Mark starts his account of the life of Jesus with the record of Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:1–11). Matthew and Luke go back further in the Savior’s history and begin their gospel accounts with lengthy descriptions of His birth in Bethlehem (Matt. 1–2; Luke 1–2). John, however, goes even further back. Indeed, he starts his gospel not at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life or even the beginning of God’s dealings with His people Israel; rather, he starts before the very beginning of time itself.
We learn this from John 1:1, where the Apostle writes, “In the beginning. . . .” This phrase echoes the opening words of Genesis 1:1, where we learn that in the beginning the only being in existence was God and that He brought creation into existence. John expands on this, telling us that with God in the beginning was the Word. Yet not only was the Word with God in the beginning, but He was God (John 1:1). Here we have one of the key texts for the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, for we see both unity and differentiation in John’s description of God and His Word. As John Calvin comments, this, and many other passages of Scripture, tells us that “Christ is of the same essence with the Father, and yet that, in some respect, he is distinct from the Father.”
Few texts assert the preexistence and deity of Christ more clearly than these opening verses of John. If we had any doubt, John also emphasizes that God made everything through the Word and that nothing that is created was made apart from the Word (v. 3). That no created thing was made apart from the Word informs us that the Word Himself is uncreated and thus without beginning or end. This uncreated Word, John tells us a few verses later, took on a human nature and became incarnate as Christ Jesus our Lord (v. 14). Only deity is uncreated, so if the Word is uncreated, He must be deity.
We cannot pass these opening verses of John by without talking about the Greek word logos that is translated as “Word” in John 1:1–18. The term has two conceptual backgrounds. First, logos is the Greek translation of dabar, which in Hebrew often refers to God’s creative word. When God utters His dabar, the world comes into being. John tells us that for God to utter His dabar is for His logos— His Word—to act.
Second, logos in first-century Greek thought referred to the principle that holds all things together and explains reality. The Greeks saw this as an abstract principle, but John corrects them. A personal being, not an abstract principle, explains and sustains existence.