John 1:1-13

Sunday Morning Bible Study

August 16, 2009

Who wrote the Gospel of John?

A Jewish man who had found Jesus, named John.  His name means “Yahweh is gracious”

He was a fisherman by trade, not a scholar.

He was usually referred to in the other gospels along with his brother as “James and John the sons of Zebedee”

He never refers to himself by name in this gospel.  When you see the name “John”, it will be talking about John the Baptist.  John only refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.

He had been one of the “inner three” of Jesus’ friends (Peter, James, and John)

He and his brother had a nickname, the “Sons of Thunder”, probably due to the time they asked Jesus if they could call down fire on the Samaritans (Luk 9:51-56)

In the book of Acts, John is known primarily as the sidekick to Peter.

At some point, he finally ends up at Ephesus, the city in Asia Minor.

The church of Ephesus was started by Paul.  It was pastored by Timothy.  Some time shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70), John arrives and leads the church.  This is where John is when he writes his gospel and three letters (1-3 John)

When a heavy persecution arises against the church, he is taken and thrown into a pot of boiling oil.  He came out okay, but the Twinkies in his pocket were deep fried.

Because the Romans don’t know what to do with a bulletproof apostle, he is banished to a desert island, Patmos, where he receives his “Revelation” and writes it down (A.D. 95)

Later he is returned to Ephesus and there dies (around A.D. 98)

When did he write it?

Somewhere between 85-90 AD. It was the last of the gospels to be written down.

Who did he write it for?

There are some parts of John that are clearly written for Jewish people.

Other parts are clearly written for Gentiles who don’t know anything about Judaism.

Why did he write it?

One of the reasons for John’s gospel was to clear up a few things.

It’s been a good 20-30 years since the other gospels were written.

There have been some heresies beginning to develop from people who didn’t know Jesus.

One such fellow was named Cerinthus, who taught a form of Gnosticism.
This fellow taught that Yahweh of the Old Testament was not the creator, but a lesser god, a “demiurge” was the creator.
He taught that Jesus was just an ordinary human.
He taught that “Christ” was a spirit that came upon Jesus at His baptism, and left Him at the cross. This is a teaching often taught today as well.
John lived at the time of Cerinthus.  John detested Cerinthus.
There is an old historical tradition that he once fled a bathhouse when he found out Cerinthus was inside, yelling “Let us flee, lest the building fall down; for Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is inside!” (sounds like John had a sense of humor too)

John is going to fill in the blanks about Jesus.

The other gospels focus mainly on the last year of Christ’s ministry.  It’s John that shows us events from Jesus’ three year ministry.

Though some of the things he will talk about are things that we see in the other gospels, he will also tell some of the stories that the other gospels skipped.

Even more important, John will give us a little fuller idea of just why Jesus did what He did.

John wants you to believe:

(John 20:30-31 NKJV)  And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; {31} but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

John wants his readers to understand just who Jesus is.
John wants his readers to believe in Jesus and receive eternal life.
If you have friends who want to know more about Christianity, encourage them to read the Gospel of John!  Bring them to church!

John 1

This chapter is John’s introduction to us of Jesus Christ.

He will use seven different titles to describe who Jesus is (we’ll cover three of them today).

The Word (1:1)
The Light (1:7)
The Son of God (1:18)
The Lamb (1:29)
The Messiah (1:41)
The King of Israel (1:49)
The Son of Man (1:51)

:1-3  The Word

:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Wordlogos – word; conveying a concept or idea.  Words reveal the heart and mind.

There is a lot of discussion about this term “logos” and how John came to use it to describe Jesus.

There was a Jewish philosopher living around John’s time named Philo (20BC – 50AD).  He lived in Alexandria Egypt.  He wrote a lot using this term the “Word”, the “logos”.

It is thought that Philo may have taken his ideas from Greek philosophers like Plato (400BC) and Heraclitus of Ephesus (500BC) who also used this term.

The Greeks used this term to designate the divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe.

Some have suggested that the Greeks actually took their ideas from the Jews.

It is throughout the Jewish commentaries on the Old Testament.
You see it in the very beginning of creation:
(Gen 1:3 NKJV)  Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

How did God create?  Through His “word”.

The phrase “the word of the LORD” is found 248 times (NKJV) in the Old Testament.  Places like:
(Gen 15:1 NKJV)  After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram…”
(1 Sam 15:10 NKJV)  Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying,
(2 Sam 7:4 NKJV)  But it happened that night that the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying,

Whether you were Jew or Greek, you knew this term.  You knew it as the expression of God.  You knew it as the thing that brings design and purpose to the world.  You knew it as the thing that holds the world together.


Jesus is the Word

Don’t confuse this with the Bible being called the “Word of God”.  The term “word” is used by Christians in two ways.  The Bible is the written word of God.  Jesus is the Living Word of God.
“Logos” is a name for Jesus uniquely expressed by the apostle John:
(1 John 1:1 NKJV)  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life;
(Rev 19:13 NKJV)  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

In the beginning – Baseball is in the Bible!  The “Big Inning”??


Jesus is eternal.

John doesn’t write, “In the beginning the Word came into being”.
He says that at the beginning of time, the Word was already there.
He was there before creation. He was there at the creation of the universe.
He pops up from time to time in the Old Testament, appearing as “The Angel of the LORD”
The word “angel” simply means a “messenger”.  Some “angels” are those created beings with big wings on their backs, but the word itself simply means “messenger”.  Jesus wasn’t a created being, but in the Old Testament He appears from time to time with a message from heaven.
Jesus existed before He was born in a manger in Bethlehem.
The Old Testament speaks of the Messiah existing from eternity:
(Micah 5:2 NKJV)  "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting."

the Word was with God

Some teach that God the Father in the Old Testament became Jesus Christ in the gospels, and then became the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts.

John is clearly teaching that Jesus is a separate person from God the Father.  They both existed at the same time before time even began.

the Word was God

Some people teach that Jesus was not God, part of the Trinity.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses translate this phrase, “the word was a god”.

They say that Jesus isn’t fully God Himself, but instead a created being.

First a little grammar lesson.  Grammar alert!

A common part of most languages is the “definite article”.  It’s a small word that tells us that this thing we’re talking about is something special.  In English our word “the” is the definite article.  In English we also have an “indefinite” article, the word “a”.
For example, if I say “I am “a” father to my three sons”, that’s “indefinite”.  If I say “I am “the” father of my three sons” – that’s “definite”.

Back to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Their reasoning goes like this –

In the original Greek text, there is no definite article, therefore you must translate it with an indefinite article.  Here’s John 1:1 in the New World Translation (JW):
In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.
The Jehovah's Witnesses are absolutely correct in saying that the Greek does not contain the definite article before the word for “God”.
The problem is, John wrote in Greek, not English.  Greek has no indefinite article.  There is no word that we would translate as “a” or “an”.
You learn in first year Greek that when a word does not have a definite article, that the emphasis is on the quality of character or nature of the thing being described.
In other words, the most accurate way of translating this phrase is,

The Word was by nature God.

Just to show their own inconsistencies, there is no definite article in front of the word for “beginning” in the Greek.  Yet the NWT translators put the word “the” in parentheses because they don’t want to say “In a beginning the Word was”.
One last thought – in Greek you will see the emphasis the author is trying to make by the order he puts the words in.  In the original Greek, the word for “God” is first in this phrase, “God was the Word”.  John is clearly saying that Jesus is God.


Jesus is God

Why is it important to believe that Jesus is God?

1.  If it’s not true, then Jesus is a liar.
Jesus claimed to be God, several times. We will see this throughout the Gospel of John.
If Jesus weren’t telling the truth, He’s either a liar, or He’s some crazy guy.

Would you like to spend your entire life following a liar or crazy guy?

If He’s wrong in this subject, how about the other things He’s said that we hold so dear?

2.  Our salvation is based on it.  See how salvation works
The Bible teaches that man is sinful.

(Rom 3:23 NKJV)  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Sin has consequences.  It comes with a steep price to pay.

(Rom 6:23 NKJV)  For the wages of sin is death…

For man to become right with God, someone has to pay the price.

You can pay the price yourself, and go to hell.

Or, somebody else could pay the price for you.

For someone to pay for you, they must meet certain requirements - they can’t be a sinner.  If they were a sinner, they would only be dying to pay for their own sins.

If Jesus was sinless, but just an ordinary man, could He die in your place?

Yes.  But He could only pay for one person’s sins.

Jesus was not only sinless, but He was the Eternal God.

When He laid down His life, He laid down an infinite life.  He was able not only to pay for my sins, but yours as well.  He died for the sins of the entire world.

How do you get Jesus to pay for your sins? You ask Him.  You trust Him.

:2 He was in the beginning with God.

:3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

madeginomai – to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be; to be made, finished

Jesus is the Creator.  In fact, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all involved in creation.  You might say Jesus was the General Contractor of creation.  Paul wrote,

(Col 1:16 NKJV)  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

:4-13 The Light

:4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

lifezoe – life, absolute fullness of life; life real and genuine, active and vigorous.

Life comes from Jesus.  Life from Jesus is in men and shining light into their lives.  When Paul addressed the Greeks in Athens, he said …

(Acts 17:25 NKJV)  …He gives to all life, breath, and all things.

(Acts 17:28 NKJV)  …for in Him we live and move and have our being…

:5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

comprehendkatalambano – to lay hold of; understand; to seize upon, take possession of

This might mean that evil just doesn’t “get it” when it comes to Jesus.

It also might mean that darkness can’t conquer light.

(John 1:5 NLT)  The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.


In the Truth Project video last week (Tour 10 – “The American Experiment”), Dr. Tackett was talking about this concept of light and dark.  (Play video) He illustrated it this way – he told about a time when he was in his living room and his son opened the closet door.  Dr. Tackett got all excited and asked his son to close and open the door again.  He said that a principle dawned on him about light and dark.  When the closet door was opened, the inside of the closet was illuminated by the light from the living room.  He got inside the closet and closed the door, and the closet was dark again.  He pointed out that darkness is not something that can conquer light.  Light always conquers darkness.  If there is darkness creeping across our nation, it is not because someone went to Kansas and opened a big box of darkness and the darkness is spreading.  If there is darkness in our nation, it is only because we as the church have been hiding our light.

:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

This is John the Baptist.  He was that wild guy who wore rough clothes, ate bugs, and baptized people in the Jordan River.  More about him next week.

:7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.

John’s purpose was to point people to Jesus.

:8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

Jesus shines on every person who has ever been born.

No person is without the witness within himself that there is a God, and that He’s personal.

The problem is that most have run from the light, some even convincing themselves that there’s no such thing as light.

:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

What complete and utter irony.

He would eventually be nailed to a cross of wood.  Nails made from iron which He created.  Wood from a tree He created.  Crucified by people He created.

:11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

Not only did the world not recognize Him, specifically the Jews (for the most part) did not recognize Him.

He understands rejection.

:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

receivedlambano – to take; to take with the hand; to associate with one’s self as companion; not to refuse or reject; to receive a person, give him access to one’s self

In Jesus’ day, some people rejected Him.  They refused to see Him for what He was.  But others received Him.  They recognized who Jesus was.

rightexousia – power of choice; authority


Becoming God’s child

Here’s how you become a child of God.
You “receive” Jesus.  Be willing to bring Him into your life.  Take Him by the hand.  Give Him access to your heart.
In turn, He gives you the right to become God’s child, simply through believing in Jesus.

Becoming a “child” requires a birth.  This is what it means to be “born again”.

It comes from believing in Jesus.


When I do a wedding, I will ask the groom and the bride a series of questions.  They all start with “will you …”

… will you have this woman to be your wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony?  Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her as long as you both shall live?

The groom doesn’t say “I will try my best”.  He doesn’t say “I hope so”.  He says “I will”.  Notice the smiles.  It’s good to say “I will”.

That’s what it means to “receive” Jesus.  Will you receive Him?

:13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

How does a person become a child of God?

not of blood” – it’s not because your parents were God’s children.

will of the flesh … of man” – you don’t earn your way to become God’s child.

but of God” – we simply receive Him and believe, and God takes care of making you His child.


While attending Magdalen, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England, C. S. Lewis converted to theism in the spring of 1929, thus setting the stage for his eventual conversion to the Christian faith in 1931. He describes his conversion in his book, Surprised by Joy:

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him of whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 [May 22] I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? … The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compassion is our liberation.

C. S. Lewis, as quoted in Paul F. Ford's Yours, Jack (HarperOne, 2008), p. 9; submitted by Kevin Miller, executive vice president, Christianity Today International

God is waiting for you to come home.