The Eternal Christ
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:1-5)
These five verses set before us the matchless sublimity of our Lord Jesus Christ in his eternal being and character. In these five verses inspired by God the Holy Spirit, John sets before us heights no mortal mind can hope to scale and depths that none can fathom. Yet, he sets these things before us in such simple, clear language that they cannot be misunderstood, except by those who are willingly ignorant.
John’s Gospel is the Gospel of the eternal Christ. We do not have to guess what John’s purpose was in writing. He tells us plainly in the last verse of chapter 20, — “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” His great aim in these 21 chapters is not merely to inform us of historical facts relating to the life of Christ on this earth. John’s purpose is to show us the deity and eternal Godhead of that man who is known the world over as “Jesus of Nazareth,” that we might trust him as God our Savior, and obtain eternal life in him.
What man could have been better suited to show us our Savior’s glorious Godhead? John was distinctly prepared of God for the work. He had been with the Lord from the beginning of his earthly ministry, as a chosen Apostle. John was there when the Lord Jesus performed his mighty miracles. John was with him when the Master instituted the Supper. John heard the Savior’s many sermons, his parables and his explanation of the parables. John laid his head upon the Lord’s chest, as only a loving brother or friend might do. He was with the Lord Jesus in Gethsemane. He was by his side as the Savior poured out his life’s blood upon the cursed tree. John took the Savior’s mother into his own household, and provided and cared for her until her death. He was present when the risen Christ ascended back into heaven. He saw the destruction of the Jewish nation, the temple, and the City of Jerusalem. And it was to this man John that our Lord appeared on the Isle of Patmos, showing him all that he would accomplish before time is no more.
In these opening verses of his Gospel John shows us the eternal Christ in his relationship to time, to the Godhead, to creation, and to men.
Relationship to Time
First, John declares our Savior’s relationship to time. Our Savior is not a mere creature of time. He is before all time and the Creator of time. Christ is eternal. John tells us “in the beginning was the Word.” He did not begin to exist when the heavens and the earth were made. He was with the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5), possessing from the beginning all the glory that he now possesses as our successful Surety. He was already existing when matter was first created and before time began. He is “before all things” (Colossians 1:17). He is eternal.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God” (vv. 1-2). — Christ, the Word, was continually in being with God, in perfect union, communion and being with God the Father and God the Spirit. In time he came to be with man; but in the beginning he was with God. The Lord Jesus Christ is God the eternal Son. He is our eternal Surety, “the Surety of a better covenant,” our eternal Sacrifice, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” our eternal Shepherd, and our eternal Savior (2 Timothy 1:9-10; Ephesians 1:3-6).
I want you to get the sweet honey found in the honeycomb of our Savior’s glorious eternality. For as long as he has had being, we have had being in him. As soon as he stood forth in the beginning with God, as our Head and Representative, we stood forth in him, as one with him. We were in him as his seed (Psalm 22:30-31). And we were in him as his body (Psalm 139:14-18).
God’s elect are the members of Christ’s mystical body, the church. All the members of his body were written in his book, the book of life, when as yet, as regards their actual existence, there was none of them. We were given to him in eternity, when he was constituted our covenant Head in the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. Thus we became, in prospect of our Savior’s incarnation, “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” How tenderly our blessed Redeemer reminded his Father of these covenant transactions, when he said in his great intercessory prayer, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them” (John 17:9-10).
Being thus given to Christ, and constituted members of his mystical body, we can no more perish than Christ himself. He is our Head, and as he is possessed of all power, full of all love, filled with all wisdom, and replete with all mercy, grace, and truth, how can he, how will he, allow any of his members to fall out of his body, and be lost and separated from him forever? Will any man willingly allow his eye, or his hand, or his foot, or even the tip of his little finger, to be cut off? If any member of our body perishes, if we lose an arm or a leg, it is because we have no power to prevent it. But all power in heaven and in earth belongs to Christ. Therefore not one member of his mystical body, “the fulness of him that filleth all in all,” can perish for lack of power in him to save it.
We do not become members of his body when we believe. We were members of his body when he was “in the beginning with God.” When we are quickened and made alive unto God savingly and experimentally, by the regenerating work of the Spirit, we are brought into the realization of this blessed eternal union with Christ; but the union was from everlasting.
Relationship to God
Second, John shows us our blessed Savior’s eternal relationship to the triune Godhead. He was from the beginning with God, because he is God, one with the Father and the Spirit. We rejoice to know that Christ our Savior is God. But, I want you to see the significance of the fact that John here declares that he is the Word, the eternal Logos of the Triune God.
Christ “was in the beginning with God” as the unuttered speech and thought of the triune God. It is only in Christ that God is fully told out. He so fully and so perfectly reveals God that he declares, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). To know him is to know God (John 17:3). The “light of the knowledge of the glory of God” is seen only “in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
It is Christ the Word, our crucified Substitute, the Lamb of God, who opens the sealed book of God’s eternal purpose, reveals it to us, and fulfills it in the accomplishment of redemption (Revelation 5:1-10). It is Christ the Word, crucified as our Substitute and risen as our Savior, who interprets and fulfills all the Old Testament Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27, 45-47). It Christ, the Word, whom we preach to men, by whom the veil of spiritual darkness is taken away and the glory of God is revealed (2 Corinthians 3:14-18).
Relationship to Creation
Third, John shows us, with sublime simplicity, the relationship of our Lord Jesus Christ to creation. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (v. 3). — In the Book of God creation is almost always associated with redemption because he who is our Creator is our Redeemer, and because creation is meaningless apart from redemption.
Liberals, Mormons, and Russellites (Jehovah Witnesses), and countless other heretics tell us that Christ is but a creature of God. Holy Scripture declares that he is God our Creator! Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Word by whom the worlds and all that they contain were made (Psalm 148:5; Ephesians 3:8-9; Colossians 1:15-19). — “By (Christ) the Word of God the heavens were of old” (2 Peter 3:5).
“All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” — He who is before all things is eternal. He who made all things is omnipotent. And he who is eternal and omnipotent is God. And this great God, our Creator, who made all things, is he who has made peace for us by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:20). In the new creation of grace, as in the creation of the world itself, Christ is the Creator. It is Christ who declares, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). — “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature!” And of the new creation, the Book of God everywhere declares, — “Without him was not anything made that was made!” Without him there can be no new covenant, no new name, no new and living way, no new heart, no new spirit, no new garment, no new song, no new heaven, and no new earth. — “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). If all things were created for his pleasure, it cannot be doubted that “he shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied!”
Relationship to Men
Fourth, John shows us Christ’s relationship to men. — “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (vv. 4-5).
Christ is Life. “In him was life.” All natural life, all spiritual life, the resurrection life, and eternal life are all from him who is Life. He who created all things must be the Fountain of life and Giver of life. The word “life” is used here in its widest sense. All creature life comes from him, for “in him we live and move and have our being.” All spiritual life or eternal life, comes from and is found in him. He has given us eternal life (1 John 5:11; 11:25-26).
And Christ is Light. “And the life was the light of men.” The natural light of reason and conscience as well as spiritual light and heaven’s eternal light come from him who is the Light of men. Christ is the only moral, spiritual Light there is. He is that “the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (v. 9). Every rational man is morally enlightened (Romans 2:15; Romans 1:18-21). That means all are responsible and accountable. Though all men are by nature dead in trespasses and sins, all responsible before God and shall give an account (Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:12) for the “Light” they have despised and refused.
Look at verse 5 again. John tells us that Christ, the Light, blazes forth in the darkness of man’s depraved heart and sin-darkened soul. That is clearly the meaning of the first part of verse 5. — “The light shineth in darkness!” Then we read, “and the darkness comprehended it not,” meaning the darkness perceived no light, though the Light shines ever so brightly.
The word translated “comprehended” is sometimes translated “overtake” (1 Thessalonians 5:4). Blessed be his name forever, when Christ comes to shine in the hearts of his own, he does not just give light, he causes his own to see the Light. He shines with such irresistible Light in the hearts of his redeemed that we simply cannot overtake the Light. Rather, the Light completely overtakes us! As it was in the old creation, so it is in the new. God says, “Let there be light,” and there is light (Genesis 1:1-3).
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” With those words the Apostle John was inspired to begin his Gospel, showing us the eternal Christ, “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen!”
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