A. Nature of the Word 1:1-5
1. The Word Introduced (v 1) 1
2. The Word in Creation (vv 2-3) 2
3. The Word: Life & Light (vv 4-5) 3
B. Witness to the Word 1:6-8
1. The Coming of John (v 6) 4
2. The Mission of John (vv 7-8) 5
C. Response to Light of the Word 1:9-13
1. Sent to the Entire World (v 9)
2. Disowned by Two Worlds (vv 10-11)
3. Received by God’s Children (vv 12-13)
D. The Word Is Emmanuel 1:14-18
1. The Beauty of the Word (v 14) 6
2. The Effect of the Word (vv 15-17)
3. God With Us (v 18) 7
1 John 1:1-18. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Word Made Flesh
a. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
(A) the Greek for “Word” is logos – found in such English terms as biology, mineralogy, cosmology, theology – publishing or making the facts known on a specific subject
(B) to Greeks it spoke of wisdom; to Jews, of the message from God
(C) “Behold, I am going to send My messenger [John the Baptist], and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger [Jesus] of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)
(D) Jesus is God’s Message in the flesh to mankind; incarnation is the word that conveys that idea, meaning ‘being in the flesh’
b. this verse, consisting of three statements, is very difficult to give the full meaning in any concise English translation because of
(A) the form of the verb: the verb, ‘was’, expresses a continuing state, and, except for sounding clumsy in English, could be rendered ‘was being, or, was existing’
(B) the use, or non-use of the word‘the’ differs between English and Greek; when omitted in the latter, quality that is being emphasised; but when included, points to a specific case or individual
(C) the subject of each statement is ‘the Word’, though it does not always come first in either the Greek or the English
(D) let us spend a moment or two further, then, on this verse
c. ‘The Word was already existing when beginning began’
(A) THE Word, who is later identified as Jesus, is UNIQUE; described later as ‘the only begotten’ or ‘the one of a kind’ – ‘son fils unique’
(B) the Word is ETERNAL – you cannot conceive any time having the quality of beginning-ness when He was not already existing
d. ‘and the Word was existing in the presence of the God’
(A) there is a distinctness of PERSONALITY between them
(B) THE God we mean is the true God revealed in the OT
(C) ‘and the Word was being God’
(1) there is no ‘the’ before God, but that does not mean ‘a God’
(2) rather, it is the quality of ‘god-ness’ that is emphasised
(3) ‘the Word was being DEITY’
(4) but also, by connecting the Word and God by the verb ‘to be’ in a continuous past tense we see their eternal UNITY
e. so, in 17 words, John introduces his gospel’s Subject: the WORD, ETERNAL, UNIQUE, in UNION with God, yet distinct PERSONALITY
f. the Word, then, is God the Son, ONE with the Father, and in the next few verses are summarized His work and His mission
a. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
b. Father, Son, Holy Spirit are the Creator Being that brought both this material universe and the spiritual universe into being
c. God said, ‘Let there be …’, the Spirit moved, the Son brought into being
d. this without exception, and creation holds together by Him: ‘16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.’ (Colossians 1:16-17)
e. so spiritual beings as angels are created beings even as we are
f. and of course, a major part of that creation was that of life; …
a. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5)
b. in speak of the resurrection from the dead, which shall take place on His return, Jesus said, ‘For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself;’ (John 5:26)
c. and the life that was imparted at creation, is imparted at re-creation by the same Son of God, and will be imparted at His return
d. yet, now the subject is turning from the physical to the spiritual:
(A) in the physical realm, light is necessary for life
(B) so also in the spiritual – and it was to a world lying in darkness, knowing not the truth – that the Word came to bring life & light
e. note that this verse says, ‘the light shines’ – that light is still shining
f. and, as when He first appeared, so also now: the darkness (speaking of those who live in spiritual darkness) does not master this light
(A) that Greek word translated ‘comprehend’ means seize, take hold of
(B) in that sense, it can be taken, like our English word, ‘apprehend’, in two quite different meanings
(1) positively, to catch onto or to understand
(2) negatively, to arrest or to overpower
(3) and since, in the gospel of John, there are quite a few examples of his apparently deliberately using words with two meanings, it seems that both may apply here
g. evil was unable to overcome the light of the Word, or to understand it
a. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John.
b. unlike the other three gospels, this one never refers to him as John the Baptist (Baptiser) – an evidence of the name of the gospel’s author, for him there was no need to distinguish that John from himself
c. this is the first messenger to which Malachi 3:1 referred, the one sent from God to clear the way for the living Word – God’s Messenger
d. that he was sent from God is evident not only from the prophetic word announcing ‘prepare ye the way of the Lord’ (Isaiah 40:3 AV)
e. but also in the announcement of his birth to his father, Zacharias, as well as its miraculous nature to Elizabeth, aged & considered barren
a. 7 He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light.
b. notice the clear distinction between the two messengers
(A) John, the forerunner, was not himself that light
(B) but to give a testimony that the Light was coming
(C) so as to be an aid to faith, and witness to Jesus’ nature
c. for he testified, “This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’”(John 1:30)
d. yet Luke’s record shows John to be the older of the two.
a. There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
(A) the original Greek leaves it somewhat in doubt whether the phrase ‘coming into the world’ refers to ‘every man’ or ‘the true light’
(B) I think that the way it is rendered in this translation is more likely
(1) since the surrounding verses are talking about the Word’s coming into the world, being made man, and so on
(2) and since it is unnecessary to describe ‘every man’ that way for that is the only kind of man that exists!
b. there is another question here as well – what kind of enlightening?
(A) the Quakers believe in an inner spiritual illumination where by thought only a person can come to spiritual understanding
(B) a better answer is perhaps that by the entrance of the Word into the realm of mankind, and through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus, the potential exists for every man to be enlightened by it.
a. 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.
b. there is great pathos in this statement
(A) the world at large did not – and does not – know him
(B) ‘know’ is more than mere intellectual knowledge
(C) it speaks of a relationship, even an intimacy or love relationship
(D) the Creator came into His garden to walk with His creation, and found them out in their disobedience to the one rule He had given
(E) the Creator came into His creation to rescue it from death and He was rejected and hanged on the cross
c. but there was another world that disowned Him
(A) Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob had been chosen by God to be His own special people, His witnesses to the world
(B) His coming was clearly prophesied, yet they refused to know Him
(C) and, lest the Romans should come and take away their position, the Jewish rulers plotted to bring His ignominious crucifixion
a. 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.
(A) there’s that little but most import word, ‘but’, again
(B) what a happy exception is now stated
(C) there were those who received the Word and gained eternity
b. the means of that reception is still faith: the trusting in His Name
(A) faith in this sense in not a work that we do
(B) it is a state into which we enter when we recognise our helplessness
(C) you cannot be proud of your faith, only boast in the One in whom you trust and have found life: faith is humbling, though it exalts!
c. the basis of that reception is grace, all of grace, God’s grace
(A) look at the things that it is not
(1) not of blood – it is grace, not race
(2) not of man’s will – either your parent’s or your own
(B) but it is of God – it is His will that makes you His child
d. thank God for the Holy Spirit’s opening your eyes to trust in Jesus
a. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(A) ‘only begotten’ means not ‘only son’, but the special relationship between Son & Father (as between Isaac & Abraham, Heb. 11:17)
(B) the mark of that relationship was the Son’s glory
b. Peter, James & John were special witnesses to that glory of Jesus
(A) they saw Him transfigured, beheld his shekinah glory, His beauty
(B) so that they were unable to look upon Him in the mountain
(C) to them, two aspects of God’s nature became apparent
(1) His grace – shown while He dwelt with them in his ministry, in the healing of the sick and the forgiving of the sinful
(2) His truth – shown in His teaching when He spoke as never did any other man
c. to which John, the gospeller, here bears personal witness
a. 15 John bore witness of 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 fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
b. on top of John’s witness, is added the witness of John, the Baptist, to which we have already made mention in considering verse 7
(A) but there was a witness which went far beyond that relating to what John had said, and what the disciples had seen
(B) it was the effect Jesus had on their lives; even as he has on ours
c. ‘For of His fulness we have all received’
(A) in a mystical fashion, Christ fully abides within His disciples
(B) this is another aspect of the fact that the Incarnation is not only a historical event but a present reality
(C) the Law fulfilled its purposes, even as Galatians teaches us
(D) but Jesus’ coming has brought us into a relationship with God on the basis of grace and truth
a. No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
(A) some translations have ‘the only begotten Son’
(B) we will not argue on this: that the Word is God, v. 1 makes clear
(C) He is, as noted before, the ‘one of a kind’ Son of God
b. the incarnation is truly Emmanuel, God dwelling with mankind
(A) the invisible God is revealed in Jesus, the visible God
(B) we have said this is a reality for today, affection our lives
c. Paul writes: ‘For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Timothy 2:5)
(A) that present reality means Jesus Christ is always relevant
(B) that present reality is why we can be saved, forgiven of our sins
(C) that present reality is why we can be cleansed daily, refreshed in our relationship to God, to enjoy Him now as even for ever.
© 2018 by Garth Hutchinson, Faith Fellowship Baptist Church of Aurora (Ontario): may be distributed or quoted freely, only let this be done to the glory “of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus ii.13). Except as noted otherwise, quotations are from the New American Standard version, used by permission. Various other English versions of the Holy Bible may be used in this sermon. Explanatory additions to the Bible text are shown in [braces]. Version identifiers are:
AV Authorized (King James) Version of 1769
NAS New American Standard version © 1960, 1995 The Lockman Foundation (usually the 1995 edition)
NIV New International Version © 1984 by the International Bible Society
NKJV New King James Version © 1979 Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers
NRSV New Revised Standard Version © 1989 Division of Christian Education of national Council of Churches of Christ
JBP The New Testament in Modern English, J. B. Phillips, Geoffrey Bles Ltd
UBS Greek text of the United Bible Societies; particularly that published in 1954 by The British and Foreign Bible Society
WEY The New Testament in Modern Speech © 1902, 1912 R. F. Weymouth
Some of the commentaries and resources used in the preparation of this message are identified as follow:
Barnes – Notes on the New Testament by Alfred E. Barnes
Calvin – Commentaries on the Bible, by Jean Calvin; translated into English & published in the Online Bible.
EB - The Expositor’s Bible, edited by Sir William Robertson Nicoll, C.H., D.D., LL.D., 1903
EBC – The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, © 1986 Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 49530, MI:
EGT – The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Hodder & Stoughton; 1903
Gill – Exposition of the Old Testament, Exposition of the New Testament, by John Gill, D.D.
JFB - Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown; S. S. Scranton & Co. 1872
Kerux – The sermon & illustration data base compiled by Rev. David Holwick at the web-site, www.holwick.com.
RWP – Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, by Dr. A. T. Robertson