In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-2, 14)
In the original Greek, “the Word” is translated as logos, a masculine noun meaning “a word, speech, divine utterance, analogy.” It is from this Greek word that we get our word “logo” which is an image or symbol used to denote identity. As referenced above, one of the key themes of the Gospel of John is the identity of the Word, and as we break down these first two verses of the book, we’ll see John laying the groundwork for that theme.
Proper grammar has become something of a lost art and the study of grammar is often viewed as tedious, but we can gain much insight into Scripture if we take the time to look at the grammatical structure used. In John 1:1, we see three separate clauses—each containing a noun (the Word) and a verb (was). So let’s look at them in order:
1) The Word was in the beginning. This tells us that the Word precedes creation (see verse 3 and Colossians 1:15-17) and denies any claim that Jesus was merely a mortal being. Rather, the Word is eternal. In his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus reiterates this point when He says, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Not only was Jesus in existence “in the beginning” but he was glorified with the Father. And that leads us to our second clause.
2) The Word was with God. This shows union, and throughout the book, Jesus repeatedly refers to this unity of purpose. But let’s be clear, John is not just speaking of two like-minded entities. Rather, with God, purpose is derived from identity. Two people might come together and achieve unity because they have a similar goal or purpose. God the Father and God the Son have a unified purpose because of their intimate, perfect, eternal love relationship. So the Word not only precedes creation by being in existence first, but the Word also supersedes creation by having eternal, purposeful, intimate unity with God.
3) The Word was God. The third clause is different. The first two follow the same pattern—noun, verb, preposition, and object of preposition. In the last sentence, there is no preposition; we only have a noun (the Word), a verb (was), and a second noun (God). A prepositional phrase is a modifier—that is, something to describe an attribute (eternality, unity). But in this third clause, there is no modification. There is only identification. Put another way, the first two sentences give us details about the Word (when and where) but the third tells us who the Word is at its essence. As mentioned above, that identity is a huge theme of the book, so John starts out not with the birth of the incarnate Jesus, but with the eternal existence of the pre-incarnate Jesus.
Sadly, there are many people—some who categorize themselves as Christian—who would deny the deity of Christ. They claim He was merely human, or was imbued with a form of godliness for a period of time. In the first verse of his gospel, John makes it clear that such beliefs are nothing short of heresy. The Word existed at the beginning—or origin, per the Greek word archē—and the Word was God. Not a God, as some cults would claim. Not like a God. He was God. Other Bible authors use the phrases “exact representation of his being” and “in very nature” to describe this union.
Now, I’ve been interchanging “the Word” and “Jesus,” and because heresy and false teaching is like water seeping into cracks, finding any and every which way to pervert and delude, let’s briefly turn our attention to verse two. Lest anyone try to claim that the Word of verses 1 and 14 is a different entity than the Jesus in the rest of the book, note what pronoun John uses in verse 2. Not “It” but “He.” John restates the Word’s eternality and unity with God, but does so by referring to the Word with a masculine pronoun. And while this passage is the most well-known, it isn’t the only place John calls Jesus the Word. In I John, he pens something quite similar to what we’ve just read:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (I John 1:1-3, emphasis added)
Notice what John tells his readers here. He talks about hearing, seeing, and touching the Word. Make no mistake, the Word John refers to in his biblical writings is not some inanimate object, not just an oral word or a conveyed message. This Word “has appeared to us.”
This leads us back to John 1, where we see “the Word” again in verse 14. Contrast what we’ve just looked at, an eternal being not only unified with God but also that is God, with “became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” If Christ’s identity is only human, as some claim, He is nothing. But if Christ’s identity is only divine, then we are nothing to Him. We are, as Jonathan Edwards put it, “sinners in the hands of an angry God” and that is the end of the story. But the glorious news of the Gospel—the core theme of Scripture to which John and all authors ultimately point—is that “the Word became flesh” to “give his life as a ransom for many.”
Crucial to Christian living is an understanding of your identity in Christ, and in order to accurately understand who you are, you need to accurately understand who Christ is. John 1:1-2, 14 gives us the foundation for that understanding, and it is something we will continue to explore throughout this blog. In future posts, we will look at the “glory of the one and only Son” and how He is “full of grace and truth.” But for now, I want to focus on two reasons why understanding the identity of the Word is critical:
First, as mentioned above but worth underscoring, it helps us refute false teaching and heresy that would deny the deity of Christ, the eternal nature of Christ, or the unity within the Trinity. John 1:1 is by no means the only verse in Scripture to counter these claims, but it serves as a touchstone for doing so.
Second, understanding the identity of the Word—particularly His dual nature, divine and human—lays the foundation for the Gospel message. All of Scripture, ultimately, points back to Jesus Christ and to His coming to earth to die for sinful mankind. Therefore, we must be sure that we build all our biblical study and understanding on that foundation.
 Strong’s Concordance—emphasis added
 John 17:5
 Specifically, see John 5:19, 36; John 8:16-18; John 10:25-30; John 17:6-8
 Hebrews 1:3
 Philippians 2:6
 Matthew 20:28