The Pulpit Commentary

John 1:1-51 (John 1:1-51)

The phrase, "according to," has been thought by some to suggest a type of doctrine or teaching with which the document might be supposed to harmonize, and therefore to set aside the idea of personal authenticity by its very form. This interpretation, seeing it applies to Mark and Luke as well as to John and Matthew, would lose its meaning; for Mark and Luke, by numerous traditionary notices, have been continuously credited, not with having personally set any special type of doctrine before the Church, but as having been respectively the interpreter of Peter or Paul. Consequently the meaning of the phrase compels us to ask whether the word "Gospel" or "Holy Gospel" did in the first instance refer to the book at all. It is not "John's Gospel" that is intended, but the good news or glad tidings of God related by John, of which this and similar titles speak, Moreover, numerous instances occur where the κατὰ is similarly used to denote authorship. Thus "The Pentateuch according to Moses," "The History according to Herodotus," "The Gospel according to Peter," are titles which in every case are meant to suggest the idea of authorship (Godet). We cannot imagine that any other implication was intended by this ancient superscription.

Each of the evangelists starts with a grand "presupposition," or main thesis, of his own, expressed with more or less of explicitness, which it becomes his obvious purpose to sustain.

This main thesis is set forth in the first sentences of each of the synoptists. Thus MARK opened with the memorable words, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God." £ From the first he refers to the prophetic anticipations and historic realization of glad tidings uttered by the Lord, and he based all his teaching on the fact that Jesus Christ was SON OF GOD . MATTHEW , who wished to establish the Lord's special claim to Messiahship, and his official right to the throne of David, began with a genealogical proof of the Lord's descent from David and Abraham. LUKE , who aimed throughout to illustrate the Divine humanity, and to build his narrative on historic facts and chronological data, took up his story with the birth of the Baptist, and, in conjunction with his baptizing of Jesus, presents a lineal genealogy of the supposed father (and probably of the mother) of Jesus, through the line of Nathan to David, thence from David to Abraham, and finally to Adam, the first son of God. In his prologue Luke indicated the biographical use he had made of the material in his hands, and of the personal knowledge he had acquired, and that he aimed to set forth the grounds of security that existed for the things most fully believed by the Church ( Luke 1:1-4 ).

The fourth evangelist was as earnestly set upon giving proof of the Messiahship of Jesus as Matthew was (see John 20:31 ), and as resolved to emphasize the complete humanity of the Son of God as even Luke himself was (see verse 14, and all the many signs of the Saviour's resemblance to his brethren, and sympathy with their sufferings and joys— John 2:1 ; John 4:6 ; John 5:13 , John 5:14 ; John 11:5 , John 11:35 , etc.). But John had felt more deeply than many of the apostles the effulgence of the Father's glory which gleamed in the face of Jesus Christ. John had heard in the words of Jesus the veritable voice of the living God; "The Word of the Lord ( ὁ λόγος κυρίου ) came to him" in the speech ( λαλιά ) of Jesus. There was a Divineness about the mission of the Lord which deeply impressed this evangelist—that Jesus had come in a special sense from God, that he was the Giver of eternal life and the Author of eternal salvation, and that he had the "form of God," though in the likeness of men. John's mind revolved all the truth which, long before this prologue or introduction was written, had been proclaimed by Paul and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in every varying phrase. It was in harmony with the whole purpose of his Gospel that he should begin it before the baptism, before the birth, before the conception, of the Lord Jesus; that he should press back in thought to the Divine activity itself—to those ideas of the older revelation which, though not in conflict with the pure monotheism of the Hebrew Scriptures, involved the veritable preparation for the stupendous reality, for the supreme tragedy, for the Divine kingdom which had evolved itself under his very eyes. He looked back into the past, nay, he gazed out of time into eternity; he looked up from the miraculous conception to that holy thing which was conceived in the womb of humanity; he endeavoured to set forth that form of God which could alone become "flesh" and tabernacle among men; and which, though it did this, did not destroy the unity of Deity, but confirmed and established it. He was not slow to reflect on all the methods in which God had ever come near to men, nor could he believe that God Incarnate had never foreshadowed his presence with men, or his manifestation to them, before his own day and hour. When the old man was at Ephesus, many dangerous speculations were rife. Some denied that Christ had ever come in the flesh at all, and said that so Divine a presence as his was no objective reality—was allied to the Docetic "seeming" manifestations made to the patriarchs of the Old Testament. Jesus was to them a theophany, not a living Man. Now, we learn from the First Epistle that such a thesis was, in the opinion of John, the quintessence of antichrist. Others, again, had speculated about the emanations of Deity, until a new mythology was beginning to hover on the borderland between Christendom and heathendom. Essenic and Ebionitic errors had grieved him. At length the moment arrived when the "Son of Thunder," who saw all the glory of the risen Lord, all the majesty of his triumphant reign, uttered these opening words, replying, in every sentence, to one or other of these misconceptions of his Lord's Person. And he proceeded to lay a simple basis deep and strong enough to support the facts upon which the faith of the Church was resting. Men had come veritably to believe that they were children of God, and had been generated as such by the will of God, and, if children, that they were heirs of God through Jesus Christ ( Romans 8:16 , Romans 8:17 ; Galatians 3:26 ). "Grace and truth" were lighting up broken and bewildered hearts when they accepted the reality of the Divine manhood of Jesus, and something better than the mere speculations of the schools of Palestine, Alexandria, or Ephesus was needed in order to explain (as he, the beloved disciple saw it) the mystery of the life of Christ. That which he laid down as the solution of the problem of "the beginning of the Gospel" is called the prologue of this Gospel. Even apart from the inspiration which breathes through it, no passage in literature can be cited which has exercised a more powerful influence upon the thought of the last eighteen hundred years than that which sets forth John's fundamental ideas concerning the essence and character, the idiosyncrasy and the energy, of the Divine fulness which dwelt in Jesus.

The question has been asked—Where does the prologue end? M. Reuss strongly presses the view that tile proem terminated with the fifth verse, and that with the sixth the apostle commenced his historical recital. He urges that there is no break from the sixth to the eighteenth verse; that in this paragraph the author sets forth the general effect of the testimony of the historical Baptist to Jesus; and that, in consequence of it, a limited number of individuals were led to recognize

Some preliminary advantage is thus secured by the critic who seeks to ally this paragraph with the rest of the history, and to impute to the whole Gospel, as well as to the passage in question, the character of a theological or didactic romance. The enormous majority of all scholars, while recognizing new points of departure at verse 6, and again at verses 14-18, do not admit that the evangelist's preliminary representations or presuppositions have come to a pause until he reached the sublime utterance which points so obviously back to verse 1, "No one hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." From the first verse to the eighteenth the evangelist revolves around the fundamental idea of "the Word which was with God and was God." but his aim is to show how the Word came into relations with man, and how man may come into relations with the Godhead through him who was manifested in the flesh in all the fulness of grace and truth.

An obvious method of this author in the Gospel, Epistles, and Apocalypse shows that he was wont to return upon thoughts which he had previously uttered, yet at the same time doing so in fresh cycles and with added meanings (see Introduction). The large spiral of his meditations sweeps at first round the entire region of "all things" which have their centre in the "Word of God:" "All things came into being through him." Then he formally discriminates between "things" and "forces," and especially indicates the relation of "the Word" to the energies and blessedness of the entire universe of sentient and responsible beings which derive all their "life" from the "life that is in him," and their "light" from that "life," indicating, as he proceeds, the presence of the antagonism to the light and life displayed by our imperfect and damaged humanity (verses 1-5). Here the entire testimony of prophecy—gathered up in the person of an historic man, John Baptist,—is broadly characterized, and some conception of the aid which revelation and inspiration have given to men to recognize the light when they see it, and to hear the voice of the Lord God while it speaks. The entire function of prophecy is discriminated from the light force at work in every living man. The special aid given to the holy, prepared, and selected race, by the manner of his self-revelations brings the spiral thought round into the region of the intensified darkness of those who refuse the brightest light (verses 9-11), so that verse 11 corresponds with verse 5. Verses 12, 13 pause in the region of light. Some souls are at least transformed into the light, become conscious of a Divine generation, are born (through faith), independently of all earthly, national, or sacramental means, into the same kind of relation to God that has from eternity been enjoyed by the Word.

At this point a novel revolution of thought is commenced, characterized by more intense brilliancy and efficacity, because revealed in a narrower range of fact. He touches the very focus and centre of Divine manifestation, when he says, "And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us." "The Word" did not become "all things," nor was he identified with life, still less with light. The wide radiance and glorious glancing of the light was not identified with the objects on which through prophetic agencies it alighted. The τὰ ἴδια , the special race of light bearers, were not, even in their highest form of recipiency, incarnations of the Word. Neither conscience, nor prophecy, nor Shechinah glory was of the substance or essence of "the Word," although all the energy of each of these was and is and ever will be the shining of the primal light on humanity.

This is the theory of the writer of this prologue, but his chief contribution to the sum of human thought is that "this Word became flesh." Having announced this stupendous fact, the author relates the evidence of his own personal, living experience; and he records his invincible assent to this unique and central glory of Divine manifestation. This at once leads to a few comprehensive antitheses drawn between the Incarnation and all the most illustrious and luminous of previous revelations. Just as verses 6, 7 revealed the difference between prophecy and the "light of men," so, having come to this focal point of splendour, prophecy again speaks in the person of the Baptist; and verse 15 cites the highest testimony to the supreme rank of the incarnate God above the greatest of the teachers of men. In verse 16 the apostle refers to the Incarnate Word as the Source of all apostolic emotions and life. Through him, and not from the mere teachings of prophecy or conscience, have we all received grace and truth. Then, sweeping back to the grandest epoch-making man and moment of all past history, Moses himself appears to shine only like the light of a waning moon in the advent of the dawn. More than that; neither Adam in Paradise, nor Noah gazing on the averted bow, nor Abraham at Moriah, nor Jacob at Peniel, nor Moses in the cleft of the rock, nor Elijah at Horeb, nor Isaiah in the temple, nor Ezekiel at the river of Chebar, have ever seen, in the sense in which Jesus saw, the face of the Father. The only begotten Son who was with God and was God, and in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him. The entire proem does not cease till it reaches this triumphant peroration. Detailed exegesis of the passage can alone justify this estimate of the significance of the prologue. Different commentators have divided it somewhat differently, and many have drawn too sharp a distinction between the preincarnation life of the Logos, and the historical, theocratic, or ecclesiastical manifestation. Surely that which the eternal Logos was before his manifestation and before the humiliation of the infinite love, he was and must have been during the human life of Jesus, he must be now, and he must ever be. In other words: The Word, who was in the beginning with God, is still "with God." All life is continually the effluence of one of his infinite energies; all light is the effulgence of that bright essence uncreate. He is still coming "to his own," and "they receive him not." The processes described in verses 6-13 have never ceased; nay, they are indeed more conspicuous than they ever were before in the ministry of the Word, but they have not exhausted nor diminished one iota of the stupendous activity of the eternal, creative, revealing Logos.

The first part of the Gospel, consisting of ch. 1-4, we have already described as


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John 1:1-18 (John 1:1-18)

1. The hypothesis framed by the evangelist to account for the series of facts which he is about to narrate is seen especially in John 1:14 ; but before asserting this great fact that the Word was made flesh, he proceeds to show

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John 1:1 (John 1:1)

In the beginning was the Word. From early times expositors have perceived that the evangelist essayed here a comparison with the ἐν ἀρχῇ ("in the beginning") of the first verse of the Book of Genesis. This can hardly be doubted; but the resemblance immediately ceases or is transformed into an antithesis; for whereas the Mosaic narrative proceeds to indicate the beginning of the creation and of time by saying, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," this passage asserts that the Word then was. He was neither created, nor did he then begin to be. Consequently, there is no reason to gather from this passage the temporal origin of "the Word," or from the first verse of Genesis to argue the eternity of matter. The writer here shows that he was profoundly impressed by the Lord's own self-consciousness which permitted his disciples to believe in a personal Being and glory "before the world was," and "before the foundation of the world" ( John 17:5 , John 17:24 ). The idea of existence before the world was is attributed to the Divine (Sophia or) wisdom ( Proverbs 8:23 and elsewhere; 1 John 1:1 ). The same apostle speaks moreover of "that which was ( ἀπ ἀρχῆς ) from the beginning," but has been manifested to us. The interpretations which made the ἀρχή mean, with Cyril, the Divine "Father;" the valentinian notion that ἀρχή was a distinct hypothesis, distinct from the Father or from the Logos; Origen's notion that it meant the "Divine Wisdom;" the Socinian view that it referred to "the beginning of the preaching of the gospel;"—are not now seriously maintained. "The beginning of time" launches the mind into the abyss of the eternal now. At that starting point of all creation and all Divine manifestation, "the Word was. " It would be difficult to express in human speech more explicitly the idea of eternal existence. In Greek usage and philosophy the term λογοσ sustained the double sense of reason or thought immanent in the supreme Godhead ( λόγος ἐνδιάθετος ), and also of "speech" or "word" ( λόγος προφορικός ) . Attempts have often been made to identify the λόγος of John with the former phase of its meaning common to Plato or Philo, and to find in the prologue the metaphysical speculations of the Alexandrine school—to identify the λόγος with the Philonic conception of the κόσμος νοητικός , with the Divine "idea of all ideas," the archetype of the universe, the personality of God personified, or the Divine self-consciousness. But Philo's entire system of philosophy by which he tried to explain the creation of the world, his theory of the Logos which was abhorrent to and entirely incapable of incarnation, which was based on a thorough going dualism, which was significantly reticent as to the Messianic idea, and knew nothing of the hopes or national anticipations of Israel, was not the source either of John's revelation or nomenclature (see Introduction). The disciple of the Baptist and of Jesus found in Holy Scripture itself both the phraseology and the idea which he here unfolds and applies. The New Testament writers never use the term Logos to denote "reason," or "thought," or "self-consciousness," but always, denote by it "speech," "utterance," or "word"—the forthcoming, the clothing of thought, the manifestation of reason or purpose, but neither the "thought," nor the "reason," nor the "purpose" itself. The term is used here without explanation, as though it would be well understood by its readers. Numerous explanations have been offered in later times, which are far from satisfactory. Thus Beza regarded the term as identical with ὁ λεγόμενος , "the Promised One"—the Personage spoken of by the prophets. This, even with Hofmann's modification of it, viz. "the Word of God, or Gospel, the great theme of which is the personal Christ," breaks to pieces as soon as it is referred to the various predicates which follow, and especially to the statement of verse 14, that "the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled amongst us." Readers of the Old Testament would not forget that, in the record of the creation in Genesis 1:1-31 ., the epochs of creation are defined eight times by the expression, "And God said." The omnific Word uttered itself in time, and thus called into being "light" and "life" and "all things," and gave birth to man. The record thus preserved is confirmed by the corresponding teaching of the Psalms: "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" (cf. 1 Samuel 3:21 ; Psalms 33:6 ; Psalms 107:20 ; Psalms 148:5 ; Isaiah 55:10 , Isaiah 55:11 ). Moreover, the Scripture in the Book of Proverbs (8, 9.), Job ( Job 28:12 ), as well as the apocryphal Books of Wisdom, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, had set forth the Divine "wisdom," המָכְחָ , σοφία , with more or less of personification and even personal dignity, answering to the creative energy and resources here attributed to the Logos. From eternity was it brought forth, in the beginning of all God's ways. "The Lord possessed me," Wisdom says, "before his works." In the controversy of the third and fourth centuries the LXX . translation in Proverbs 8:22 of הנָקָ by ἔκτισέ led Arius and others to the idea of the creation of the Logos before all worlds. The vulgate translation, "possessed me," is a far closer approach to the original. The whole of the passage, Proverbs 8:22-27 , is in correspondence with the functions and dignity of him who is here described as "in the beginning with God." The Jewish translators and commentators had so thoroughly grasped the idea, that they were accustomed, in their Chaldee paraphrases of the Old Testament, to substitute for the name of the Most High, the phrase Memra-Jah, "The Word of the Lord," as though the Lord, in his activities and energies, and in his relations with the universe and man, could be better understood under the form of this periphrasis than in that which connoted his eternal and absolute Being. The Targum of Onkelos—the oldest, most accurate, and precious of these documents—in numerous places substitutes "the Word of the Lord" for Jehovah, "the Word of Elohim" for Elohim and "the Word of the Lord" for the angel or messenger of Jehovah. Thus in Genesis 7:16 it is said, "The Lord protected Noah by his Word;" John 21:20 , "The Word of the Lord was with Ishmael in the wilderness." In Genesis 28:21 Jacob made a covenant that "the Word of the Lord should be his God;" Exodus 19:17 , "Moses brought forth the people to meet the Word of God." The term Deburah, which is analogous in meaning to Memra, is also used in the Jerusalem Targum of Numbers 7:89 in a similar sense. The substitution was adopted in the same way by Jonathan ben Uziel, in his paraphrase of Isaiah 63:7 and Malachi 3:1 , so that the Jewish mind was thoroughly imbued with this method of portraying the instrument and agent of the Divine revelations, as one savouring of the smallest amount of anthropomorphism, which they were willing to attribute to the Holy One of Israel. Another group of highly important biblical representations of the activity and self-revelation of God consists of the personal "Angel (or Messenger) of Jehovah," who not infrequently appears, even in human form, conversing with the patriarchs, and making covenant with man (see Genesis 32:24 , etc.; Exodus 33:12 , etc.; Hosea 12:4 ; Isaiah 63:9 ; Malachi 3:1 and other places). In some of these passages the Name of Jehovah himself is attributed to his Angel, and the form of Divine manifestation becomes more and more clearly personal. Nevertheless, this Angel appears to stand within, rather than without, the very bosom of the Eternal One. Jehovah does not lose his Name of unapproachable dignity and absolute existence while yet he clothes himself with angelic powers, or even human form, and enters into living and intimate relations with his own people. Kurtz has urged that the numerous references in Old Testament to the "Angel Jehovah," are compatible with the idea of a created spirit, endowed with plenipotentiary functions and titles, and perfectly distinct from the " Logos. " The strength of his position is that during the Incarnation and afterwards the New Testament writers still speak of the activity and might of "the Angel of the Lord." But this position is greatly modified by the obvious fact that the Logos did not become depotentiated and limited to the life of Jesus during the thirty years of his earthly manifestation. During the whole of that period, and ever since, the Logos has not ceased to exercise the functions which belong to his eternal glory. It cannot be said that Philo was ignorant of these modes of expression, though in the main he allows the idea of "Word" to pass away from the terra λόγος , and he charged it with a meaning which he found in Platonic and stoical philosophy, and used it, not in the historic or theocratic sense, which was current in the Palestinian schools, but in the metaphysic and speculative sense which enabled him to make the Hebrew Scriptures the vehicle of his ethical system. Word, in the Old Testament and in the Chaldee Paraphrases, represented the nearest possible approach to a definition of the activity and revelations of God; and. that activity is regarded, not as a mere attribute, but as an essential and personal aspect of the Eternal One. In the hands of the Apostle John (unlike Philo's), the Logos was a distinct hypostasis, identifiable with God, and yet in union and relation with him. He was "in the beginning," and therefore before all creation. He did not become. He was not made. He was. As speech answers to the immanent realities of which it is expression, the idea of John in this first verse suggests, though the suggestion does not come into further expression, the "thought" or "reason" which evermore was shaping itself into "word." It would seem as though the apostle had been led to gather together into one teaching the various suggestions of the Old Testament. He realized the significance of the omnific Word. He embodied and improved upon the sapiential philosophy in its conception of Divine Wisdom, of the Brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of his substance; he felt the force and justice of the Hebrew periphrases for God, the only God, in his gracious relations with man; and he was not ignorant of the speculations of the Hellenists who found in this term the phasis of all Divine self-consciousness, and the symbol of pure being in its relation with the universe. In the beginning the Logos was. And the Word (Logos) was with God ( πρὸς τόν θεόν ) . The preposition is difficult to translate; it is equivalent to "was in relation with God,… stood over against," not in space or time, but eternally and constitutionally. It is more, even, than the παρὰ σοί ( John 17:5 ); for, in addition to the idea of proximity, there is that of "motion towards" involved in πρός . A verb of rest is here combined with a preposition of motion, exactly as in ὤν εἰς τὸν κόλπον of verse 15. In Mark 6:3 ; Mark 9:19 ; Matthew 13:36 ; Matthew 26:55 ; 1 Corinthians 16:6 , 1 Corinthians 16:7 ; Galatians 1:18 the similar use of πρὸς shows that the idea of intercourse is suggested, and mutual acquaintance, so that the personality of the Logos is therefore strongly forced upon us. The strength and peculiarity of the expression precludes the interpretation of some who see here simply some "intuition in the Divine mind," or that "the Word was eternally in the Divine plan." There is relation between these two, laying the foundations of all ethic in the nature and subsistence of Deity. Righteousness and love are inconceivable perfections of an Eternal Monad. But if within the bosom of God there are affirmations, hypostases in relation with each other, the moral nature of the Eternal is assured. Philo's conception of Logos as "the sum total of all Divine energies made it possible for him to urge that God, so far as he reveals himself, is called Logos, and Logos, so far as he reveals God, is called God" (Meyer). But this falls short of the Johannine thought. The Logos was with the God ( τὸν θεόν )—was in relation with the Supreme and Absolute One, was in eternal communion with him. The notion of "Logos" limited to the mere revelation of the Divine to the universe, or the Mediator or Archangel of the Divine counsels to men, is seen to be insufficient. The πρὸς τὸν θεόν . implies communion as anterior to revelation. And the (Logos) Word was God. Though θεός precedes the verb, yet the disposition of the article shows that it is the predicate, and not the subject, of the sentence. The absence of the article is important. If θεός had been written with the article, then the sentence would have identified the λόγος and θεός , and reduced the distinction expressed in the previous clause to one that is purely modal or subjective. Again, he does not say θεῖος , Divine, which, seeing the lofty dignity of the Logos, would have been a violation of the eternal unity, and have corresponded with the δεύτερος θεός which Philo attributed to the Logos; but he says θεός simply (not θεοῦ , according to Crellius, for which there is no justification)—God in his nature, essence, and kind; God, i.e., as distinct from man, from angel, or from the kosmos itself. Thus the Son is not confounded with the Father, but declared to be of the same οὐσία , the same φύσις . Though with God when God is regarded in all the fulness of his eternal being, he is nevertheless of the same order and kind and substance. Luther translates the passage, "Gott war das Wort," but this translation jars on the sublime symmetry of the whole passage, which is not concerned with definitions of God, but with revelations concerning the Logos.

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John 1:1-2 (John 1:1-2)

Prologue of the Gospel.

The prologue is in harmony with the design of a biographic history which is to set forth Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The Fourth Gospel is thus a distinct advance, dogmatically, upon the other Gospels, for Matthew exhibits him in his Messianic royalty; Mark, as the Son of man and the Servant of God; Luke, as the Son of man and Saviour of the race of man, without distinction of Jew or Gentile. The Apostle John exhibits him in the glorious activity of his Divine nature.

I. THE SUBJECT OF THE PROLOGUE . "The Word." Jesus Christ is the Word as he is the essential Revealer of the Divine Being. "There is in the Divine Essence a principle by which God reveals himself—the Logos; and a principle by which he communicates himself—the Spirit." Christ is "the express Image of the Father's Person" ( Hebrews 1:3 ), just as a word is an image or picture of a thought. But he is also the Interpreter of the Divine will. "The only begotten Son hath declared the Father" ( John 1:18 ), through Creation, through prophets, through the Incarnation. He was called the Word.

1 . Not as man ; for as man he was not in the beginning with God, neither was he Creator.

2 . He was the Word before he was man ; for it was as the Word he became flesh (verse 14).

3 . He was the Word as he was the Son of God— "the only begotten Son of the Father."

4 . Yet he is called here the Word rather than the Son of God, because the Jews were familiar with this name as applied to the Messiah, and, as has been suggested, the apostle would not at first alienate their hearts by the title "Son of God," which was so offensive to the unbelieving Jews ( John 10:30 , John 10:33 ).


1 . He is an absolute Eternal Being. "In the beginning was the Word."

2 . He is a distinct Person from God, yet one with him. "And the Word was with God." Coleridge remarks upon the significance of the preposition ( πρὸς ) as implying that the Word was "with God," not in the sense of coexistence, or local proximity, or communion, but of mysterious relation with God. The preposition implies that the Word was with God, before he revealed God. The distinct personality of the Son is asserted against the error of the Sabellians, who held that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are but three Names of one Person. The "life eternal" was not only "manifested to men," but it was "with the Father" ( 1 John 1:2 ). Not with God, as if to emphasize the distinction of Persons in the Godhead; not with men or angels, for they were yet to be created; but with the Father in eternal glory. "It was he," says Pearson, "to whom the Father said, 'Let us make man in our image.'" We have no mental capacity to explain the oneness of essence, any more than the distinctness of Persons, in the Godhead. The apostle does not say that "God was with God," but that the "Word was with God." We therefore receive believingly the words of our Lord himself, "I am in the Father, and the Father in me;" "I and the Father are one;" "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," as different expressions of the same Divine truth.

3 . He is God. "And the Word was God." The passage asserts the Divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord in the plainest terms. It places him within the unity of the Godhead. The Son is, therefore, not inferior to the Father. The text refutes the Arians, who say he is a super-angelic Being inferior to God; the Socinians, who say he is only Man; and the Sabellians, who deny any distinction of Persons in the Trinity.

4 . The doctrine of the Trinity is a deep mystery, but it is fundamental in Christianity. Therefore the apostle reiterates the eternity, the personality, the oneness of the Word with God. "The same was in the beginning with God." Some person might say there was a time when the Word was not a distinct Person in the Trinity. The statement is made that the same Person, who was eternal and Divine, was from eternity a distinct Person of the Godhead. Well may we say with Bernard, "It is rashness to search too far into it. It is piety to believe it. It is life eternal to know it!"

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