Verse 1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This inspiring introduction of John carries us back to the account given in Genesis of the beginning of all things, when, "In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth." The passage declares that at that time, before creation, the Word existed, was with God and separate from him, but was God, or divine. What this Word is we learn from the verse 14th, where it is stated that it became flesh and dwelt among men in the person of Christ. This deep and elaborate address concerning the divine Word, almost too deep for human understanding, was penned by John on account of certain false philosophies which began to creep into and to trouble the church. This passage then affirms: 1. That the person afterwards manifest as the Christ existed before creation began; 2. That he was present with God; 3. That he was divine; 4. That he was the Word; 5. That by or through him were all things made that were made (verse 3).
The first chapter of Genesis helps us to understand its meaning. God said, "Let there be light," "Let there be a firmament," "Let the earth bring forth," etc., and it was done. God exhibits his creative power through the Word, and also manifests his will through the Word. Every careful reader of the Old Testament is struck with the prominence given to the Word of the Lord, and also with the frequent reference in the Pentateuch [Gen. to Deut.] to the Angel of Jehovah through whom the Lord manifests himself. When Jesus came he was "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person," the manifestation of the Father, the "Word made flesh and dwelling among men." There are mysteries belonging to the divine nature and to the relation between the Son and the Father that we have to wait for eternity to solve. They are too deep for human solution, but this is clear: that God creates and speaks to man through the Word. As we clothe our thoughts in words, God reveals his will by the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 2. The same was in the beginning with God. John repeats a part of his first statement, partly for emphasis, and partly to bring out the thought that there is a real distinction between the Word and the Father. He labours to make clear two thoughts, that the Word was divine, God, and yet had an individuality of its own. From the beginning, that unknown period of history, before creation began, he was with God.
Verse 3. And all things were made by him. Having affirmed the divine and uncreated nature of the Word, John next proceeds to tell of his relation to creation. All things, the world and all it contains, and the whole universe, were made by or through him. Paul declares (Heb. 1:2), "Through him the worlds were made." The account of creation in Genesis helps us to understand. It was God who said, "Let there be light," and there was light. It was when the Word was employed that the sun, moon, and stars took their place in the sky. All things that were made were spoken into being, or made through the Word. The Word was not yet named Jesus Christ, for he had not yet been manifested as our Saviour, nor is it certain that he was called the Son of God until he appeared upon earth as the Son of Man.
Verse 4. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. Here is a grand affirmation. He is a fountain of life from whence life flows like a river. From him life flowed in the beginning. Man can construct the statue, but he cannot breathe it into existence. The Word could create the form and endow it with life. And when the Word became flesh, he became a "fountain of living waters," a well springing up to eternal life. Because he had life in himself, the dead heard his voice and lived, and when he was slain the grave could not hold him, but he came forth and brought to light life and immortality. Hence the inspiring utterance, "I am the resurrection and the life." "The life was the light of humanity." Man was created in the divine image. In him was fuller life than in the material creation. Hence he is intelligent, capable of reasoning, of learning, of progress. His life is light, in the sense that it enlightens him. Then, in him can dwell the Word, which is the true light that enlightens the world. As the sun chases away darkness, so Jesus, the light of the mind and soul, chases away error, ignorance and superstition. The Life will overcome death and the Light will fill the redeemed world with his glory.
Verse 5. And the light shines in darkness. Now the apostle comes more plainly to the thought that Christ is the light of the world. He is the light that shines in the darkness, has shone in it as the Word, and who continues to shine. The sun shines in the heavens, but bats and owls that hate the light hide from his rays. So, too, Christ shines, but humanity who love darkness rather than light, can reject him and abide in darkness. The darkness comprehended it not. The sun shines upon the darkness and the darkness disappears, but when John wrote the true Light was shining in the earth and the people in darkness understood it not. Christ, the Light of the world, came to his own and his own received him not. They had eyes and saw not, hence were not enlightened. The difficulty was not that there was not light, but they loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. There is a sad tone running through this and the following verses to verse 14.