It takes intentionality to reflect on Christ during the busy seasons of our lives — especially the holiday season. Below, you’ll find an excerpt from the Preaching the Word Commentary on John. We’ve grabbed the section that covers John 1:1-3, a great section for meditating on the eternal Christ and person of Jesus.

Preaching the Word Excerpt: The Greatness of the Eternal Christ

It is rightly said that each of the Gospels presents Christ with a distinctive emphasis. Matthew emphasizes his kingship, Mark his servanthood, Luke his manhood, and John his Godhood. Certainly all of the Gospels present all four truths, but their separate emphases have allowed them unique functions in telling the story of Christ.

Intro to John

John is unique in his powerful presentation of Jesus as the great Creator-God of the universe. His massive vision of Christ has been used countless times to open the eyes of unbelievers to who Jesus is and the way of redemption.

This Gospel’s continuing effect on Christians is equally profound because in John’s account believers find an ongoing source for expanding their concept of the Savior’s greatness. The serious student of John will find that each time he returns to the Gospel, Christ will be a little bigger – something like Lucy’s experience with the lion Aslan (the Christ symbol in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia) as she again gazed into his large, wise face.

“Welcome, child,” he said.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

My hope is that as we work our way through the wonders of this book, we will find Christ bigger and bigger and bigger.

The prologue to John’s Gospel (vv. 1-18) is considered to be one of the most sublime sections in all of Scripture. Some believe it was an early Christian “Hymn of the Incarnate Word,” for Christ’s incarnation is its subject, and it is marvelously poetic. Even more, it introduces us to some of the major ideas of the book: the cosmic Christ who came as light into the world, suffered rejection, but gave “grace upon grace” (1:16, RSV) to those who received him. This hymn gives us a sense of the matchless greatness of Christ (vv. 1-3), the greatness of his love (vv. 4-13), and the greatness of his grace (vv. 14-18).

As John begins this introductory song, the force of what he says is so staggering that the words almost seem to bend under the weight they are made to bear. The opening three verses are an amazingly congealed expression of the greatness of Christ.

THE GREATNESS OF CHRIST (VV. 1-3)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (vv. 1-3)

Eternally Preexistent

“In the beginning was the Word.” There never was a time when Christ did not exist because the word “was” is in the Greek imperfect tense, which means “was continuing.” In fact, the entire first verse bears this sense. “In the beginning was continuing the Word, and the Word was continuing with God, and the Word was continually God.” Or as one of my friends accurately (though ungrammatically) concluded, “Jesus always was wasing!” That is precisely it. Jesus Christ is preexistent. He always was continuing.

If you are like me, this kind of thinking makes for a super-headache. Our minds look backward until time disappears and thought collapses in exhaustion. Thus we begin our thoughts of the greatness of Christ. (The same thought can be found in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Philippians 2:6ff., and Colossians 1:17.)

Eternally in Relationship

Next the apostle adds, “and the Word was with God.” Literally, “the Word was continually toward God.” The Father and the Son were continually face to face. The preposition “with” bears the idea of nearness, along with a sense of movement toward God. That is to say, there has always existed the deepest equality and intimacy in the Holy Trinity.

Again our minds stagger as we think of Jesus as always having continued (without beginning and without end) in perfect joyous intimacy with the Father.

Eternally God

Moreover, as the final phrase of verse 1 adds, “and the Word was God.” The exact meaning is that the Word was God in essence and character. He was God in every way, though he was a separate person from God the Father. The phrase perfectly preserves Jesus’ separate identity, while also stating that he is God. This was his continuing identity from all eternity. He was God constantly.

The simple sentence of verse 1 is the most compact and pulsating theological statement in all of Scripture. Jesus was always existing from all eternity as God, in perfect fellowship with God the Father and (though not mentioned) the Holy Spirit. He is the cosmic Christ.

Learn More About the Eternal Christ

Did you enjoy this excerpt? We pulled it straight from the Preaching the Word Commentary on John. You can get this volume, or the entire set, on our store website. With these commentaries, you’ll continue to grow in your understanding of the eternal Christ, Scripture, and your God-given call to love.

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