John Chapter 1: John the Baptist, Beginning of Jesus’ MinistryFeb 6th, 2010 | By admin | Category: John, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
John Chapter 1: John the Baptist, Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Diaglott interlinear reads, “In a beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and a god was the Word.” Nestle’s Greek interlinear translates the Greek differently, causing a problem (some exceptions are made but not with regard to this particular subject). No doubt with good intent on his part, Nestle’s rendition changes John 1:1, as well as other similar passages throughout the New Testament that deal with Deity, in the pursuit and support of Trinitarian doctrine.
The usual procedure with a proper name in the Greek is to insert the article ho (“the”) before it. For example, ho Theos means “the God.” Many Scriptures in the New Testament do use the title ho Theos, but in a number of other cases where there is no question as to the identity of Jehovah, the article ho is not used. In the latter cases, the context makes plain that the reference is to the Heavenly Father. Therefore, in John 1:1, where Theos and Logos are used together, the omission and the inclusion of the Greek article ho take on an important connotation, for the God is being compared or contrasted with a god.
“In the [a] beginning.” How could the Word be Jehovah God since the Word had a beginning?
The Father never had a beginning—He is from everlasting to everlasting. Of the two, only the Logos had a beginning. One does not have to be a Greek scholar to analyze this text, for the inconsistency becomes apparent when other Scriptures are considered. Two examples follow.
Jehovah is the “eternal God” (Deut. 33:27). “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting” (Psa. 41:13). Trinitarians quote Scriptures in the New Testament to justify a conclusion that is at variance with the proper thought; namely, “In a beginning was the Word.” Why did the Apostle John write this way? He was drawing an analogy with Genesis 1:1. “In the [a] beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” In a beginning was the earth (Gen. 1:1). In a beginning was the Word (John 1:1). In neither case does the text say, “In a beginning was Jehovah.” In the Fourth Creative Day, or epoch, the light penetrated the veil of clouds so that the sun could be seen with reasonable clarity.
Since there are those who differ with orthodoxy and are not Greek scholars and have no college degrees in this subject, Trinitarians challenge their testimony and logic. However, the best Greek scholars can read the Bible and not understand it. Remember, neither Jesus nor the apostles ever attended any theological seminary. The Holy Spirit is the teacher, not institutions of higher learning.
Trinitarians who use John 1:1 to support their viewpoint can be asked, “If God is the Word, how could He have a beginning?” They cannot answer that question. It is difficult to argue in the Greek because many scholars follow Colwell’s Rule, and Bruce Metzger of Princeton University has written on the subject, but the above question cannot be answered satisfactorily. Thus the very beginning of the context of John 1:1 is an argument in itself—simplistic, to the point, and obvious to those who have similar familiarity with Scripture.
The Greek word theos, meaning “God” or “god” depending on context, is used in the following texts:
2 Cor. 4:4—”In whom the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
Acts 7:43—“Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your [false] god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.”
Acts 12:22—“And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.”
Acts 17:23—“For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”
Acts 28:6—“Howbeit they looked when he [Paul] should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.” The word “a” is understandably supplied, though it is not in the Greek.
Phil. 3:19—“Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” Here theos should be lowercase “god.”
An abundance of Scriptures disprove the Trinity, so one need not be a Greek scholar. In fact, going to a university and studying Greek does not give one Biblical understanding. Theological seminaries tend to brainwash their students on the subject of the Trinity. A humble fisherman, if Spirit-begotten, can set forth what the Bible really teaches. Some Scriptures that bear on the matter are listed below:
1. Jesus is personified in Proverbs 8:22,23,30. “The LORD [Jehovah] possessed [created] me in the beginning of his way [work], before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting [years ago], from the beginning, or ever the earth was [formed]…. Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” Jesus was brought up as a child by his Father’s side. Trinitarians say this passage is an allegory about wisdom, not about Jesus.
2. New Testament Scriptures saying Jesus is the wisdom of God would answer the Proverbs 8 argument. “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God…. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:24,30).
3. The Apostle John began his first epistle with wording similar to the way he started his Gospel. “That [the Logos] which was from the [a] beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word [Logos] of life” (1 John 1:1). Trinitarians use this verse to show that Logos as wisdom had a beginning. However, it actually refers to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
4. Jesus is called “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14). In other words, Jesus was created by God; Jesus is NOT God.
5. Jesus is “the [express] image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Col. 1:15).
6. A contrast between God and Jesus is shown in the Book of Revelation, where God is described as “him which is, and which was, and which is to come” (Rev. 1:4). In other words, God had no beginning. He was (in the past), He is (in the present), and He will be (in the future). He is the unending One, from everlasting to everlasting. He has always existed and never had a beginning.
7. In Revelation 1:18, Jesus said, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen.” When Jesus was dead, he was not; that is, he did not exist.
Revelation 1:4 and 1:18 cannot both refer to Jehovah. Only God is the ever-living One. Jesus is a great one, a mighty God, but not the Almighty God.
8. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus is between God and men, and hence cannot be the same as God.
9. “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). The comparison is between man and woman. Man is the head of the woman, and these are two separate individuals. By extension, then, Paul was talking about four separate personalities: God, Christ, man, and woman. God is the head of Christ—that is, He is superior to Christ.
Creeds could be used in the future to separate out those who deny the Trinity. To say that Jesus is coequal with God when God is the head of Christ is untenable. When Jesus died and was raised from death, it was God who highly exalted him—Jesus did not exalt himself. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). “For he [Christ] must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25).
When this work is accomplished, Jesus will turn over the Kingdom to his Father. A premise is laid down in 1 Corinthians 15:27: “But when he [God] saith all things are put under him [Christ], it is manifest that he [the Father] is excepted.”
10. John 14:28 reads, “My Father is greater than I.”
11. In Matthew 19:17, Jesus replied, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.”
12. Jesus cried out on the Cross not to himself but to the Father: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
Trinitarians also ignore the realization that the word “everlasting” in the Old Testament can mean “age-lasting” (Hebrew olam). When we say “everlasting,” we think of an eternity, of that which is unending, but the Scriptural thought can be “age-lasting,” that is, lasting for a period of time until the consummation of a purpose. The Hebrew has no word for “eternity,” so the thought is conveyed in other ways. For example, Jehovah is the great “I AM.” But even here they err. They take the New Testament text where Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am,” to try to prove that both “I AM’s” are God (John 8:58). However, Jesus was simply saying that he never had a cessation of life from the time of his creation through the time he uttered the statement.
It is not worth trying to rebut the Greek scholars, for one would first have to get a degree to even approach them. They will not discuss with such as equals, yet throughout history, many who lacked degrees achieved great things and had remarkable capabilities. All things being equal, education is of value, but things are not always equal.
13. In Isaiah 42:1, the word “servant” is used to describe Jesus. “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” If the Father and the Son were coequal, Jesus would not be called a “servant.”
Satan has blinded man. The fact is that Satan distorts God’s character with the doctrines of the Trinity and hellfire, and as a result, many reject both God and the Bible.
Nestle’s translation of John 1:1 contains a footnote that is based on a very weak argument concerning Colwell’s Rule. (Colwell himself has a modifying clause, admitting there can be an exception, but Trinitarians do not quote the clause.) The footnote is as follows:
“And God was the Word [interlinear Greek].” Note that the subject has the article and the predicate has it not; hence translate “the Word was God.”
In other words, Trinitarians try to say that even though the Greek lacks the article, it cannot say “a god.” Then they try to discuss subject and predicate, but they contradict themselves right here in the Gospel of John. For instance, Nestle said that the subject has the article. He had “the Word” as the subject, but the Greek has, “And God was the Word”; that is, Nestle called “the Word,” which occurs after the verb, the subject. Greek scholars will concur because they are all blind on this topic.
Notice the previous clause, which is right in the same context: “And the Word was with the God.” This is the same type of sentence, but here both the subject and the predicate have the Greek article ho. “And the [ho] Word [Logos] was with the [ho] God [Theos].” The Greek article occurs before both nouns. In the clause “And the Word was God,” the subject contains the article ho but not the predicate. Therefore, the proper translation should be, “And the Word was a god.” The two clauses side by side thus contradict their very rule. It makes no difference how the sentence is switched around. In other words, it makes no difference which noun is subject and which noun is predicate. The first clause has two articles; the second clause, only one. If Trinitarian reasoning is correct, why wasn’t the extra article in the second clause?
The Bible interprets itself. Contextual evidence is the strongest kind of evidence and should be considered first. Then other, or supportive, evidence helps to back up or refute a conclusion. “In a beginning” is contextual evidence, for only God had no beginning. Hence “the Word” cannot refer to God, for the Logos had a beginning. And the grammatical argument also contradicts.
John 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.
According to Trinitarian thinking, verse 2 would be redundant. If God is the Word (and vice versa), why would the Word be “with God”?
The following footnote is on page 313 of the Diaglott:
“In Abyssinia, there is an officer named Kal Hatze; the word or voice of the king, who stands always upon the steps of the throne, at the side of a lattice window, where there is a hole, covered in the inside with a curtain of green taffeta. Behind this curtain the king sits; and speaks through the aperture to the Kal Hatze, who communicates his commands to the officers, judges, and attendants.”
God Himself is like the king, and the Word, the Logos, the Voice, who speaks for the Father, is like the chief officer, the Kal Hatze. The words spoken by the Kal Hatze were every bit as authoritative as if they had come directly from the mouth of the king himself—because they were the king’s words, merely being transferred to others through the medium of the Kal Hatze.
This explanation helps us to better understand the Old Testament statement that God spoke to Moses face to face, whereas John 1:18 says that no man has seen God at any time (Exod. 33:11). Thus we know that an agent of the Father, that is, the Logos, did this work on behalf of the Father.
John 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
This verse should read, “All things were done on account of him; and apart from him was not any thing done that was done.”
The Diaglott has a helpful footnote for the word “made”: “Ginomai occurs upwards of seven hundred times in the New Testament, but never in the sense of create, yet in most versions it is translated as though the word was ktizo. ‘The word occurs fifty-three times in this Gospel, and signifies to be, to come, to become, to come to pass; also, to be done or transacted. All things in the Christian dispensation were done by Christ, i.e., by his authority, and according to his direction; and in the ministry committed to his apostles, nothing has been done without his warrant. See John XV. 4, 5, “Without me ye can do nothing.”’” Then the following Scriptures are compared:
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you…. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love…. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:7,10,16).
“For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me” (John 17:8).
“For by him [on account of him] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by [on account of] him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col. 1:16,17).
All things in the Christian dispensation were and are done by Christ. That limitation is important, for much was done without him in the past. Jesus certainly did not create God or the spiritual universe. Six Creative Days have been completed, and we are still in the seventh, which will not terminate until the end of the Millennial Age. At that time, when Adamic death is destroyed and the Kingdom is handed over to the Father, then God’s purpose in the Seventh Creative Day will have been accomplished. He will then pronounce regarding the Seventh Creative Day, “It is good”—the expression He used at the conclusion of the preceding six days.
At the end of the Millennium, with all those who are amenable to the Lord having proven themselves faithful—the incorrigible having been removed—God‘s purpose for the Seventh Creative Day will be finished, and the result will be a perfect human race with no evil existing.
John 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
The Sinaitic Manuscript says, “In him is life.” In other words, Jesus is a living Savior.
Verse 4 is an analogy to the first chapter of Genesis. “And God said, Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). John was saying, “That is what has happened. God sent Jesus to be the light in this Gospel Age. Jesus is the one who came to his own, but they received him not.” Jesus is the spiritual light, for just as the physical, natural light dawned on the human race back in Genesis 1, so in John 1 in the New Testament, Jesus is set forth as the spiritual light. What a beautiful analogy! None of the other Gospels took this tack. Although they do show that Jesus had a preexistence, John’s emphasis is a little different.
John’s Gospel is the least understood. Because he used a different type of language and a different type of thinking, we have to dig into it more. The other three Gospels are a narration of the man Christ Jesus—what he did and said and how he behaved—whereas John used a different perspective. Incidentally, the author of this Gospel is John Zebedee. John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark.
In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Here again Jesus stressed his role as the light of the world.
John 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
A person has to be almost hit over the head to see some things. Consider Jesus’ own family.
Prior to his death and resurrection, two brothers believed and two brothers did not believe that he was the Messiah. (Subsequently, all believed.) They watched Jesus grow up. Familiarity may not breed contempt in some instances, but there is a disrespect because of being too close to the individual. It is hard to realize the greatness of the person. Hence some of the greatest people who ever lived were appreciated more by succeeding generations than by their contemporaries. The former have a better perspective of the real worth, whereas the latter see the humanizing aspect. Generally speaking, a prophet is without honor in his own household or country.
Probably the event that triggered Jesus’ two reluctant brothers into accepting his Messiahship was the raising of Lazarus, which was a bigger event than is normally considered. Lazarus was dead for four days when Jesus resuscitated him. No wonder the people were wild with emotion! They would have jumped up and down like lunatics and run into the city shouting, “The Messiah is here!” Then Jesus rode into Jerusalem meek and lowly, riding on an ass, and the multitudes cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” They were thrilled. The miracle had awakened them.
God is dealing with us in a miraculous manner whether we realize it or not—because His dealing occurs in such a quiet, reasonable way. It is like the sun coming up slowly over the horizon and the rays shining out. We take the sun for granted and do not see the miraculous aspect: that we do not burn to a crisp or freeze to death, that there are modification and beauty, that nature is supplied with photosynthesis, etc. All these are miracles, yet many people
do not believe in God. However, if something miraculous were done that was very startling, then, yes, the people would believe, but this is not the class God normally deals with in the present age.
John 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
This was John the Baptist.
John 1:7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
John “came for a witness” in that he both saw and proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. “To bear witness” means “to testify.” Thus John the Baptist was a testifying witness. Of his own free will, he gladly pointed out the true Light.
All men were in expectation of Messiah, but in addition, they were expecting the Prophet Elijah. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Mal. 4:5). Elijah was known to have worn rough clothing, and now along came John the Baptist wearing rough clothing and speaking with authority. Hence many thought he was the predicted Elijah. John spoke with such conviction that the people were willing to be baptized. And they assumed he was doing the very “Elijah” work predicted: “He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6). The point is that the appearing of John the Baptist in this manner alerted and awakened the nation of Israel so that he could introduce Jesus as someone different.
“That all men through him might believe.” “Him” can be either John the Baptist or Jesus. If considered to be John, the thought would be “all men of the current generation” to whom John was witnessing. If “him” refers to Jesus, then there was personal responsibility back there to recognize the true Light. In regard to the pronoun “him” applying to John the Baptist, John was sent forth as an instrumentality, as a light in a lesser sense. He was the means by which the nation was alerted that Jesus was the Messiah. Therefore, the two options are as follows: (1) ”that all men through John might believe in Jesus” or (2) “that all men through Jesus might believe unto salvation.”
John 1:8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
John the Baptist was not “that Light,” but he bore witness of it. The Apostle John frequently used the word “light.” The Bible was written to appeal to those who do not have too much education, yet some who lack higher education are very wise. John spoke to such in simplistic terms.
John 1:9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
“The true Light … lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” This statement is prophetic.
Ultimately, every person who has ever lived is guaranteed to know that Jesus is the Savior. Stated another way, sooner or later this knowledge must come to all.
If we did not see this portion of verse 9 as prophetic, we would have to write off the large portion of the human race who lived and died before Jesus ever gave his life on Calvary—or even subsequently those who never heard the gospel. And during Jesus’ ministry, he preached only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. How beautiful it is to realize that all in their graves will hear the voice of the Son of man and come forth!
“Lighteth” means “enlightens.” Jesus is the Light of the world in the sense of enlightening the mind to comprehend that he is the Messiah. He said of his Father, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living”; hence there must be a resurrection (Matt. 22:32).
John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
“The world was made by him.” The context for verse 10 starts with verse 6. What bearing does verse 10 have on the earlier verses? “World” is the Greek word kosmos in each case; that is, the reference is not to the planet but to the order, the arrangement, the human race, the society. The word “made” was added by the translators, even though it is not italic. With “was” being a form of the verb ginomai (“to be”), “made” is not the proper thought, for the reference is not to the creation of the planet.
Of the more than a hundred uses of the Greek word kosmos in Scripture, all refer to earth’s society, and not to planet Earth. Usually the context will make this clear. In the few cases where the context would justify either thought, the same phrase is used elsewhere in Holy Writ to mean society. The word “cosmetic” comes from kosmos, meaning something superficial or on the outside. When the planet is the intended meaning, other Greek words are used.
A footnote in the Diaglott substantiates this thinking: “Ho kosmos, the order, arrangement of things, the human race; here it evidently means that kosmos of human beings which he came to enlighten and to save.”
One translation has “became” for “was made.” “Became” is an accurate literal translation, but what is meant by that word? It is important to grasp John’s thought here, which the Diaglott does. “He was in the world, and the world was (enlightened) through him; and yet the world knew him not.” In other words, the Diaglott properly added the word “enlightened” for clarity. With ginomai (the verb “to be”), the thought often needs to be completed with a supplied word.
For proof that the Diaglott is correct in saying “was enlightened,” notice the emphasis on “light” and “(en)light(en)eth” in verses 7-9. Jesus was the Light of the world. He came to the world and enlightened it, but except for a few, the people did not see that Light. They did not recognize him as the Savior.
We should keep in mind that the Apostle John was basing his thoughts on the creation account in Genesis. In the beginning, God said, “Let there be light; and there was light.” In using the Genesis account as a preface before getting into the narrative of what Jesus did, John was likening Jesus to when God said, “Let there be light.” Although the sun did not shine through until the Fourth Creative Day, it was there, but it was obscured or diffused on the earlier Creative Days. And the statement about light was made on the First Creative Day.
John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
Jesus came to the nation of Israel, but the nation rejected him. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37). In the final analysis, prior to Pentecost, only 500 were really converted by Jesus at his First Advent (1 Cor. 15:6). And three years of his ministry of 3 1/2 years were spent in the Galilee region.
Later, of course, 8,000 (3,000 + 5,000) accepted Jesus and consecrated on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41; 4:4). However, as great as the light was when Jesus came into the world, few believed. And if he had not done the miracles, how many would have believed? The miracles helped to awaken the nation to the fact that someone unusual was in their midst—they “advertised” his presence, as it were. True, thousands followed him, but they followed him for the loaves and the fishes and also out of curiosity.
What amazed the Apostle John was the paucity of reaction—how few responded. For 8,000 to respond at Pentecost, Peter must have spoken with extraordinary power. Imagine speaking to 5,000 people at the same time! Peter spoke in the Temple area, probably from the place where Jesus was tempted in vision to cast himself down. (Every seven years the Law was read from that same high corner of the Temple. And the Apostle James was pushed off that high Temple promontory or precipice after he had given a sermon. He fell down into the valley below and died.) And another point: In addition to the 5,000 who responded by consecrating, there would have been many who did not consecrate. Therefore, imagine the total size of the crowd addressed!
John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Verse 12 applies from Pentecost on. At Pentecost, the power of the Holy Spirit first came in the sense of adoption to sonship.
“Even to them that believe on his name.” The word “on” should be “into” (see Diaglott). More than just a nominal belief in Jesus is required. In other words, “As many as received him [by consecrating], to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe into his name.” Many believe Jesus is the Messiah, but few, relatively speaking, believe into Jesus.
John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
“Which were born [Greek gennao, begotten] … of the will … of God.” Whether gennao means ”begotten” or “born” depends on context. Here John was talking about the begettal or beginning aspect.
“Not of blood” means not according to family pedigree. The privilege to become a son of God was not automatic due to family lineage.
“Nor of the will of the flesh.” Jesus was offered as the Savior. The Heavenly Father made this possible, not the efforts of sinful flesh. The opportunity to partake of this gift now is a blessing whether or not it is received. In this age only, those called or drawn of the Father get the opportunity to become sons. The grace of God allows us the opportunity to even hear the call and message of truth. Then it is up to us to respond.
“Nor of the will of man.” This category is similar to “the will of the flesh” but is slightly different, for the will of the flesh can refer to self, whereas the will of man refers to any other human being. For example, a father may want a daughter to be converted and consecrate, but it would depend on God’s will, for He may not draw that individual. Another example is when the eleven apostles met and selected Matthias to replace Judas, but God did the appointing and ignored their choice by converting Saul (Paul).
“But of God.” These three words are the key. We are begotten of God.
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
“The Word” is a title. The Logos was made flesh—a very direct statement—and dwelled (tabernacled, tented) among us. John did not say that the Word became part flesh or half flesh.
He said the Word became a human being.
According to the Catholic teaching, “incarnate” means a divine being wrapped in flesh (or clothed in a human body) and hence a dual person, both man and God. But this is really the doctrine of Antichrist. In his epistle, John said, “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist” (1 John 4:3). In other words, the mixed idea that Jesus was God and yet down here appearing as a human being is an antichrist doctrine.
“The only begotten of the Father.” The Greek word for “begotten” refers to the genes, having to do with that which determines life.
Thus far the theme of the first chapter of John’s Gospel pertains to Jesus’ being the Light, his being made flesh, and his appearing in the glory of the only begotten of the Father. John wrote his Gospel quite late—much later than the other Gospels—after reflecting on what the other writers had omitted. For example, Matthew and Luke treated Jesus’ early life and gave lineages, his birth, early years, etc. But John took a different tack and likened Jesus’ coming to earth to the creation account in Genesis. Just as light came into this planet, which in the beginning was darkness and confusion, so the Light came into the sin-darkened world. John had a grand and noble outlook. He said later that Jesus spoke and acted like the Father because he was sinless and had come from the Father, meaning they had been closely associated together. (That is why Jesus testified, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” His perfect words and actions were such that they proved he had come from God.) And then John said, ”We even touched him!” How marvelous! Whatever Jesus did and said confirmed his Messiahship in John’s eyes. John stood back and observed the effect of Jesus’ life and ministry.
The other Gospels give running narratives of what Jesus did and where, but John treated the subject from a more sublime standpoint.
Jesus had “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father”; that is, he was the one nearest to the Father in heaven—right next to Him. He knew and observed his Father more closely than any other being. Jesus was so affected by the relationship that when he came down here, it was as though God Himself were present. Having imbibed the characteristics of the Father, Jesus could say, “What I say comes from the Father, who sent me. I am speaking His words. It is His miraculous power that enables me to raise the dead.” Jesus credited all of his activity to the Father. He either looked upward before praying or doing miracles, or he verbally gave credit.
“I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things” (John 8:28; 12:49,50).
In later years, John thought back on what Jesus had said and commented in effect, “Yes, it is true!” In studying Jesus’ life, John concluded it was as if God Himself had come down here. However, most translators do not see this aspect, for they think that Jesus was/is God. Such thinking is so foolish. If true, who took care of all the heavens when Jesus was on earth? The heavens would have been in jeopardy, especially with Satan loose.
John 1:15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
John the Baptist was speaking. The setting was when Jesus returned from the wilderness. Notice the tense: “This was he of whom I spake [earlier].” John had previously spoken of Jesus and had previously known he was the Messiah.
Incidentally, the word “preferred” is supplied. Jesus was “before” John in two ways: Jesus existed before John and was more important.
When John was baptizing, some thought he might be the Messiah. John was a man of the desert, eating locusts and honey, and he was hairy like Elijah. Because of his appearance, others thought he might be Elijah. Knowing Malachi 4:5 (“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD”), the scribes and Pharisees also came to be baptized just in case John the Baptist was Elijah and the dreadful day of the Lord was coming. And what did John say? “You generation of vipers! Why do you come?” Later, when priests and Levites asked John if he was the Messiah or Elijah or “that prophet,” he denied such identity and said he was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (John 1:19-23).
John 1:16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
The Apostle John was now speaking. Writing at a much later date, he was musing and reflecting upon the beginning of Jesus’ ministry at Jordan. We know these are the Apostle John’s words here in verse 16 because John the Baptist was not Spirit-begotten and hence did not receive of Jesus’ “fulness.”
John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
The Law was given through Moses, just as grace and truth came through Jesus. Both Moses and Jesus had roles as mediators.
There was a time when Aaron and Miriam questioned Moses’ relationship and wanted to share the leadership. Their rationale was that all three were of Amram, and Miriam was very talented and Aaron was high priest. Later Korah, as a Levite, thought Moses should share the office. In the experience, it was as though God Himself got angry: “Who are you to presume these things? I am dealing with Moses and speaking to him face to face. You have some nerve even entertaining such a thought!” The expression “face to face” shows that Moses was a mediator through whom God dealt with the nation of Israel. It is true that Moses was a remarkable person, but Jesus was even more remarkable. Moses brought the good Law, but Jesus brought something grander: grace and truth—an escape from the bondage of the Law.
John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
A human being cannot look on the divine nature, but what about Moses, who saw God “face to face,” and Enoch, who “walked with God” (Gen. 5:22)? These expressions must be considered in a modified sense.
John said in his epistle, “No man hath seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12). In other words, it is impossible for a human being to look on God as He really is. When He dealt with Moses, He did it in several ways:
1. Through the Logos. For example, the Logos was the “angel” in the burning bush who said, “I am Jehovah.” As the “angel of God,” the Logos was speaking on behalf of Jehovah (see Exod. 3:2; compare Acts 7:30-32). The Logos was the mouthpiece.
2. Through visions. For example, Moses went up into the mountain with Joshua and Aaron and some nobles of the nation. There they saw a vision of a throne scene and a pavement—a pictorial representation of Jehovah that was like a three-dimensional hologram (Exod. 24:9-11). Another example is Exodus 33:l8-23, where Moses saw God’s glory and “back parts” but not His face.
Elijah, too, saw a vision—of wind, earthquake, fire, and a still small voice—but not God Himself (1 Kings 19:9-12). Both Elijah and Moses were in a cleft or cave when the visions occurred.
3. Through a cloud. God gave Moses a glimpse of His glory by revealing His character through a pronouncement (Exod. 34:5-7). In that incident, Moses heard a voice but did not see God’s face because God appeared wrapped in a cloud with His face hidden. In other words, with His face masked or covered, God spoke to Moses “face to face.”
The point is that in none of these cases was God’s face seen—because no man can behold the divine nature and survive.
God’s voice was literally heard on two occasions, but He remained invisible: (1) When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, his garments got whiter and whiter and whiter until they exuded a brilliant light. On one side of Jesus in the vision was Moses, and on the other side was Elijah. God said, “This is my beloved Son” (Matt. 17:1-9; Mark 9:1-10) (2) At Jesus’ baptism, God’s voice was heard: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
“The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Notice the very close “bosom” relationship between Father and Son. The Son fully represented the Father for the 3 1/2 years of his ministry on earth.
John 1:19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
John 1:20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
Why did the Apostle John write, “This is the record of John [the Baptist]”? The apostle wanted to show that John the Baptist went out of his way to prevent any misunderstanding on this particular issue. John the Baptist could have pretended he was more important than he was by just keeping quiet and not saying whether or not he was the Christ. Then, by innuendo, others would have assumed he was the Messiah. However, he did the right thing by denying the matter. Here is an important lesson, namely, that silence can improperly give consent to or muddy a situation. By John the Baptist’s answering so strongly in the negative, the tendency was for his followers to leave him and go to Jesus. His replies helped to cover all bases in regard to the Jews’ knowing who the Messiah really was.
Some writers, especially those who are Jewish, feel that the Apostle John was anti-Semitic. Of the four Gospels, they feel that his is the most objectionable because he used the expression
“Jews” over and over. They are supersensitive along this line. The Jewish priests and Levites of verses 19 and 20 were sent by the Pharisees. The fact that they were from Jerusalem simply means they were from the tribe of Judah. Nothing in these verses is derogatory.
Those who would try to discredit Jesus must also try to discredit John the Baptist, who was a well-known figure back there. Thus there are two testimonies from two unusual contemporary personages: John the Baptist and Jesus. John’s testimony was in favor of Jesus, and that fact should be considered. His existence cannot be denied, nor can his testimony.
Notice the peculiarity of the Apostle John’s language. His is the most misunderstood Gospel because he stated things in a very unusual fashion. He expressed his point this way to make it more emphatic. In other words, John the Baptist did not remain silent on this issue. He could have refrained from confessing or given an evasive answer, but instead he boldly and definitely said that Jesus was the Messiah, and not himself.
John 1:21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
Elijah’s name was mentioned because of Malachi 4:5,6, which we will quote again: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” This prophecy at the end of the Old Testament was outstanding, and the Jews were looking for Elijah to come before “the great and dreadful day of the LORD.”
“Art thou that prophet?” The question referred back to Moses’ statement in Deuteronomy 18:15,18, where God had promised to raise up “a Prophet” in Israel like unto Moses. John the Baptist was not the prophet Moses had spoken about.
John the Baptist knew what prophecies the questioners had in mind. He denied that he was the fulfillment of such. And then the questioners continued (verse 22).
John 1:22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
John 1:23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
John the Baptist did admit that he was the “voice of [that] one crying in the wilderness.” The prophecy, which is back in Isaiah 40:3-5, reads as follows: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” In other words, while denying that he was the Christ, Elijah, or “that prophet,” John the Baptist did admit he was the one Isaiah had spoken of.
However, this prophecy in Isaiah has multiple fulfillments, of which John the Baptist was only the beginning. Throughout the Gospel Age, the Church has been “the voice” crying out in the wilderness, and in the Kingdom, The Christ will be “the voice” preparing the way for Jehovah. (In the larger fulfillment, the “highway” of Isaiah 40:3 is the “highway of holiness” in the Kingdom; see Isaiah 35:8.) What John the Baptist was doing back there in presenting Jesus to the nation of Israel at the First Advent is very much like what The Christ will do in the Kingdom to prepare the world of mankind for their recognition of Jehovah. In other words, John the Baptist is a miniature picture of The Christ in this instance.
The word “LORD” in Isaiah 40:3-5 is in all capital letters and thus refers to Jehovah. Although John the Baptist prepared the way of Jesus and although The Christ will prepare the way of Jehovah, preparing the way of Jesus was the beginning of preparing the way of Jehovah. The Gospel and Millennial ages are both included.
Silence is not necessarily a proof of humility. Here John the Baptist’s speaking out manifested his humility—his denial that he was Christ, Elijah, or “that prophet.” However, he did confess he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Not a rug on which others can walk and wipe their feet, humility is a sober self-examination. “Let a man examine himself” as to the measure of faith he has received of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:28; 2 Cor. 13:5). We must neither exaggerate nor undervalue ourselves but should make an honest examination. Humility and honesty are twin brothers, as it were.
Moses, the meekest man in all the earth, led millions out of bondage and broke the golden calf and made the people drink it. Therefore, a great leader can be meek. Incidentally, when gold is imbibed, it is a powerful cleanser or purgative for trichinosis and snail parasite disease. John the Baptist delivered strong messages (for example, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand— repent!”), yet his humility is beautifully apparent here. He also told the Israelites about their baptism of “fire” in the coming trouble of AD 69-70. And he called the Pharisees a “generation of vipers.” He was very blunt yet humble.
Matthew 17:11-13 reads, “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.” On the surface, this Matthew text would seem to contradict John the Baptist’s testimony that he was not Elias (Elijah). Jesus had just come down from the Mount of Transfiguration. While on the mountain, the three disciples saw, in vision, Moses and Elijah. The topic of discussion between Moses, Jesus, and Elijah was the decease of Jesus at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Jesus was in their midst, and his garments glistened. Of course Moses and Elijah were not literally there. (Moses was dead, and Elijah had been translated years before.)
At the end of the vision, as Jesus and the three disciples came down from the mount, they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elias must first come?” (Matt. 17:10). (The disciples had momentarily forgotten about the prophecy in Malachi regarding Elijah’s coming before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.) Jesus’ reply is interesting: “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” However, the restoration will take place in the Kingdom. Thus the main thrust of the prophecy in Malachi 4:5,6 did not pertain to John the Baptist but started with The Christ in the flesh. Jesus is the Head of the Elijah class, and the Church is the body in its earthly sojourn. But it is the Elijah class glorified who will, in the next age, truly restore all things; that is, those of the Elijah class who are faithful in the present life will, in the Kingdom, restore all things.
This is really a discussion of Malachi 4:5,6. Elijah is to be sent before the great and dreadful day of the Lord, that is, before the great Time of Trouble at the end of the age, the final trouble through which the new order will be born. From this standpoint, Elijah truly must first come.
But in the next age, this same class will restore all things—in the times of restitution, the times of refreshing, the times of restoration.
Now we can understand why Jesus said, “Elias has come already.” In the final analysis, John the Baptist will not be a member of “the Elijah,” which consists of Jesus the Head and the Church as his body members, but the nature of their work was pictured by John’s ministry.
John the Baptist’s work was in complete harmony with what the symbolic Elijah will do, as mentioned in Malachi 4:5,6. Elias was to come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Hence John the Baptist is a miniature picture of the reality (The Christ). From John the Baptist’s standpoint, the great and dreadful day was AD 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed. He talked of the coming baptism of fire, and his ministry beautifully pictures the warning that The Christ gives about the future Time of Trouble, which is necessary to humble mankind to submit and consecrate. The Elijah class has preached about the trouble down through the age but has lacked the power to enforce a bowing of the knee to Jesus. In the Kingdom, there will be power. Hence the Elijah work in the Gospel Age is preparatory—like a doctor in practice. The Christ will be the ministers of the New Covenant in the next age, but the practice takes place now.
The spirit of the work applies in this life, but the actual work will come in the Kingdom. Then Elias will restore all things. In the practicing era, some are converted. In the future, all will be converted (but of course only those who obey will get life).
Although John the Baptist was successful in preparing the right-hearted Jew to accept Jesus, this acceptance is not the full picture. The full picture is the accepting of Jehovah, a work that will embrace the Millennial Age. This picture is complicated. For further information, see the chapter entitled “Elias Shall First Come” in the Second Volume. In Jesus’ day, John the Baptist was a partial application of Elijah, but in the larger picture, the Church with her Head is “Elijah.” Other aspects of John’s ministry will be treated later. For example, he announced the presence of Christ. When his life is studied as a type, he pictures the feet members at the end of the age.
Just as John the Baptist, at the end of the Jewish Age, announced the presence of Jesus, so the John the Baptist class, at the end of the Gospel Age, announces the second presence of Christ. Incidentally, Jesus’ statement in Matthew 17:12,13 was limited to John the Baptist’s ministry and his announcement of a coming time of trouble on Jewry, which did occur.
John the Baptist’s work was successful to those who accepted him. And some of those disciples left John and followed Jesus. Actually, that was the point of John’s ministry—to prepare the hearts of the Jews (through repentance) to receive Jesus. John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
John 1:24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
The priests and Levites sent by the Jews from Jerusalem were of the Pharisaical persuasion. The difference between the Pharisees and the Sadducees is like the difference between Orthodox Jews and the Conservative or Reform Jews. The Orthodox believe in a personal Messiah to come, whereas the others believe the nation of Israel is the Messiah. Hence there are varied beliefs in regard to the interpretation of prophecies. The Sadducees were more like a “Reform” type of Jew who philosophizes on the Word and regards it as a storybook that teaches certain principles and tenets. Reform Jews are the radical left of the spectrum, Conservative Jews are in the middle, and Orthodox Jews are way to the right. The Orthodox accept the Old Testament as the Word of God.
The Pharisees believed in a resurrection; the Sadducees did not. But they were all Jews, and some of each category were even priests. The same spectrum and variance exist among the clergy of Christendom today. Many do not believe in the Virgin Birth, the preexistence of Christ, etc., but all are called “Christian” ministers.
The Sanhedrin were judges in a court, as it were. The members did not have to be of Aaron, that is, Levites, but could be of other tribes. However, they had to be learned in the Law.
John 1:25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
In other words, “By what authority do you baptize? If you are not one of the three personages, then who are you? What authority do you have to institute baptism?” Baptism was the real issue, for even if John had been one of the three, the Pharisees still would not have been expecting baptism.
John 1:26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
Compare Matthew 3:11.
John 1:27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
Just as the majority back there did not recognize Jesus at the First Advent, when he was present, so most today do not discern his presence at the Second Advent. Because Jesus no longer has a body of flesh and is not visible, people find it hard to believe he is present. Also, they have been indoctrinated to believe that when he comes, they will actually see him. Back there the Jews did not have this concept and were all in expectation of him, yet they still did not recognize him because of the nature of his advent; that is, he was born in a cave stable, of humble parents, and with questionable circumstances surrounding his birth. The people expected him to come not as a baby but as a warrior, a king, who would be visible, proud, strong, and brilliant and would deliver them from the Roman yoke of bondage. Moreover, Jesus came from Nazareth. Thus everything about Christ at the First Advent belied his Messiahship, unless one was in the right heart condition to be led and instructed that these qualities and events were in harmony with Scripture. Similarly down here, none can really appreciate the manner of our Lord’s Second Advent except those who are humble and get rid of preconceived opinions as to how that Second Advent would take place. The point is that at both advents, Jesus was “announced” but not recognized.
This realization helps us to appreciate more fully the power of Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ—that he was more than a prophet, that he was the One sent from God. The two walking to Emmaus said they had trusted that Jesus was the Messiah, and after his crucifixion, they still called him “a prophet mighty in deed and word” because of the miracles he had previously performed and the nature of his doctrine, but it was hard for them to accept that Messiah had to be crucified (Luke 24:19).
A “shoe’s latchet” is a sandal strap (see Diaglott). John the Baptist could speak thunder, yet look at his deep humility. He had such an appreciation of the Messiah that he felt unworthy of even loosing his sandal strap. This insight into John’s character makes apparent the reason why God chose him to introduce Messiah. He was strong, outspoken, blunt, and courageous, yet he was exceedingly humble regarding Jesus.
John 1:28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Where is Bethabara? Notice that the very next day (verses 29 and 30) John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching and said, “Behold the Lamb of God…. This is he of whom I [previously] said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me.” This incident took place quite some time after Jesus’ baptism because immediately after Jordan, Jesus was led of the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days. Therefore, verses 28-30 took place after Jesus returned from the wilderness, and this is a completely different picture. Bethabara was not near Jerusalem/Jericho, where Jesus was baptized, but was at the southern outlet of the Sea of Galilee. (In other words, the part of the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized was a much different area.)
John did not baptize in one spot but throughout Israel all along the Jordan River. Three different sites are mentioned in the Bible. John 3:23 mentions “Aenon near to Salim” as one site.
This location was farther south than Bethabara but also up near the Sea of Galilee. Bethabara is where many baptisms take place even today.
“Beyond Jordan” indicates that Bethabara was a town east of the Jordan River. Therefore, the setting here in verses 28-30 was not lower Jordan but upper Jordan. The name Bethabara means “a place of crossing”; that is, John the Baptist was on the east or Transjordan side of the Jordan River.
John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
The setting was now the next day. (Notice the paragraph mark in the King James.) The day before, some of the Pharisaical element sent from Jerusalem had questioned John the Baptist as to who he was. The questioning took place in Bethabara near the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had not yet arrived on the scene. John emphatically denied that he was Elijah, Messiah, or “that prophet.” He would only admit to Isaiah 40:3—that he was “the voice” crying in the wilderness.
The next day Jesus appeared on the scene. The Apostle John wrote dramatically: “The next day John [the Baptist] seeth Jesus coming unto him.” Then he added the words of verse 30.
Jesus was the “Lamb of God.” This was a reference to both the paschal lamb (the one slain for Passover) and the daily burnt offering (the lamb that was slain morning and evening). Jesus was the Lamb.
Isaiah 53:7 reads, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” This Scripture shows that the mystical lamb in Scripture was somehow identified with the cancellation of sin and also the coming Messiah.
Jesus takes away “the sin of the world,” that is, Adamic sin, the sin common to the whole world. He does not take away sins against light.
John 1:30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
“This is he of whom I said [previously], After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.” John spoke these words as Jesus was returning from the 40 days he spent in the wilderness after his baptism. In saying that Jesus was “before” him, John was referring to Jesus’ preexistence (compare verse 15).
John 1:31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
“And I [John the Baptist] knew him [Jesus] not [as the Messiah].” Of course John knew his cousin personally, but he did not know Jesus as Messiah until the dove lighted on him.
John 1:32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
Why did the Holy Spirit descend from heaven like a dove and abide on Jesus? It was because God had previously told John that a literal manifestation of a dove would identify Messiah by alighting and abiding on him. Hence the dove was a mark of identification. The Holy Spirit is an invisible power, but in transferring the Holy Spirit, God chose to use a dove to manifest the Spirit (as opposed to the tongues of fire that appeared at Pentecost).
Why was a “dove” used to represent the Holy Spirit? The dove is a symbol of peace, humility, and purity. When Noah sent the dove out the second time after the Flood waters had abated, it returned with an olive branch in its beak. The olive “peace” branch represents Jesus; the dove pictures the Holy Spirit. In regard to the dove symbolizing peace, when the dove returned to Noah with the olive branch, the signification was that not only had the waters assuaged, but they had dried off the face of the ground. With the waters having destroyed the ungodly, a new era was beginning.
John 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
Notice that the dove remained on Jesus for a while. The thought of the dove (the Holy Spirit) abiding or remaining on Jesus was foretold in Isaiah 11:2, “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” Of course this prophecy applies primarily to the Kingdom. Jesus’ disposition helps the Church now, but it will especially help the world in the next age. Jesus will be the wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the Prince of Peace, and the everlasting (age-lasting) Father to the world.
John 1:34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
After his baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days, but now, upon his return, John the Baptist had the opportunity to introduce him to those nearby.
John 1:35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
John 1:36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
John 1:37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
Those in Jesus’ day who were familiar with Scripture would have known that a lamb prefigured Messiah, even though they did not understand the suffering aspect. It is strange, really, that the suffering aspect was not understood better. This shows that we can be familiar with something, see it all the time, read it, etc.—like the blood of the lamb on the lintels of the door at Passover implying a suffering death—and yet not get the point.
John the Baptist’s humility is again apparent. He was happy to have his disciples transfer over to Jesus and was not just trying to gain numbers for himself. Later he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The humility of Elisabeth, John’s mother, was impressed upon him. When she was pregnant and Mary came to her house, Elisabeth remonstrated with her: “You are the mother of my Lord. What are you doing here? I should be visiting you because you are carrying the one who is preferred.” John’s background was prepared from the womb, as was that of Moses, Paul, Timothy, Jeremiah, etc., because they had a special function to perform.
The “two disciples” were John Zebedee and Andrew (verse 40). It was characteristic for the Apostle John not to identify himself in his Gospel.
John 1:38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
John 1:39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
The “tenth hour” was 4 p.m. Notice Jesus’ method. As he was walking along, John the Baptist pointed to him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Two of John’s disciples then began to follow Jesus. (This incident is being visually presented, as opposed to the other Gospels, which are more historically presented. John’s Gospel reads as if we are right there.) Jesus turned (this little detail enlivens the narrative) and asked, “What seek ye?” The two disciples responded,
“Rabbi, where do you dwell?” Jesus answered, “Come and see.” Those who had fellowship with Jesus could sense a difference right away—he was a different personality from any they had known previously.
John 1:40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
Andrew was one of the two disciples. By implication, John (the apostle-to-be) was the other disciple. We can be sure of this conclusion because the incident is recorded only in his Gospel.
John 1:41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
Andrew first found “his own brother Simon.”
John 1:42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
Notice Andrew’s reaction. Presumably this all happened the same day. When John and Andrew saw where Jesus would stay, it was 4 p.m. Then, with a point of contact, Andrew would have run to his home to get Simon Peter, and both came back to the place where Jesus was abiding.
Next Jesus looked at Peter and made a seemingly strange announcement—without any introduction being given. “You are Simon, the son of Jona. You shall be called Cephas.” Later, in recording this incident, John commented that Cephas means “a stone.”
Probably Andrew had not discussed with Jesus that he was going home to get his brother Peter. Thus Jesus’ announcement of Peter’s name (Simon) and his kinship was startling. This would be a sign to Peter that the Master knew him and his background even before his arrival. Jesus used this technique several times to prove his Messiahship, and especially in connection with gathering his disciples.
The second part of Jesus’ statement regarding Simon being called Cephas was meaningless for the moment but very startling at a later time. Peter was impetuous. He did what he pleased and was no man’s lackey. He feared no one according to the flesh, yet ultimately this one would be called “a stone.”
Jesus wanted to impress upon the apostles that they were foreknown, that he knew about them before they contacted him. That is an important point.
John 1:43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.
John 1:44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
John 1:45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
John 1:46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
Jesus sought out Philip, who was of the town of Bethsaida at the north end of the Sea of Galilee.
Bethabara was at the south end of Galilee. Evidently, the first day, when Andrew and John saw Jesus, he was going along the eastern shore and stopped somewhere en route for the night. In the meantime, Andrew ran as fast as he could to the northern end of Galilee to get Peter.
Except in rare instances, the Gospels suppress too much emotionalism, but there is much drama in Andrew’s getting Simon, their return, and Jesus’ prophecy about Peter. A lot of activity occurred that day!
The next day Jesus went to Bethsaida—a little jaunt—and hunted up Philip. Nothing is recorded as to how Jesus convinced Philip of his Messiahship, but we know there was a conversation because right after that, Philip ran to get Nathanael, saying, “We have found the Messiah.”
The pronoun “we” suggests that there was now a tiny nucleus following Jesus: John, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and then Nathanael. Notice that Jesus sought out Philip, and not vice versa as with the others. Actually, with all of them, there was a “planned” contact, and Jesus knew in advance where each one would be. The formal call to apostleship would come later. At this point, the apostles were being attracted to Jesus like a magnet. It is interesting that they found him but then returned to their fishing business. These early moments are exciting—we can see interest building in regard to the Messiah.
“Philip findeth Nathanael.” It is natural to seek your best friend first. And we can see there was a close relationship here, which is not always true of brothers and/or sisters.
When Philip found Nathanael, he said to him, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Philip’s words reveal that there had been a discussion with Jesus earlier. That is how Philip knew that Jesus came from Nazareth and that he was ostensibly the son of Joseph. The Law spoke of Jesus in the sacrifices primarily. Also, Moses said a prophet would be raised up like unto him of the Jewish brethren (Deut. 18:15,18).
If we put ourselves in Nathanael’s place, we can better understand the situation. Philip rushed up to him excitedly to announce that the Messiah had been found. Nathanael’s immediate reaction was, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Nazareth was looked down upon because no prophets had come from there. It was a barren territory in the Old Testament, whereas Bethlehem, Judah, Benjamin, etc., were origins of important personages. Although Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he was considered to be from Nazareth, showing his long-time residency there—20 to 22 years, from his return from Egypt until age 30.
Probably, too, there was a personality difference between Philip and Nathanael, Philip being enthusiastic by nature, whereas Nathanael was more of a quiet thinker. On other occasions, Nathanael might have said to Philip, “Calm down. Let’s think this matter over and reason on it.” Nathanael wanted to be convinced with reason.
Philip said to Nathanael, “Come and see.” In other words, Philip had sufficient confidence in Jesus’ being the Messiah that he felt they should not tarry and discuss the matter but should just go to Jesus so that Nathanael could see for himself.
Why was Nathanael also called Bartholomew? Bartholomew was Greek, and Nathanael was Hebrew. Names were given when the apostles were on a mountain (Mark 3:13-19).
John 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
John 1:48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
John 1:49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
John 1:50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
With Nathanael, Jesus used the same technique of indicating foreknowledge that he had used with Peter: “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” However, Nathanael felt a little resentment: “How do you know who I am? Whence do you know me?” Jesus’ answer about Nathanael’s being under the fig tree was a mark of identification that floored Nathanael. (Romans 2:28,29 defines a true “Jew”/Israelite.)
Jesus had been residing in this area for 36 hours after his return from the wilderness. It is very possible that, before Philip came, Nathanael had already heard that an unusual personage was in the area and that possibly he was the Messiah. Nathanael would have taken the matter to the Lord in prayer. He went under the foliage of a fig tree and prayed in privacy regarding the veracity of who Messiah was, for he did not want to be deceived.
When Philip came along, he would not have known about Nathanael’s praying. Philip called, “Nathanael! Nathanael!” With that, Nathanael emerged from the fig tree, and the rest of the incident is recorded. But Philip had to search for Nathanael in order to find him. When Jesus mentioned the fig tree, it was as convincing of his Messiahship as was his appearance with a wounded body to Thomas after the resurrection. “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God!” Nathanael knew this was a supernatural revelation. Jesus then told Nathanael that he would see greater things than the answer to, and knowledge of, prayer under the fig tree.
John 1:51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
Verse 51 not only was a further sign to Nathanael but also is a prophecy of the future. Jesus gave two signs to Peter: (1) “Thou art Simon the son of Jona,” and (2) “Thou shalt be called Cephas.” Jesus gave two signs to Nathanael: (1) “I saw thee under the fig tree,” and (2) “Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon [before] the Son of man”—a prophecy to be fulfilled in the Kingdom.
The “angels of God” who will ascend and descend will be the Great Company in the Kingdom. (In this age, the holy angels ascend and descend, but Nathanael would not see these. Hebrews 1:14 is the Scriptural proof regarding the holy angels at the present time: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”) The real fulfillment will occur in the Kingdom. At that time, the Great Company will supersede the other angels in ministering. They will be the messengers, the go-betweens, between the Ancient Worthies and the glorified Church. Incidentally, the Greek preposition translated “upon” should have been rendered “before.”
How do these thoughts pertain to Jesus’ conversation with Nathanael? Just as Nathanael’s own prayer (of faith) was answered, so he will see prayers of mankind answered in the Kingdom. Communication in the next age will be, to a great extent, through prayer. Just as Philip was an “angel” calling Nathanael because Jesus had indirectly, through foreknowledge, sent Philip, so the Great Company will be “angels” in the Kingdom. In other words, Nathanael’s miraculous answer to secret prayer will occur on a large scale in the Kingdom.
The ladder of communication is that the Great Company will be the go-betweens for the spiritual Church and the material (or human) Ancient Worthies. For a communication link to be established, there would have to be spirit beings—just as now spirit-being holy angels connect us with the heavenly realm. “The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chron. 16:9). The same principle will apply in the Kingdom. The Great Company will descend before Jesus, up and down the “ladder.”
The Levites (the Great Company) will be given as a gift to the priesthood (the Little Flock).
Because the Great Company have one foot with personal attachments down here and the other foot with personal attachments to the Lord Jesus, they are hindered from attaining the Little Flock. Since they have that disposition in the present life, their reward (presuming they renew their consecration and are deemed worthy of life) will be along these same lines. What proves to be a hindrance in the present life will, in the final analysis, prove to be a blessing, nevertheless. No member of the Great Company will ever attain to the stature of any member of the Little Flock, no matter how long eternity is. Jesus said of these, “I never knew you [as Little Flock]”; that is, he never recognized them because they never attained to that stature (Matt. 7:23). The Great Company get to a level of fellowship, friendship, and sonship but not to the elite Little Flock level.
(1986 and 1987)