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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
SRN (Scofield Reference Notes, Dr. C.I. Scofield, Editor)
RSB (Reformation Study Bible, Dr. R.C. Sproul, Editor).
Book Introduction – (SRN) John (Provided by Scofield Reference Notes; Dr. C.I. Scofield, deceased).
WRITER: The fourth Gospel was written by the Apostle John (John 21:24). This has been questioned on critical grounds, but on the same grounds and with equal scholarship, the early date and Johanean authorship have been maintained.
DATE: The date of John’s Gospel falls between A.D. 85 and 90. Probably the latter.
THEME: This is indicated both in the Prologue (John 1:1-14), and in the last verse of the Gospel proper (John 20:31), and is: The incarnation of the eternal Word, and Son of life; (2) that as many as believe on Him as “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31) may have eternal life. The prominent words are, “believed” and “life.”
The book is in seven natural divisions:
1. Prologue: The eternal Word incarnate in Jesus the Christ, John 1:1-14.
2. The witness of John the Baptist, John 1:15-34.
3. The public ministry of Christ, John 1:35 to John 12:50.
4. The private ministry of Christ to His own, John 13:1 to John 17:26.
5. The sacrifice of Christ, John 18:1 to John 19:42.
6. The manifestation of Christ in resurrection, John 20:1-31.
7. Epilogue: Christ the Master of life and service, John 21:1-25.
The events recorded in this book cover a period of 7 years
John 1:1-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB) – Prologue
1:1–18 This “Prologue” to the Gospel is a preface to the narrative beginning at v. 19. (Reformation Study Bible).
The Deity of Jesus Christ
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 came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
The Witness John
6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
The Word Made Flesh
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Verse 1 (RSB)
1:1 the Word. The term “Word” (Greek logos) designates God the Son with respect to His deity; “Jesus” and “Christ” refer to His incarnation and saving work. During the first three centuries, doctrines of the Person of Christ focused intensely on His position as the Logos. In Greek philosophy, the Logos was “reason” or “logic” as an abstract force that brought order and harmony to the universe. But in John’s writings such qualities of the Logos are gathered in the Person of Christ. In Neo-Platonic philosophy and the Gnostic heresy (second and third centuriesa.d.), the Logos was seen as one of many intermediate powers between God and the world. Such notions are far removed from the simplicity of John’s Gospel.
In this verse the Word is expressly affirmed to be God. The Word existed already “in the beginning” (a clear reference to the opening words of the Bible), which is a way of denoting the eternity that is unique to God. John states clearly, “the Word was God.” Some have observed that the word translated “God” here has no definite article, and argued on this basis that it means “a god” rather than “God.” This is a misunderstanding; the article is omitted because of the word order in the Greek sentence (the predicate “God” has been placed first for emphasis). The New Testament never endorses the idea of “a god,” an expression that implies polytheism and is in sharp conflict with the consistent monotheism of the Bible. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “God” occurs often without the definite article, depending on the requirements of Greek grammar.
That “the Word was with God,” indicates a distinction of Persons within the unity of the Godhead. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not successive forms of appearance of one Person, but are eternal Persons present from “the beginning” (v. 2). “With” suggests a relationship of close personal intimacy. See “One and Three: The Trinity” at Is. 44:6.
Verse 3 (RSB)
1:3 All things were made through him. This verse also emphasizes the deity of the Word, since creation belongs to God alone. See also v. 10; Col. 1:16–17; “God the Creator” at Ps. 148:5.
Verse 4 (RSB)
1:4 In him was life. Another affirmation of deity: the Son as well as the Father has “life in himself” (5:26).
Verse 5 (RSB)
1:5 has not overcome it. It is characteristic of the style of this Gospel to emphasize contrasting concepts (see Introduction). The plot of this Gospel could be seen in terms of a struggle between the forces of faith and unbelief.
Verses 7, 9, 11 (RSB)
1:7, 9 all . . . everyone. The universal relevance of the gospel is asserted (v. 7) as well as the enlightening activity of God’s common grace (v. 9). God’s saving activity is not restricted to any particular people.
Verse 7 (SRN)).
(1) Grace is “the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man.. . not by works of righteousness which we have done” Titus 3:4; Titus 3:5.
It is, therefore, constantly set in contrast to law, under which God demands righteousness from man, as, under grace, he gives righteousness to man Romans 3:21; Romans 3:22; Romans 8:4; Philippians 3:9. Law is connected with Moses and works; grace with Christ and faith; John 1:17; Romans 10:4-10. Law blesses the good; grace saves the bad; Exodus 19:5; Ephesians 2:1-9. Law demands that blessings be earned; grace is a free gift; Deuteronomy 28:1-6; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 4:4; Romans 4:5.
(2) As a dispensation, grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ Romans 3:24-26, Romans 4:24; Romans 4:25. The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ, with good works as a fruit of salvation,; John 1:12; John 1:13; John 3:36; Matthew 21:37; Matthew 22:24; John 15:22; John 15:25; Hebrews 1:2; 1 John 5:10-12. The immediate result of this testing was the rejection of Christ by the Jews, and His crucifixion by Jew and Gentile Acts 4:27. The predicted end of the testing of man under grace is the apostasy of the professing church: See “Apostasy” (See Scofield “2 Timothy 3:1”) 2 Timothy 3:1-8 and the resultant apocalyptic judgments.
(3) Grace has a twofold manifestation: in salvation Romans 3:24 and in the walk and service of the saved Romans 6:15.
Verse 9 (RSB)
1:9 The true light. In this Gospel, “truth” and “true” are often employed to signify what is everlasting or heavenly, as opposed to the merely temporal or earthly. See notes 4:24; 6:32; “Mankind’s Guilty Knowledge of God” at Rom. 1:19.
Verse 11 (RSB)
1:11 did not receive him. Jesus’ public ministry was one of rejection by “his own people”
Verse 12 (RSB)
1:12 Fallen human beings are not children of God by nature; this is the privilege only of those who have faith, a faith generated in them by the sovereign action of God (v. 13). See Gal. 4:5 (Adoption).
Verse 13 (RSB)
1:13 who were born. Early Latin versions understood this to describe the virgin birth of Christ. However, the plural verb “were born” shows that this verse is about the new birth of Christian believers (cf. 3:3, 5, 7, 8). This new birth takes place by the action of the Spirit giving life to those who were “dead in . . . trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). The new birth, often called “regeneration,” is explained more fully in 3:1–21. Paul uses the metaphor of a resurrection from death in sin rather than the image of rebirth (Rom. 6:4–6; Eph. 2:5, 6; Col. 2:13; 3:1; cf. John 5:24). God’s work of salvation is wholly sovereign and gracious, but the reality of the human response in believing and receiving is never cancelled. See Rom. 9:18.(Election and Reprobation)
Verse 14 (RSB)
1:14 the Word became flesh. This is the climactic assertion of the Prologue. To some of John’s contemporaries, spirit and the divine were utterly opposed to matter and flesh. To others, the gods were thought to visit the earth disguised as human beings (Acts 14:11). But here a chasm is bridged: the eternal Word of God did not merely appear to be a human being, but actually became flesh. He took to Himself a full and genuine human nature. See theological note “Jesus Christ, God and Man” on next page.
dwelt among us. “Dwelt” means “pitched His tent.” This not only indicates the temporary nature of Jesus’ earthly existence, but does so in a way that recalls ancient Israel’s tabernacle, where God could be found (Ex. 40:34, 35).
we have seen his glory. His “glory” is beheld, even as God’s was in the wilderness (Ex. 16:1–10; 33:18–23), in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–35), and later in the temple (1 Kin. 8:1–11). There may also be a reference to the Transfiguration, since John witnessed it (Matt. 17:1–5). “Glory” applies supremely to God, who is the Creator and Ruler of the universe, and before whom all knees must bow. The Son has the divine glory by right (17:5). The Reformers declared their faith with the motto, Soli Deo Gloria (“To God alone the glory”).
the only Son. This phrase translates a single Greek word and explicitly points to the eternal generation of the Son in the Trinity.
full of grace and truth. These words correspond to Old Testament terms describing God’s covenant mercy that are often translated “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Gen. 24:27; Ps. 25:10; Prov. 16:6; cf. Ex. 34:6; Ps. 26:3). The Word made flesh fully manifests the gracious covenant-making and covenant-keeping character of God.
Verse 15: (RSB)
1:15 John the Baptist’s ministry preceded the public ministry of Jesus (Matt. 3), yet the Word, being eternal, existed before John (cf. 8:58).
Verse 16: (RSB)
1:16 grace. This word, frequent in Paul’s epistles, appears in John’s writings only in this passage and as a customary greeting in Rev. 1:4; 22:21. It emphasizes that salvation is a gift. The Reformation expressed this with the motto Sola Gratia (“by grace alone”).
Verse 17: (RSB)
1:17 Moses . . . Jesus Christ. There is both contrast and comparison. Grace and truth truly existed in Moses’ day, but they were fully revealed in the coming of Christ.
Verse 18: (RSB)
1:18 No one has ever seen God. It is fundamental that God is invisible and without form (1 Tim. 6:16). Yet Christ reveals God. He brings the invisible and the visible together in a way that has no parallel or analogy.
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For other posts on the subject of this “John” series, select category “John”.