The Gospel of John – Lesson 1 – John 1:1-18

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him everything was made, and without him not one thing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 5 The light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as an eyewitness to testify about the light so that everyone would believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. 9 The real light that shines on everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to what was his own, yet his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They were born, not of blood, or of the desire of the flesh, or of a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and dwelled among us. We have seen his glory, the glory he has as the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about him. He cried out, “This was the one I spoke about when I said, ‘The one coming after me outranks me because he existed before me.’” 16 For out of his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is close to the Father’s side, has made him known.

Who is the “Word” that John speaks of in verse 1? As we continue reading this opening portion of the Gospel of John it becomes clear the Word is Jesus Christ. Jesus isn’t given this title anywhere else in the Bible. Why would John call Jesus “The Word?” Let’s remember the Bible is God’s Word. God speaks directly to us in the pages of the Holy Scriptures. God teaches us many things in the Holy Scriptures, but the central message is God’s promise to send a Savior who would free us from our sins and give the gift of eternal life in heaven to all who trust in him. Jesus is the Savior that God promised. The Word is a perfect title for Jesus because he is the fulfillment of everything God promised in his Word. The opening verses of the Gospel of John reveal some important truths about the Word (Jesus). We’ll discuss those truths as we continue with this lesson.

The first truth we learn about Jesus is that he is God. Notice John 1:1 said “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Some have tried to translate this verse “the Word was a god.” In doing so they are trying to make Jesus out to be something less than God. Let’s look at what the rest of Scripture says about Jesus. Isaiah 7:14 pointed ahead to the coming Savior. This verse gives the Savior the name “Immanuel.” This is a name that means “God with us.” Jesus is also called God many other places in the Bible. Some examples are Matthew 1:23, John 20:28, Romans 9:5, Philippians 2:5-6 and 1 John 5:20.

Verses 2 & 3 further emphasize that Jesus is God. “He was with God in the beginning. Through him everything was made, and without him not one thing was made that has been made.” Genesis 1:1 tells us “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” God existed before anything else. At the beginning of time God brought everything into existence. God’s Son was with his Father and shared in the work of creation. There was no part of creation that the Son of God did not participate in. Jesus is true God. He always has been God and he always will be God.

Verse 4 describes Jesus as “the life.” Ephesians 2:1 tells us “You were dead in your trespasses and sins.” We came into this world as sinful human beings. Sin has no place in God’s presence. Because of sin our future was death followed by an eternity of torment in hell. We had no ability to rid ourselves of our sins. We were unable to escape the eternal punishment sin earned for us. We truly were dead in sin. Jesus changed all that. Ephesians 2:4-5 said “But God, because he is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in trespasses.” Jesus paid the debt of our sins for us when he sacrificed his life for us on the cross. Through faith is Jesus we have a new life with God that endures forever.

John 1:14 reveals another amazing truth about Jesus. “The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.” God is a personal God who desires to have a personal relationship with his people. But how could we hope to see God and have a relationship with God? In Exodus 34 Moses desired to see God face to face. But God told him “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” The reason for this is because we human beings are sinful. God is without sin. Nothing sinful can be in God’s presence. But God desired to change that. We couldn’t go up to God so God came down to us. God did not come to us in all his splendor and glory. God allowed himself to become human flesh and blood just like us so that he could live with us and do everything necessary for our salvation.

But this didn’t change who God is. John was one of Jesus’ closest followers. John testified that he and the other disciples Jesus called saw his glory. They saw his glory in the miracles he did and in his powerful teaching. They saw his glory as he completed his work as our Savior by his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave. Jesus became human flesh and blood, but he always remained God.

The Word came to us full of grace and truth. Grace is a word that means undeserved love. God loves us not because of anything we did to deserve his love. Because we are sinners God should have wanted nothing to do with us. But God loves us because he chooses to love us. Because God loves us he sent his Son to us to be our Savior.

Jesus is also filled with truth. We could never fully comprehend the wisdom, power and love of God. Jesus came to us to reveal the truth about God to us. As we explore Jesus’ teachings in future lessons we will learn more about God’s grace and truth. For now we summarize by saying that God came down to us as human flesh and blood to make himself known to us. He came also to fulfill everything needed so that one day we will be able to go up to God and see him as he is and live forever with him in heaven.

Discussion Questions

1 – If John is writing about Jesus why didn’t he simply call him Jesus instead of using the name “The Word?”
As we study the Gospel of John we’ll see that the purpose of this portion of God’s Word is to teach us that Jesus was much more than a great human teacher. He is the true Son of God and the Savior God promised us. Calling Jesus the Word indicates that he is the one God promised to send. Jesus fulfills everything God promised about the Savior in his Word.

2 – What does verse 1 mean when it says “the Word was with God and the Word was God?”
The Bible confesses that God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is one God and yet three persons. We call God the “Triune God.” Triune is a word that means three in one. We cannot humanly explain how this is true. We simply trust what God has said to us.

3 – What did John mean in verse 15 when he said “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me?”
John was born a few months before Jesus. In that sense Jesus did come after John. But John understood that Jesus is the true Son of God who has lived from eternity. He surpassed John in every way. He possesses all the characteristics of God. Jesus is eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful and present everywhere.

4 – What was the difference between the work of Moses and the work of Jesus?
Moses was God’s chosen messenger to reveal his law. On Mt. Sinai Moses received what we call the Ten Commandments. He also received many laws that were meant for the people of Israel before the coming of Christ. The law teaches us what God expects of us. But the law also shows that we are unable to keep God’s law according to God’s standards. Therefore we deserve God’s eternal wrath and punishment. Jesus revealed God’s grace and truth to us. He brought us the good news that God loved us so much the he sent his only Son to save us from our sins and to give eternal life in heaven to all who believe in him. We call this wonderful truth the Gospel. Gospel is a word that means good news. The good news that the Gospel brings is that we could not save ourselves so God completed our salvation for us in his Son, Jesus.

If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to revgtobison@gmail.com.