In a formal introduction, a writer or announcer seeks to create interest, establish credibility, and set the stage for the guest of honor or speaker. The first five verses of John’s Gospel are a prologue or introductory statement. In these brief but profound verses we are introduced to the Pre-Incarnate Word before we are introduced to the Incarnate Word.
The prologue of Christ (1-5) shows us first His eternality (1). “Word” was imbued with meaning to both the Greeks and Jews. To the Greeks “logos” was the epitome of wisdom; to the Jews it spoke of God’s creative power. Christ was in existence in the beginning when everything was created. This is the doctrine of the eternal sonship of Christ.
Next in the prologue we see His deity(2). Christ always existed with the Father and he is God. The acceptance of the deity of Christ has always been one of the tests of Biblical orthodoxy. To deny it is heresy.
Then we observe His creativity(3). Nothing exists that Christ didn’t make (Col 1:16). This is further proof of Christ’s deity. By stating this, John countered the false teaching of Gnosticism, a philosophical dualism that taught the spiritual is good, but the physical is evil. God created a good world, but sin brought catastrophic results.
Lastly, we see Christ’s glory (4-5). Jesus is the embodiment of life and the eternal light of heaven that entered our sin-darkened world. Light and life are common themes in John’s gospel (mentioned 36 times). “Zoe” (life) refers to spiritual life as opposed to “bios” which describes physical life. Jesus as Creator of everything that lives, show that He is life. Despite Satan’s frantic, furious assaults on the light, the darkness did not comprehend it. Comprehend (katalambano) is best translated “overcome.” The thrust of the verse is that the forces of darkness, who know Christ well, failed to overcome and defeat Him (Luke 4:34).
Then John moves to the presentation of Christ (1:6-18) and shows us first Christ’s forerunner (6-8). He shifts here from the heavenly Word to the earthly herald. John the Baptist was sent from God, the first prophet in Israel in 400 years. His mission was not to exalt himself but to be a witness about the Messiah. John was a baptizer as well as a proclaimer, baptizing those who repented of their sins in preparation for the Messiah’s coming. People often believe in Christ through the testimony of witnesses like John. We should be agents of belief; Christ is the object of belief.
Next we see Christ’s rejection (9-11). John pointed to the true light, but this verse graphically illustrates the world’s blindness, for only blind people cannot see light (II Cor 4:4). The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Men are still accountable for the knowledge of God revealed in creation and conscience (Rom 2:14-15) As shocking as the world’s rejection of Christ was, even worse was Israel’s rejection of their own Savior!
We also see Christ’s reception (12-13). The world’s hatred of God and the rejection of His Son in no way overrules or frustrates the plan of God, for he makes even the wrath of man to praise Him (Ps 76:10). Many received or “took hold of” or “grasped” Christ. To those who received Him, He gave the “right” or “privilege” to become the children of God. Salvation is a gift (“He gave”). Three negative statements in the text stress that salvation is not obtainable through any racial or ethnic heritage (blood), personal desire (flesh) or man-made system (man).
Finally, we see His incarnation (14-18). Verse 14 describes the hypostatic union: Jesus Christ who is fully God became fully man. It is one of the most concise statements on the incarnation, therefore one of the most significant verses in the scripture. Dwelt is the Greek word “steno” which means tabernacle or to live in a tent. Jesus took on full humanity. “Only begotten” does not refer to origin, meaning created or born and thus not eternal, but rather to His uniqueness. Jesus is the unique, one-of-a-kind Son of God, full of grace and truth. He lived perfectly and spoke truthfully. John the Baptist affirms that even though Jesus was born after him (six months) He existed before John because Jesus was eternal (15-16). The abundant supply of grace will never be exhausted. John also underscores that grace triumphs over the Law (17-18). The Law saves no one, it merely convicts men of their sin and condemns them to eternal punishment. But Christ reveals God, who has never been seen by men before. But Jesus, the unique, one-of-a-kind-Son has revealed (or exegeted) God to mankind.
This prologue presents a fitting introductory synopsis to the Gospel of John. John explains that Jesus existed eternally in intimate fellowship with the Father, became flesh, and brought the full expression of grace and truth to mankind, revealing God to man.