John 1 – The Word

In our Evening Services we are currently studying the Gospel of John.

The following notes will provide an outline of the message on John 1.

  1. Verses 1-18 are formed with a literary technique called a “Chiastic Structure”:

A: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

B: There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

C: The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

D: 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

C1: 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

B1: 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”)

A1: 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

  1. Viewing the passage through the lens of this structure, what is at the very heart of John’s message?

 

  1. In v.1 and v.14 John refers to Jesus as “The Word”. Before we look at John’s meaning, what do you find significant about Jesus being called “the Word”?

 

  1. The following are relevant concepts of “the Word” / “Logos” which would have been familiar to John’s first readers:
    1. The Creation narrative of Genesis 1 (NB:v3);
    2. Stoics: divine reason which pervades creation and gives it order;
    3. Philo: the mind of God and the “mediator” between God and creation;
    4. Rabbinic tradition: ore-existent Torah
    5. Gnostics: a heavenly emissary which bridges the gap between spiritual and material worlds.
  2. Read verse 1-5 carefully. What does this tell us about the person and work of The Word?
    1. In the beginning was the Word: The Word is not created
    2. The Word was with God: The Word was in divine with God before Creation. The phrase in Greek means to be face to face with. It portrays intimate relationship.
    3. The Word was God: The Word is not inferior to God.
    4. Through Him all things were made: God’s will for creation was expressed through His Word.
    5. In Him was life and that life was the light of men: True life is found in Him. Only through Him do we discover true life.
    6. The light shine in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it/overcome it: Both are true translations and both make sense. Light is true life face to face with God. Darkness is sinful life apart from God. Those living in darkness battle to understand this Word and His revelation of true life. They may even oppose it. But the true light will always ultimately conquer darkness.
  3. Try to capture the central truth of v.1-5 in a “pregnant sentence” that anyone could understand? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  4. Verses 16-18 connect with v.1-5 in the chiastic structure. What specific “light” did Jesus’ ministry shed according to these verses?
    1. He came to bring the grace of God to us
    2. He came to bring the truth of God to us
    3. He came to show us what God is like.
  5. Read v.6-8 and v.15 carefully. What was John’s (i.e. the Baptist’s) role?
    1. Bear witness to the light of God (i.e. Jesus the Word)
    2. So that everyone will believe in Jesus
  6. Now simply read about how John did exactly that in v.19-34.
  7. Read v.9-11. Despite being the true light that reveals God to all people, what kind of reception did Jesus receive?
    1. He was not recognised by the humans He created;
    2. He was not received by “His own”; i.e. the majority of Jewish people.
  8. Contrasting to that is v.14, which connects to v.9-11 in the chiastic structure.
    1. How did the Word come and shine God’s light in the world? By taking on flesh and becoming a human being – Jesus – and then by living among human beings as a human being.
    2. By doing so, Jesus revealed the glory of God (i.e. He was the manifest presence of God). What did that glory look like acc. to v.14? Grace and truth
    3. The “grace and truth” of v.14 and v.17 mirrors the Old Testament “love and faithfulness” which is seen as central to God’s character (e.g. Exodus 34:6-7). That was God’s self-revelation through Moses. Through Jesus it is “grace and truth”. This again emphasizes (as in v.16-18) that in Jesus we see:
      1. Grace = Jesus is God’s unconditional love reaching out to us with the offer of relationship;
      2. Truth = The true and full revelation of God
    4. Who do you think are the “WE” who have “seen His glory”? The apostles and others like John who had seen and believed.
  9. Read v.35-42 which is an example of some of the “WE” of v.14 who responded immediately to the light that shone in Jesus.
  10. Read v. 43-51. How is Nathanael an example of “His own” who (in Nathanael’s case it was only initially) did not recognise or receive Him.
  11. Verse 12-13 is the very heart of v.1-18, the main point of Chapter 1 and it is the whole purpose of John’s Gospel according to 20:31. How would you explain to a non-Christian what is meant by these 2 verses?
    1. To receive Him = to believe in His name
    2. To believe in His name = to believe in Him as a person (i.e. to completely trust Him)
    3. To receive Him = to accept the teaching and revelation of God that He brought
    4. When we thus receive Him we have the right to become God’s children
    5. God Himself enforces our right and make sus His children by “rebirth” (more on this in chapter 3)
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