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, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:1–5, ESV
These precious words, the opening words of the Gospel of John gives us a peak into eternity. They reveal the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son, and they have captivated generations of Christians with its beautiful brevity and profound insight into the triune nature of God. In these verses, the “Word” refers to the Lord Jesus Christ before he became man and dwelt among us.
In the beginning: John is drawing a parallel to creation from the first book of Moses where “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” (Genesis 1:1). He is speaking of the very beginning of the universe. There, before God had spoken the universe into existence, before any man, angel or creature could praise his maker, inside eternity past, was the Word. Luke and Matthew highlights Jesus as man and king by including His genealogy in their gospels; while John highlights Jesus as God by beginning his gospel with Jesus’s preexistence and divinity.
was: This verb, which can appear so plain and insignificant in English, is rich with divine treasure in the original Greek. Greek verbs express finer subtleties than English verbs do and nowhere is that more significant than here. Throughout the prologue, John deliberately balances between two verbs to establish a contrast between the created and the eternal. He uses ἐγένετο (egeneto) for the created, which indicates a point of origin in the past, like in verse 3 when he writes that: “all things were created through him.” And he uses ἦν (en) for the eternal, which does not indicate a point of origin but is instead continuous, like here in verse 1. Put simply, in the beginning, the Word was already existing. The Word always was. Regardless of how far back you go, even into the depths of infinity, there He is, the Word, the Son, in eternal communion with the Father, perfect love, perfect harmony, the perfect unity which mortal mind could ever fathom. How can the ephemeral expect to understand the eternal?
the Word: The term “Word” (Greek: logos) had a rich background in both Jewish and Greek culture. To the Jews, it represented the efficacious power of God’s Word in the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis 1:3 when God said “Let there be light,” and there was light. There had to be light. God’s Word has divine authority, accomplishing all of His purposes and succeeding in all of His goals (Isaiah 55:11). He created the heavens and the earth with His mighty Word (Genesis 1; Psalm 33:6), bringing everything into existence out of nothing. To the Greeks, the Logos represented “reason” or “logic,” an impersonal, abstract force which was the source of order and harmony to the universe. John used this term strategically as a bridge to draw in both his Jewish and Greek readers, greeting them with the astonishing announcement that the Word, the power of God, the force that upholds the universe, was personal and had come down from heaven to dwell among us. For the first few centuries, Christians were enamored with Jesus Christ’s identity as the Word.
and the Word was with God: Here, the deep and personal fellowship between Father and the Son comes into focus. The Son is eternal, but The Son is not alone in eternity. He has always been there together with the Father. John uses the verb ἦν (en) again to describe their shared eternal nature. Then he uses the preposition “with” which suggests a close relationship.
and The Word was God: I do not know how the Deity of Christ could be anymore clearly stated. John’s phrasing is deliberate. He is distinguishing between God the Father and God the Son while emphasizing their intimate relationship and shared nature. They are distinct persons in one being. To summarize: “In the beginning, the Son already existed, and the Son has always been there together with the Father, and the Son has always been of nature God.”
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He was in the beginning with God: Here, John reemphasizes the personal relationship that has existed from everlasting between the Father and the Son. In the beginning He was with the Father, afterwards, in time, He also came down to be with us. He has always shared in the glory of heaven together His Father (John 17:5), but for the sake of His people, the Son willingly laid aside His heavenly standing, taking on the form of a servant, humbling Himself to the point of dying on a cross (Philippians 2:6–8). He went from the highest exaltation in heaven to the lowest humiliation on earth when He took upon Himself our sins and was punished our behalf (Isaiah 53:4–5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). Then He rose again on the third day and He is now seated at the right hand of the Father, forever glorious and worthy of all our praise. So great is the love of God.