Jesus Christ: The Eternal Word (John 1:1-5)
By Andrew E. Courtis
Who is Jesus Christ? Many answers to this question have flooded in. Jesus asked His disciples the following question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13). After they provided some answers, He confronted them with this question, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). In this unique account of aspects of the life of Christ, John with clarity presents who Jesus Christ is.
John begins this gospel in a very different manner to Matthew, Mark and Luke (the synoptic gospels). Nothing is said concerning His earthly genealogy nor is anything said about the circumstances of His birth. John begins in eternity past, before the beginning of the universe. At the end of this book, John provides the purpose behind his writing, “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” (John 20:31). We will see that his goal in providing evidence with the view of evangelizing the lost is behind every section in his book. In this passage we will see three features of Jesus Christ as the Word.
THE WORTHINESS OF THE WORD (John 1:1-2)
In the opening verse John uses the term “Word” as a designation for Christ three times. Outside of this text, this term is used the same way on three other occasions (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1; Rev. 19:13). The meaning and significance of this designation is to convey that Jesus Christ is the revelation of God to man. In the opening verse, John provides three descriptions that reveal the Worthiness of the Word.
Firstly, the Word is worthy because He is eternal. John begins by saying, “In the beginning was the Word.” This opening line reminds the reader of Genesis 1:1, but this predates that in what it is saying. John 1:1 is referring to a time before the universe was created. Jesus Christ was in existence before the universe was created because He is eternal (cf. Micah 5:1-2; John 8:58).
Secondly, the Word is worthy because He was with God. John continues by saying, “and the Word was with God”. Here we see the great union and fellowship Christ shares with the Godhead (cf. 1 John 1:2). The fact that he “was with God” reveals that Jesus is distinguished from the other members of the Godhead. In the words of J.C. Ryle,
“Let us be fully persuaded that the Father and the Son are two distinct Persons in the Trinity, co-equal and co-eternal, - and yet that they are one in substance and inseparably united and undivided”.
Finally, the Word is worthy because He is Divine. Verse 1 finishes by saying, “and the Word was God”. It is the clear testimony of Scripture that Jesus Christ is God (cf. Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8). Though He is distinct from God the Father, He and the Father are one (cf. John 10:30).
These three descriptions reveal why Jesus Christ is worthy. They are written to reveal that He is “the Christ, the Son of God” (20:31). Verse 2 is a reiteration of what was said in verse 1, “He was in the beginning with God” (1:2). This emphasizes what has been said, and declares the eternal relationship Christ has with the Godhead. Jesus Christ is worthy of our worship and praise. He alone can provide salvation to lost sinners because of who He is.
THE WORK OF THE WORD (John 1:3)
The second feature we see concerning the Lord Jesus Christ is His work. We read that, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (1:3). The entire Trinity was involved in the work of creation (Gen. 1:1-2; Is. 64:8; Col. 1:15-17), but here we see a particular function the Son of God played in the work of creation. The text says, “All things were made through Him”. The word “through” indicates that Jesus Christ was the Father’s agent in creation. It was by means of Christ that “all things were made”. Christ is supreme above all creation because “without Him was not any thing made that was made”. He was not only the Father’s agent in creation, but He is the “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15) in the sense of being supreme.
THE WITNESS OF THE WORD (John 1:4-5)
The final feature we observe in these opening verses is the Witness of the Word. John records, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:4-5). Spiritual life is found exclusively in Jesus Christ (cf. John 14:6). He is the only One who can bring eternal life. When praying to His Father, Jesus said, “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). This “life was the light of men” because apart from Him, humanity is in darkness.
The phrase “The light shines in the darkness” (1:5a) is a reference to the powerful entrance of Christ coming into the world. Here the world of humanity is described as “darkness” (cf. John 3:19-21; Col. 1:13) because they are lost and without the light of Christ. In bringing this light to the world, John says, “and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:5b). The word “overcome” can also be translated “comprehend”. Both of these are legitimate translations, however in my view the word “comprehend” appears to be in line with the context (cf. John 1:10-11). However, it is possible that both concepts are intended here. The point is, that without Christ we are in darkness, and the only way in which we can be brought out of such a state is if we believe and trust in the light of world (cf. John 12:46).
Who is Jesus Christ? He is the eternal Word. He is worthy of our worship because of who He is (1:1-2), what He has done (1:3), and what He reveals (1:4-5). This is why Jesus Christ alone can provide a lost sinner salvation. What an amazing way to begin our study in the Gospel of John.
 J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, 9