In the Beginning
February 25, 2022
-Dr. J. Vernon McGee, from the John Bible Companion
The Gospel of John is one of
the easiest books to read, yet one of the most profound Gospels to understand.
We might get the surface meaning easily enough, but to understand the deep
truths, we need the Lord Jesus to be our teacher.
John the Apostle, one of Jesus’ disciples and close friends, wrote this Gospel in the last ten years of his life, between 90 and 100 A.D.—more than 60 years after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven. The other three Gospels were already written, each serving a unique audience and function.
Another interesting note—John tells Jesus’ story in chronological order. Look closely and you’ll see a ladder on which you can fit Jesus’ entire three-year ministry. (“The next day … the next day …,” like in John 1:29 and 35.) He also often tells us the city or area where the action took place.
John’s ultimate purpose in his Gospel is to explain that Jesus is God—and also fully man. He tells us of both His eternality and humanity—when Jesus was tired (John 4) and when He cried (John 11:36). Unlike the other Gospels that called Him “Christ,” John uses His human name, “Jesus.” Why? Because God became a man.
John 20:31 is the key to understanding the Gospel of John: “But these [things] 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.”
The Gospel of John was written that we might “believe”—that word is used over 100 times just in this book. To believe in something is an act of the will. That looks like this: When you hear the facts of the gospel, you recognize that Jesus died for your sins according to the Scriptures, and you trust Him as your Savior who died to pay the penalty for your sins. That’s believing.
Now, let’s dive into this marvelous book at the beginning. The first couple verses of the Gospel of John sound like something from Genesis 1:1. Look at four great, earth-shaking statements in these two verses:
- “In the beginning was the Word …” The beginning in Genesis goes back to the creation of the physical universe, a very long time ago. But even then, the beginning was already past tense (“in the beginning was the Word”). Go back a billion more years, put down your stakes, and out of eternity, the Lord Jesus will walk out to meet you. He’s already past tense! He did not begin. He was already there when the beginning was.
- “… And the Word was with God …” Jesus was separate and distinct from God the Father; He was “with God.” But if He’s with God, can He be God? The next phrase sets us straight.
- “… And the Word was God.” One of the highest and most profound titles we can call God, the Son, is “The Word.” The name for Jehovah was such a holy word that it is never pronounced. But this name, “The Word,” gathers up everything that was said of Jesus in the Old Testament, and presents Him as God, “in the beginning.” This is a clear, emphatic declaration that the Lord Jesus Christ is God! In Greek, the sentence is arranged, “God was the Word.”
The first three statements in John’s Gospel tie the truth down: Jesus is God.
- And who is this God, Jesus Christ?
- He’s the Creator. “All things were made through him …” (v. 3).
- He’s life itself. “In Him was life …” (v. 4)
- His life was the light of men. “… And the life was the light of men” (v. 4).
To illustrate that, we meet John the Baptist. John the Baptist bore witness to the light, but he was not the light. Light only comes through the Word of God. Without the Word of God, there’s no light, but we can walk in the light when we come to the Word of God.
Then John tells us the tragic news that though Jesus is the Creator of the world and took our humanity upon Himself, the world rejects Him. He came to His own world, and His own world wouldn’t receive Him.
But not everyone. There is good news. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (v. 12).
When you receive Jesus’ life by faith, you are given a new birth. Your new life doesn’t come through your own effort or by anything you do to earn it—not even by learning the Bible. Your new life in Jesus comes through the direct action of the Spirit of God.
Here’s more wonderful news about Jesus:
“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” (1:14).
“The Word became flesh.” Did you ever notice that John’s Gospel doesn’t mention Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem? It’s because the One he’s talking about is too big for Bethlehem. A little child was born in Bethlehem, but the Son walks out of eternity. He takes upon Himself our humanity. That’s the Christmas story in John’s Gospel.
“The Word … dwelt among us.” The word “dwelt” means to “pitch a tent.” Our human bodies are just frail little tents in which we live. The Apostle Paul used the same image in 2 Corinthians 5:1,4. The God of Eternity came to this earth and pitched His tent here with us.
“And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Think about it—if God was made flesh, He certainly limited Himself. But John says Jesus was full of grace and truth. “Full” means you just can’t have any more. Jesus brought all the deity with Him in one person—full of grace and truth.
Though it’s true no one can see God the Father (v. 18), when you see His Son, you see His glory with your own eyes. When you look at Jesus, “the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father,” you understand who God is.
- Jesus didn’t come from God’s head to reveal the wisdom of God.
- He didn’t come from God’s foot to be a servant of man.
- He came to serve God, to do “the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38).
- He came to serve His Father by revealing God’s heart.
Jesus Christ led God out in the open. The God of this universe, the Creator of everything, wrapped Himself in human flesh so that He could bring God the Father out into the open so that men can know Him.
My friend, the only way in the world you can know God is through this One, Jesus Christ! But to do that He had to become flesh. He had to become one of us in order for us to know Him. We could not go up there to understand Him; He had to come down here and bring God to where we are.
- If you read the Gospel of John in one sitting, it would take about two and a half hours (or 30 minutes a day for five days). If you invested this time, it would be like sitting down with Jesus’ best friend and asking him, So what was Jesus like? Worth it?
- Dr. McGee said John 1:1-2 was like Genesis 1:1-2 which is like 1 John 1:1-2. What similarities/differences do you see?
- Is the Gospel of John your favorite Gospel? If yes, why?