On John 1:1-5 – Reformed Theology Commentary

Previously I’ve dealt with sin, and man’s relation to sin, before and after Christbut what about Christ can make us free? How is freedom even possible? These and many questions ran through my own mind when I was first introduced to the  doctrine of Total Depravity/Radical Depravity/Radical Corruption. I was so focused on man’s fallen state, that for a time I lost sight of the glory, power, deity, and perfectness of Christ. Thankfully, the very next Doctrine of Grace that I was introduced to was Unconditional Election/Sovereign Election, which magnifies the power, glory, justice, and mercy of the Godhead. But we are not going to focus on Total Depravity, nor on Unconditional Election, but rather on the deity of Christ, that and that alone.

So turn you’re attention to John 1:1-5. I’ll post it up in full below, then after that we shall dissect it phrase by phrase:

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. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.The light shines in the darkness,I and the darkness has not overcome it.   – John 1:1-5

So now that we see the text let’s dive right into it:

1. In the beginning was the Word,

Here we see the deity of Christ out forth with pure, untainted boldness, showing the eternal nature of the λόγός (logos;word), which also infers the work of Christ being God’s word manifest in the flesh (v. 14). But but in the Greek text the word Έν which is translated “In” does not merely mean “in” but can also mean “at”, which would read just fine (just as good, in fact, as if it were translated “in”) but this Greek word can also be translated “before”, which, in terms of edifictation, would be very good; for we’re it to read, “At the beginning was the Word,” the reader would think that that λόγος has a beginning, which we all know not to be the case; but were it translated “Before the beginning was the Word,” I would think it would only bolden the expression of the deity of Christ.

Now noticice if you will the use of of the word “was”, a past tense verb, with “the Word” being the direct object; the use of this past tense verb declares that at the beginning the λόγος already was! The λόγος was before the beginning, for if the λόγος was not before the beginning how could the author then truthfully declare in verse three, “All things were made through him (meaning the λόγος), and without him (meaning the λόγος) was not any thing made that was made.”? So we see that the λόγος must be before the beginning, or else there would be nothing!

and the Word was with God,

Here again, we see the strong putting forth of the deity of Christ, who is the λόγος. Here the author speaks, again, to the eternal nature of the λόγος, as it is well understood that God is an eternal being, even secular minds have admitted that is God exists that He must be, among other things, eternal; and here the author is doing nothing less than making the λόγος equal with God. But also this phrase tells us something of the λόγος’s relationships with God. The Greek word for “with” is πρός which can also mean “toward”, “against” (as in being pressed against something), “in company with”, “along side of”, “in the presence of”. So we see that the λόγος was πρός God; He was in the presence of God, in company with God; He was along side God, towards God; the λόγος was πρός God.

and the Word was God.

In the Greej the order is actually, “καί θεός ήν ό λόγος” which translates, “God was the Word”, which I personally have come to prefer over “and the Word was God” but yet, which ever word we pick, makes θεός (God) equal with the λόγος; and the λόγος equal with θεός. Hence, the deity of Christ unquestionably claimed in the opening verse of John’s gospel.

2. He was in the beginning with God.

The word ουτος, which is translated “he”, can also mean “this”, “this one”; “he”, etc. which is clearly referring to the λόγος from verse one. For it would make no sense for “he” to refer to θεός, for that would mean that te verse would mean “God was in the beginning with God”, thus it must “he” must referrer to the λόγος. Here the same Greek word (πρός) that is used for “with” in verse one (and the Word was with God) is also used here and here it is used in the same way, showing a intensely intimate relationship with God, but at the same time upholding the deity – namely the eternal nature – of the λόγος. For how could any non-deity be πρός (with in the most intimate way) God at/before/in (έν) in the αρχή (beginning, first; origin)? For anything to be in the mere intimate presence (πρός) of God that πρός implies demands that thing to be deity, but being that way with God before (έν) the αρχή (beginning; origin) makes is necessary for the λόγος to be equal with θεός.

3. All things were made through him,

Again speaking to the deity of the λόγος for the Greek word translated “through” is the  δί, which means “through” or “by means of”. All things were made by means of the λόγος. It’s is a very string phrase that screams of th earthly creatures dependency on λόγος which is equal with θεός.

and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Here the word “without” is χωρίς which means “without”, “apart from”, or “without relation to”. Therefore if without relation to the λόγος nothing was made. Then without the λόγος nothing couldz be made! Thus speaking to earthly creatures dependence on θεός and the λόγος in every way possible.

4. In him was life,

Those reading this have encountered the Greek word for “In” before; yet know that Έν can also be translated “at” or “before”, as well as “in”; but this two letter word can also be translated “by”, “with”, and “within”. Think of this for a moment: Within the λόγος was life; by the λόγος was life; with the λόγος was life! Frankly, that is a incredible statement for the deity of Christ, for in Genesis we see that God breathes into man the “breath of life” (Genesis 2:7) thus life is within Godbut here John is saying that within the λόγος is life; thus, saying that “Within the λόγος was life,” is as much of a claim, if not more than, the phrase, “and θεός was the λόγος.”! This not only makes the λόγος equal with God, but this makes the λόγος God!

and the life was the light of men

The word here for “the” is actually ή which normally is translated “this” or “that”. So, life is not this general “life”; no, it’s “this life that is έν (within) the λόγος! Now what is meant by the word light (φως) here? The scripture says, “This life was the φως (light, with theological connotation) of ανθρώπων (man, human being; people, humankind). What does that mean? Here John is referring to the spiritual light of th Gospel, which is in Christ, and Christ alone. 

5. The light shines in the darkness,

This is a vivid of what the gospel is: a light shining forth into the darkness. But also this is an active thing: “the light φαίνει (shine, give light, appear, be seen, be or become visibke, be revealed) in the darkness. This is an active making known of something, not a passive action.

and the darkness has not overcome it.

 Here the word “darkness” is speaking to the depravity of man, and thus to the world. But here instead of the Greek word κατέλαβεν meaning “come upon” or “overtake” as it generally does, here it means “realize”, “understand”, “learn”; “see”, “find”.  Here John is saying, “The light shines in the world, but the world does not understand it, the world does not see it; as our Lord said, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13). This the world sees the light but they do not see it; they do not grasp it nor do they understand it, unless it is given them of the Father (John 6:44,65; Matthew 13:11; Matthew 19:11). 

Reflect on the words of Christ:

And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  – Matthew 13.11

Blessings to all my brothers and sisters in Christ,

Michael Hall

On John 1:1-5 – Reformed Theology Commentary