The Word Became Flesh (1:1-5)
1-2 In the beginning wasthe Word. The Word is Christ. John writes: The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us (verse 14). What John is saying right in the beginning of his Gospel is that Jesus Christ was no ordinary man. He was the “Word” of God, who had been with God from before the creation of the world.
The Word, that is, Christ, existed in the beginning. Before the world was formed, Christ existed (John 17:5). The first verse in the Bible says: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). But Christ was with God before the beginning. God has no beginning; He has always existed. And God has always had His Word with Him. God has never been without His Word.
The Word was with God. This means that, in one way, there is a difference between God and the Word; they are distinct, just as a father and his son are distinct. But then John says that the Word was God (verse 1). Christ was not only with God; He was God. Christ is not only God’s Son; He is God Himself. Christ is God in the form of a man. He is the one true incarnation of the living God, who came to earth 2000 years ago. God was in Christ, and Christ was in God. Jesus said to His disciples: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). “I am in the Father, and … the Father is in me” (John 14:11). “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
3 Through him (Christ) all things were made. God’s word is not like man’s word. When God speaks, God acts. Man of ten speaks but does nothing. But when God speaks, something happens. God’s word has power. God said, “Let there be light,” and light came into being (Genesis 1:3). And this word of power was with Jesus. Jesus said to a man with leprosy, “Be clean!” and immediately the man became clean (Mark 1:41). When Jesus spoke, demons came out of people (Mark 1:25). By His word the wind was stilled (Mark 4:39) and the dead were raised (Luke 7:14-15; John 11:43-44). And here in verse 3, John says something even more amazing: Through Christ all things were made. When God created the heavens and earth, He did it through His word, that is, through Christ. Everything that has been created has been created through Christ. The APOSTLE Paul writes that all things were created by him and for him (Colos-sians 1:15-17). Christ is God’s powerful word. God has spoken to us by his Son (see Hebrews 1:1-3 and comment).
4 Therefore, John says: In him was life. God created life through Christ. He created not only physical life, but also piritual, eternal life. John has written: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son (1 John 5:11). Jesus said: “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
With life there is always light. In fact, life is dependent on light. God created light first; only after that did He create life (Genesis 1:3,11). When we receive life through Christ, we also receive His light. His light is the light of conscience and reason that is in every human being. It is also spiritual light (John 12:46). In the darkness, we can see nothing. But in the light, we can see. Above all, through Christ’s light, we can see and understand God. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
5 Just as a tiny candle overcomes the darkness of a room, so Christ’s light overcomes the darkness of the world. Darkness can never overcome light.
Thus the light of Christ shines in the darkness of sin and unbelief, but the darkness has not understood1 it. Darkness does not understand God or Christ. Men whose minds are darkened and blinded by sin and unbelief cannot see God’s light. They refuse to see it, because they prefer to live in darkness (see John 3:19-21 and comment).
The Testimony of John the Baptist (1:6-18)
6-8 Here John describes the coming of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was sent from God. His birth was miraculous (see Luke 1:5-25,57-66).He was sent with a specif ic purpose: namely, to testify concerning that light, that is, the light of Christ. John came to prepare men’s hearts to receive that light (see Mark 1:2-4 and comment). John witnessed to Christ so that through him (John) all men might believe (in Christ). “All men” means both JEWS and GENTILES. Christ brings salvation to every man and woman who believes in Him.
9 The true light … was coming into the world. John the Baptist gave witness to that light. He told people that Christ, the Messiah,2 was about to appear (see Mark 1:7-8 and comment).
The true light, Christ, gives light to every man. We must understand John’s meaning here. God, through Christ, gives some light to all men. God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). The Apostle Paul said: “God has not left himself without testimony. He has given rain … crops … food … joy” (Acts 14:17). Paul has also written: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his etermeans bothnal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made (Romans 1:20).
Therefore, creation itself and all God’s natural blessings give witness to God. They give some light, some understanding, to all men.
But most men do not receive the full light. The Word, Christ, can give full light only to those who believe. Those who do not believe remain in spiritual darkness. They deny the light. They reject Christ. Whoever rejects Christ will not see life (John 3:36). That’s why John the Baptist came into the world, so that through him (John) all might believe (verse 7). That is why the Apostle John wrote this Gospel, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31). Whether we believe or not is up to us.
10 When Jesus came into the world, the world3 did not recognize him; that is, the men of the world did not recognize Him. Most men did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. Instead, they considered Him to be a criminal, a blasphemer, and they killed Him.
11 He came to that which was his own. Christ came to the world which He Himself had created (verse 3). He came to His own nation, Israel,4 to His own people. He was not a stranger. He was a Jew coming to Jews. Nevertheless, they did not receive him. They rejected Him. The people of His own village tried to throw Him of f a clif f (Luke 4:28-30). Finally, the Jewish leaders caused Him to be put to death.
12 Yet a few did receive Him; that is, they put faith in Christ. They believed in his name.5 And to these believers, Christ gave the right to become children of God.
All men are created by God, but not all men are His children. To receive the right to be a child of God, we must believe in His Son Jesus. We must receive Jesus into our hearts through faith (see Galatians 3:26 and comment). This is what it means to “receive” Jesus. When we receive God’s Son Jesus, God receives us, and we become members of God’s family. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! (1 John 3:1).
13 The children of God are not born of natural descent;6 they are born spiritually. They are born of God. To be a Christian, to be a member of God’s family, one must be born again (see John 3:3,5 and comment). It is not by our own power or desire that we become children of God; it is only by God’s grace. He first chooses us (John 15:16). Human children are born according to the will of a husband and his wife. God’s children are born according to His will.
When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are born into God’s family. When we are born into His family, we become His children. When we become His children, we become heirs (Romans 8:16-17; Gal-atians 4:7).
In order to receive an inheritance, we first must be children. In order to be children, we first must be born. In order to be born into God’s family, we first must accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. We do not become children by our own effort or by good works. Even if a servant works in someone’s house faithfully for many years, that servant will never become a son; he will always remain a servant. We are children of God not by works, but by birth—spiritual birth.
14 In this verse, we read that Jesus Christ is the true incarnation of God. The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. God in Christ became a man. He was fully and in every way a man like us, except that He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). But at the same time, He was fully God. The Word was God (verse 1). In order to understand who Christ is, we must always remember that He is both God and man (see General Article: Jesus Christ).
One of the men with whom Jesus lived was the Apostle John, who was very close to Jesus and knew Him well. John writes here: We have seen his glory. John isn’t writing someone else’s opinion. He is writing about what he himself has seen (1 John 1:1-3).
John saw Christ’s glory, His sinlessness, His love, His light, His truth, His grace, His humility, His power. All of these qualities are included in Christ’s glory. Such was God’s one and only Son. We believers also are God’s sons, but we are not like Jesus. There can be no other son like Jesus, who was born not of a human father but by God’s own Holy Spirit7 (see Matthew 1:18,20-23; Luke 1:29-35 and comments).
Jesus was full of grace and truth. Grace is God’s great mercy and love toward men (see Ephesians 1:2 and comment). God’s grace was manifested most clearly when He sent His only Son Jesus to earth to die for our sins (see Mark 10:45 and comment). All of God’s blessings to men come because of His grace (verse 16). Our salvation comes from God’s grace (see Ephesians 2:8 and comment). And this grace is IN CHRIST. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).
But God has revealed in Christ more than just His grace. In Christ He has also revealed His truth. God is true. In God there is no falsehood or error. God’s judgments are true. He separates good from evil, righteousness from unrighteousness. Because He is true, He will punish all those who oppose His truth and His righteousness. God’s truth has been manifested fully in Christ. Christ is God’s true Word. Jesus said, “I am the … truth” (John 14:6).
Therefore, when we see Christ, full of grace and truth, we see God (John 14:9). God was perfectly revealed in Christ. However, those who do not believe in Christ cannot fully know God. They remain in spiritual darkness.
15 John the Baptist testifies concerning Christ. Even today, John’s testimony continues through the words of the New Testament: “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (verse 34). John the Baptist had said, “After me will come one more powerful than I” (Mark 1:7). John came a few months before Jesus, and his work began before Jesus’ work. But John the Baptist knew he was only sent to prepare the way for someone greater (see John 3:30). In this verse John the Baptist says, “Christ has surpassed me because he was before me.” Christ was greater than John because Christ was with God before the world was made. John was an ordinary man. Christ is the eternal Son of God.
16 Christ was full of grace (verse 14); and from the fullness of his grace all believers have received one blessing after another.8 Christ is the source of all our blessings. Christ’s fullness is without limit, because God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Colossians 1:19). In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Colossians 2:9).
17 God gave Israel some blessings in the Old Testament. God gave the Jews His law.9 He first gave the law to MOSES on the top of Mount Sinai, and then Moses gave it to the people (Exodus 24:15-18; 31:18). But the law could not save men; rather, it condemned them, because they could not obey it perfectly (see Galatians 2:15-16 and comment). The law was righteous and true, but it did not give men eternal life.
But grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. In Christ not only God’s truth but also His grace is given to man. Through Christ, man is free from the condemnation of the law (see Romans 8:1-4 and comment). God by His grace has sent Christ to save us from punishment and to give us eternal life (John 3:16).
Notice in this verse that the Apostle John uses Jesus’ full name: Jesus Christ. Jesus was His human name. Christ10 was His divine name.
18 No one has ever seen God. Moses himself never fully saw God. “You cannot see my face,” God said to Moses, “for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:1920). All over the world men seek after God, and through the teachings of various religions they receive a partial understanding of Him. But their knowledge of God is never adequate. Only Christ, who came from God and is God, fully knows the Father and has seen Him. And only Christ, therefore, can make God fully known to men.
Christ is here called God the only son.11 Christ is not only God’s Son; He is also God Himself. All true knowledge of God comes from Christ.
Christ and John the Baptist (1:19-28)
19 When John the Baptist began to preach, many people came out to hear him and be BAPTIZED (see Mark 1:4-5 and comment). When the Jewish leaders heard about John, they wanted to find out about this new prophet. Therefore, they sent priests and Levites12 from Jerusalem13 to inquire who John was.
20 John knew that the Jewish leaders thought that he himself might be the Christ. All the Jews were expecting the Christ, the Messiah, to come and deliver them from bondage to the ROMAN EMPIRE and to reestablish the independent kingdom of Israel. But John immediately told them that he was not the Christ.
21 Then the Jewish leaders asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah. Elijah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. He did not die in an ordinary way, but was carried up to heaven in a chariot (2 Kings 2:11). The prophet Malachi prophesied that Elijah would return before the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5). The Jews interpreted this prophecy to mean that Elijah himself would return before the Messiah came. But John told them that he was not the Elijah of the Old Testament14
Then the Jewish leaders asked John if he was the Prophet. Moses had prophesied that a prophet like himself would rise up from among the Jews (Deuteronomy 18:15). This prophet was thought by the Jews to be different from Elijah and the Messiah.
Again John the Baptist denied that he was this prophet.
22-23 Finally, the priests and Levites asked John, “Who are you?” And John answered in the words of the prophet Isaiah that he was the voice of one calling in the desert (Isaiah 40:3). He was appointed to announce the coming of the real Messiah, Jesus Christ (see Mark 1:2-3 and comment).
24-25 Some of the Jews questioning John were PHARISEES, the strictest sect of the Jews. They wanted to know from where John the Baptist got his authority to baptize. It was a common practice for the Jews to baptize Gentiles who wanted to become followers of the Jewish religion, but nobody baptized Jews. “We don’t need to be baptized,” the Jews thought. “We are not sinners like the Gentiles.”15 Therefore, they wanted to know who was this John who was baptizing Jews.
26-27 John did not answer their question directly. Hesaid, “I baptize with water. My baptism is an ordinary baptism. But there is one here in the crowd who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit?” (see Mark 1:7-8 and comment).
John’s meaning was this: The Jewish leaders shouldn’t question John’s authority. He was only the announcer of One who had much greater authority.
28 The Jordan River where John baptized formed the eastern border of Israel; it was about eighteen miles from Jerusalem. The Bethany mentioned here is not the same Bethany where Mary and Martha lived, which was much closer to Jerusalem (John 11:1).
Jesus the Lamb of God (1:29-34)
29 The day after the Jewish leaders’ questioning of John the Baptist, John saw Jesus coming16 and said to the crowd, “Look! the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” All Jews knew what the term “Lamb of God” meant; it was a sacrifice offered to God. Every morning and evening a lamb was sacrificed to God in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Exodus 29:38-46). In the greatest Jewish festival, the Passover, a lamb was sacrificed in memory of the time God delivered the Jews out of bondage in Egypt (Exodus 12:1-30). Indeed, both the Apostles John and Paul considered Jesus to be the Passover Lamb (see John 19:36; 1 Corinthians 5:7 and comments).
The Jews sacrificed animals to God in order to atone for their sins. The animal served as a PROPITIATION for sin. Through animal sacrifices, the people’s guilt was removed and they received forgiveness from God (Leviticus 5:5; 6:14-19). The punishment that would have fallen on the sinful person fell on the sacrificed animal instead. Therefore, it could be said that the sacrificed animal “took away” the person’s sin.
In the same way, Christ was sacrificed to “take away” the sin of the world, that is, the sins of all who believe in Him (see 1 John 2:2 and comment). He was the lamb led to the slaughter about which the prophet Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32). He was a guilt of fering (Isaiah 53:10). And by His sacrifice, believers are cleansed from their sins once and for all (see Hebrews 9:13-15,28; 10:10 and comments).
John knew that Jesus was not only the Christ, the Messiah, but that He was also the Lamb of God, through whom all the sins of the world could be washed away. Christ’s sacrifice was great enough for all men to be cleansed by it. It was great enough, because Christ was God’s own Son. Christ came as Savior to bring men salvation. But He came not as a worldly king to save men by force; He came as a “lamb” to save men by His death. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. … To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever! (Revelation 5:6,12-13).
30-31 Before Jesus came to be baptized, He and John the Baptist had not met. “I myself did not know him,” John said (verse 31). But as soon as John saw Jesus, John knew that there was something unusual about Him. John had some awareness that Jesus was the Messiah, because according to Matthew 3:14, John said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
The entire purpose of John the Baptist’s work was to prepare Israel, the Jewish nation, to receive their Messiah Jesus Christ. John had come so that Christ might be revealed to ISRAEL.
32-34 Although John recognized Jesus before he baptized Him, only after the baptism did John fully learn that Jesus was God’s own Son. He learned this when he saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus in the form of a dove (see Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22 and comment). God had told John that the person on whom the Spirit descended would be the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit (see Mark 1:8 and comment). Thus John could now say with complete certainty: “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (verse 34).
Step by step, the other disciples also came to understand who Jesus was (verses 41,49). But the greatest moment came when Peter, the chief disciple, confessed to Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (see Matthew 16:16; Mark 8:29 and comment).
Jesus’ First Disciples (1:35-42)
35-39 Next day John the Baptist pointed Jesus out to two of his own disciples. So the two disciples went with Jesus and spent the day with Him. It was the tenth hour when they went with Jesus, that is, about 4 P.M. Therefore, they probably spent the night with Jesus.
40-41 One of these two disciples of John the Baptist was Andrew, who afterward became one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. The next day Andrew went and told his brother Peter that he had found the Messiah,17 that is, the Christ (see verse 17 and comment).
In New Testament times, the meaning of a man’s name was very important. The name was a sign of a man’s character and authority. But why did Jesus name Peter a “rock”? In the Gospels, Peter certainly never acted like a rock. A rock is stable and strong. Peter was unstable and his faith was weak. But in the end God turned Peter into a “rock” through the power of the Holy Spirit. Afterward, Jesus made Peter His chief disciple. He told Peter that he was to be the “rock” on which His church would be built (see Matthew 16:17-18; Mark 8:29 and comment).
The meeting of Jesus with Peter and Andrew described in this section occurred some time before Jesus actually called them to leave everything and become His disciples (see Mark 1:16-18 and comment). Even though they recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, they did not have a good understanding of what the Messiah was supposed to do. Like most other Jews, they thought that the Messiah would act like an earthly king and reestablish the earthly kingdom of Israel. They did not understand that, in fact, Jesus had come as the Lamb of God to suffer and die. They didn’t realize that He had come to establish a spiritual kingdom that was not of this world.
Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. It has been said that the greatest service ever done for Christ’s church was done when Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Think of it! On that day, Andrew brought to Jesus the “rock” on which Jesus would build His church.
Andrew is mentioned three times in the Gospel of John, and each time we see him bringing someone to Jesus (John 6:8; 12:22). Let us ask ourselves: When was the last time we brought someone to meet Jesus?
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael (1:43-51)
43-44 Jesus’ home was in Nazareth, in the province of Galilee in northern Israel. He had come down from Galilee to the southern part of Israel to be baptized. Now He decided to return to Galilee.
He then found Philip (Mark 3:18). Philip was an ordinary man. In the other places where Philip is mentioned by John, he does not appear to have been a very effective disciple (see John 6:5-7; 12:21-22; 14:8-9). But he followed Jesus when he was called; and later, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Philip became a great apostle (see Acts 8:4-8,26-40).
Philip, Peter, and Andrew were all from the town of Bethsaida in Galilee. Peter and Andrew also had a home in Capernaum (Mark 1:21,29). Jesus did many great works in both Bethsaida and Capernaum, but in the end very few of the residents of those towns believed in Him (Matthew 11:21,23).
45 Philip found Nathanael. Many Bible scholars believe that Nathanael is the same as Bartholomew, who also was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples (Mark 3:18). They say that Bartholomew’s second name was “Nathanael.”
Philip told Nathanael that this Jesus of Nazareth was the one Moses wrote about in the Law.20 He was the Messiah about whom the Old Testament prophets prophesied.
Philip then called Jesus the son of Joseph. He didn’t mean that Joseph was Jesus’ real natural father, but that he was Jesus’ legal father. Jesus’ real Father was the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18,24-25).
46 Nathanael couldn’t believe that the Messiah would come from such an insignificant town as Nazareth. Nazareth was not famous for anything; it was an ordinary little town in Galilee. The people of Nazareth, in fact, are most remembered today for trying to throw Jesus of f a clif f! (Luke 4:28-29).
47 Even though Jesus had never met Nathanael, Jesus through His divine knowledge already knew everything about Nathanael. He knew that Nathanael was not a hypocrite like most of the Jewish leaders, but was a devout and sincere Israelite, that is, a true Jew (see Romans 2:28-29 and comment).
48-49 Nathanael was amazed that Jesus knew about him. He was even more amazed that Jesus knew he had been sitting under a fig tree before Philip had called him. Then Nathanael believed and confessed that Christ was indeed the Son of God. He also called Him the King of Israel, because he thought that the Messiah would be an earthly king (see Mark 15:32; John 12:13). In fact, Jesus is much greater than any earthly king; He is the King of kings. He is the true spiritual king of Israel, and His kingdom will have no end.
50-51 Jesus told Nathanael that he would see much greater things. Nathanael would see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. That is, there would now be continuous communication between heaven and earth. Jesus had come down from heaven to show men the way to the Father. Heaven was now opened. And Jesus Himself was the road between earth and heaven (John 14:6).
Notice that Jesus called Himself the Son of Man. Jesus was both Son of God and Son of Man. He was completely God and completely man (see Mark 2:10 and comment). He was the Son of Man to whom was given authority, glory and sovereign power. … His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).
In Chapter 1, the Apostle John has called Jesus many names: the Word (verse 1), the light of men (verse 4), the true light (verse 9), the one and only Son (verse 14), Jesus Christ (verse 17), the Lord (verse 23), the Lamb of God (verse 29), the Messiah (verse 41), the Son of God (verse 49). These are names that other people called Jesus. But Jesus called Himself simply the Son of Man.21 It was because Jesus came to earth and became a “son of man,” born of a woman, that He was able to open the door of heaven and show men the way to eternal life.
This, then, is the “good news,” the GOSPEL of Christ: God came to earth in the form of the man Jesus, and took upon Himself the punishment for our sins by of fering Himself as a sacrifice in our place. And to all who believe in Him, He promises to give eternal life.