John 1:1-18

The Word Became Flesh

1 1In the beginning was 2the Word, and 3the Word was with God, and 4the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 5All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 6In him was life,[a] and 7the life was the light of men.
5 8The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man 9sent from God, whose name was 10John.
7 He came as a 11witness, to bear witness about the light, 12that all might believe through him.
8 13He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 14The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet 15the world did not know him.
11 He came to 16his own,[b] and 17his own people[c]18 did not receive him.
12 But to all who did receive him, 19who believed in his name, 20he gave the right 21to become 22children of God,
13 who 23were born, 24not of blood 25nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And 26the Word 27became flesh and 28dwelt among us, 29and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of 30grace and 31truth.
15 (32John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 33'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'")
16 And from 34his fullness we have all received, 35grace upon grace.
17 For 36the law was given through Moses; 37grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 38No one has ever seen God; 39the only God[d], who is at the Father's side[e]40, he has made him known.

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John 1:1-18 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO 1 JOHN

The author of this epistle was John, the son of Zebedee, the disciple whom Jesus loved: he was the youngest of the apostles, and survived them all. He does not indeed put his name to this epistle, as the Apostles Paul, Peter, James, and Jude do to theirs; and it is easy to observe, that when this disciple, in his writings, had any occasion to speak of himself, it was usually by such a circumlocution, as the disciple whom Jesus loved, or the other disciple, studiously concealing his name: so that his not putting his name to this epistle need not create any scruple about his being the author of it, which everywhere breathes the temper and spirit of this great apostle; and whoever compares this epistle, and the Gospel written by him, together, will easily conclude it to be his, both from the style and subject matter of it: besides, as Eusebius asserts {a}, this epistle was generally received without scruple, both by ancient and modern writers. It is called "general", because it was not written and sent to any particular church, or person, and not because it was for the general use of the churches, for so are all the particular epistles but because it was written to the Christians in general, or to the believing Jews in general wherever they were; for that it was written to the Jews seems evident from 1Jo 2:2. It was called, by some of the ancients, the epistle of John to the Parthians {b}; by whom must be meant not the natives of Parthia but the Jews professing to believe in Christ, who dwelt in that empire. We read of Parthian Jews a the feast of Pentecost, Ac 2:9, who at that time might be converted, and, upon their return to their own country, lay the foundation of a Gospel church state there Dr. Lightfoot {c} conjectures from a passage in 3Jo 1:9 that this epistle was written to the Corinthians; but there does not seem to be any sufficient reason for it. As for the time when, and place where, this epistle was written, it is not easy to say: some think it was written at Patmos, whither the apostle was banished in the reign of Domitian, and where he wrote the book of the Revelations; see Re 1:9; and here some say he wrote his Gospel, and this epistle, and that a little before the destruction of Jerusalem, and which he calls the last time or hour; and that his design in writing it was to exhort the believing Jews, either in Parthia, or scattered about in other countries, to brotherly love, and to warn them against false Christs and false prophets, which were now gone forth into the world to deceive men; see 1Jo 2:18, 4:1. Others think that it was written by him, when a very old man, after his return from his exile to Ephesus, where he resided during his life, and where he died, and was buried. It is called his "first" epistle general, not that it is the first general epistle, for the other two are written to particular persons, but is the first he wrote, and which is general: the occasion, and manifest design of it, is to promote brotherly love, which he enforces upon the best principles, and with the strongest arguments, taken from the love of God and Christ, from the commandment of Christ, and its being an evidence of regeneration, and the truth and glory of a profession of religion: and also to oppose and stop the growth of licentious principles, and practices, and heretical doctrines. The licentious principles and practices he condemns are these, that believers had no sin in them, or need not be concerned about it, nor about their outward conversation, so be they had but knowledge; and these men boasted of their communion with God, notwithstanding their impieties; and which were the sentiments and practices of the Nicolaitans, Gnostics, and Carpocratians. The heresies he sets himself against, and refutes, are such as regard the doctrine of the Trinity, and the person and office of Christ. There were some who denied a distinction, of persons in the Trinity, and asserted there was but one person; that the Father was not distinct from the Son, nor the Son from the Father; and, by confounding both, tacitly denied there was either, as Simon Magus, and his followers; regard is had to these in 1Jo 2:22, 5:7 and others, as the unbelieving Jews, denied that Jesus was the Messiah, or that Christ was come in the flesh; these are taken notice of in \1Jo 2:22 4:2,3 5:1\. Others, that professed to believe in Jesus Christ, denied his proper deity, and asserted he was a mere man, and did not exist before he took flesh, of the virgin, as Ebion and Cerinthus; these are opposed in \1Jo 1:1,2 3:16 5:20\. And others denied his real humanity, and affirmed that he was a mere phantom; that he only had the appearance of a man, and assumed human nature, and suffered, and died, and rose again in show only, and not in reality; of which sort were the followers of Saturninus and Basilides, and which are confuted in 1Jo 1:1-3. This epistle is, by Clemens Alexandrinus {d}, called his "greater" or "larger epistle", it being so in comparison of the other two that follow.

{a} Eccl. Hist. l. 3. c. 24. {b} Augustin. apud Grotium. {c} Hor. Hebr. in 1 Cor. i. 14. {d} Stromat. l. 2. p. 389.

\\INTRODUCTION TO 1 JOHN 1\\

In this chapter the apostle gives a summary of the Gospel, and the evidence of it, and from thence presses to a holy life and conversation, The sum of the Gospel is Jesus Christ, who is described both as God and man; his deity is expressed by being that which was from the beginning, the Word of life, life, and eternal life; his humanity by being the life manifested in the flesh, of which the apostles had full evidence by the several senses of seeing, hearing, and handling, and so were capable of bearing witness to the truth thereof, 1Jo 1:1,2. And the ends had in view in giving this summary, evidence, and testimony, were, that the saints wrote unto might have fellowship with the apostles, whose fellowship was with the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, and that their joy on hearing these things might be full, 1Jo 1:3,4. And the amount of the message declared by them was, that God is light, or a pure and holy Being, and that there is no darkness of sin, or unholiness in him; wherefore all such that pretend to communion with him, and live a sinful course of life, are liars; only such have fellowship with him, and with his Son, whose blood cleanses them from all sin, who live holy lives and conversations, 1Jo 1:5-7, not, that it is to be expected that men should be clear of the being of sin in this life, only that they should, as often as they sin, be humbled for it, and confess it before God, who will forgive them, and cleanse them from all unrighteousness; but as for those who affirm they have no sin in them, or any done by them, they are self-deceivers, the truth of grace is not in them, nor the word of God, and they make him a liar, 1Jo 1:8-10.

John 1:1-18 In-Context

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.
8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'")
16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"
20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ."
21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not.""Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."
22 So they said to him, "Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"

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Cross References 40

  • 1. Genesis 1:1; [Colossians 1:17; 1 John 1:1; Rev. 1:4, 8, 17; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:13]
  • 2. Revelation 19:13; [Hebrews 4:12; 1 John 1:1]
  • 3. 1 John 1:2; [John 17:5]
  • 4. Philippians 2:6
  • 5. ver. 10; Psalms 33:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2
  • 6. John 5:26; John 11:25; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 5:11
  • 7. John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:46
  • 8. [John 3:19]
  • 9. ver. 33; John 3:28; Malachi 3:1
  • 10. Matthew 3:1; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:2
  • 11. John 3:26; John 5:33
  • 12. Acts 19:4
  • 13. ver. 20
  • 14. Isaiah 49:6; 1 John 2:8
  • 15. [John 16:3; 1 John 3:1]
  • 16. Matthew 21:38
  • 17. John 13:1
  • 18. John 5:43; [John 3:11, 32]
  • 19. See 1 John 5:13
  • 20. 1 John 5:1
  • 21. 1 John 3:1; [Matthew 5:45]
  • 22. [Galatians 3:26]; See John 11:52
  • 23. James 1:18; [John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3]
  • 24. 1 Peter 1:23
  • 25. John 3:6
  • 26. ver. 1
  • 27. Romans 1:3; Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7, 8; Colossians 1:22; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7; [John 6:51]
  • 28. Revelation 7:15; Revelation 21:3
  • 29. John 2:11; Luke 9:32; 2 Peter 1:16, 17; 1 John 1:1; 1 John 4:14
  • 30. See ver. 7
  • 31. [John 14:6]
  • 32. See ver. 7
  • 33. ver. 27, 30; See Matthew 3:11
  • 34. Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9
  • 35. [Matthew 25:29]
  • 36. John 7:19; Exodus 20:1
  • 37. ver. 14; [Romans 5:21]
  • 38. John 5:37; John 6:46; Exodus 33:20; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 6:16; 1 John 4:12, 20; [John 12:45]
  • 39. ver. 14; See John 3:16
  • 40. [Matthew 11:27]; See John 3:32

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. Or was not any thing made. That which has been made was life in him
  • [b]. Greek to his own things; that is, to his own domain, or to his own people
  • [c]. People is implied in Greek
  • [d]. Or the only One, who is God; some manuscripts the only Son
  • [e]. Greek in the bosom of the Father
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.