In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3)
John begins his gospel with the phrase, “In the beginning”. For the first century Jewish reader, and hopefully for us as well, it immediately brings to mind the first words of the Old Testament: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). By no means do I think this is coincidental. In this very chapter, John will introduce the Savior as the Creator Himself. And just like in Genesis 1, Jesus was creating. He was creating a new kingdom. He was creating a new covenant. And just as God gave life in Genesis 1, so John will continue to emphasize that Jesus is the giver of eternal life. This was a time of new beginnings.
John goes on to say that in the beginning was the Word. This Word is none other than Jesus Himself. We know that from verse 14, which says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” I admit, it was a mystery to me why John wrote in this way. Why didn’t He just say, “In the beginning was the Son of God”?
In the first century, Palestine was under Roman rule and was heavily influenced by Greek culture and philosophy. One of the common Greek philosophies that had permeated Jewish thought was that there was a divine being known as the logos, the Word. It was thought that matter was unholy, and therefore there needed to be a bridge between the physical and the divine. This being was distinct from God. Jewish philosopher, Philo, thought it might be the angel of the Lord.
This line of thinking was error…but it wasn’t too far off. There was a gap. But it wasn’t between the physical and the spiritual. It was between God and sinful man. And it was true that there needed to be a bridge. And in fact, there was one, but it was God Himself. This is why John goes on to stress that the word was with God and that the word was God.
Here, very briefly, is the great mystery of the Trinity. There is a sense in which the Son was with God. He was with the Father and with the Holy Spirit, and the three persons have all co-existed for eternity. At the same time that all three persons are not each other, they are united in being as one God. John wants to make this clear. Where the false idea of the logos was that it was more of an impersonal being distinct from God, the true logos is God Himself.
Again, John emphasizes that the Word was in the beginning with God, indicating that He wasn’t a created being. He’s using this word to denote the time before time, at which point there was only God, before He said, “Let there be light”.
To press this point even further, he goes on to say that all things were made through this logos, and nothing that was made without him was made. Now, I don’t think there’s really any need to try to distinguish what each of the persons of the Godhead did during creation. The point is that they were all creating together, showing, again, that Jesus was no less than God Himself. What we can note from Scripture is that among the many gifts that God has given throughout history, the ability to create something ex nihilo, or out of nothing, is not one of them. It is a power that He reserves for Himself, and it is a power that Jesus has. He is God.
Just as our brother John thought it necessary to fight for the deity of Christ, so should we. This is a battle that exists in the world. There are many who would be willing to acknowledge Jesus’ existence as a good man, or a prophet, or even the Son of God, but they would deny that He is God Himself. It’s a battle worth fighting, because it’s only because Jesus is God that He was a worthy sacrifice and was able to take up His own life after laying it down. The true saving gospel hinges on this reality. So make war against the false philosophies of this world that would want to make Jesus less than who He really is: God Himself.