“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NKJV)
If I were to open with the words, “fourscore and seven years ago,” your mind would immediately go to Abraham Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg. His words hearken back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence that brought the United States into existence and set the stage for what he had to say.
The Bible’s opening words are “in the beginning” (Gen. 1:1). It is with those words that John launches his Gospel account. He uses this familiar phrase to orient us to creation. He weaves together themes of creation, light, and life. Beyond what has been made is the eternal, uncreated God. Now, invoking the words of Genesis, John begins a new creation account.
The Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – start their narratives with the earthly ministry of Jesus. Matthew and Luke record accounts of His birth. John, however, begins with the pre-incarnate Christ. He is eager for us to know that Jesus is God, eternal, self-existent, and uncreated. In a sense, John can’t call Him “Jesus” yet because Jesus is His given name, His human name, the name assigned Him at His birth.
Instead John calls Him “the Word.” His deity and community in the Godhead are expressed in terms that seem mutually exclusive were it not for an understanding of the tri-unity of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). This Word is not part of creation, for “all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3).
Why is Jesus called the Word? It’s clear that John wants us to understand the Word as divine and eternal. He is God. Having established that, John goes on to say: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Jesus is God incarnate. To see Him is to see the Father. He is God incarnate to save. John’s new creation account points us to the Creator becoming the created to embark on a mission. God Himself had come to do what only God could as He identified with fallen humanity for their deliverance.
Between speaking of the Word (1:1) and the Word made flesh (1:14), John references another John, one identified as “the Baptist” in the Synoptics. For John the Gospel writer, though, he is John the witness. “He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light” (John 1:8).
John the witness bore testimony. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets, bringing the weight of the entire prior prophetic word of God to bear. Jesus, however, was not merely another one bringing the word. He Himself was the Word. He was both prophet and the One prophesied about (cf. John 5:39). John was the messenger. Jesus was the message.
To describe Jesus as the Word is not only to provoke our worship because He is God, it is to fill us with awe that our Creator has condescended in love to come to us in our helpless estate. The message recorded from Eden has arrived on sin-steeped soil, not merely to explain the way, the truth, and the life, but as the way, the truth, and the life.
1. How does “the Word” help us to know our Savior?
2. How is the Word both God and with God?
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.