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John 1:1-5 Study Guide: The Eternal Word

Community Group Study Guide — The Eternal Word
John 1:1-5

Main idea:
Jesus is fully God and fully human and is our source of life and light. God responds to the sin and brokenness of creation by sending his son to overcome the darkness of this world. Followers of Jesus find hope in Jesus being the eternal Word (revelation) of God. If Christ was just an angel or another created being we’d be stuck in our sin and the darkness of this world without the beauty and life that we find in Christ. 

Study Information:
John’s gospel opens by drawing our attention towards creation. We may think that creation accounts are just found in Genesis, or mentioned in books like Job or the Psalms, yet John opens by taking us back to the beginning because our hope and life is rooted in God’s response to the sin and brokenness. God did not stand far off to the evil of this world, but rather draws near to the darkness as light to overcome it. The gospel of John paints a picture of Jesus as the light of life that overcomes the darkness. Even though it may seem like a deep theological start to this account about the life and ministry of Jesus, John finds it essential that we know that Jesus is the eternal Word of God and not a created being or angel. Jesus has existed eternally and was part of what took place at creation and he comes to save us from our sin and to reveal the character of God to us and this message is echoed throughout the rest of the gospel. 

The Eternal Word
John 1:1-2
The Word was with God and the Word was God. John’s gospel was the last of the four gospels to be written. At this point (around 70 AD) many Christians would have been familiar with the events of Jesus’ life and ministry from what are referred to as the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. For this reason John’s gospel has a different flavor to it than the synoptics. John wrote his gospel so that we may believe and have eternal life and that theme begins in this opening section of the gospel (John 1:1-18). In these verses we learn that Jesus is the eternal word from God to reveal God’s glory and grace to us so that we may have light and life and receive adoption as God’s children (John 1:10). Every encounter and teaching of Jesus that follows in the gospel underscores these points to build up our faith and to help us continue to actively follow Jesus. It begins with understanding that the Word is God and is eternal. 

Jesus is not just some ordinary human being or teacher, but is our hope and life precisely because of his identity as the Eternal Word. John 1:1 is an amazing statement on the trinity. The Word was not a created being and at the same time he’s also not just an extension of some divine attribute of God. The Word was “with” God and “was” God. “With God” implies distinction and “was God” implies sameness in essence. The doctrine of the trinity declares that we worship one God who eternally exists in three person: Father, Son and Holy Spirit who are of the same essence (God) but are distinct in their persons. This short verse is loaded with meaning to help us understand this. The Word — simultaneous “with” and “was” God.  As you move through John 1:1-18 it gets more clear that when he speaks of the Word he is talking about Jesus. So why use the image of “Word” instead of just naming Jesus? The image of “Word” throughout the Old Testament points to God’s actions to create and to redeem people which mostly came through speech. John may be talking to the Greek culture here that valued wisdom (Logos/Word), but more likely he is reminding the people of God that God has been faithfully revealing himself throughout the history of their people and that is magnified in Christ. God desires to be known and has lovingly revealed himself to people who are lost in darkness (Isaiah 9:2-6).  The Word had no beginning and he has always been. Jesus is not just a human being, some angel or an impersonal force of some sort; Jesus is God and entered the creation and human history to reveal something magnificent about God’s character and plan of salvation. 

Creation and New Creation
John 1:3
The Word of God is the creative force of the universe. As mentioned previously, Genesis 1 shows us God speaking the world into existence. Psalm 33:6 tells us “by the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” Likewise, Colossians 1:16 tells that all things were created through him and for him. These thoughts are echoed in John 1:3, nothing in the entire universe was made without the Word, Jesus Christ. John wants us to understand that the Word of God is the creative power of the universe. This is not just looking backwards either at things that have been made in the past but rather all things are held together in Christ and God is in the business of making all things new. John takes this idea and weaves it through John 1:1-18 to highlight that life comes through Christ and that people who receive him experience being a new creation as children of God - not born of flesh and blood but by God (John 1:12-13). We should not think solely of molecules, trees and stars when we think of creation, rather we should think too of God’s work to give new life to dead hearts. Jesus throughout the gospel of John will invite people to eat of the bread of life, to drink of the living water and he will proclaim that he alone is the resurrection and the life. The Word of God has the power to make us into a new creation and that is why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  

Light and Life…
John 1:4-5
Because of the creative power of the Word, John ends these opening verses by saying that the Word is the light and life of humanity. Light reveals and life is vibrant connection to God both here and now and stretching on throughout eternity in the presence of God. These concepts get picked up over and over again in the gospel of John to show us the fullness of what it means to believe in Christ which implies an active pursuit of following Jesus. We’re told by Jesus that he is the light of the world given to a dark world so that it would no longer remain in sin and brokenness (John 8:12, 9:5). Jesus came to bring abundant life and he is the life (John 10:10, 11:25, 14:6). These are not random nice statements to pick us up on a down day, they are our real hope. God is on a mission to restore his people from the power of sin (darkness) and death so it is fitting that the Word is the light and life of men. More than that, God’s mission is not at risk of failing. Light will always outshine the darkness and the darkness will not win and even though Jesus is the perfect revelation of God, many will not understand. The word “overcome” in verse 5 has an interesting double meaning, it can be translated as “overcome” or “understood”; meaning the verse could be read “the darkness has not understood it.” Likely John implies both of these things. God sends out his light and the darkness cannot overcome it, and there will be those who do not understand it (see John 1:10-11). God is revealing his glory and his grace in Christ the Word to show us who he is and to make us new. The gospel of John will highlight these themes again and again to give us hope so that we may believe. The sin in your life cannot and will not win if you’re in Christ the light and life of the world; and as you look to Christ the Word of God you’ll grow in your understanding and knowledge of God more and more. 

John draws our attention back to creation as he talks about the ministry of Jesus, the Word. Jesus is the eternal Word of God who was with God and was God. The Word reveals God and is the power of God in his creative and redemptive mission and you’re invited to put your faith in him to find light and life. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Read John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-20 and Philippians 2:5-11

How does John 1:1 help us understand the divine nature of Jesus and the trinity? 

What are some reasons that it is important for our faith that Jesus was not just some created being like a human teacher or an angel? 

John 1:1-5 show us God’s response to the sin and brokenness of this world. How does John connect the Word (Jesus) back to creation and God’s response to the darkness in this world? Based on the passage, study guide and sermon, how does the theme of “light” and “life” show up again in the gospel of John?

How does John 1:5 give us hope and help us understand why it is that Jesus can be such a source of encouragement for those who follow him and yet also misunderstood and rejected by those who do not (John 1:10-11)?