The Word Before All Words

Tuesday: The Preexistence of the Word

John 1:1-4 In this week’s study we see that Jesus is not only God Incarnate, but the God of Creation.
The Preexistence of the Word

Yesterday I spoke of how brilliant and amazing the preface to John’s gospel is, but let me add now that this is not only because of John’s use of the philosophical Greek term logos. In the first verse of the prologue John also tells us three important things about him. We’ll look at one of them today, and the other two tomorrow. The second verse summarizes those three things.

The Word was “in the beginning.”  That is, Jesus existed before anything came into being. This means that he, and he alone, was preexistent. In fact, since Jesus created all things, as we are told in verse 3, it is only because he was preexistent that anything else came to be created. If he had not existed and had not made everything that has come to be, nothing else would be. The explanation of everything, including who we are and why we are, is in him.

There are several ways the words “in the beginning” are used in the Bible. In 1 John this same author uses them of the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry, saying, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). At the beginning of Genesis, to which John is deliberately referring in the opening of the gospel, “in the beginning” refers to the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:1). But here the words go beyond even that, because in the gospel John is looking back beyond Jesus’ earthly life, beyond even the creation of the world, into the infinite reaches of eternity past, and he is saying, “That is where Jesus Christ was.” There was never a moment when he was not existent.

This is what we frequently find in the Bible when we turn to it for an explanation of who Jesus is. He was a man certainly. That is how John and the other disciples came to know him. But when he is truly known, those who come to know him discover that he was before all things. This is how the book of Hebrews begins: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to use by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1, 2). In Philippians, in words that were probably part of an early Christian hymn, Paul writes that before becoming man, Jesus was “in very nature God” (Philippians 2:6). That is, he existed with God from the beginning. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is revealed as “the First and the Last” (Revelation 2:8).

These last verses and others like them teach that Jesus can be understood only if he is understood in the context of eternity. And we can understand him only if we realize that he is the eternal God.

Study Questions
  1. Why is it significant that “in the beginning was the Word”?
  2. What does “in the beginning” refer to?

Application: As you think about Jesus this Christmas season, what do you think about? His humanity? Gentleness? Humility? His power to heal? Dr. Boice challenges you to also think of Jesus in the context of eternity. As a starting place, read Revelation 1:9-20. Does this passage teach you a new way to think about the “baby Jesus” this Christmas?

For Further Study: Download for free and read James Boice’s booklet, “Celebrating Christmas.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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