“In the beginning was the Word,
The Gospel of John opens with the same three words that the book of Genesis opens with. In the beginning. There is so much theology in this one verse so let’s jump right in and start unpacking it.
What Does the ‘In the Beginning Was the Word’ Mean in John 1:1?
This verse is very clear, and it is making a simple comparison. The Word, who we will define in a moment was present at the beginning. This Word was with God or co-equal with God. This Word was God. What John is establishing is the fact that the Word was present from the very beginning. This is making a statement of equivalency that lines up with Genesis 1. Genesis 1:1 says in the beginning God. John 1:1 says in the beginning was the Word. John in making this comparison is simply saying that the Word who was present at the beginning was God. This is what it means that the word was in the beginning.
Who Is the Word?
At this point, all we know is that the Word was present in the beginning and that the Word was God. This leads to an important question. Who is the Word? If you look further in the same chapter you get the answer.
“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.” – John 1:14
We know that the Word who became flesh is Jesus Christ. He is God who took on human flesh or human form. He did that as a way to reveal the Father, which John mentions just a few verses later.
“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” – John 1:18
3 Important Reasons That the Word Was in the Beginning
There is a significant importance to the Word being present in the beginning. There are some very important characteristics related to who Jesus Christ really is. Let’s mark three of them.
1. Christ as Creator
Because the Word was in the beginning, this establishes Jesus as Creator. In the very next two verses, John proceeds to say this.
“He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” – John 1:2-3
Jesus was not only present at creation, but he was also responsible for creation. This also points to the triune nature of God which we see from the opening pages of Scripture. Let me take you back to Genesis for a moment.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” – Genesis 1:1-2
When you put together Genesis 1 and John 1 notice who was present at creation. God the Father was present. God the Son, Jesus, was present. Also present was God the Holy Spirit. This is all presented in the very first two verses of Scripture. God reveals who he is from the very beginning. What John says in John 1 confirms what is present and happening in Genesis 1. Jesus is responsible for creation. Paul later confirms this again in Colossians.
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” – Colossians 1:15-16
Many people have a difficult time understanding this triune nature of God and because they don’t understand it they choose to reject it. However, when you return to the Scriptures this truth becomes evident and it was there in the beginning.
2. Christ as Eternal
The second thing we learn from the Word being present in the beginning is Jesus’ eternal nature. Jesus did not begin when he was born of the virgin Mary. He had existed eternally before that. How else could be called Creator if he did not exist before the creation of the world? The Bible further points to Jesus’ eternal nature. One example is found in the book of Revelation. I want you to pay attention to the declaration made at the beginning and the end of the book.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” – Revelation 22:12-13
These two verses are not only statements of equivalency, but they point to the eternal nature of Jesus. He was there in eternity past and he will be there in eternity future. This is why in John 8:58, Jesus can refer to himself as I Am. Before the world was created, he was I Am. After the world was created, he was I Am. In this very moment, he is I Am. For all eternity he will be I Am. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has been and always will be because he is eternal in nature.
3. Christ as God: Equal but Distinct
The last thing that John establishes in John 1:1 was that the Word was in the beginning, and the Word was God. This clearly points to the divine nature of Jesus. Again this is revealing the triune nature of God. It is further evidenced because in John 1:1 he says that the Word was with God in the beginning. The Word was God, meaning co-equal and at the same time, the Word was with God, meaning distinct. If you haven’t figured it out yet this is why it is sometimes referred to as the mystery of the Godhead. God is revealed in three distinct persons yet there is one God. It is a mystery, yet it is a truth revealed in Scripture. Christ is the Word, which is God, that became flesh and in him dwelt all the fullness of God, which is what Paul attests to.
“For in Him all the fullness of Deity (the Godhead) dwells in bodily form [completely expressing the divine essence of God].” – Colossians 2:9 (AMP)
I will admit this is challenging for many to figure out but this is how God has revealed himself in Scripture. I don’t know if we will figure it all out in our limited capacity on this side of eternity but be careful of making the mistake of thinking that since you can’t figure it out it must not be true. Not being able to understand a truth does not cancel out that truth.
Why Does John Call Jesus the Word
As you can see John 1:1 is a short verse that packs a lot of punch. It means a lot that the Word was in the beginning. Jesus is God, co-equal yet distinct. He is the Creator who willingly took on human flesh to become like those he created so he could redeem those who were lost. He is the one who stepped out of eternity into time to rescue those bound by time and destined to be separated from him for all eternity. He is the Word who was there at the beginning. He is the Word, who is God who will be there when at the end. I leave you with this portion of Scripture from Hebrews.
“But about the Son he says,
‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.’
He also says,
‘In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’” – Hebrews 1:8-12