John 1:1–18 introduces the story of Jesus by taking us back to eternity past and identifying Him as the eternally existent Word of God (vv. 1–3). This proclamation of Jesus’ deity receives further explication in the gospel account, particularly in chapter 8, but the deity of Christ is not the only recurring theme in John that is introduced in the prologue. Today’s passage introduces two more recurring ideas in John, namely, that the Word of God—Jesus Christ—is also the light and the life.
First, John 1:4 says that “in him [the Word] was life.” Typically in John’s gospel, references to Jesus’ being “the life” have to do with His being the source of spiritual life, the One who brings dead souls back to spiritual vitality (for example, 14:6). In 1:4, however, John is likely emphasizing the Word as the source of all biological life on account of the context’s being the work of the Word in creation (vv. 1–3). Of course, this is not at the expense of the Word’s being the source of spiritual life, for the One who in creation made the body and gave it life also in creation made the soul and gave it life. In any case, it is important to note that the Word, Jesus Christ, is not only the initial source of life in creation but is also the continuing source of life in preserving the universe (Heb. 1:1–4). The Word of God, John Calvin comments, “was not only the source of life to all the creatures, so that those which were not began to be, but that his life-giving power causes them to remain in their condition; for were it not that his continued inspiration gives vigor to the world, every thing that lives would immediately decay, or be reduced to nothing.”
In John 1:4–5, we also read that Jesus is the light. As very God of very God, the Word of God is the source of all light both natural and spiritual. Created lights such as the sun and the stars shine because they were created by the God of glory, the God who shines in refulgent light (Isa. 60:1–3). But as light also shows us the way, the true path to our destination, the Word of God as the light of the world is also the source of all truth and the final goal toward which all truth points (see 14:6). When the omnipotent light who is the Word of God shines, the darkness cannot overcome Him (John 1:5). In creation, this light broke through the physical darkness (Gen. 1:1–3), and even now, human beings cannot totally suppress their awareness of this light by their sin. All people retain some knowledge of God and His attributes no matter how much they deny His truth (Rom. 1:18–32).