In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.John 1:1
Who is the Word
This short passage of scripture from the opening of John’s gospel account presents three very bold proclamations relating to the Word. The Word in this context is the Son of God and John further expounds upon this a few verses later by describing how the Word, or the Son of God became manifest in the flesh, “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] On the surface, this may mean little to the idle reader but John is making a rather profound statement in that the infinite eternal Son of God became manifest in finite human form. The Son of God as the only begotten of the Father, manifest in the flesh merits cross referencing with other notable verses in scripture due to its importance.
Manifest in the flesh
One significant verse pertaining to the manifestation of the Word in the flesh is from Paul’s letters noted in the following passage, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh,” [1 Tim. 3:16a] This is indeed a mystery to mankind, how can God become manifest as a human? In short, he becomes the God-man or as Jesus phrased it, the Son of man. There was only one person from heaven who was manifest in the flesh and that was the Son of man (John 3:13). A second verse to note brings further reference to the Word, or Son of God as the only begotten of the Father. This is found back in the apostle John’s gospel account when he records the memorable phrase from Jesus, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] The Word in John’s opening statement, is therefore the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16) and the Word then became manifest in the flesh at an ordained time in history by God.
The Christian faith does not rest on the premise that Jesus Christ was just some great prophet endowed with the gift of preaching and ability to heal people. Nor does it rest on any notion that Jesus was just a prophet who was martyred at the stake and now lies in some unknown grave. The Christian faith rests on something far more profound than mere human concepts noted here. This is why the Christmas story is a miracle as it was not just a baby in the manger, it was God manifested in human form in that manger! This is why Matthew proclaimed in his gospel account, “God with us.” [Matt. 1:23b] This is why Paul described Jesus in one of his letters to the early church, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” [Col. 2:9] The Godhead was in Jesus Christ manifest in the flesh.
Foundational to faith
This tenant of Christianity was so important that John emphasized it as foundational to faith in one of his letters as noted in this passage, “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” [1 John 4:2-3] In this passage, John divides people into two groups; one having the Spirit of God and the other having the spirit of the antichrist! There is no gray area, there is no middle ground, Jesus Christ is the Son of God come in the flesh.
Consider how Jesus described his fleshly presence to his disciples after he was risen from the dead, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” [Luke 24:39] Consider also how Paul embellished upon these facts in his other letters when he stated, “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.” [Phil. 2:6-9] This premise must be underscored, Jesus Christ is the Son of God come in the flesh.
Three bold proclamations
With that premise established in this Bible study let us take note of the three proclamations written at the beginning of John’s gospel account. The Son of God has always existed – “In the beginning was the Word”. The Son of God was with God before anything else existed – “and the Word was with God”. The Son of God is God – “and the Word was God”. One cannot get to God, the Son of God or Christianity without getting past these truths. If they are not believed, they will become stumbling blocks in the quest for a faith-filled life in Christ. This is the same reason Jesus forewarned the religious rulers in his statement, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. [John 8:24] These proclamations are so important and consequential to Christianity that they require further embellishment to bring more context to them for seekers of faith.
John presents these proclamations so boldly that it is almost as if he is holding up a prominent banner for readers to take notice of before proceeding any further. Why is this? It is because without full understanding and acceptance of them readers will miss the meaning of his pivotal closing argument when he concludes his gospel account by stating, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” [John 20:31] Each author in the four gospel accounts writes their own account to support, build and prove their case of who Jesus is from the scriptures and based on eye witness accounts. In the case of John’s gospel account the overriding premise is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and this starts in the very first verse from this week’s scripture reading.
Preexistence of the Son of God
Let us look at the first proclamation as a case in point, “In the beginning was the Word.” The correlating passage to this verse takes us all the way back to the very first verse in the Bible where it was proclaimed, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” [Gen. 1:1] Now stop right after the first four words in that verse and you have, “In the beginning God.” This is the whole point of Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1. In the beginning, signifies a period of time that existed before anything else in all existence. Before any of it, there was God, there was the Word, the Son of God. John adds to his opening passage further support for this premise, “The same was in the beginning with God.” [John 1:2] The same meaning Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The preexistence of the Son of God is not something that is easily fathomed by our rational human mind. We have a tendency to be hard wired into defining things in a framework of finite time. But God was in the beginning before anything else existed and the Word, the Son of God, was in the beginning before anything else existed. John reiterates this very point about the the Son of God in one of his other letters when he states the same tenant once again connecting the Word with preexistence, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;” [1 John 1:1]
Divinity of the Son of God
There is evidence in scripture to further substantiate John’s claim of Jesus being the Son of God. Consider the reaction of the Jews who took up stones to stone him for his apparent blasphemy. When Jesus spoke to the Jews claiming that he and his Father were one, they wanted to stone him again for blasphemy. Their response is recorded here for the record, “…because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” [John 10:33b] The claim of divinity and preexistence from Jesus aligns with his other comments expressed about the Father, “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] The scriptures also give reference to Jesus as the Son of God when the disciples sought to prove his deity from the Old Testament as written in this passage, “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” [Heb. 1:8] Here we have God the Father calling the Son of God, O God!
In the New Testament, readers cannot sidestep the short and succinct statement Jesus made to the Jews without interpreting his words as symbolic of eternal divine existence when he said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” [John 8:58b] Jesus was making a point that he existed thousands of years ago even before Abraham was alive. There is a parallel statement claiming to be the “I am” from the Old Testament in the book of Exodus, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” [Ex. 3:14] Man cannot claim to be the great I am of the scriptures, this is left up to divinity to proclaim this title. Jesus Christ, the Son of God has always existed and can thus make this proclamation of being the I am in the scriptures.
Salvation through Christ
In closing off this Bible study there are countless other scriptural passages that can be noted to further substantiate John’s opening statement. This study is premised upon the same outcome and objective as John’s gospel as stated above, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” [John 20:31] This is what Christianity is all about, realizing that all of us have sinned, we were born into sin through Adam and are in need of a saviour to be saved. This is why Jesus came to earth, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” [Luke 19:10] Without Christ, we are all lost, we are all without hope, and as the scriptures say, we are “dead in trespasses and sins;” [Eph. 2:1b] This death implies a spiritual death that must be dealt with while we are still alive on earth because after this it will be too late for redemption in Christ.
There is only one person who can save us from our sins, who can redeem us from our unjust and guilty position before God and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the sin bearer for mankind, he paid the sin penalty for all of us, who took our punishment for sin upon himself. Paul declares this great exchange of our sin for his righteousness, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” [2 Cor. 5:21] This is the glorious working of God, who loved us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to take our penalty for sin and in turn impart unto us his own righteousness. This can be your life today if you will believe in him and accept by faith in his atoning sacrifice on the cross. Why not place your faith in the one who can only lay claim to these words from the scriptures, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”[Rev. 1:8]
Bible Study Question
- In this Bible study called In the beginning was the Word, why do you think the apostle John used the phrase, the Word instead of the Son of God or the Christ?
- How would you explain to someone that the Son of God was manifest in the flesh?
- Fill in the blanks from this Bible verse, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: __________ was manifest in the _________” [1 Tim. 3:16a]
- Can you recall the three proclamations John makes about the Word in this opening passage?
- In the section Foundational to faith, the Bible verse from 1 John 4:2-3 states that it is okay to not believe that Jesus came in the flesh, true or false? Be careful on this question.
- Without faith and belief in Christ’s atoning work on the cross, we can still get to heaven, true or false? Be very careful on this trick question. Reference John 3:16, John 8:24 for better understanding.
- For inspiring your faith even further, consider reading the next interesting Bible study.