing by his own will.  He did not just decide to write this book.  Rather, he was commissioned by God suddenly to write it.  And in writing this book, his purpose was to be to bear witness to that Light, so that all men might believe through him.  How would they believe through him?  By reading this book and believing what it says!  These statements fit much better with the apostle John and his purpose in writing this book than they ever could with John the Baptist and his ministry.  Just because John the Baptist is mentioned farther down in the passage does not mean that this is the same John here.  This is not the place for John the Baptist to appear, for the Word has not yet become flesh at this point.  Rather, this is the place for the author of this amazing treatise to identify himself and his credentials to be making such radical statements.  That is exactly what John does in these two verses.

But some at this point might dismiss this argument.  “If John was speaking of himself,” they might say, “Why does he then act like he is talking about someone else?  Wouldn’t he tell us clearly that he was talking about himself if that was indeed the case?”  I believe that such a person would be acting prematurely to dismiss this argument in this way.  The fact is that as we read through the book of John, we will see that the author never refers to himself directly.  In John 13:23, he refers to himself as “one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.”  In John 20:2, he calls himself “the other disciple, whom Jesus loved.”  In John 21:20, he again calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  And in John 21:24, when he finally reveals who this other disciple is, he still refers to himself as if he were talking about someone else, “This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.”  So that even here he acts like someone else is writing about him.  I believe John spoke of himself this way for a purpose, a purpose that found its source in God.  God did not want John in any way to glorify himself or be glorified for writing this book.  Rather, all the glory in this book was to go to Jesus Christ.  Thus, for John to openly identify himself as the author would be taking too great a place for himself in a book reserved for setting forth the greatness of the Lord Jesus.  Thus, when referring to himself, John always wrote as if he were speaking of someone else.  That is what is going on in these two verses.  While he is being forced to speak of himself to show the credentials he has to write such incredible statements, he at the same time only refers to himself as if he were speaking of someone else.  Thus he proclaims his authorship without begging glory for himself.  That is why these verses are written this way, and that is why they are located right here in the midst of these amazing statements about Christ.  We would do well to interpret and understand them this way.

8.  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

This answers the other question I mentioned above that a reader of the staggering statements in the first five verses might have.  That is whether or not the author himself is claiming to be this great Light that he is talking about.  John makes it crystal clear here that he is not claiming to be this light.  His purpose was to write this book to bear witness of that Light.  He makes this very clear so that no one will get the wrong idea.  This book was not written to glorify the author himself, but rather to glorify Jesus Christ.

9.  That was the true Light Which gives light to every man who comes into the world.

Having identified himself as the author and given his credentials, John goes back to his amazing monologue on the Word and the Light.  He now identifies this Light as the very Light Which gives light to every man who comes into the world.  This statement is something that has always been true, not just that is true now.  This statement is made long before “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (verse 14.)  I believe that this is something that Jesus Christ has done for every man who has ever lived.  This does not mean that everyone is given equal light.  Some, especially those who have His written Word, have far more light than others.  But I do believe that there is a certain amount of light given to every man who has ever lived.  All men have what we like to call a “conscience.”  I believe that the conscience is just a result of God’s enlightening work on behalf of mankind to show them what is right and what is wrong.  That conscience can be corrupted and that conscience can be twisted, but in basic nature that conscience is not something that is inherent in man, but rather that is given to man to enlighten him by the true Light.  Then there is also the knowledge that there is a God.  I believe that every man who is born is born with the knowledge that there is a God.  Some have it taught out of them very young, it is true, but not one is lacking it to begin with.  And if there was some way a child could be raised all alone without any human contact and anyone to teach it to him, I believe he would still have a knowledge that there is a God generated within him.  We do not really have to convince children that there is a God.  This is just something that is internally revealed to them by the One Who is the Light of the world.  Not one person who has come into this world has been missed.  All are enlightened by the true Light.

10.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

Once again we need to remind ourselves that “the world” is not the same thing as “the earth.”  “World” in Greek is kosmos from which we get our English word “cosmos,” which means the universe.  Yet in Greek it did not mean the universe, but rather referred to a system or an order.  Our universe is an ordered system, yet this is not what the Bible refers to when it uses the word.  Rather, it refers to the ordered system that exists upon the earth and in which we all live.  We speak of someone living in “his own little world,” and what we mean is that he lives according to the system or order that exists in his own mind and experience.  Yet in a way we all live in “our own little world,” our own little system and order that exists around us.  Sometimes we travel and step out of that world, but we can never step completely out of the world of mankind.  Even when going to outer space, for example, the men who were astronauts had to take parts of our world with them, such as air and food.  Without these essential parts of this world, they could not have survived in the harsh conditions that exist outside the earth’s atmosphere.

Thus when this verse refers to the Light being in the world, it tells us the important truth that God is in our world.  He is an essential part of the system and the order of things here on earth.  Although few recognize Him or even acknowledge His presence, He has always been a part of the ordered system in which we live.  For He made this system!  He was the One Who designed the planet on which we live, the air we breath, and the food we eat.  Even such things as our speech and the ways we socialize were first developed by Him.  Now it is true that our world has been corrupted in ways that are no fault of His but have everything to do with us.  Yet the fact remains that He created the world, and He has been in it since the beginning.  Yet the sad fact is that the world of men does not know the One Who made them and Who is even now in the world.  They refuse to get to know or even to acknowledge Him and the role He plays in this world.  This has been true ever since the first two people on earth decided to disobey Him and reject His commandment, and this will be true until the day when He moves to take control of the earth through His kingdom and reverse the law of sin and death once and for all.

11.  He came to His Own, and His Own did not receive Him.

At this point John moves from the world in general to Israel in particular.  Although all the world belongs to Him, Israel has always been especially “His Own,” and yet even they often refused to receive Him.  We do not have to read His incarnation into this verse.  We can see examples of this happening over and over in the Old Testament, when He came to His Own people Israel and they refused to receive Him as they should have.

12.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name:

This would be true of any in all the world who received Him, although in Israel such a reception would have been more common.  Yet it was always true that as many as received Him received from Him the right to become children of God.  This word “children” is the Greek word teknon, and is properly translated “children” here.  In the old King James this was translated as “son,” but this is wrong, for “son” is the translation of the Greek word huios.  I have set forth in my message on “Sonship” the important difference between a child and a son.  A son is not just a male child, but rather is considered a representative of his father.  What is referred to here is not sons, but simply children.  All who believe in His name receive the right to become His children.  Yet only certain ones are allowed to become sons.

To believe in someone’s name is to believe the reputation you have heard about him.  For example, the queen of Sheba came to Solomon because of his reputation that she had heard.  She did not know whether or not to believe that reputation, and so she came to see for herself.  And in I Kings 10:7 she admitted that what she had heard wasn’t even half as wonderful as what was actually true of Solomon!  In the same way those who believe in His name believe the wonderful report that God gives them about Himself.  Whether that report is merely the inherent knowledge that God gives them or is the far greater knowledge of Himself as revealed through His Word, the important point as far as they are concerned is whether or not they believe.  Those who believe the report get the right to become children of God.  Those who do not fail to receive that right.

13.  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

This verse reveals why they believe this report.  It is not because they are wonderful people or good people or religious people.  It is because this belief is born or generated in them.  This belief does not come about because of something inherited in the blood, or because of their own fleshly will, or because of the will of a husband, as a natural baby does.  Rather, this belief is born or generated in them by God Himself.  Only through Him can anyone truly understand and believe in His name.  Without Him none of us would ever seek after or find God.  Thank the Lord that in His mercy He reached out and saved us!

14.  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.

Now comes another staggering statement.  This Word, this Logos, this One Who revealed and set forth God, became flesh and dwelt among us!  What an amazing truth that is.  Some refuse to believe that such a thing is possible.  They cannot believe that God could ever become a man.  Yet I would argue that if God is not able to project Himself into mankind and become like us, then He is not truly the all-powerful God that we claim He is.  Is anything truly too hard for the Lord?  Of course not!  He not only is fully capable of projecting Himself into mankind and becoming a man like us, but He did that very thing, becoming flesh and dwelling among us.  What a glorious truth this is!

“Us” and “we” here refer to the Israelites, the “His Own” of verse 11, to whom Christ came and among whom He carried out His ministry.  They were the ones who beheld his glory.  John in particular beheld it, for he was one of the three who beheld His transfiguration on the mount (Matthew 17:1-8.)  Yet all the Israelites truly got a glimpse of His glory by their contact with Him.

The glory that He displayed was glory “as of the only begotten of the Father.”  This does not mean that He was “God’s only little boy.”  Remember, He WAS in the beginning with God.  He was never created.  His “begetting” was as the “Son” or representative of God.  He was the only One ever begotten by God as His one true representative.  He is the only One Who will ever show forth God totally and in every aspect.  Thus He is called the “only begotten.”  Moreover, He is “full of grace and truth.”  He is completely gracious, and He is indeed the Truth.  No other source for grace and truth can there be other than Jesus Christ.

15.  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.’”

A “John” is mentioned again, but this does not mean that this is the same John as is mentioned in verses 6-8.  This John is clearly John the Baptist.  John the author refers to him here as his first great witness to the person of Jesus Christ and the truth about Him.  As I said in my introduction to this book, this book is not written to just be about the life of Jesus Christ.  Rather, it is a treatise written for the expressed purpose of producing people who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and who by believing receive life through His name.  Crucial to producing such belief is presenting to us witnesses to the truth about Christ.  Many witnesses will we find in John who will testify as to His person.  John the Baptizer is the first witness, and he speaks here, telling us that the Lord Jesus is preferred before him because He was before him.  Christ came after John in terms of His ministry.  John’s ministry came first, and then Christ’s.  Yet this does not mean that John’s ministry was greater than Christ’s.  For example, we might say that Elijah’s ministry was greater than Elisha’s ministry, even though Elisha received a “double portion of your” (Elijah’s) “spirit”  (II Kings 2:9,) because his ministry came first, and Elisha’s was merely patterned after it.  We could not say this of Christ’s and John’s ministries, however.  Christ’s ministry was preferred before John’s.  Why does John say this is so?  Because He existed before John.  This is a clear reference to His pre-existence.  For we know that John was Christ’s cousin, and that He was conceived six months earlier than Christ was conceived (Luke 1:26.)  Therefore, the only way Christ could have lived before John is if He had existed before John, not as a man, but as God Himself!

16.  And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

This is John the author speaking now, not John the Baptist.  He speaks of the salvation that we now enjoy.  Because of that salvation, we have received “of His fullness.”  From Him all blessings flow, and of Him we have received them.  And, most blessed of all, we have received His grace.  Grace, as we should all know, is love and favor to the undeserving.  It is grace that brings us into relationship with God.  Grace is the medium, if you will, by which our communication lines with God are re-established.

“Grace for grace” does not mean that He exchanged one kind of grace for another or something like that.  The idea in Greek is of grace “over against” grace, as if there were stacks of grace piled up one against another.  Saying that we receive “grace upon grace” would carry the same idea in English.  We do not receive just one batch of grace from Him and then are done.  We receive grace after grace after grace.  How blessed we are indeed!

17.  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

The idea is not that there was no grace before Jesus Christ’s incarnation on earth.  There was certainly grace at the time of Moses, as God declared of Himself then, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6b-7)  Moreover, the law was not some kind of error, but most certainly was truth.  The point is that Jesus Christ is the personification of both grace and truth.  He was the source of grace and truth even in Old Testament times, and He is just as much the source of grace and truth today.

18.  No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

God in His absolute form is not viewable or in any other way perceivable.  If we had to rely on getting to know God apart from Jesus Christ, we would never be able to do it.  But the wondrous truth is that we can get to know God, and the method is by getting to know the only begotten representative Son of God, Jesus Christ.

When it mentions that He is “in the bosom of the Father,” this indicates a continual abiding there.  Of course, God does not literally have a bosom, and so Christ cannot literally remain in it.  God is anthropomorphized here.  But what the figure indicates is the preciousness of Christ to God.  Something that you kept continually in your bosom would have to be something most precious to you.  In the same way, the Lord Jesus is most precious to His Father.  And this beloved, only begotten Son of God is the One Who declares Him to us.  Without the Son, we would have no knowledge of the Father.  Through the Son we have the Father declared to us.