Setting

The Gospel according to John takes us back to the beginning, reminding us of the creation account in Genesis. The first eighteen verses are the prologue to the gospel. Many of the themes and concepts developed later in the gospel are previewed here. A careful reading of the prologue will richly reward the reader with insights into the heart of the Gospel.

Key Verse

(1:14)

Did You Know...?

  1. The Word (1:1, 14): The use of “the Word” as a designation for God in John is unique in the Bible. While Greek philosophers also employed this word (logos in Greek) to refer to an eternal all-pervading principle of reason and order, the doctrine as presented in this Gospel about “the Word” is not to be associated with Greek philosophy. Instead, hints of this marvelous truth may be found even in the Old Testament, in which we learn that God revealed His will, His power, and even His identity through His word (cf. Ps 33:6; Deut 32:47; Ps 107:20; 119:50; Isa 55:10, 11).

Outline

  • The Word of Life and Light
    (1:1–5)
  • John’s Witness of the True Light
    (1:6–9)
  • Rejection and Reception of the Word
    (1:10–13)
  • The Word Became Flesh and Brought God’s Fullness
    (1:14–18)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    List key concepts or themes you see in the prologue.

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    Some themes/concepts: the divinity of Jesus Christ; life; light; witness; new birth; being children of God; the incarnation; grace and truth through Jesus Christ.

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  • 2.

    What pairs of opposites or contrasts do you find in this passage?

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    Light and darkness; those who did not receive the Word and those who did; being born of blood, or the will of the flesh, or the will of man versus those being born of God; Moses’ law in contrast to Jesus’ grace and truth (The point here is not to condemn the Mosaic law but to point out the superiority of the grace and truth of Christ; cf. Heb 8:1–6; 9:11, 22, 23).

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  • 3.

    The focus of this passage is “the Word.” Carefully pick out everything that the passage has to say about the Word.

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  • 4.

    Why is it important for us to understand that Jesus is the Word?

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    By identifying Jesus as the eternal Word through whom all created things are made, the author wants us to recognize and believe that Jesus is God. This truth is essential to salvation, for God alone may grant the authority to become children of God. Because Jesus is God, through Him we may receive grace, truth, and life. Furthermore, the designation of Jesus as the Word also teaches us about the purpose for Him to become flesh—to declare to us the Father whom no one has ever seen. Just as God’s words revealed His will and power in the Old Testament, the Word reveals God to the human race (Heb 1:1–2). Only Jesus, who is God Himself, is able to know and reveal to us who God truly is.

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  • 5.

    What was John’s role and function?

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    He was sent from God to be the witness of the Light (6, 15).

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Segment Analysis

  • 1:1–5

    1.

    What is “the beginning” in verse 1?

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    The beginning in John 1:1 refers to the eternity before time and creation. John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1 are comparable, but the point of reference differs in the two verses. Genesis 1:1 refers to the beginning of physical creation, while the Gospel according to John refers to the pre-existence of Jesus Christ, who precedes physical creation (Rev 1:8, 11; 22:13; cf. Eph 1:3, 4; Col 1:17; 1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8).

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  • 2.

    How can the Word be God and with God at the same time (1)?

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    God is Spirit (Jn 4:24). He is not confined to the limitations of time and space we are in. For the Word to be God and be with God defies our understanding, and herein lies the mystery of the incarnation as taught in 1 Tim 3:16 (How could Jesus be in the flesh and yet remain the eternal God?). The divinity of Christ is one of the revealed truths in the Bible which we must accept in faith even when it is beyond our understanding.

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  • 3.

    Why does the author use the theme of creation to express the message found in this segment?

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    He does so to show that the new work and new life that God was effecting through Jesus Christ was much like the work of God’s creation. Spiritual birth and the new life are key themes found throughout the Gospel.

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  • 1:6–9

    4.

    What was the purpose of John’s witnessing?

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    God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 Jn 1:5). Jesus, being God Himself, has brought light into the world because He is the true Light (Jn 1:6–9). But everyone who practices evil loves darkness rather than light (Jn 3:19). He walks in darkness and does not know where he is going (1 Jn 2:11). “Darkness,” therefore, is a metaphor for everything that is opposed to God and His goodness. If we choose to live by principles that are contrary to God, then we are still under the sway of the evil one and we are spiritually ignorant. On the other hand, if we believe and follow the Lord Jesus, we will not walk in darkness but will come to the saving knowledge of God (Jn 8:12; 12:35, 36, 46). We will not stand condemned but have everlasting life. Light and darkness are mutually exclusive. We are either in the light or in the darkness, and we must make that choice in our belief and in our conduct. Having fellowship with God means leaving darkness (1 Jn 1:6, 7). There is simply no middle ground (2 Cor 6:14).

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  • 5.

    What do these verses tell us about the extent of Jesus’ salvation?

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    That all might believe through him (7).

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  • 6.

    What do these verses tell us about the extent of Jesus’ salvation?

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    The words “all” (7) and “every” (9) indicate the universal reach of the light of salvation. No one is excluded from God’s love, although men have the choice to reject it (Jn 3:16–18).

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  • 1:10–13

    7.

    What is the sad irony conveyed in verses 10 and 11?

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    Here, the Bible calls the world, particularly the people of the world, “His own.” This term suggests ownership. We are Christ’s own because we were made through Him, and He is our Creator and Lord. Not only so, the term also implies God’s love. We are His own in the sense that we are dear to Him, so much so that He was willing to come into the world for our sake. However, our Lord was rejected by the very people He had made and loved so dearly.

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  • 8.

    How can we “receive” the Light?

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    To receive the light is to welcome Jesus into our hearts and our lives, embracing Him as our own just as He considers us His own, giving Him His rightful place, and yielding to His rule. Receiving the Light means trusting that the Lord Jesus is our source of all goodness, the way to everlasting life. In our daily lives, this attitude translates into godly thoughts and conduct that are obedient to Christ’s commands and free from the darkness of evil.

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  • 9.

    What does it mean to be born of God? How can we become children of God?

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    We do not become the children of God by simply declaring that we are children of God. This change of identity involves a spiritual birth, the beginning of a new life. As verse 12 teaches, the pre-condition of being born of God is to receive the Light and to believe in His name. Having made this choice, we are given the right to become children of God. “Right” is also translated as “authority.”10/353 Only God can grant this authority. The outcome is a new birth. From other parts of the Bible, we understand that this birth is granted through the washing of regeneration during baptism (Jn 3:5; Tit 3:5; Acts 22:16). This is how we “become” children of God (“become” signals a real transformation). By the universal authority of our Lord Jesus, our old man dies in baptism and we are raised to a new life in Christ and become heirs according to God’s promise (Mt 28:18–20; Rom 6:3,4; Gal 3:26–29; Col 2:11–13).

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  • 10.

    What does “believe in Jesus’ name” imply?

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    “Name” represents ownership. God’s people were called by His name in the sense that they were His (2 Chron 7:14). God’s house and His city were likewise called by His name (Jer 7:10, 11, 14, 30; 25:29; 32:34; 34:15). This concept is carried into the New Testament. Those who are saved are called by God’s name (Acts 15:12–17). Thus, to believe in Jesus’ name means to accept Jesus’ offer to become His own. Secondly, “name” implies authority. Jesus taught that He had come in His Father’s name (Jn 5:43) and that He acted in His Father’s name (Jn 10:25). This means that He did everything with the authority given by His Father. To hallow God’s name involves acknowledging His kingship and obedience to His will (Mt 6:9, 10). In the same way, to believe in Jesus’ name is to submit to His authority as our Lord. As we have learned in the same verse (Jn 1:12), this authority enables us to be born of God and become children of God. Both aspects of Jesus’ name, i.e., His ownership and His authority, are found in our baptism. When we are baptized, we come under Christ’s ownership and His authority. That is the meaning of putting on Christ (Gal 3:27). That is why the Bible repeatedly underscores the fact that baptism is performed in the name of the Lord Jesus (Mt 28:19; Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; cf. 1 Cor 1:13; Acts 22:16). Having been baptized, we assume a new identity, and our daily lives ought to also reflect that name by which we have been called (cf. Jas 2:7; Col 3:17).

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  • 1:14–18

    11.

    For the first time in the prologue, the author switches to the first-person pronoun “us,” inviting the reader to reflect on the truth of verse 14. What does the fact that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us mean to you personally?

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  • 12.

    Read the following verses in the Gospel about Jesus’ glory and write down what you have learned: Jn 2:11; 5:41, 44; 7:18; 8:54; 11:4, 40; 17:5, 22, 24.

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    Glory can come either from men or from God. When it is from men, the word carries the sense of honor or admiration. The glory of our Lord Jesus is not from men but from God the Father, and He also gives His glory to His believers. His divine glory displays God’s being and His attributes, such as His righteousness and power, and it was revealed through the signs that He performed. The result of seeing Jesus’ glory is that people put their faith in Him. While the Lord exhibits His glory in His own time and according to His own will, He also expects us to trust in His words in order to witness His glory.

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  • 13.

    What does verse 16 mean by “of His fullness we have all received”?

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    In verse 14 we are told that the incarnate Word is full of grace and truth. Therefore, the “fullness” here means the abundant grace and truth Christ has brought to us. Col 1:19 and 2:9 teach us that in Christ dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily. By coming to Christ, we can experience and receive all the spiritual blessings that are found in God, including the remission of sins, spiritual eyesight to see what is lasting, the hope of eternal life, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the peace in Christ, and an abundant life. This is made possible because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

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  • 14.

    “Grace for grace” expresses the fullness and boundlessness of God’s grace. How have you experienced grace for grace in Christ?

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  • 15.

    How is the law through Moses a contrast with the grace and truth through Jesus Christ (17)?

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    The law teaches us to discern right from wrong and how to live a life pleasing to God. But because of the weakness of the flesh, we are unable to keep the requirements of the law. Instead, we become condemned by the law. Christ came to pay the penalty of sin and to enable us to become children of God and heirs of the promise (Rom 8:3; Gal 3:13–14). This is the grace of God—to be justified freely even though we do not deserve it (Eph 1:1–13). Now, having been forgiven and received the promised Holy Spirit, we may know and abide by the truth. This new relationship with God is the true fulfillment of what the law required (Rom 8:4; Heb 8:7–13).

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  • 16.

    What does verse 18 tell us about why Jesus is called “the Word”?

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    Jesus is “the Word” because He has declared the Father whom no one has ever seen. In the past, God made Himself known through His spoken words. But now, Jesus, who was with God in the beginning and who is God Himself, has fully revealed to us God’s being and the way to Him (Heb 1:1,2). To hear the Son is to hear the Father, and to know the Son is to know the Father (Jn 5:37, 38; 14:24; 15:15; 17:14, 25, 26).

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