Full of Grace and Truth
According to John
A verse-by-verse study in John 1 (verses 1 through 18)
John’s gospel, written a number of years after Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote their accounts, fills in things never mentioned by these other evangelists. John provides information and insights the Christian church has long appreciated. Particularly important is John’s opening description of the pre-human existence of Jesus Christ.
In the Beginning—John 1:1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
The phrase “in the beginning” brings to mind the opening words of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Whether it was the beginning of our observable universe, or a period long before that, John wants his readers to know Jesus already existed. This “Word” (Greek: Logos) was not the man Christ Jesus. It was the one who two thousand years ago became the man Christ Jesus. Jesus often referred to the time he was with his Father before the world existed (see John 3:13; 6:46,62; 8:14,58; 16:28; 17:5).
John is the only writer to use the term Logos as a title for our Lord in his prehuman existence (see also 1 John 1:1 and Revelation 19:13). It would have been better if the Greek word Logos had been left untranslated as Benjamin Wilson did in the Emphatic Diaglott. After all, most Bibles do not translate the Greek words Iesous [Jesus] and Christos [Christ].
Logos is an appropriate title because Jesus articulates the invisible God’s thoughts to mankind. As the apostle wrote, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:1-3, NIV).
Most translators and commentators think the first verse of John’s gospel is one of the best proofs of a Trinity (or at least two out of three parts of a Trinity). Many argue that the Greek demands the rendering “the Word was God,” and since all things were made by him, clearly he himself was never made. But they never try to rationalize how someone can be “with” someone else and at the same time actually “be” that someone else. That the Logos was a created being is clearly stated elsewhere: “Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14).
Throughout the New Testament Jesus acknowledges the superiority of his Father and his own status as the “son of God.” In his epistle John writes: “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15).
The son is associated with God from the beginning but he is also distinct from him. As Paul wrote, “To us there is but one God, the Father” (1 Corinthians 8:6). The son’s subservience to his Father is clearly stated by Jesus: “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth” (John 5:19,20).
When Jesus performed miracles, it was not the man Christ Jesus doing them; it was the power of the heavenly Father operating through the holy spirit that did them. This applies to the creative works as well. Paul wrote: “To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Corinthians 8:6). As John observed, “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand” (John 3:35).
The Father and Son work together in harmony. The Genesis account of creation says God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). John says the world was made by Jesus (John 1:10). However, the word “by” (Greek: dia, Strong’s #1223) means “through,” as in the channel of an act, and is so translated by Rotherham and others. The Logos was God’s agent in the creative work.
John’s equating of life and light emphasizes his love for these two terms. The word “life” appears more than twice as often in John than in any other New Testament book; the word “light” about twice as often as in the other gospels. The juxtaposition of life and light was also done by the psalmist: “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:9). Paul says Jesus brought “life and immortality to light” (2 Timothy 1:10). Note that in John 1:3,4 Jesus was not “a” light; he was “the” light, something the world had never seen before. In Genesis God said let there be light and there was light; two thousand years ago he again said let there be light, and the Messianic light shone forth.
Darkness is a term always associated with the world of Satan: “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18). Likewise our spiritual battles are against the forces of darkness: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
John the Baptist—John 1:6-14
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power [or: privilege] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made 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.
The idea of giving a witness or testimony is another concept emphasized more by John than by any other author of a New Testament book. Here the ministry of John the Baptist (but never referred to as “the Baptist” in this gospel) is discussed, particularly as he directed the people’s attention to the Messiah, someone they had anticipated for so long (Luke 3:15), but who remained largely unrecognized by all (see Luke 3:23-38).
Referring to Jesus as a one who “lighteth every man that cometh into the world” can only be understood prophetically. Jesus never enlightened most of his own nation, and he had almost no contact with non-Jews. But by coming into the world, he became the light of the world (see John 3:19). Those who lived and died before him, and who have lived and died since without knowing anything of this marvelous light will be enlightened eventually. That will be the work of his earthly kingdom.
Jesus came to his own people, the Jews, but their wish for a triumphant, conquering Messiah who would restore again the kingdom to Israel so blinded them they “received him not.” Of course the great Adversary of God carries the greater blame: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Jewish leaders were so concerned with retaining their personal power, any threat to their status had to be crushed at all costs. Their attitude demonstrated the truth of the words Jesus used in one of his parables: “This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours” (Luke 20:14).
There were a few who believed and accepted the privilege extended to them to become the sons of God. But these were so few that Jesus said to the nation, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). Even those who believed on him did not become the “sons of God” during his earthly ministry. That did not occur until the day of Pentecost when the holy spirit came upon those assembled in the upper room (Acts 2:4).
Jesus’ birth was not according to blood or anything an ordinary human did. The Greek word is “bloods” (plural), perhaps referring to both father and mother. As far as the nation was concerned, their lineage took them back to father Abraham (Matthew 3:9) and mother Sarah. But Jesus’ birth was unlike that. No perfect embryo had ever emerged from a woman’s womb before; it was a miracle because of God’s power.
So the Logos was “made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory.” What glory is John talking about? According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “dwelt” (#4637) means “to reside as God did in the tabernacle of old.” God’s presence in the tabernacle was shown by the supernatural light in the Most Holy. That glory was seen only by the high priest, although the entire nation did have the witness of God’s “glory” in the cloud by day and pillar of fire at night.
The apostle John did behold a special “glory” associated with our Lord when he, along with two others, witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus: “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:1, 2, NIV).
Before his birth the Logos experienced a change of nature, from spiritual to human. At his resurrection he experienced a change from human to divine: “Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:8,9). Eventually the faithful footstep followers of the master will experience that same change of nature, from human to divine: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
The Son Declares the Father—John 1:15-18
John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Whenever the name John appears in this gospel, it refers to John the Baptist because the apostle John never speaks of himself by name. The reference to Moses in verse 17 is the first of thirteen references John makes to that patriarch in this book.
Christians love the word “grace.” Surprisingly, the King James translation of the four gospels uses that word only in this chapter and once in Luke (2:40). However, the apostle Paul used the word “grace” frequently, e.g., “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). The law given through Moses is never associated with the concept of grace except to the degree that when the nation tried to obey its precepts, they were blessed in basket and in store (Deuteronomy 28:5). The law condemned (Romans 3:19,20). However, it did provide a shadow of the grace to come (Hebrews 9:9; 10:1). Jesus’ life and his sacrificial death were the supreme fulfillment of this grace.
Although the law itself was an embodiment of truth, Jesus Christ was THE TRUTH, the very personification of truth (John 14:6). He brought to his disciples and to us, the truth about God and his plan of salvation in a completeness and clarity never before seen.
Although the Old Testament does have instances where God manifested himself to a few faithful patriarchs, they were nothing like the manifestation God has shown in the person of Jesus Christ. There on display was “grace and truth” for all to see in ways they could understand.
Because of the faithful ministry of God’s only begotten son, we who were never privileged to hear personally his gracious words are able to receive the grace of God and walk in Jesus’ footsteps.
May God grant us the strength to remain faithful to him even unto death.