In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The whole Bible supports the idea that it is the nature of God to speak, to communicate His thoughts to others. “In the beginning was the Word”—a word is a medium by which thoughts are expressed, and the application of the term to the Eternal Son leads us to believe that self-expression is inherent in the Godhead, and that God is forever seeking to speak Himself out to His creation.
It is not just that God spoke: but God is speaking! He is by His nature continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking voice.
One of the great realities with which we have to deal is the Voice of God in His world. The briefest and only satisfying cosmogony is this: “He spake, and it was done!” The “why” of natural law is the living Voice of God in His creation.
This word of God which brought all worlds into being cannot be understood to mean the Bible, for it is the expression of the will of God spoken into the structure of all things. This word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality. The Voice of God is the most powerful force in nature, for all energy is here only because the power-filled Word is being spoken!
Archē (beginning) can mean “source,” or “origin” (cf. Col. 1:18; Rev. 3:14);or “rule,” “authority,” “ruler,” or “one in authority” (cf. Luke 12:11; 20:20; Rom. 8:38; 1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:10, 15; Titus 3:1). Both of those connotations are true of Christ, who is both the Creator of the universe (v. 3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2) and its ruler (Col. 2:10; Eph. 1:20–22; Phil. 2:9–11). But archē refers here to the beginning of the universe depicted in Genesis 1:1.
Jesus Christ was already in existence when the heavens and the earth were created; thus, He is not a created being, but existed from all eternity. (Since time began with the creation of the physical universe, whatever existed before that creation is eternal.) “The Logos [Word] did not then begin to be, but at that point at which all else began to be, He already was. In the beginning, place it where you may, the Word already existed. In other words, the Logos is before time, eternal.” (Marcus Dods, “John” in W. Robertson Nicoll, ed. The Expositors’ Bible Commentary [Reprint; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2002], 1:683. Emphasis in original.). That truth provides definitive proof of Christ’s deity, for only God is eternal.
The imperfect tense of the verb eimi (was), describing continuing action in the past, further reinforces the eternal preexistence of the Word. It indicates that He was continuously in existence before the beginning. But even more significant is the use of eimi instead of ginomai (“became”). The latter term refers to things that come into existence (cf. 1:3, 10, 12, 14). Had John used ginomai, he would have implied that the Word came into existence at the beginning along with the rest of creation. But eimi stresses that the Word always existed; there was never a point when He came into being.
The concept of the Word (logos) is one imbued with meaning for both Jews and Greeks. To the Greek philosophers, the logos was the impersonal, abstract principle of reason and order in the universe. It was in some sense a creative force, and also the source of wisdom. The average Greek may not have fully understood all the nuances of meaning with which the philosophers invested the term logos. Yet even to laymen the term would have signified one of the most important principles in the universe.
To the Greeks, then, John presented Jesus as the personification and embodiment of the logos. Unlike the Greek concept, however, Jesus was not an impersonal source, force, principle, or emanation. In Him, the true logos who was God became a man—a concept foreign to Greek thought.
But logos was not just a Greek concept. The word of the Lord was also a significant Old Testament theme, well-known to the Jews. The word of the Lord was the expression of divine power and wisdom. By His word God introduced the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 15:1), gave Israel the Ten Commandments (Ex. 24:3–4; Deut. 5:5; cf. Ex. 34:28; Deut. 9:10), attended the building of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:11–13), revealed God to Samuel (1 Sam. 3:21), pronounced judgment on the house of Eli (1 Kings 2:27), counseled Elijah (1 Kings 19:9ff.), directed Israel through God’s spokesmen (cf. 1 Sam. 15:10ff.; 2 Sam. 7:4ff.; 24:11ff.; 1 Kings 16:1–4; 17:2–4., 8ff.; 18:1; 21:17–19; 2 Chron. 11:2–4), was the agent of creation (Ps. 33:6), and revealed Scripture to the prophets (Jer. 1:2; Ezek. 1:3; Dan. 9:2; Hos. 1:1; Joel 1:1; Jonah 1:1; Mic. 1:1; Zeph. 1:1; Hag. 1:1; Zech. 1:1; Mal. 1:1).
John presented Jesus to his Jewish readers as the incarnation of divine power and revelation. He initiated the new covenant (Luke 22:20; Heb. 9:15; 12:24), instructs believers (John 10:27), unites them into a spiritual temple (1 Cor. 3:16–17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21), revealed God to man (John 1:18; 14:7–9), judges those who reject Him (John 3:18; 5:22), directs the church through those whom He has raised up to lead it (Eph. 4:11–12; 1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1–3), was the agent of creation (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), and inspired the Scripture penned by the New Testament writers (John 14:26) through the Holy Spirit whom He sent (John 15:26). As the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ is God’s final word to mankind: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1–2).
Then John took his argument a step further. In His eternal preexistence the Word was with God. The English translation does not bring out the full richness of the Greek expression (pros ton theon). That phrase means far more than merely that the Word existed with God; it “[gives] the picture of two personal beings facing one another and engaging in intelligent discourse” (W. Robert Cook, The Theology of John [Chicago: Moody, 1979], 49). From all eternity Jesus, as the second person of the trinity, was “with the Father [pros ton patera]” (1 John 1:2) in deep, intimate fellowship. Perhaps pros ton theon could best be rendered “face-to-face.” The Word is a person, not an attribute of God or an emanation from Him. And He is of the same essence as the Father.
Yet in an act of infinite condescension, Jesus left the glory of heaven and the privilege of face-to-face communion with His Father (cf. John 17:5). He willingly “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.… He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7–8). Charles Wesley captured some of the wonder of that marvelous truth in the familiar hymn “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?”:
He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
John’s description of the Word reached its pinnacle in the third clause of this opening verse. Not only did the Word exist from all eternity, and have face-to-face fellowship with God the Father, but also the Word was God. That simple statement, only four words in both English and Greek (theos ēn ho logos), is perhaps the clearest and most direct declaration of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ to be found anywhere in Scripture.
But despite their clarity, heretical groups almost from the moment John penned these words have twisted their meaning to support their false doctrines concerning the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. Noting that theos (God) is anarthrous (not preceded by the definite article), some argue that it is an indefinite noun and mistranslate the phrase, “the Word was divine” (i.e., merely possessing some of the qualities of God) or, even more appalling, “the Word was a god.”
The absence of the article before theos, however, does not make it indefinite. Logos (Word) has the definite article to show that it is the subject of the sentence (since it is in the same case as theos). Thus the rendering “God was the Word” is invalid, because “the Word,” not “God,” is the subject. It would also be theologically incorrect, because it would equate the Father (“God” whom the Word was with in the preceding clause) with the Word, thus denying that the two are separate persons. The predicate nominative (God) describes the nature of the Word, showing that He is of the same essence as the Father (cf. H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament [Toronto: MacMillan, 1957], 139–40; A. T. Robertson, The Minister and His Greek New Testament [Reprint: Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], 67–68).
According to the rules of Greek grammar, when the predicate nominative (God in this clause) precedes the verb, it cannot be considered indefinite (and thus translated “a god” instead of God) merely because it does not have the article. That the term God is definite and refers to the true God is obvious for several reasons. First, theos appears without the definite article four other times in the immediate context (vv. 6, 12, 13, 18; cf. 3:2, 21; 9:16; Matt. 5:9). Not even the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ distorted translation of the Bible renders the anarthrous theos “a god” in those verses. Second, if John’s meaning was that the Word was divine, or a god, there were ways he could have phrased it to make that unmistakably clear. For example, if he meant to say that the Word was merely in some sense divine, he could have used the adjective theios (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). It must be remembered that, as Robert L. Reymond notes, “No standard Greek lexicon offers ‘divine’ as one of the meanings of theos, nor does the noun become an adjective when it ‘sheds’ its article” (Jesus, Divine Messiah [Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presb. & Ref., 1990], 303). Or if he had wanted to say that the Word was a god, he could have written ho logos ēn theos. If John had written ho theos ēn ho logos, the two nouns (theos and logos) would be interchangeable, and God and the Word would be identical. That would have meant that the Father was the Word, which, as noted above, would deny the Trinity. But as Leon Morris asks rhetorically, “How else [other than theos ēn ho logos] in Greek would one say, ‘the Word was God’?” (The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979], 77 n. 15).
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John chose the precise wording that accurately conveys the true nature of the Word, Jesus Christ. “By theos without the article, John neither indicates, on the one hand, identity of Person with the Father; nor yet, on the other, any lower nature than that of God Himself” (H. A. W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Hand-Book to the Gospel of John [Reprint; Winona Lake, Ind.: Alpha, 1979], 48).
1:1 In the beginning was the Word. He did not have a beginning Himself, but existed from all eternity. As far as the human mind can go back, the Lord Jesus was there. He never was created. He had no beginning. (A genealogy would be out of place in this Gospel of the Son of God.) The Word was with God. He had a separate and distinct personality. He was not just an idea, a thought, or some vague kind of example, but a real Person who lived with God. The Word was God. He not only dwelt with God, but He Himself was God.
The Bible teaches that there is one God and that there are three Persons in the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three of these Persons are God. In this verse, two of the Persons of the Godhead are mentioned—God the Father and God the Son. It is the first of many clear statements in this Gospel that Jesus Christ is God. It is not enough to say that He is “a god,” that He is godlike, or that He is divine. The Bible teaches that He is God.
1 John opens his gospel with a majestic declaration: “In the beginning was the Word.” Before human history ever began, even before creation itself, “the Word already was” (NEB). The Word was not, as Arius would later claim, a created being—first in the order of creation, but nevertheless part of it.
The concept of logos (“word,” GK 3364) has an extensive and varied background in Greek religious and philosophical thought. As far back as Heraclitus (fifth century BC), the logos was understood to be the unifying principle of all things. For the Sophists, the logos was predominantly human reason. Philo, a prolific writer and leading citizen of the Jewish community in Alexandria, used the term more than thirteen hundred times as a mediating figure linking the transcendent God and the world (cf. TDNT 4:88). In general, Greek speculation viewed the logos as the principle of reason or order in the world (Bruce, 29).
In Hebrew thought, the word of God was a dynamic concept. God spoke and the world came into existence (Ge 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14 et al.; Ps 33:6 [“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made”]; cf. Heb 11:3). In Proverbs 8:22–31, wisdom is personified and its role in creation is described.
While it is helpful to be aware of Greek and Semitic backgrounds, John’s doctrine of the logos is only incidentally related. John does not begin with a metaphysical concept but with the person and work of the historical Christ. W. F. Howard (IB, 8:442) notes that “Jesus is not to be interpreted by Logos: Logos is intelligible only as we think of Jesus. At the same time it is true that the broad and varied usage of the term provided an excellent link to contemporary thought and allowed John the opportunity to redefine logos in terms of the incarnate Son of God.
Having established the eternal nature of the Word, John now proceeds to declare that the Word was both “with God” and at the same time “was God.” Never has so much christological truth been compressed into such a brief statement. Contrary to the later teaching of Sabellius (a third-century Roman theologian), the Word was personally distinct from God the Father. The common use of pros (“with,” GK 4639) followed by the accusative expresses motion toward. In this context it pictures the Word in a face-to-face relationship with the Father. BDAG, 875, cites John 1:1 as an example of the preposition meaning “(in company) with.”
Not only was the Word with God; the Word was God. Tasker, 42, notes that the unique contribution of the prologue is that “it reveals the Word of God not merely as an attribute of God, but as a distinct Person within the Godhead.” The lack of an article before theos (“God,” GK 2536) does not allow it to be translated “divine” (as some have suggested), for the lack is simply common practice for predicate nouns. Had John wanted to say that the Word was divine, he had at hand a perfectly good Greek term (theios [GK 2521]; cf. Ac 17:29). The tendency to regard the Word as somewhat less than God gave rise to the sixteenth-century heretical movement known as Socinianism, which held that the historical Jesus was a good man but only a man. He became God after his resurrection when the Father delegated to him certain divine powers. Socinus’s position laid the foundation for later Unitarian movements. All such heresies overlook the clear teaching of the fourth gospel that the Word was God, or, as the NEB so aptly translates, “What God was, the Word was.” In essence, God and the Word are one.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 15–19). Chicago: Moody Press.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1466). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 367–368). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.