The Word and His Witness
From the beginning, “John handles issues of profound importance…Here divinity and humanity, preexistence and incarnation, revelation and sacrifice are each discussed by John with deceptive simplicity.” – Gary M. Burge. The NIV Application Commentary: John. p. 52.
From the beginning, we see John begin to explain the unique nature and mission of Jesus Christ, the god-man. These themes will continue to echo and be further explained throughout the gospel. Yet John wastes no time explaining Jesus to be the unique and perfect representation of God in the world.
I. The Divine Word (1.1-2)
- “In the beginning” should remind us of Genesis 1.1. Genesis begins to tell us of God’s old creation. John tells us how we become new creations (2 Cor. 5.17).
- “word” – the english translation really does a disservice to the essence of the Greek word “logos”. It carries the idea of personal expression and “word in deed”.
- Note: “The word of God is distinguished from God himself, and yet exists in a close personal relation with him; moreover, the Word shares the very nature of God, ‘the Word was God’. – F.F. Bruce. The Gospel of John. p. 31.
- “the Word was God” – some insert ‘a god’. into this translation, arguing against a monotheistic/trinitarian thought. However there is not article ‘a’ within the Gk. translation. Moreover, the Gk actually reads “and God was the Word.”
- Verse two further highlights Christ’s divinity by emphasizing his eternal nature.
- John emphasizes 1) Jesus shares God’s eternity, 2) Jesus was eternally with God, and 3) Jesus is one with God.
II. The Word Is Creator and Light (1.3-5)
- Paul states this as well in Colossians 1.15-18.
- “Love’s instinct is to create; so out of the unique communion of love between ‘God’ and ‘the Word’, the universe sprang into existence.” – Bruce Milne. The Message of John. p. 37.
- “without him was not any thing made that was made” – 1. If science seeks to provide a single theory that describes the whole universe, then, theologically that theory is a person – Jesus. By stating creation in a negative, John seeks to confront a common theory of his day that God made the world out of some sort of pre-existing primeval soup, which explained the source of evil in the world. This distorts God’s sovereignty and the origin of sin, and thus distorts the gospel.
- Three aspects about the logos-light: 1. It offers illumination to every person, 2. it shines in the context of darkness, 3. darkness does not overcome it. This highlights God’s general revelation to all men through conscience and creation.
- Three Applications: 1. The universe declares the greatness of Jesus. 2. Sin and evil do not lessen Christ’s rule over the universe. He has all authority. 3. All nature is to be respected and preserved. Not worshipped. We reserve worship for the Creator alone. All life, as an aspect of creation is to be respected and preserved.
A. John, A Witness to the Light (1.6-8)
- A personal commission – sent from God
- A Christ-centered message – a witness to the light
- An Evangelistic message – that all might believe through him.
III. The Word Is Creator (1.9-13)
- “light” – A common theme in John’s writings is the comparison and contrast of light and darkness.
The figures of light and darkness define the plot of the Gospel, for they represent the opposing powers of righteous- ness and evil, and the contrasting results of belief and un- belief. In the introductory words of the Prologue the light is the life that was manifested in Christ. Through Him the divine radiance was focused on the world as a searchlight plays on a dark landscape (1:4-5). That light, although in some corners it might be dim and undefined, was nevertheless the light of men. However vague and distorted truth might become, even in perverted form it owed its origin to the primal revelation of God. Sin and its consequent estrangement may have pro- duced a twilight in which the way of life had become obscure, but Christ had provided the illumination necessary to lead men back to God…Silently but pervasively in every contact that Jesus made, He penetrated the dark recesses of the human spirit and revealed its true character. The light of His holiness disclosed hidden hypocrisy and sin in sharp relief, banished the shadows of ignorance, superseded confusion by understanding, and dispelled sorrow. Every sign that He per- formed was a manifestation of the light that was in Him illumining the darkness of the world…The parallel figure of darkness (1:5) represents uncertainty, ignorance, and separation from God (12:35, 46). The conflict of light and darkness constitutes the plot of John. The early chapters of the Gospel describe the shining of the light into the lives of different persons whose darkness is pierce by the revelation of God in Christ. Resistance to this revelation is the reaction of darkness that does not wish to be disturbed or convicted. The rising hostility of Jesus, culminating in the crucifixion, seemed to mark the triumph of the dark- ness, for justice was frustrated, and evil prevailed over good. The death of Jesus apparently involved the denial of His claims and the defeat of righteousness. – Merrill C. Tenny. The Imagery of John. Bibliotheca Sacra 121.
- “world” – the vast majority of the time, this term has negative connotations in the gospel of John. It is the realm of creation that lives in rebellion to God and His Kingdom. This highlights God’s love, even more so, when understood properly in John 3:16. See also Rom. 5.8.
- QUES: Read verses 9-13, what evidence do you see to help you draw this conclusion?
- In verses 12-13 we see another blending of two concepts we will explore later, personal faith + divine rebirth produces believers. It requires both.
IV. The Word Is Incarnate (1.14-18)
- “the word became flesh” – Jesus didn’t appear to be human. He actually became a man. Flesh stands for the whole person, frailty and all. “Became” – when something enters a new condition, something it was not before. This is important for our redemption. (Heb. 10.3-4, 10-18) This would be troublesome for the Greek mind, for flesh was evil and spirit was good.
- “and we have seen his glory” – now a phrase troublesome for the Jew.
- “full of grace and truth” – Jesus embodies both. Let us strive to keep balance in our understanding of Christ.
- Consider the implications of verse 16. What does this mean for us? “we have all received grace upon grace”. An unbroken series of grace. Christ’s grace is completely adequate to deal with our sin.
- In verse 18 we now come full circle and end where we began. The divine Christ has made God full known. Jesus is the only one who has unique authority to reveal God to us.
B. John, A Witness to the Lamb and the Son (1.19-34)
- Throughout these verses note the distinction between John the Baptist and Jesus.
- John understands Jesus’ superiority and that he would replace his work.
- Malachi 4.5 taught that Elijah would precede the coming Messiah, thus the basis for the question in v. 21. Although John denies it, possibly on the grounds of humility, Jesus identifies him as so in Mat. 11.14.
- Verse 23, After being quizzed over his exact nature, John identifies himself with Isaiah 40.3. John prefers to known as a tool in God’s hands pointing to another.
- Note in verse 26 that John identifies this upcoming change in the Jewish standard, not as a religion, but as a person.
- In verses 29-34, John’s understanding of Jesus as the “Lamb of God” comes from divine revelation, a theme in John.
- “Lamb of God” – There is some confusion as to what John is referring to by this designation (within John’s context), however, lamb sacrifices in the OT communicated, messianic salvation, a memorial of deliverance, or forgiveness of sin. (the lamb provided for Abraham, the Lamb of Isa. 53 who was led to the slaughter, the passover lamb of Exodus 12) The overall understanding is clear, Jesus is a gift from God to take away sin. Read Heb. 9-10.
- “Son of God” – from Psalm 2.7, a designation of the Messiah. More importantly, it expresses the relationship of Jesus to God, the Father.
C. The Disciples, A Witness to the Lamb and the Son (1.35-51)
- The shift from John the Baptist’s ministry to Jesus’ ministry becomes clear as John points his followers to Jesus.
- Of interesting importance here is Jesus’ interaction with Nathanael. From this account we see the omniscience of Christ as he knows his whereabouts and movements. This exchange reminds me of Jeremiah 1.5 and confirms Romans 8:29-30.