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John Chapter 1

Memory Verses:

John 1:1 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."

John 1:12 - "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."

John 1:14 - "And the Word became flesh, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."

John 1:29 - "The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"


Questions:

1. To what or who does "the Word" refer in verses 1 and 14? What indicates this? What does this title ("the Word") imply?

2. What do verses 1, 15, and 30 tell us about the nature of "the Word?"

3. What does verse 3 tell us about "the Word" (see also Genesis chapter 1 and Colossians 1:16)?

4. What was John the Baptist's purpose (verses 6-8, 23, 31)?

5. What is the implication of verse 13 regarding the salvation experience? How is this brought about (see verse 12)?

6. What practical application can be gleaned from John's responses to the Jews questioning him in verses 19-26?

7. John the Baptist uses the title "the Lamb of God" for Jesus in verses 29 and 36. What significance does this title hold? For additional insight, read Genesis 22:1-14 and Exodus 12:1-13.

8. John's disciples set a couple of practical examples for us in verses 35 - 42. What are they (also Philip in verses 43-46)?

9. What do verses 42 and 47-49 tell us about Jesus?


Commentary:
(Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the NASB)

The first chapter of the book of John begins with a theological statement very important to Christianity. First, it is interesting that he mimics Genesis 1:1 by opening with the statement, "In the beginning..." (John 1:1,2). But more importantly, in referring to "the Word" in this sense, John explicitly states that Jesus (the Word) existed prior to all of creation, a concept known as Jesus' "preexistence." This is important in that it implies eternality, an attribute which, in the Bible, is used strictly in reference to God. All beings in the Bible (besides God) are referred to at some point as having been created.

John's use of the Greek word "logos" ("Word") is indicative of Christ being the "expression" of God. This seems fitting considering Paul, in his letter to Colossae calls Jesus "...the image of the invisible God..." (Col. 1:15). John also elaborates stating that Jesus, "...who is at the Father's side, has made [God] known" (John 1:18; also see John 14:7,9-10). And Jesus Himself tells us in John 14:9, "...He who has seen Me has seen the Father...."

Probably most important in verse 1 is the last part of the verse: "...and the Word was God." Here John makes a clear claim to the deity of Christ. Though some may assert that it should be translated "a God," (for instance, Jehovah's Witnesses), this would contradict scripture in that scripture states explicitly that there is only one God (cf. Deut. 6:5,6; Is. 43:10, 44:6-7; John 17:3). Thus, we have the positive assertion that Jesus is God, an idea that is forwarded many times throughout the book of John, as well as several other books of the Bible (i.e. - Col. 2:9). This is also a beginning to understanding the doctrine of the Trinity, one God in three persons. For in this verse, we have two "persons" ("the Word was with God"), and both are said to be God. Yet as already stated, the Bible makes it clear that there is only one God; thus these two "persons" must exist as one "being" (John 10:30) These are not the only two, however. The Holy Spirit is also spoken of as God (cf. Matt. 3:16, Acts 5:3-4, Eph. 4:30). Still we must reconcile this with the fact that there is only one God. Now we have three "persons" referred to as God, but only one God. Some have asserted that God just reveals Himself in three different "modes" (like an actor in three different costumes), or even that Jesus is all three (this view is held by Oneness Pentecostals, as well as some others). However, Matthew 3:16-17 has all three present at once. Also, this would make a farce of the idea that "the Father loves the Son..." (John 3:35), that Jesus would pray to the Father (Luke 22:41-42), or that Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Thus we conclude that there are three separate "persons," each being God, yet existing as one God. Hence we have a tri-unity (three-in-one), or trinity.

In verse 3 John states that all things were made through Jesus, and that nothing was made without Him. Genesis chapters 1 and 2 say that God created everything. So Christ was present and active in all of the creation process (also cf. Col. 1:16). This also implies the deity of Christ, since both He and God are said to be responsible for all of creation. Verses 4-5 make this same implication in the statement, "In Him was life...." We know that in and of ourselves, we do not possess life - life is something we have because it has been given us of God, our existence is dependent upon Him. However, God has life within Himself - He is self-existent. Therefore, Christ having life within Himself implies His deity.

Verses 6-8 introduce John the Baptist as a man sent from God, with the purpose of witnessing concerning the light. John the apostle even goes so far as to make sure people don't misunderstand by clarifying that John the Baptist "was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light." John the Baptist restates this himself in verse 31.

Verse 9 is interesting in its implications. "There was the true light that which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." - the light of Christ is available to all men (just as the light of creation is available to all men - Rom. 1). So, contrary to the premise of the question, "what about those who never hear of Christ," Christ is available to all.

Verses 10 and 11 again attest to Jesus' participation in creation - "...the world was made through Him." They also attest to His God-hood, because we know that everything belongs to God (cf. Deut. 10:14; Job 41:11; Ps. 95:3-5), and here it is stated that Christ owns the world ("He came to His own..."). Sadly, we find that "His own" rejected Him.

For the first time in John's gospel, verses 12 and 13 explain to some extent the salvation transaction. John states that the power to become children of God was given "to as many as received Him." What does it mean to receive Jesus? To receive Him is to believe in Him, to place your full trust in Him. This concept will be developed further throughout the book of John. What follows is equally interesting and equally important. Verse 13 further explains that the rest is up to God. It is not by human will, nor is it by human effort, but the birth spoken of is solely of His will and effort. This is an idea taught in many passages throughout the Bible (i.e. - Eph. 2:8,9).

In verse 14 we find that "...the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." So Jesus, though God, took on the limitations of flesh by taking upon Himself the form of a human, yet without relinquishing His nature as God (cf. Col. 2:9). Jesus though remaining God by nature, took upon Himself a "second" nature, that of a human. The one quality He did not inherit from His human nature, however, was a sin nature (cf. Philippians 2:6-11, Hebrews 4:14-15). The word translated "dwelt" or "made his dwelling" could also be translated "tabernacled." This parallels the idea of God taking up residence in the Tabernacle among the Jews (cf. Ex. 40:34-35). In the Old Testament, God literally dwelt among the Jews in the tabernacle. Now in Jesus, God once again came to dwell among the Jews.

Also in verse 14, we find the "famous phrase", "the only begotten from the Father". The phrase "only begotten," and the Greek word from which it comes, declares Jesus' unique status. Jesus is the only person in the Bible given the designation of being "begotten" of God. Jesus relationship to God as His Son is different than that of humans who are referred to as children of God. Jesus is set apart as being God's Son by nature, as opposed to humans who are "adopted" children of God.

"Full of grace and truth" is another interesting phrase. The Greek word translated "full" gives the picture of being completely full, with no room for falsehood or condemnation. This confirms both Christ's statement that He is "the Truth" (John 14:6), and the statement in John 3:17 that "...God did not send the Son into the world to [condemn] the world, but that the world should be saved through Him."

Verse 15 brings us back to something covered in verse 1 - Jesus' preexistence. In this verse we find John saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.'" It would have been difficult for John the Baptist to be clearer in what he was saying. It is evident from Luke 1:36 that Elizabeth was already 6 months pregnant with John when Mary conceived Jesus, yet John here tells us that Jesus existed before him. John makes a similar statement in verse 30 and a reference to it in verse 27.

John gives an uplifting thought in verse 16: "For of His fullness we all have received, and grace upon grace." How awesome this is! Grace abounds from the Father, through the Son, unto us all!

Something curious about 17, it seems to pit grace and truth against the Law, even though the Law certainly contains the truth. The grace found through Christ actually completes the law. Law is the schoolmaster or "tutor" that leads us to grace (in Christ - Gal. 3:24). For under the Law, men were shown their sins and condemned for them (Rom. 7:5-11); under grace, men are freed from the Law and forgiven their sins (Rom. 8:1-4, Eph. 2:8-9).

Verse 18 is another beautiful verse. "No man has seen God at any time..." except for Jesus, who "is in the bosom of the Father." Since God has manifested Himself in several ways, several times in the Old Testament (these manifestations are often referred to as Theophanies), we know what is being communicated here cannot be in that sense, but most likely that no one has seen God in His essence or His true glory. Another point here is that Jesus "is in the bosom of the Father," a position that is never claimed for any other man. Also, we have the unique designation as God's only Son repeated here: "...the only begotten God...." This mimics the claim in verse 14.

The next section, in verses 19-27, is a very instructional passage. When questioned by priests and Levites, John testifies not only that he is not the Christ, but that he is "a voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord.'" This is a reference to Isaiah 40:3, which gives the picture of an Old Testament custom of an emissary being sent ahead to announce the coming of royalty. Thus John is claiming to be an emissary come to announce the coming of royalty, the Lord. What is also evident in these statements, even in this bold claim, is John's humility - regardless of what he was asked, he realized who he was and the purpose for which he was there, and he directed the attention away from himself. He also personifies what Paul said when he wrote, "For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3). This is true humility - having an honest understanding and "sound" opinion of oneself; not thinking more highly or even more lowly of oneself than is true, but recognizing who you are and what your purpose and position in life is, expecially in light of who Christ is. John exemplifies this quality in these verses, and this will be seen again in John chapter 3. Too continue along this theme notice that, not only does John point away from himself to the Lord, but he recognizes Jesus' preeminence - "...the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie."

Verse 29 (also verse 36) holds tremendous significance - "...Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Imagine the significance this statement held for the Jews who were there hearing John speak! This would certainly bring to mind instances in the Old Testament where lambs were commonly sacrificed as a burnt offering. Look at the story of Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis chapter 22. Here (vs. 7) Isaac asks Abraham, "...'where is the lamb for the burnt offering?'" and Abraham responds (vs. 8), "...'God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.'" This is a perfect picture, at least in part, of what John the Baptist is saying - in Jesus, God has provided the lamb. Next, look to Exodus. In Exodus 12, we find the institution of the Passover. In this ceremony, a "lamb", which "shall be an unblemished male a year old", taken "from the sheep or from the goats" (vs. 5 - notice, a lamb could be a young sheep OR goat - this will hold some importance momentarily), would be slaughtered, and its blood put "on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which [the Israelites would] eat [the lamb]" (vs. 7) Because of the blood of the lambs on the doorframes, the Lord would pass over these houses when He went "through the land of Egypt [to] strike down all the firstborn..." (vs. 12-13). A couple of things here are of note. First, the lamb had to be "unblemished;" this implies Jesus' perfection and sinlessness. Second, it was because of the blood sacrifice that the Israelites were spared from this death. This was because the Israelites were exercising faith in God by slaughtering the lambs and putting the blood on the doors - following the Lord's commands. This idea will be discussed again in chapter 3, and in other sections of John, especially when Jesus' death on the cross is studied.

In Leviticus 16, we have the commandment for the observance of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This was the day on which atonement was made for all the sins of all of Israel. For the community, Aaron (the priest) was to take two goats (remember, lambs could be sheep or goats?). One would be sacrificed for a sin offering (vs. 9). The other was to be a "scapegoat" (I don't think most people realize this is where we get our use of the word 'scapegoat'). After the first goat was sacrificed (vs. 15), Aaron was to "lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he man shall release the goat in the wilderness" (vss. 21-22). This goat (lamb) took away the sin of Israel. Now (in John 1:29) God has provided (as only He could) the lamb which would take away the sin of the world.

One last point is that, in the Old Testament sacrificial system, when these sacrifices were made, they were temporary (notice that the Day of Atonement ceremony was to be performed each year). John's implication is that this Lamb of God would permanently remove sin (cf. Heb. 10:1-4, 10-12, 18).

The ideas expressed in verse 30 are a repetition of Jesus' preexistence and John's humility previously expressed in verses 1,15 and 19-27.

In verses 31-34 John gives an interesting testimony. First, he admits that he didn't know whom the "Lamb" would be, but that he "came baptizing in water" so that the "Lamb" "...might be manifested to Israel." This corroborates his statement in verse 25 of his being sort of an emissary, or forerunner of the Lord, to announce His coming (vs. 23) and to reveal Him to Israel.

John then goes on to explain how he came to know that Jesus was the One whom he had been sent to announce (verses 32-33). Though it is not actually given here, we can find the instance of Jesus baptism and the descending of the Spirit upon Him in Matt. 3:16, Mark 1:10, and Luke 3:22. This testimony is the first instance in the book of John where Jesus is seen as fulfilling prophecy. In this particular instance, that prophecy would be the prophecy given to John of how he would know the One whom the God had sent.

Verse 34 is an extremely clear statement of who Christ is - "And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is THE Son of God" (emphasis added). Notice the use of the article "the." Though humans are occasionally referred to as "sons of God" or "children of God," Jesus Christ alone is referred to as "THE Son of God." Again, we also find this declaration (directly from God) in Matt. 3:17, Mark 1:11, and Luke 3:22. It also should be pointed out that the Jews would recognize that a claim to be the Son of God was the same as claiming to be equal with God (cf. John 5:18).

Verse 36 was already discussed (along with vs. 29).

John's disciples set an excellent example in verses 37-39. "And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus." John's disciples understood what he was saying, and, realizing who Jesus was, they followed after Jesus. Isn't that the way it should be? Especially with those who know who Jesus is. Believers should always be following Him.

When people follow Jesus, He wants to know why ("What do you seek?"). Jesus wants disciples who will follow (and serve) Him and follow His teachings. John's disciples calling Jesus "Rabbi" is significant, in that it shows they realize who Jesus is (they called Him "Teacher" (Rabbi), because they recognized the implications of John's statement about Jesus being "the Lamb of God").

The disciples again set an example for believers in verse 39 because they "spent that day with Him." It is important for believers to spend time with Jesus. This means taking time to pray and read God's word on a regular, preferably daily basis. Jesus wants a relationship with His followers, and building that relationship requires time in communication with Him.

Next, Andrew sets another incredible example. In verses 41 and 42, "He found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus." Wow! Andrew just found the Lord and he is already evangelizing! And whom did he choose to evangelize? His brother. The first person he led to Christ was his brother. Every Christian could learn something from Andrew's actions. In case it isn't abundantly clear from this verse, all Christians should evangelize their families.

Verse 42 gives us some further insight into Jesus. Jesus, seeing Simon (Andrew's brother), says, "'You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas' (which translated means Peter)." There is no indication that Jesus was told who He was looking at. As a matter of fact, Jesus' words seem to indicate that he was not told, since He says, "You are Simon...". What is found here is a glimpse of Jesus omniscience, the fact that He knows all. This will be seen again in this chapter and other chapters in the book of John.

In verse 43 Jesus says, "Follow me." That is a pretty straightforward statement. It is also a call to all Christians. In order to be a disciple of Christ, a true Christian, one must follow Christ. This means learning His teachings and putting them into practice (by the power of His Spirit).

Philip presents another good example of evangelism in verse 45 (Philip went to find Nathanael and tell him about the Messiah). When he finds Nathanael, that is exactly what Philip tells him (and he clearly identifies whom he is speaking of) - "'We have found Him of whom Moses wrote in the law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'" In response, Nathanael makes the statement, "'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?'" Apparently, Nazareth was a town of little reputation.

When Nathanael first approaches Jesus in verse 47, Jesus says, "'Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!'" Nathanael is taken aback by Jesus' statement, since Jesus and Nathanael had not met. So Nathanael asks how Jesus knows him. Jesus' response to Nathanael, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you," is again indicative of Jesus omniscience, and possibly omnipresence. Nathanael apparently recognizes this and declares, "'Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.'" Jesus' answer to Nathanael's observation seems almost sarcastic, like saying, "You believe because of something so small? You haven't seen anything yet."

There is a good possibility that verse 51 is a reference to Jacob's vision in Genesis 28:12-15. If so, it is possible that Jesus is claiming that He will fulfill the promise that God made to Jacob in the idea of believers inheriting the earth and coming into the promised land. The phrase, "I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you," in Genesis 28:15 could then be seen to correlate with Jesus' statement in Matt. 28:20 that, "...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." This would imply Jesus not leaving His believers, as God would not leave Jacob, until He returns for them to take them into His kingdom at "the end of the age." Even more likely is the idea that Jesus is metaphorically relating Himself to the stairway in Jacob's vision, essentially saying that He is the bridge between heaven and earth, between God and man. This would certainly make sense in light of Jesus comparing Himself to a door (John 10:7, 9) and stating that "no one comes to the Father, but through me" (John 14:6).

One final comment on the title Son of Man: this is a messianic title that also links Jesus to His humanity. Some believe "Son of Man" is a title of humility, and other teachers have also postulated that it is actually a title of power. However, Jesus' use of this title in Matthew 26:64 (also Mark 14:62) make it clear that Jesus' use of the title "Son of Man" is a direct reference to the Messianic prophecy of Daniel 7:13.

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