With Dale Ratzlaff
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
We are ready to dive into the deep part of the pool—the Gospel of John. So here we go…
In these verses right at the beginning of John’s gospel, we should recognize a number of concepts, events, and words that are parallel with the first chapter of Geneses.
|In the beginning God.||In the beginning was the Word.|
|God created the whole world.||All things came into being through Him (the Word).|
|God created all life.||In Him was life.|
|Let there be light.||His life is the light of the world.|
|The darkness he called night.||The darkness did not comprehend it.|
We can infer two things from this parallel with Genesis. First, this “Word” to whom John has introduced us is doing the same things that God did at creation. In fact, as this chapter and book reveal, it is as though the Word is making a new creation. Second, this “Word”, which we will learn in verse 14 is Jesus, is God, fully God, entering into the human race.
Let us consider again “in the beginning.” What beginning? Matthew and Luke begin their Gospels with the birth of Christ. Mark starts with these words: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk. 1:1); then he immediately moves to discuss the mission of John the Baptist without mentioning the birth of Christ.
The context in John, however, makes it clear “the beginning” is the beginning of creation—but as we shall see, it is even more than that:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn. 1:1 ).
All the “was-es” in this verse are in the imperfect, durative tense and can be rightly translated as follows:
In the beginning the Word continually was, and the Word was continually with God, and the Word was continually God.
This moves the “beginning” far back into eternity past—before the creation of this world, back to the very beginning of the cosmos, and then back of that.
When we lived in Sedona there was a road named “Back of Beyond” leading to what is known as Cathedral Rock. John’s “in the beginning” goes back farther than “back of beyond”; it goes to “back of forever.”
Think of the vastness of the cosmos. Our Milky Way galaxy is about 100,000 light years across with billions of suns. Astronomers estimate that there are about two trillion galaxies. Some, such as the Hercules Galaxy, are about 1.5 million light years in diameter. It is estimated that some of the far distant galaxies are about 13.3 billion light years away.
And our text in John says,
He was [continually] in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being (Jn. 1:2-3).
There are two things of importance here: 1) Everything came into being, or was created, through the Word. 2) It does not say everything was created by the Word. Here, right at the beginning of John, we see evidence of the Trinity—the teaching on the Holy Spirit will come later. Here is a little quiz to help us understand John 1:1.
True or False:
- The Word = God.
- God = the Word.
By the rules of math, logic, and reason, both statements should be true, but they are not. No. 1 is true. However, No. 2 is not. Why? Because our text says that the Word was with God. God is bigger than the Word because God includes the Father and the Spirit as well as the Word. This concept is not fully explainable, however; we can only understand the Trinity by revelation.
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (Jn. 1:4-5).
Light of truth exposes error
In John “light” often is used for “truth”. The light of truth will point out the errors in darkness. With what we have learned thus far from the first few verses of John’s gospel, we can now point out two heresies that have entered the church.
The first is Arianism which maintains that the Son of God was created by the Father and was therefore neither coeternal with the Father, nor consubstantial.
Here is a quotation which many of our readers will recognize. Speaking of Christ before the Creation of the world, Ellen White reveals her Arian perception of Jesus as not consubstantial with the Father. In her understanding, Jesus was a being (obviously created, because only God is not created) whom the Father had to exalt to equality with Him:
Our great Exemplar [with reference to Jesus] was exalted to be equal with God. He was high commander in heaven (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 426,427).
The phrase “true Light” exposes this heretical statement.
In the beginning the Word continually was, and the Word was continually with God and the Word was continually God.
The Word was with God in the very beginning, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
To hold that Jesus was at some distant time in the past exalted to be equal with God is heresy and must be rejected.
A second heresy exposed in these first few verse is the teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus is not fully God. They say that Jesus was not God Almighty, but only was “a god”. They attempt to prove this by showing that the Greek text in John 1:1 does not have the definite article for “God”. However, they don’t follow the Greek rule of grammar called “Colwell’s Rule”. I am including this as some of you will probably encounter two Jehovah’s Witnesses who will show you a diglot Bible with the English on one page and Greek on the other. They know enough Greek to point out several words, but they don’t follow good Greek grammar. Here is Colwell’s Rule.
Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article … a predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a “qualitative” noun solely because of the absence of the article if the context suggests that the predicate is definite, it should be translated as a definite noun …”
Here is the Greek text:
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ [and] θεὸς [God] ἦν [was] ὁ [the] λόγος [Word].
The predicate nominative (God) comes before the verb (was) and should correctly be translated, “The Word was God”.
Both of these heresies completely undermine the truth of Scripture in general and specifically the first few verses of John. Remember that this “Word was continually God and was the active agent in all of creation. John takes all questioning away when he says,
Apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, was created or came into being without the Word. This “everything”, then, includes the vast expanse of the cosmos which has about two trillion galaxies each of which have billions of stars and are from hundreds to millions of light years in diameter!
To say that the Word was “exalted” to be equal with God, or that the Word was “a god” is an insult to our Lord and the truth of Scripture.
David tried to put the bigness of God into one of his songs:
For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat (Ps. 19:1-6).
Isaiah gave us this picture of God.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. (Isa. 40:28)
At this Christmas season let us understand the Majesty of the Word that became flesh.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6 KJV).
Father, thank you for revealing the truth about the Word, my Lord Jesus Christ, through your servant, John. The more I contemplate the Majesty of who Jesus is, the more I am awed that He became a human to save sinners like me.
In Jesus name.