A Commentary on
by Cooper Abrams
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Like Genesis 1:1 John begins with the beginning of the Universe. He states that in the beginning was the "Word." John 1:14 identifies the Word as Jesus Christ recording "that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." The statement is not telling us of the beginning of the Word, but rather that before the Universe existed there was the Word. In other words before the Universe existed Jesus Christ was and this is a strong and powerful statement testifying to His Deity. John is intensely presenting the truth which is the basis of all truth. . .Jesus Christ is Deity. Jesus is God.
The "Word" is the Greek word "Logos." It is a title of the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore a personal name of Christ. The word "logos" is the expression of thought, not the mere name of an object. 1 It means the revelation of God, the "logos," was with God and was God. This defines the word as being a more than knowledge revealed but a person. Verse 14 makes it explicitly clear the "Logos" was Jesus Christ, God incarnate in Flesh. Thus the "logos" and Jesus Christ are one and the same. Jesus is the "logos." John 1:18 states "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." The statement "No man has seen God at any time," means our knowledge of God did not come from any man. The Word "declared" is the Greek word "exegeomai" and means the Jesus, the Word, has revealed to the world God the Father. The word further means to unfold by teaching. 2 Therefore, all mankind knows of God, Jesus has revealed to us. It speaks to the Deity of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus knows all things of God and therefore has revealed the knowledge of God to man. It implies that there is no knowledge of God known that Jesus did not reveal though out all-time, both in the Old and New Testament.
The verse says the "Word was with God." Genesis 1:1 tells us, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." God tells us in many statements that He has no beginning or end and therefore is eternal. God the Father is Alpha and Omega. 3 God in the Old Testament revealed this truth to Isaiah saying, "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God." (Isaiah 44:6)
We are material men, bound to the limits of time and cannot grasp the scope of this statement. Man in this physical world has nothing to explain or to compare to the concept of existence without time, space and matter. Yet, without question this is the truth that describes God's existence. God is Spirit and exists outside the Universe. 4 He spoke the Universe into existence. Until this event the Universe did not exist or anything that is a part of it. Time, space and matter were created on the first day of Creation and then for a period of six days God formed all our Universe and created life. We as men exist in time, but God, our Creator, exists outside of our material world and outside the limits of time, space and matter. This is not a truth we can understand, but a revelation from God about His existence and therefore we accept it without understanding it.
John states the "Word was with God," therefore the Word existed before the world. In Jesus' prayer before He was crucified and resurrected, He prayed to God the Father expressing this truth. "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." (John 17:5) Jesus is eternal as is God the Father. When Jesus was born of Mary, the virgin Jewish maid, it was not His beginning. His earthly birth was His incarnation. "Incarnation" is a special word used to describe the living embodiment of a deity, or spirit in flesh as a man. In Christian theology it refers to the embodiment of God the Son in human flesh as Jesus Christ. 5
This statement explains the "Logos" who is Jesus Christ is distinct and separate from God the Father. Jesus is not God the Father, but God the Son. God the Father is also distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit. However, it does not teach that Jesus the Son was a separate God because John next states the "Logos" is God.
John then states "the Word was God." This makes it clear that God the Father and Jesus the Christ are two distinct Persons, "the Word was with God." Jesus therefore is the Second member of the Trinity, God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Philippians 2:6 speaking of Jesus states, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. " (Philippians 2:6-8) Paul explains that Jesus Christ and God the Father are equal. It would be gross sin for Christ to present Himself as being God if in fact He were not. John reinforced this statement in the Gospel of John, by stating in His Epistle "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." (1 John 5:7)
God knowing that men would pervert and try to change this vital truth.In verse 14 John removed all doubt making what He meant to be crystal clear. "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." (John 1:14) All of the Christian cults deny that Jesus Christ is God Almighty incarnate in flesh. Most teach that God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit are simply three separate Gods. They see the concept of the Trinity as a problem and try to explain it, limiting it to an earthly or human explanation. This however degrades the biblical truth of who Jesus Christ is and strikes at the heart of salvation. If Jesus was not God, not Perfect and without sin, He could not have been an offering that could atone for sin. The sin offering as pictured in the Old and New Testaments must be completely pure and without sin. All men are sinners and none are righteous. 6 Only God Himself is Perfect and wholly Righteous and only He could offer the sacrifice that would be acceptable to pay the sin debt of the world. Further, only Almighty God in His omnipotence 7 could take on Himself the task of suffering for the sins of all the world. Thus Jesus the Son, was God and being God had all the attributes of God and could take on Himself the momentous task of paying for all sin. Once again we have a revelation from God, which is a truth that we cannot in our human minds and experience grasp. Jesus is God. We have nothing in our physical world that is One Being and yet Three (God Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Each member of the Godhead is a distinct Person who are One God. The Bible does not present the Trinity as three Gods, but One God, three Persons who are One God. 8
John 1:2, makes it clear the statement in verse 1 is telling us that Jesus, the Word, was in the beginning with God. God in His word often uses repetitive statements to stress a particular truth so not be misunderstood. It further tells us the union of God the Father and Son was not one that began in time. . .but existed in all eternity. 9 Therefore Jesus Christ was God before He was incarnated in flesh as a man.
John 1:3 says that Jesus Christ, the "Logos" created all things. Here again we have a sentence that makes a repetitive statement. (1) "All things were made by him." (2) "and without him was not any thing made." Jesus did not begin when born in Bethlehem, but He existed before the Universe and was the Creator.
In Greek the arrangement of words is important within the sentence. The statement in Greek is as follows and makes a more emphatic statement than does English: John 1:1 (Textus Receptus)
The sentence in English, keeping the Greek arrangement looks like this:
"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" (John 1:3-4). Note the last statement is "God was the Logos." In Greek the more important word is placed first in a sentence. 10 The statement cannot be made any clearer. The passage says without question that God is the "Logos" and Jesus is the Logos and is God. The grammatical arrangement in the Greek text precludes any other interpretation. All Greek manuscripts, without exception, have this arrangement of words. 11 Further the use of the Greek word "pas" makes it clear that all things, the whole of Creation, was made by Jesus Christ.
Genesis 1:1 states "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Yet, John says that Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things including the Universe and all life. The Hebrew word translated into the English word "God" is word "'elohiym." It is made up of two words: "el" which is the word for God and the word "olam" which means "everlasting or eternal." 12 Therefore Genesis begins by stating the "Eternal God" or "God of Eternity" created the Universe and the Earth. Many other statements in the Old Testament state that "Elohiym" is the Creator. 13
Some mistakenly claim that "Elohiym" and "Jehovah" are different, yet Isaiah 45:8 states "Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD l [Jehovah] have created it." 14 (Isaiah 45:8) The phrase "I the Lord have created it" is "I Jehovah have created it." There can be no misunderstanding from the literal statements of the Old Testament that God created the Universe. The New Testament says that Jesus Christ is the Creator, therefore it must be understood the God of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ who is the Creator.
Other passages in the New Testament also state that Jesus Christ is our Creator:
"Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds" (Hebrews 1:2).
"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11).
Those that deny the Trinity are clearly going against the plain teachings of the Old and New Testaments. Jesus is Divine. Jesus Christ is God. The Bible crediting the Creation to God in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ in the New Testament affirm the Unity of God in that God the Father and Jesus Christ are One God.
Jesus is declared to be the source of life and light. Only life can produce life. Life cannot be created, however God gave life to all living things on earth. Life did not or could not evolve from inert matter as the evolutionist teaches. It is an empirical fact that everything that is alive, in plants, animals and humans came from life that existed. Life was passed on to the living offspring and in nature nothing that is not alive can produce life. The scientist who believes in evolution knows this law. However, evolutionists ignoring this truth invented the idea that life came from inert minerals and chemicals that by chance happened to come together under unique circumstances that have never occurred since and cannot be observed. It is simply a vain try to discredit God as our Creator and deny we are responsible to Him.
Jesus Christ as the source and creator of life is a major theme of the Apostle John. Note the following statements: "For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself," (John 5:26); "He giveth life unto the world," (John 6:33); "I am the resurrection and the life," (John 11:25); "This is the true God and eternal life," (1 John 5:20).
John says that Jesus is the source of life. This life was the "light of men." Jesus is not only the source of natural life, but of spiritual life as well. The light of the sun is what brings life to the world. The natural state of the universe is darkness. Where there is light there is the ability to see reality and truth. Without light there would be total darkness. Thus, Jesus Christ is the light of the world Jesus stated this saying, "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12) In John 12:46 Jesus explained, "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness." (John 12:46)
Jesus further stated that "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19) In John 1:9 the scope of the giving of light to men is explained as being to all men. "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." (John 1:9) Paul explained that those who will suffer the wrath of God are without excuse because God has revealed Himself to every man.
John 1:5 states the light shines in darkness, but "the darkness comprehended it not". The word "comprehend" does not mean that man did not understand or realize the light God had given him as some commentators inaccurately state. This is shown in defining the Greek word from which the word "comprehend" is translated. That word is "katalambano" and literally means, "to apprehend" and means to "to lay hold of so as to possess as one's own, to appropriate; to seize upon, take possession of". 15 The word does not mean man could not understand the light of the truth, but that rather he refused to embrace it.
Many want to blame God for sin and for condemning man. However, the truth is that all men are given the light of truth. God has gone to great lengths to redeem men from their sins. He came to this earth, God incarnate in man, to suffer, die, and be resurrected so that men would have a means to be saved. Men are shown in both natural and special revelation that we are the creation of God. The problem is not with God, but with men who love their sin rather than accepting God's truth. They willingly and with knowledge refuse God's forgiveness and impartation of eternal life and the blessing that salvation brings. They are shown the way, but refuse to "lay hold on it."
However, for some the light of Jesus Christ is the source of their lives. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12) They are spiritually born again by believing and receiving the knowledge of whom Jesus is and of His sacrifice for our sins and offer of salvation. The light of God's truth is that the Lord Jesus Christ is our Creator and He has come into the world and paid the penalty for our sins. 16 The light tells us that we are sinners, and by faith can receive forgiveness and eternal life. The darkness the light dispels is the ignorance of who God is, what He has done for us and the fact of our sinfulness and condemnation for our sins. To them the light shines in and they do not turn away, but accept the light and all that it reveals. When the light shows them their sins and guilt before Almighty God they believe it and move into the full light of faith and salvation.
John's Gospel stresses who is Jesus Christ. In verses 1-5, John tells us that Jesus was the Word, the light of the world and that proclaims His deity. The purpose of verses 5-6 is to explain that John the Baptist was the one who fulfilled the Old Testament prophesy that Jesus was the promised Messiah. At the time of the birth of Christ there had not been an Old Testament prophet for four hundred years. The prophet Malachi prophesied that God would send a messenger to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. God said:
Isaiah earlier had also foretold the coming of a messenger who would be the forerunner of the Messiah:
Matthew revealed that John the Baptist was the one that had been prophesied by Isaiah to come and preach that the promised kingdom of God was at hand. In other word the Messiah was come:
John's message was to the nation of Israel to repent and prepare the way for the Messiah and His kingdom. John the Baptist preached "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand." John was preaching that the Jews needed to repent of their sins and prepare their hearts for the promised Kingdom of God. This stressed the spiritual nature of the coming Messiah and Kingdom. However, Israel's religious leaders were not interested in spiritual things, but rather in being delivered from the Romans. When the Pharisees and Sadducees came and presented themselves for baptism John refused them. These were the religious leaders of Israel, yet they were not saved. They were not spiritual men, but men who in pride thought themselves as being morally worthy of salvation. They believed that being born a Jew and their good works in keeping the law assured them of entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus, in John 3, explained to the Pharisee Nicodemus that he needed to be "born again," thus explaining that his birth as a Jew and good works would not save him. He explained that those who inherited the Kingdom of Heaven must be spiritually born. Jesus in John 3:16 explained acceptance into the Kingdom of heaven was by faith and believing in the Messiah. John the Baptist knew the hearts of the Pharisees and Sadducees and he warned them of the coming judgment and pointedly called them vipers. 17 He demanded they first show evidence (fruits) of true repentance before he would baptize them.
Many of the Jews were coming to the Jordan and being baptized. Israel was in the grip of Roman rule and the people longed for a Deliverer. John's message was that the time of deliverance was at hand. The Pharisees and Sadducees were hypocrites and did not want to be thought of as not wanting the Messiah to come. So they presented themselves for John's baptism, but insincerely. Their seeking John's baptism was simply a public show.
John's ministry was to bear witness to the fact that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. Matthew 3:13-17 records the baptism of Jesus. Jesus spoke of John that he was a witness to who Jesus was. Jesus said of him, "He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light." (John 5:35) In Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28 Jesus stated, "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matthew 11:11)
Jesus came to John to be baptized and as He approached he proclaimed "Behold the Lamb of God." But John at first refused saying the he should be baptized by Christ. Jesus them explained that He had come to fulfill all "righteousness" meaning what was right. Jesus' baptism was the event in which God first proclaimed Him to be His Son and showed this visually by the Holy Spirit descending like a dove. This showed God's presence on Him and that He was endowed by the Holy Spirit. This was a miracle in itself. This had never happened before. God was authenticating the baptism of repentance by John and declaring Jesus was the Messiah and fulfills Messianic prophesy.
After John baptized Jesus his ministry ended. He stated thus Jesus' ministry would increase and John's ministry, as the forerunner, would end. Matthew records that shortly after Jesus was baptized John was thrown into prison in the castle of Machaerus, a fortress on the southern extremity of Peraea, nine miles east of the Dead Sea. Herod was greatly offended when John spoke out against Herod's sin of marrying Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. 20 Herodias's daughter, at the urging of her mother, requested in a festival that Herod have John the Baptist's head brought to the feast on a platter. John was beheaded and Salome's request granted. 21 Some of John's disciples now became the disciples of Jesus Christ.
The statement that He was in the world further shows the Word of John 1:1 is Jesus Christ. The pronoun "He" can only refer to Jesus Christ. John says that Jesus was in the "kosmos" which refers to not only to the earth (world), but to the universe. 22 The word "kosmos" refers literally to "order, arrangement, ornament, and adornment". It is used to denote the Earth and also the Universe." Colossians 1:16-17 explains that Jesus is the Creator and in verse 16 that "in Him all things consist, which means "to set together." In other words, the power that energizes the Universe is in Jesus Christ. He is the central power of all things both physical and spiritual. This is a statement of His place in relation to the Universe. Paul makes this statement and then applies the principles that we are responsible to Him and should give Him first place in our lives. He states Jesus' position saying. "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:18)
Although Jesus made the world, verse 10 states the inhabitants of the world did not know Him. Verse 11 explains why. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." It means they ignored Him and refused to associate with Him. "His own" of course refers to the Jews, but in a wider sense applies to everyone. He revealed who He was through the details of his birth, message and miracles. He was announced by the first prophet God sent to Israel in four hundred years, who also was the last prophet of God. All the circumstances that surrounded His life and ministry were plain to see. Nicodemus the Pharisee recognized this saying ". . .we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." In Matthew 7:28-29, it states the people who heard Jesus were astonished at His teaching, "For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matthew 7:29)
If it was clear that Jesus was a special Person and that God was with Him. This brings to mind the important question of "Why did the Jews reject Him?" The answer is simple, they like most men, were only interested in worldly things and not the spiritual things of God. Living a godly life and seeking after righteousness was rejected. Jesus stated in John 3:19-20, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, they are wrought in God." (John 3:19-21)
Although very religious, the Jews and especially their leaders did not believe or worship God. They went through the religious ceremonies with great fervor, but not to honor God. They performed their religion to be seen of men. They saw themselves as better than other men and were steeped in their ugly and selfish pride. Jesus rebuked them as He taught true righteousness. In the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 6:1, 5 Jesus warned them, "In Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. . . . And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." (Matthew 6:1,5) The Pharisees dogged Jesus ever where he went. In Matthew 23:1-36, Jesus denounced them sharply proclaiming, "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (Matthew 23:27) The Devil always has false teachers and those who falsely claim to serve and speak for God. Jesus was warning the people not to follow these evil-hearted men. Yet, His message fell on willingly deaf ears, on men who also did not believe and thus followed these false leaders. It is the same today.
You can imagine the scribes and Pharisees turning red faced on hearing His words. He was exposing their hypocrisy before the very people they were trying to impress. That hated him vehemently for His rebuking them and sought to destroy Him.
Following the depressing statement of John 1:10-11, John then proclaims the Good News, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power 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." (John 1:12-13) We can rejoice in that when the Bible states a warning and condemnation it always follows with a positive proclamation. Although lost in our sins, Jesus Christ is the Savior come to redeem and deliver us from God's wrath and the wages of our sin. Salvation is in Jesus Christ and is simple to receive. One must believe and put their faith in Jesus and His finished work at Calvary. As Romans 8:1 states, "There is therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." That message was heard by Israel from Jesus' own lips, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24) Sadly, most of the Jews refused to believe in spite of the overwhelming evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior. They, like men today, condemn themselves by their disbelief. What a tragedy that all men could be saved and go to heaven, yet so many will not accept Jesus as their Savior.
The Greek word translated "received" in verse John 1:11, is different from in verse 12. The word in verse 12 means to "to take or receive." Vines states it literally means, to receive or take "without an object, in contrast to asking." 23 It implies a thing given from the graciousness of God. What was received was the "power to become the sons of God." The word "son" means one's offspring, a child, son or daughter. Paul explained what it means to be a child of God stating, "For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." (Acts 17:28) This does not mean we are the physical children of God. Paul states this clearly. "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." (Ephesians 1:5-6) Believers are thus "adopted" into the family of God. 24 The word is the normal word used to denote a child that is not a son, and one who is adopted and by it becoming a legal son with all the rights and privileges of a natural son.
Jesus when speaking to the unbelieving Jews in John 8:44, told them they were of their father the Devil. He stated that if God was their father they would love Him. All men are the creation of God, but only in salvation do we become the "sons of God." Those who do not believe and do not receive Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith are the sons of the Devil. However, God in His marvelous grace adopts us fully, forgiving our sins and giving us everlasting life. We by God's grace are spiritually born-again and become not only the sons, but also joint heirs with Jesus Christ. 25
Verse 13, makes this truth clearer by stating those who are saved are not those "born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh." Two truths are emphasized. One, being created by God does not make us His children or save us. In regard to the Jews, Jesus stated that their Jewish heritage and birth did not give them salvation. Those who became the sons of God were those who were ". . .not born by the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God."
The fatal error of the Jews was in thinking that as Abraham's children they were assured of heaven when they died. They trusted their birth as Jews to save them. In the Lord's discourse with the Pharisees in John 8:24 Jesus told them that if they did not believe what He was telling them they would die in their sins. Their response was "They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?" (John 8:33) This verse is the key to understanding the failure of the Jews in not receiving Christ as their Messiah. Clearly, they trusted their descendancy from Abraham for their salvation. They asked Jesus "How can you say we shall be made free?" meaning free from their sins. (V31-32) Jesus addresses this in John 3 to Nicodemus, the Pharisee, who thought his Jewish birth assured his entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus explained to the Pharisee that He "must be born again" meaning spiritually born. See comments on John 3:1f. Jews falsely thought their birth as "God's chosen" people assured them of heaven.
Jesus' statement also refutes the false idea some have of a universal salvation for all men. Salvation is universally offered to all men, but only given to those who by faith believe and receive it as saved.
Secondly, the statement says that salvation does not come by "the will of the flesh, nor of man, but of God." No one has within himself the ability to save himself. Many men desire to go to heaven and they in their own minds devise various ways to get themselves there. There are thousands of man-made religions on earth, but the bitter truth is they will all fail. Man cannot will himself to be saved. The "flesh" refers to the human and sinful nature of man. Paul in Romans 7:18, stated that in his flesh "dwelleth no good thing." Man being a sinner and under the condemnation of sin cannot save himself. God alone is the source of righteousness and only He can affect salvation. God's word explains that, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) There is only one salvation and that is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. No man can earn or merit the new birth. It can only be received from God and in God's way. Ephesians 2:8-9 explains "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." As John 1:4 tells us, Jesus Christ is the only source of life and we cannot receive life of our own apart from Him. The only life a man can have can only come from the source of life, Jesus Christ our God. He is life and gives this life to those who will accept it.
This truth Jesus spoke also was addressing the error of so many churches and individuals who think that doing religious works can save them. Those who believe works saves are following the traditions of the scribes and Pharisees. They prided themself in their many religious acts. Many are trusting in church membership, baptism, performing rituals or sacraments, and doing good works. The Jews believed that keeping the law, doing sacrifices and all the ritual feasts of Israel earned them their entrance into heaven. Today men make the same mistake. They think if they belong to a particular church, or are baptized, take communion, do good works or a host of other things it will merit them God's favor. Yet, God plainly says, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isaiah 64:6) In the New Testament Paul states, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." (Romans 3:10-11)
Like Israel, men think they are made righteous by their works. Note what God says through Paul, "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." (Romans 10:3) Only God is righteous and only one who believes in Jesus Christ can become righteous in God's eyes. That righteousness is not the righteousness of a man but of Christ who makes the believer a new man. "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Ephesians 4:24) Paul explained this to the Philippians saying, "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Philippians 3:9).
This verse completely dispels the false idea that John 1:1 refers to anything or anyone but Jesus Christ and confirms His deity. The verse makes five decisive statements that prove the Word, (Logos) is Jesus Christ. It states:
2. "The Word dwelt among us." Jesus was wholly a man and lived among the Jews. They knew Him, met Him, talked with Him showing the Word (Jesus Christ) lived with them. John adds a parenthetic to make sure there could be no misunderstanding. "(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)" John and others physically saw Jesus Christ and they recognized His glory as being the only begotten of the Father. It was plainly obvious in his manner, deeds and message that He was God. Luke records the people who heard and saw Jesus ". . .taught them as one having authority, not as the scribes." They recognized the power and authority in His words. The word "glory" marks dignity, honor and praise that marked the character of His teaching. To those who looked with an open-heart it was readily seen He was the only begotten of the Father. There could be no doubt that He was the Messiah and God come to earth. No prophet or man had ever had this characteristic about Him because He was God come in the flesh.
3. "The Word was full of grace and truth." Jesus was full of grace, meaning graciousness, kindness, favoring others, doing acts of good in healing and forgiving sins. Matthew says this truth, "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
4. "John the Baptist bare witness of the Word." John the Baptist was the first prophet God had sent to Israel in over four hundred years. He was the forerunner of Christ as Malachi 3:1 had predicted. John the Baptist was proclaiming the coming of the promised Messiah and the Apostle John states the Word was the One John was speaking of. 26
5. "All the disciples received the fullness of the Word." John says that "all we" received the fullness of Christ. This of course refers to the disciples of Christ, but is not limited just to them. John was writing over sixty years after Christ returned to heaven. Many people, both Jews and Gentiles, have believed and received Christ. It would seem then the "we all" would naturally refer to the disciples and to those who later believed on Jesus Christ until the end of the First Century. The phrase "grace for grace" has been given several interpretations. It is generally accepted that it refers to the "we all" having received an abundance of grace. The context is speaking of the disciples and those of the First Century who were close to the time when Christ walked on the earth. Some believe it could mean these people had the added benefit of being closer to the event, being witnesses to Jesus' coming, or having known those who knew the Lord. However, the Greek phrase is "carin anti caritoV." Literally, "grace anti grace." Robertson explains the phrase saying "Grace for grace (charin anti charitos). The point is in "anti," a preposition disappearing in the Koin? and here only in John. It is in the locative case of anta (end), "at the end," and was used of exchange in sale. Here the picture is "grace" taking the place of "grace" like the manna fresh each morning, new grace for the new day and the new service." 27 This explanation is grammatically correct and also contextually. John the Baptist proclaimed the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. In this verse he is saying that Jesus is come as a new offer of grace for this dispensation of time. His coming presents a new "favor" God is offering to the world. This new grace (favor toward mankind) is the very Person of Jesus Christ, the Word, God incarnate in flesh.
This interpretation is supported by verse 17, "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 1:17) In the Old Testament dispensation the saints of God were under the weight of the Law, but now this new offer of generousness from God is His grace and truth. This is the dual blessing in our time that we have both God's offer of grace and the truth of the Gospel. We know who Jesus is and what He did. We know God's plan of salvation and have His revelation to guide and uplift us.
John then makes the important point that although no man has seen God the Father, man has seen God the only begotten Son of the Father. Man has only seen Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate in flesh. Verse 18 states that Jesus "declared" the Father. The verb used here is the root from which we derive our word "exegesis." Exegesis is the word we use to describe the interpretation of God's word. It refers to a careful examination and then detailed explanation of a passage of Scripture. John is saying that all revelation we have of God the Father came to us or was revealed to us by God the Son. God the Father is spirit and cannot be seen by any man, but God, the only begotten Son of God, can and has been seen. This means the Old Testament appearances of God, were "Christophanes," or preincarnate appearances of Jesus Christ. It was God the Son who came and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It was He who placed the curse on the Universe when they sinned. It was Jesus who called Abraham and spoke to Isaac, Jacob, David and all the judges and prophets of Israel. It is a tragic fact that Israel's Messiah had spoken to them throughout their history, yet when He came they did not receive Him. This also gives us some insight into the love and graciousness of God as Romans 5:18 states, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
John, in verse 19, begins by giving the account of the ministry of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was causing quite a stir among the Jews. He was east of Jerusalem at the Jordan River preaching to the Jews to prepare themselves for the coming Kingdom of God. He was further calling Israel to repentance of their sins and as a public show of the contriteness of their hearts, baptizing them by immersion in the river. Among the Jews was a great anticipation to see the promised Messiah come set up His kingdom and thus free Israel from the Romans. Since the exile in Babylon the Jews had longed for a Deliverer, but instead had only seen false messiahs, fanatics and charlatans who stirred up their hope which never materialized. John's preaching the kingdom was at hand stirred their interest and they wanted to have more information. The Jews logically went to their priests inquiring of them as to what was the significance of John's preaching and baptizing. Clearly the priests did not have an answer so they were sent to John to learn firsthand what he was doing. The Jews sent both priests and Levites to make the inquiry who many Bible students believe were members of the Sanhedrin. Often John used the term "the Jews" to refer to the Jewish leaders of the Sanhedrin, scribes, and Pharisees. These were men who administered in the Temple but curiously, these who were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the Jews did not know anything about what God was doing.
Their main question to John was "Who are you?" It seems some thought he might be the Christ or Messiah. 29 John "confessed" or admitted that he was not the Messiah. John was preaching the coming of the Kingdom of God promised to Israel. For four hundred years Israel had no prophet. These priests and Levites knew the time was right for the coming of the Messiah. They had Daniel's prophecies and those of the prophets which foretold His coming. At the proper time, John the Baptist appears and proclaims the Jews should "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (John 3:2). When John told them he was not the Christ, they asked further who he was. They asked "Are you Elias?" (Elijah) Once again John said that he was not. They repeated the question inquiring if he was some other prophet and once again John replied no. The narrative seems to indicate these religious leaders of Israel were becoming frustrated and beckoned John to tell them who he was so they could report to the people who had sent them. His response should have struck a note with these men, because he responded by quoting from two Old Testament passages. The first is Deuteronomy 18:15, "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken" (Deuteronomy 18:15). This clearly is a Messianic prophecy in which God promised a mediator for the nation of Israel. The second passage is Isaiah 40:3, "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Isaiah 40:3). John plainly identified himself as the forerunner foretold in the Old Testament who prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah.
In verse 24, John interjects that those who were asking these questions were the Pharisees. They asked John why he was baptizing if he was not the Christ or Elias "that prophet." The statement "that prophet" refers to Elijah. He was known in Hebrew as "Elijah the Prophet." The Jews knew of the prophecy of Malachi which stated, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD" (Malachi 4:5). Even today in the Jewish Sedar the Passover Supper, the Jews set a place for Elijah at their table and even send a child into the street to look up and down to see if the prophet is coming to eat. The child today returns to the meal saying that he did not see Elijah, but one day, in God's time, Elijah will appear and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah to Israel.
John not only preached repentance in preparation of the coming kingdom, but he baptized those that repented and presented themselves. Jewish baptism began long before John the Baptist. The ritual involved the use of a Mikvah (or mikveh) which is a specially built pool of water used for total immersion in a purification ceremony within Judaism. 18 Prior to John the Baptist the only people who were baptized were Gentile proselytes to Judaism and the ceremony is called a "tevillah." Ceremonial washing by immersion was done by the High Priest before he entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, and practiced by those who participated in the Temple worship. There were many mikvahs around the Temple in Jerusalem in Jesus' day. Josephus wrote that the laws of the rite of immersion were strictly followed. 30
To the proselyte to Judaism the mikveh was an important ritual representing the spiritual purification and cleaning that had occurred in his life. It was seen not as the means to remove impurity, but symbolic of the inward process. The candidate would prepare himself, by cleaning himself before this ceremony. He would groom himself and make a "profession of faith" before those who were officiating the mikveh. 31 This would certainly be in the mind of the Jew who was being commanded to be baptized in Jesus' name. However, John was not baptizing proselytes, but ordinary Jews. In the rite of the mikveh the person would stand in the pool of water and by stooping down immerse himself. John was personally immersing Jews which was a complete change from the normal cleansing rites. Therefore they were curious as to why John was personally baptizing the Jews. They were asking by what authority was he performing his baptisms.
John's reply was to tell them the Messiah was present among them. "John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose." (John 1:26-27) With their first question John had told them that he was one who was to prepare for the coming of the Messiah as verse 23 records. He said he was not the Messiah, but the Messiah was present of whom he was not worthy to even unloose the shoe latchet. John was clearly making sure that no one misunderstood the fact that he was not the Christ.
The place where John was baptizing is called "Bethabara" and means "the house of the ford." This ford across the Jordan was traditionally accepted as being located about twelve miles from Jericho which was easily accessible to Jerusalem and Judaea. Some place it further north. However, the exact location of this ford is unclear. According to John 2:1 Jesus was in Cana, three days after His baptism. Calculating that a man could walk twenty five miles a day in eight hours he could have easily walked the 66-70 miles in three days. "Beyond Jordan" refers to the east bank of the river.
The following day after being confronted by the Jewish leaders John sees Jesus coming. The Bible records that without any hint of doubt, John the Baptist immediately recognized Jesus and proclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." This was an amazing statement. John called Him the "Lamb of God." To the Jew, this was a plain reference to the Passover Lamb. For centuries Israel had kept the Passover and the focal point of this feast given to them by God was the sacrificial Lamb. In their sacrifices in the Tabernacle and later Temple, it was a sacrificial lamb that was killed and whose blood was sprinkled on the altar on the Day of Atonement. Further John stated that Jesus was the one who would take away not just the sins of Israel, but the sins of the whole world. This straightforward statement attests to the deity of Jesus Christ. Only God can take away sin and therefore John was making a dual statement as to the deity of Jesus Christ and of Him being the Savior. John's statement was that Jesus was the promised Sacrificial Lamb who would atone for all sin.
meaning Jesus, was preferred and existed before him. The word translated "preferred" is "ginomai" and means to "go before and lead." In this case it means more than just to be chosen over another person, but shows the leadership above the other.
Although John the Baptist was Jesus' cousin it seems that he had not met Jesus previously. John states in verse 31 that "he knew him not." John the Baptist's parents lived in the south in a "city of Judah", an area near Jerusalem. 32 Jesus was raised in Nazareth in the north about 70 miles from Jerusalem. Although he did not personally know Jesus, John certainly knew of Jesus as the promised Messiah and that he was His forerunner, preparing the way for him. John makes this clear by saying, "but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water." John had known the Lord Jesus even from the womb. Luke records that when Mary visited Elisabeth, John's mother, "the babe leaped in her womb."
John the Baptist gave this testimony that God had told him that he would see the Spirit descending and remaining on the Messiah when he was baptized. John said when he baptized Jesus he saw the Holy Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and remaining on him showing him Jesus was the Messiah. Matthew records that John also heard God the Father speak. He further identified Jesus in that He baptized with the Holy Spirit and that He was the Son of God. 33 John's testimony was that unmistakably Jesus that was the Christ, the Son of God. John gave his personal testimony as a prophet of God to the deity and identity of the Messiah.
Matthew gives a full account of the baptism of Jesus. "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:13-17)
John, in recognizing who Jesus was, humbly said he was not worthy to baptize Him. But Jesus directed him to "fulfill all righteousness" meaning they both were to fulfill God's will with Jesus being baptized. John then administered scriptural baptism by immersing Jesus in the River Jordan and as he raised Him from the water God the Father spoke saying "This is by beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Verses 32-34, proclaims the witness of Israel's last prophet, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, the Son of God. John the Apostle states, John the Baptist had seen (John 1:32) and "bare record" or gave formal testimony of whom was Jesus.
John next records the calling of Jesus' disciples. The following day, John the Baptist was standing apart from Jesus and observed Him as He walked by. With him were two of his disciples. Seemingly, as Jesus walked past, John declared to these two disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God." Hearing John proclaim Jesus as the Lamb of God, the two disciples began to follow behind Jesus.
Jesus then turned and seeing them following ask them what they sought? Calling Jesus "Rabbi" or Master they ask him where he dwelt. Jesus responded saying "Come and see." The narrative does not say where Jesus was staying at the time, but probably it was with some gracious friend. The two disciples, one who was Andrew (v40) and the other who was probably the Apostle John, stayed with Jesus all day. John the Apostle simply omits mention of his name. John was a humble man and although had a close relationship with Jesus did not stress it.
Andrew was Simon Peter's brother. The first thing Andrew did after finding Jesus was to go and get his brother Simon Peter. Andrew, not only told Peter that he had found the Messiah, but also brought Peter to Him. You can imagine the excitement in his voice and his actions as he told Simon that he had found the Messiah and urged him to go with him to see Jesus. This was Andrew, John and Peter's first meeting with Jesus. They were later called by Jesus to officially be His disciples when Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. 34 Both Matthew and Mark record the two brothers were fishermen and that Jesus called them telling them that He would make them "fishers of men."
John in verse 41, inserts an explanation the word Messiah was interpreted "Christ." The shows us the Gospel of John was written primary to Gentiles who would not know that the Hebrew word Messiah was in Greek the word Christ.
When Jesus looked upon Simon, He said, "you are the son of Jona, but you shall be called 'Cephas'." The word "Cephas" ( Kephas - kay-fas') is Aramaic and means "a rock." The word is only used in John's Gospel in verse 41 and by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15.5 and Galatians 1:18. 35 Peter's Greek name was "Petros (pet' ros)" and it too means "a rock." Grammatically, the word "Cephas" is future passive indicative which means that this nickname would be used in the future. Jesus did use this nickname as recorded by Matthew 16:18, when He said, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-19) Once again John interprets this Aramaic name for the Gentile readers of his Gospel. John explains the word means "a stone" or in Greek, "Petros" a rock.
The fourth day after Jesus' baptism He desired to travel up to the Sea of Galilee. The words "would go" meant that Jesus wished to go for the particular purpose to find and to call Philip to follow as His disciple. (V43) Philip also lived in Bethsaida. Once Jesus called Philip he then goes and like Andrew did earlier, told Nathanael that he had found the One the Old Testament prophets had foretold would come and that He was Jesus of Nazareth and the son of Joseph. 36
Nathanael's name means "an Israelite in whom is no guile." He may have been a fishermen, but that is not known for sure. Apparently, Nathanael was a godly man and was looking for the promised Messiah. He must have also heard John the Baptist's preaching the "Kingdom was at hand" so Philip knew he would want to know of Jesus. His response gives insights into Jesus' hometown.
His response seems to be a jerk reaction, saying "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Nazareth was a small town in the mountains of no importance. To be a Nazarene was considered among the Jews to be a bad thing. The town was in Galilee where the Greek and Roman influence was strong. The pious Jews looked with contempt on the Galilean culture and those that embraced it. They simply hated the Romans and Nazareth had the misfortune of being in a pronounced Hellenistic area. Nathanael's statement may have been more rooted in his prejudice than in fact. Philip's response was not to defend Jesus or His hometown, but simply to say, "Come and see for yourself."
Jesus when He saw Nathanael approaching made the unusual gesture of calling him by the meaning of his name. Probably a little amazed, Nathanael asked Jesus how He knew him. Jesus' answer must have being shocking when He said He had seen him before Philip had gone and spoke to him while he was under a fig tree. There was no chance that Philip could have told the Lord Jesus about where Nathanael was because he was under the fig tree before Philip came and spoke to him. Nathanael, it seems with no hesitation, declared that Jesus was indeed, "My Master (Rabbi), thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
Jesus then tells Nathanael that he believed because Jesus told him he saw him under the fig tree, but he added, ". . .thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."
It does not appear that Jesus was describing any single event that Nathanael would see in his life such as the one described. The New Testament does not speak of an event in which the heavens were opened. But clearly, Jesus was telling him he would see and know of the wonder and glory of the Savior.
END NOTES:1 W. E. Vine, "Vine Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words", Thomas Nelson:Nashville, 1985, p683.
11 See Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, Thomas Nelson:Nashville, 1985, p290. and Aland, Black, Martini, Metzger, Wikgren, The Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, 1975, p320.
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