Lesson 1

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.


Today's Lesson

The beginning of the Gospel of John is sometimes called the prologue. It is a very important section of scripture. The doctrine of the divine nature of Jesus Christ is given its clearest expression in these poetic verses. From the very first words, the writer of the Gospel lifts us from the mundane world and places us on a higher plateau. He begins with concepts that are drawn from the Old Testament scriptures. Though the writer draws from Jewish concepts and culture, he places those concepts into a decidedly Greek framework. This is the expression of the old covenant of God, for the Jews, coming to life for the new people of God, the Gentile.


"The Word" proceeds all creation; it exists "in the beginning" before anything was made. Other than the poetic beauty of the words, why does the writer use such overlapping concepts? We will find that the writer of this gospel uses language in very precise ways. There is nothing intellectually or linguistically lazy about this document. Each phrase that he uses has a precise meaning. Each phrase presents a different nuance.


Let's take the second and third phrases for example. "The Word was with God" and "the Word was God." The first term expresses that the Word has some measure of independence from God. The Word is with God. When my wife and I are together we are "with" each other. When we are separate, I do not say I am "with" myself. To be "with" someone is to be close to that person and yet separate.


But the second term is that the Word was God. The Word is divine in existence and nature. The Word was not "a god," though some have tried to read polytheism into this passage. The writer says the Word was God. The Word was by nature that which is God.


Now, if this passage would truly reveal an idea of the nature of God and the Word, it expresses that idea through the tension of these expressions. The Word and God are both separate and yet they are one. John will express this concept in many ways throughout this book. Jesus will say, "I and the Father are one." What does Jesus mean by this? Is his meaning that their thinking is alike? That is part of it, but the insistence on this concept by Jesus is too important for just that shallow meaning. The integrity of Jesus' person is placed on this "oneness" with the Father. It is not just the idea that their thoughts are the same that Jesus is expressing. It is the idea that the nature of the Father and the nature of Jesus are the same.


Our study in Ephesians will help us to understand John's message here. Paul wrote that when a man and woman join as husband and wife, "The two will become one flesh." Two people, joined together by God, become one. They each have responsibilities to the other. They are in that sense different. But, they are joined together and made "one" as well. God sees them as one. Together, they are one.


The Word is united with God and there is one God. The Word is separate from God but not independent of God in the sense that we would understand independence. The Word is an expression of God, an image of God. And yet, the Word is fully God. The Word is not a mini-God or only a part of God that is missing something. The Word is God.


The relationship of the Word and God is closer than that of a husband and a wife or a father to a son but, it is in these physical bonds of human beings that God expresses His revelation. When we are united in being with those whom we love and share our lives we come the closest we can to understanding and expressing the nature of God. Our God is unique and incomparable, and yet, He chooses to reveal Himself in relationship to us and to His creation. God is one with the Son and one with the Spirit.


His will is that He might achieve this same unity and oneness with His creation by redeeming and sanctifying a people for Himself. Are you willing to become a part of that unity? Are you willing to enter the united with God? Are you willing to give up everything you are to become one with God through His Christ?


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