The Apostle opens his Gospel with the phrase, “In the beginning.” Sound familiar? More than likely you have come across that phrase at some time in your life as it’s the opening phrase of the Bible, Genesis 1:1. Do you think John deliberately chose this phrase? Of course he did; that’s not the real question. The real question is, “Why did John choose this phrase?”
Genesis records the creation of the world. John acknowledges the creation of the world but quickly shifts to the new creation of the world. The parallels between the opening of Genesis and the opening of John are numerous. Genesis explains that the catalyst for natural creation was the word of God, as in “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). John begins to explain that Jesus is the Word of God. The text reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3). As if God’s speaking the world into existence isn’t challenging enough to process, John goes much deeper and wider in his creation account, giving us a multi-dimensional look into the identity, nature and power of God.
What have we learned so far? We’ve learned that God exists in at least two Persons, God the Father and God the Son. John will soon reveal that this “Word” is a person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the embodiment of the word of God. There is the spoken word of God, the written word of God, i.e. the Bible, and now we see there is the Living Word of God, Jesus Himself. Jesus existed before creation and was, in fact, the agent of creation. God the Father and God the Son are eternal, forever existent outside of space and time. These attributes will become clear as we work our way through John’s Gospel. OK – I confess. I read ahead and I know what’s coming!
In Genesis and in John, God is revealing Himself. In Genesis He reveals Himself through physical creation, and we’re going to see that in John, God is revealing Himself through spiritual creation. According to the Bible, natural revelation should be enough. Paul’s writing in Romans informs, “For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:19-20). In other words, when we look into the starry sky at night, we should begin to know God. Those stars didn’t get there by themselves. When we look at the fact that the solar system operates with such precision, we should begin to know God. When we realize that gravity always works, we should begin to know God. When we look at the complexity of the simplest forms of life, such as a blade of glass or a butterfly, we should begin to know God – or at least know that God exists.
With John’s Gospel, God takes us to new heights in His self-revelation. Despite the fact that God’s existence, nature and attributes should be obvious on the strength of His phenomenal creative ability – talk about performance art – mankind has largely missed it, succumbing to a spiritual darkness. That’s about to change. In Genesis, God made physical light to illuminate the physical darkness. In John, spiritual light is about to illuminate the spiritual darkness that has overtaken the world. What, or who, is that light? Jesus is the light. John writes, “In him (Jesus the Word) was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4).
The world was, and is, a very dark place, driving some to turn from God. The truth is the darkness should drive us to God, not away from Him, for He is our only hope. Left to ourselves we will be overcome by the darkness. But John reveals our hope as he begins to reveal Jesus, the light that will not be overcome by darkness.