In 1981, a British violinist named Peter Cropper was given a once in a lifetime opportunity.
For a series of concerts, the London Royal Academy of Music allowed him to use a Stradivarius Violin that was over 250 years old. Stradivarius instruments set the standard in the classical world. Especially the violins. When they come to market, well maintained Stradivarius violins are worth millions of dollars. They’re renowned for their sound, history, and craftsmanship.
On the first night of the concerts, while walking onto the stage, Cropper tripped. The priceless violin broke his fall. Cropper’s fall broke the violin.
More on him later.
In this article, I talk about the beginning section of the Gospel of John. For more information, read my introduction.
Most of John’s Gospel consists stories of Jesus’ life and his ministry. But the opening section is unique. It’s an introductory prologue, which is the first 18 verses of John chapter 1.
It’s one of the richest sections in all of the Bible in terms of the identity and nature of Christ.
These opening verses are establishing the foundation for what follows in the rest of this gospel. It establishes many of the themes and ideas that we’ll see throughout this gospel.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 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. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Jesus brings a new creation into the world and into the lives of those who believe in his gospel. In this passage, we learn that Jesus is the Lord of creation and new creation.
I just want to start by highlighting a few words and phrases in this opening prologue to John.
IN THE BEGINNING.
Just to name a few.
These are all found both in John 1, but also in Genesis 1.
So let’s touch on some of these ideas. And we’re going to be fairly brief, but the goal is to see this creation theme in John.
Opening phrase of the Gospel of John: In the beginning was the Word.
It’s interesting in comparing the beginning of John’s gospel to the beginnings of the other three.
MARK’S GOSPEL BEGINS WITH THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST AS THE ONE WHO POINTS TO CHRIST.
LUKE’S GOSPEL GOES BACK FURTHER WITH THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST AND THE BIRTH OF JESUS.
MATTHEW’S GOSPEL GOES BACK FURTHER STILL TO THE FAMILY LINE OF JESUS AND TAKES US BACK TO ABRAHAM, BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF GOD’S COVENANT WITH HIS PEOPLE.
John’s gospel goes back even further, back to the very beginning, back to eternity. It’s the same way in which the Bible opens up, the first words in Genesis are: in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
John starts with: in the beginning was the Word.
Now, it’s interesting that John says the Word.
He doesn’t say “in the beginning was Jesus” or “in the beginning was the Christ” or “in the beginning was the Lord” but in the beginning was the Word.
Why use the word Word?
Borrowing an idea from D.A. Carson in his commentary on John.
From the beginning of the Bible, we see references to God’s word. God is a talking God. He speaks in Genesis. Let there be light, and the text says and it was so.
God calls things into being by the power of his word, and what he calls into existence exists.
Psalm 33:6 says: By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
God’s word is attached to deliverance.
Psalm 107:20 says He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.
We see God’s word in his covenants and promises, such as in the context of the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 15:1. After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
The word of the Lord is mentioned numerous times in the Bible with respect to divine revelation given to prophets. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel say “the word of the Lord came to me.”
And we could go on and on and on. There is power in the word of God.
GIVEN THAT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, GOD’S WORD IS TIED TO CREATION, SALVATION, HEALING, AND DELIVERANCE, THE INCARNATION OF JESUS IS GOD’S GREATEST AND MOST SPECTACULAR FORM OF EXPRESSION TO THE WORLD. THE WORD IS AN APPROPRIATE TITLE FOR JESUS BECAUSE IT IS THROUGH THIS WORD THAT WE HAVE ULTIMATE TRUTH, ETERNAL LIFE, FUTURE HOPE, ASSURANCE OF GOD’S PROMISES, AND GOD’S GREATEST REVELATION OF HIMSELF TO THE WORLD.
And we learn from our passage this morning that this Word was in the beginning.
This Word is not some abstract idea or force. This Word exists.
And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
But just to sum up what verse 1 is saying is that Jesus is eternal, he has always existed in fellowship with God, and that he himself IS God. That’s really the major theme of John’s Gospel.
JESUS IS THE LORD.
John 1:3, we see Jesus’ involvement in creation.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
All things were made through Jesus.
Again it takes us to creation. When you read Genesis 1, John 1 plugs right into those events. He wasn’t just hanging out while God the Father did all of the creating, rather nothing exists without Jesus.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Two more ideas that are found in creation. Life and light. Both of these ideas will also be significant themes in John’s gospel.
Let’s start with life. Nearly half of the New Testament usages of the word life come from John’s writings. In Genesis, life is created. The animals that walk the earth, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, culminating in God’s creation of man in his own image. All life is created in Genesis.
And here, in referring to Jesus, it says that life itself is found in him.
He’s the creator of life, the sustainer of life. He’s the giver of true life. Life in himself.
The best known verse in the entire Bible. John 3:16. Jesus refers to eternal life when he says God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
That’s the life that Jesus came to bring.
John 10:10, Jesus says that he has come so that his people can have life and have it abundantly.
And it’s the life that can only come through Jesus. John 14:6, he says: I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father except through me.
And he has authority to say these things.
In the beginning was the Word.
And in him was life.
And he made everything.
And he’s God.
And so John begins his gospel by talking of the God of creation entering into creation to make his new creation.
Next theme of creation that’s found in John. Light.
Quoting again from our passage: In him was life and that life was the light of men.
In Genesis, the first thing that God calls into being is light.
Genesis 1:3-4 says And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good
Light is a symbol for life, salvation, and the presence of God.
In Revelation 22, the final chapter of the Bible, a book also written by the Apostle John, in pointing to God’s coming kingdom, John talks of heaven and says:
They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light (Revelation 22:5).
The light of God displays his glory and presence. Yet John takes it to a fuller meaning.
In John 8:12, Jesus will say: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life
Light is contrasted by darkness. Darkness in John refers to evil and sin. Darkness is the opposite of light both metaphorically and literally.
In Genesis 1:4, we’re told that God separated the light from darkness.
John chapter 1 says that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Jesus will talk at greater length of light in darkness in John 3, when he says:
the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”(John 3:19-21)
In that, we see why Jesus came. Because the world is sinful. People love their sin. People oppose the light, but Jesus came to bring light and life.
Again, John keeps pointing back to creation to show us a new creation that Jesus is bringing into the world.
Perhaps the climax of this entire introductory prologue of John’s gospel is found in verse 14: 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.
The language returns to using the word Word. And it says that this Word, Jesus, became flesh and dwelt among us. The God who created the world entered his creation.
What a profound reality that is!
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
In creation, before the fall, there was fellowship with God.
It was paradise.
And yet Adam and Eve sinned. Cast out of the garden. But here in John, we see that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus came into our fallen world. Because he loved us. Because he’s gracious. Because he’s good.
He is the eternal God of creation.
And he came to bring a new creation.
In the opening of John, we see the groundwork being laid for that which was lost in the fall to be regained through the gospel.
PARADISE WAS LOST DUE TO SIN, BUT IN THE BEGINNING OF JOHN, WE SEE THAT THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US.
DARKNESS CAME INTO THE WORLD BECAUSE OF SIN, BUT WE SEE THAT JESUS IS THE TRUE LIGHT.
DEATH CAME INTO THE WORLD BECAUSE OF SIN, BUT IN JESUS, THERE WAS LIFE.
NOT JUST ANYONE IS CAPABLE OF DOING THAT. BUT JESUS ISN’T JUST ANYONE. HE WAS IN THE BEGINNING. JESUS IS THE ETERNAL GOD OF CREATION WHO BRINGS A NEW CREATION. HE’S HERE TO GIVE YOU A NEW LIFE.
HE OVERCAME THE DARKNESS BY LIVING A SINLESS LIFE. HE BROUGHT LIFE THROUGH HIS OWN DEATH. HE RESTORED THE RELATIONSHIP BY BEING FORSAKEN.
ALL OF IT WAS HIS WORK.
HE INVITES YOU INTO A NEW LIFE, A NEW COVENANT. HE GIVES YOU A NEW HEART.
Where do you stand?
The Apostle Paul said that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17)
In John 3, a man named Nicodemus. He’s intriuged by this teacher and ministry and he wants to learn more. Jesus says that we must be born again.
On the night before he was crucified, he told his disciples to love one another, and he called it a new commandment.
In the closing sections of the Book of Revelation, John talks of seeing a new heaven and a new earth. He records Jesus saying that he making all things new. (Rev. 21:5).
When we trust in Jesus and are born again, Jesus does bring a new creation. He does make something new. He makes a new person.
Jesus is the Lord of creation and new creation.
Have you trusted in Jesus? Is he your Lord and savior?
There is no other way to God, there is no other way to life, there is not other way to forgiveness, there is no other way to heaven than through Jesus.
He is a mighty God. And it takes the might of God to bring new life to sinners who were dead in sin. You can’t make yourself alive. But Jesus can. Because in him was life.
You can’t make yourself worthy. But Jesus has. John 1:12-13 says To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
You can’t earn your way to heaven, but Jesus came from heaven to earth. The word became flesh and dwelt among us.
And the present reality is eternal security and a heavenly hope. But it points forward still to the greater new creation that Jesus has promised and is bringing into the world.
Because a Christian is forgiven, to the glory of God. But the world is still fallen. We are still surrounded by darkness, and fall into sin. We have eternal life, but still face worldly death. But Jesus is bringing an ultimate and final new creation into his world.
He’s putting it back together.
He promised to bring restoration. And he is.
And as sure as he brought that at his incarnation, he will bring it finally and totally at the consummation of his kingdom.
Jesus is the Lord of creation and new creation.
All around the world, every hour of every day, people are coming to faith in Jesus. A miracle is happening, a re-creation is happening in people’s souls.
People are overcoming areas of sin, because of the work of Christ. Lives are being transformed by the gospel. People who don’t know Jesus are being impacted by the love of his followers.
And Jesus continues to work.
A picture of restoration
I mentioned a story at the beginning. About a violinist who tripped and broke a priceless Stradivarius violin.
The violin was broken, but when taken to a masters craftsmen, he was able to repair the violin. The damage was undetectable. The sound of the repaired violin was arguably better after the repair than it had been before.
That which was broken had been restored.
Jesus brings restoration to a fallen world.
Originally published February 17, 2020
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe!
Josh Benner is the pastor of Christian Bible Church in Cissna Park, Illinois. He has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He has an awesome wife named Kari.