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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
John 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-51

Analysis and Annotations

I. The Only-begotten, the Eternal Word;

His Glory and His Manifestation

-- Chapter 1:1-2:22

CHAPTER 1

1. The Word: the Creator, the Life and the Light. (John 1:1-4.)

2. The Light and the Darkness. The Light not Known. (John 1:5-11.)

3. The Word Made Flesh and Its Gracious Results. (John 1:12-18.)

4. The Witness of John. (John 1:19-34.)

5. Following Him and Dwelling With Him. (John 1:35-42.)

6. The Next Day. Nathanael’s Unbelief and Confession. (John 1:43-49.)

7. The Promise of Greater Things. (John 1:50-51.)

Majestic is the beginning of this Gospel. Hundreds of pages might be written on the opening verses and their meaning would not be exhausted. They are inexhaustible. The name of our Lord as “the Word” (Logos) is exclusively used by the Apostle John. The Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who lived in the days of the Apostle John, also speaks of the Word. Critics have therefore claimed that the Apostle copied from Philo and reproduced his mystical Jewish philosophy. However, this theory has been exploded. Professor Harnack, the eminent German scholar, states “the Logos of John has little more in common with the Logos of Philo than the name.” It is significant that the rabbinical paraphrases on the Old Testament (Targumim) speak hundreds of times of the Lord as “the Word” (Memra). These ancient Jewish paraphrases describe Jehovah, when He reveals Himself, by the term “Memra,” which is the same as the Greek “Logos”--”the Word.” Genesis 3:8 they paraphrased “they heard the Word walking in the garden.” These Jewish comments ascribe the creation of the world to the Word. It was “the Word” which communed with the Patriarchs. According to them “the Word” redeemed Israel out of Egypt; “the Word” was dwelling in the tabernacle; “the Word” spake out of the fire of Horeb; “the Word” brought them into the promised land. All the relationship of the Lord with Israel is explained by them as having been through “the Word.” In the light of the opening verses of the Gospel of John these Jewish statements appear more than interesting. [These paraphrases in the form we possess them were written in Aramaic about 300 A.D. But long before they were written they must have existed as traditions among the Jewish people.] The Only Begotten is called “The Word” because He is the express image of God, as the invisible thought is expressed by the corresponding word. He is the revealer and interpreter of the mind and will of God.

“In (the) beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Three great facts are made known concerning our Lord. 1. He is eternal. He did not begin to exist. He has no beginning, for “in the beginning was the Word.” He ever was. Before time began and matter was created, He was. 2. He was and is a Person distinct from God the Father, yet one with Him. “The Word was with God.” 3. The Lord Jesus Christ is God, for we read “The Word was God.” He could therefore not be a being, a creature like the angels. The verses which follow add to this the fact that He is the Creator of all things and the Source of all light and life. Here is the most complete refutation of the wicked teachings concerning the Person of our Lord, which were current in the days of the Apostle, which have been in the world ever since and which will continue to exist till the Lord comes. Arianism, which makes our Lord a Being inferior to God, is answered. So is Socinianism, Unitarianism, Russellism, International Bible Student Association, which teach that Christ was not very God, but a man. Well has it been said in view of the revelation contained in the first verse: “to maintain in the face of such a text, as some so called ‘Christians’ do, that our Lord Jesus Christ was only a man, is a mournful proof of the perversity of the human heart.” And in Him was life, which must be applied to spiritual life. Spiritual life and light is impossible apart from the second Person of the Godhead. The commentator Bengel makes a helpful statement on the opening verses of this chapter. “In the first and second verses of this chapter mention is made of a state before the creation of the world; in the third verse, the world’s creation; in the fourth, the time of man’s uprightness; in the fifth, the time of man’s decline and fall.”

John the forerunner is in this Gospel presented to bear witness of the Light. How this reveals the darkness which is in the world that He, Who is the Life and the Light, needed one to announce His coming! “The true light was that which, coming into the world, lighteth every man.” (John 1:9; correct translation.) And when He came into the world He had made, the world knew Him not. Even His own, to whom He came, received Him not. This is His rejection by Israel, which in detail is described in the first three Gospels.

John 1:12-13 make known the gracious results for those, who receive Him, who believe on His name. The world had not known its Creator; Israel had rejected Him. After the great work of the Cross had been accomplished, the work done for guilty man, the good news is made known. As many as receive Him, to them He gives the right to be the children of God. The new birth is here mentioned for the first time; it is the communication of the divine nature by believing on His name. Believing on Him, receiving Him, we are begotten again and are therefore the children of God. Of this nothing is said in the preceding Gospels. The Gospel of John begins where the others end. The Authorized Version is incorrect in having “sons of God.” (The same error appears in 1 John 3:2.) John always speaks of “children” not of “sons.” The expression “children of God” denotes the fact that we are God’s born ones, born by the new birth into the family of God. “Sons of God” we are called in view of our destiny in Christ and with Him. As sons of God we are also the heirs of God and fellow- heirs of Jesus Christ. Nowhere is it said that we are heirs of God because we are children of God. Our Lord is never called a child of God, for He is not born of God as we are; He is “Son.” (Acts 4:30 is incorrect; not “holy child Jesus,” but “holy servant.”) John 1:14 gives the fact of His incarnation. Here then we read what the Word became. It is almost impossible to believe that men who claim scholarship, who deny the fact of the incarnation, can state as they do, that the Gospel of John has nothing to say on this great foundation truth of our faith. These apostates must be blinded. The great mystery is made known here as it is in Matthew and in Luke. The Eternal Word, the Word which ever was, the Word which is God, became flesh. He became so by the union of two perfect and distinct natures in one Person. His person however cannot be divided. And when He became flesh, took on the creature’s form, He did not cease to be very God; He emptied Himself of His outward glory, but not of His Deity. He became truly man, but He was holy, sinless; not alone did He not sin, but He could not sin. There is an ancient Latin statement which is worth repeating. It represents “the Word having become flesh as saying: “I am what I was, that is God”--”I was not what I am, that is Man”--”I am now called both, God and Man.” In Him they beheld His glory, the glory of the Only Begotten, full of grace and truth. Grace and truth came by Him. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, declared Him, Whom no one hath seen at any time. These are great statements. The word “grace” is found here for the first time in the New Testament. And He, the Incarnate Word, and He alone is full of Grace and Truth. Out of His fullness have we all received, and grace upon grace. It is all grace, that those receive from Him who believe on His name.

The witness of John the forerunner is different from his witness and preaching as given by the Synoptics. They report mostly his testimony to the nation. Here we read when he saw Jesus coming to him, he saith, “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.” (Often Christians quote “sins of the world.” If our Lord had taken away the sins of the world, the whole world would be saved. Our Lord only bore the sins of those who believe on Him. All who do not believe die in their sins and are lost.) He knew that He Who came to him was to be the Sin-bearer. He knew that He is the true Sacrifice for sin, the true Passover-Lamb, the Lamb which Isaiah predicted. And he testified that the Lamb of God was to take away (not taking away then, or has taken away) the sin of the world. The Lamb of God had to die and the ultimate results of His death are announced in this testimony. They have not yet come, but will be realized in the new heaven and the new earth, when all things are made new.

Beginning with John 1:35 we read what happened the next day after John had given his testimony concerning the Lamb of God. The results of that testimony now appear. Once more John points to Him: “Behold the Lamb of God.” He, who was the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, directs his disciples to the Lord. The two disciples heard him speak and followed Jesus. These are the blessed steps: speaking the message, hearing (and in hearing believing) then following the Lord. And He knew them and their hearts’ desire. His grace was drawing them to Himself. Their question, “Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?” is answered by that most blessed invitation, “Come and see.” These are the first words of our Lord besides His question, written in this Gospel. He wanted them to know Him, to be in communion with Himself. They abode with Him that day. It foreshadows the results of the Gospel of Grace. The unmentioned place where they dwelt with Him is typical of the heavenly place where He is now. In faith we see where He abides, and by faith we know we are there in Him. It is a beautiful picture of the gathering which takes place throughout this Gospel-age. He is the Center, and “Come and see” are still His gracious words to all who hear and believe. And how Andrew at once testified and brought his brother Simon to Jesus!

John 1:43-49 unfold another picture. Nathanael (gift of God) would not believe. Philip had testified to him “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael under the fig tree, where the Lord had seen him, is the type of the remnant of Israel. When the Lord spoke to him he owned Him as the Son of God, the King of Israel. So all Israel in a future day will confess Him. Notice the first day, when the first company is gathered to abide with Him (typical of this age and the gathering of a heavenly company); then the second day, when the Lord reveals Himself to unbelieving Nathanael (typical of the conversion of the remnant of Israel).

The last two verses of this marvelous chapter will find their fulfillment in that day when heaven is opened. Then greater things will take place. The angels of God will be seen ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. It will take place when He comes the second time, when Israel acknowledges Him as their King and as the Son of God.

 


Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on John 1:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/john-1.html. 1913-1922.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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