“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has
made him known.” —John 1:18
Overview of John
The author of the gospel is the apostle John, the son of Zebedee, brother of James, and one of the three “inner circle” disciples: Peter, James, and John. He never refers to himself directly in this gospel. He is most likely a disciple of John the Baptist, who leaves to follow Jesus (John 1:35–37). Probably written in AD 80–90, John is the latest of the gospels and thus more reflective on the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus.
Words are powerful. They can be used to encourage or be the cause of depression. They can inform, mystify, persuade, sustain friendship, or cause deep distress. Words reveal thoughts; words reveal character; clear words explain.
John begins by telling us about God’s Word, by which He reveals and explains himself. Uniquely, God’s Word is a person, a pre-existent and eternal person, who was in the beginning with God and distinct from God (v. 1). God’s Word was God. This divine Word made all things (v. 3), and is the source of light and life (vv. 4–5). The Word came into the world He created, and was not received by the world in general, or by His own people, Israel, in particular (vv. 10–11).
Those who received and believed the Word were given authority to be the children of God (vv. 12–13). So John tells us about the Word’s relationship to God (vv. 1–2); His relationship to the world (vv. 3–4, 10–11); and His relationship to the believer (vv. 12–13).
We are introduced to John the Baptist, the forerunner and witness to the Word:
Although the full identity of the Word is not yet revealed, God has made every preparation for His coming amongst mankind. John tells us that through receiving the Word, believing in Him, we become children of God. He likens this to being born, but this birth is not by normal human cause; not by “human decision or a husband’s will” (v. 13). The birth we need, the birth we crave, comes because of God’s activity. This birth is His to give—“but born of God” (v. 13).
In this beautiful opening, John tells us that God the Word has visited us, John the Baptist was His witness, and that to receive the Word is like being born all over again. Such a birth comes not by any human means, but by God’s initiative.
In Knowing God, J. I. Packer says that in spare moments, believers need to remind themselves of their identity: “I am a child of God, God is my Father, heaven is my home, every day is one day nearer heaven, my Saviour is my brother, every Christian is my brother [or sister] too.”(1)