Bible Study on Gospel of John, Chapter 1

by Matt Slick

Bible Study on John 1:1–51


  1. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    1. Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
    2. The word "word" was familiar to the Greeks who understood it to be the rational principle that governed the universe. The Jews understood the word to mean God.1  Therefore John was seeking to establish that the word which was God and was in the beginning is that governing principle.
    3. The word is eternal.  The Word is divine.  The word is personal.
      1. John 8:58, "Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”"
    4. God created through his word is Genesis 1:3 demonstrates, "Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light."
    5. Jehovah's Witnesses render this as "and the Word was a God"
      1. This is problematic because it implies polytheism.
  2. He was in the beginning with God.
    1. This hints at the Trinity due to the word being God and yet with God.  At the very least this is a plurality within the Godhead
    2. Notice the distinguishing between the "He" and "with God".  Yet, John 1:1 already said the "Word was God." To be God and with God implies a separation from God, yet also a sharing of the same nature of God, as John 1:1 says "the Word with God and the Word was God."
  3. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
    1. John the apostle is telling us that the Word, which later became flesh, (John 1:14) is the source of all creation. Notice "through him."  This shows the work of God through the Word.  Yet, the "Word was God."
    2. Some might say that God used the pre-incarnate Christ as the conduit through whom creation was made. Often this comment is offered in an attempt to deny the deity of Christ.  Yet, that cannot work in light of the following verses.
      1. Isaiah 44:24, "Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone,"
        1. The LORD (YHWH) is the sole creator of all things.  If this is the case, and the Word is the means by which God created, then it could not be said that YHWH created all things alone.  But, since YHWH created all things alone, and the Word was God, then we can see the harmony in these verses.
      2. Colossians 1:15–17, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
        1. Firstborn does not mean first created. Firstborn is a transferable title, a title of pre-eminence and does not necessitate being a created thing when applied to Jesus.
          1. Gen. 41:51-52, "And Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh: For, said he, God has made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."
          2. Jer. 31:9, "...for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn."
        2. The Jehovah's Witness New World translation inserts the word "other" four times in this text.  
          1. NWT, "because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. 17Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exists."
        3. There are two Greek words for the word "other", allos which means another of the same kind and heteros which means another of a different kind. Paul could have used either word. However, he chose to use neither one. Therefore, the New World translation is incorrect and its attempt to deny the deity of Christ is wrong.
  4. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
    1. The first appearance of the word "life" is in this verse.  The word "life" occurs 47 times in 39 verses in the New American Standard Bible
    2. Life:  Jesus, as the creator, provides physical life as well as spiritual life.
      1. John 10:27–28, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand."
    3. The first occurrence of the word "light" is in this verse. The word "light" occurs 23 times in 16 verses in the new American Standard Bible.
    4. Light: Jesus is the light. Notice the similarity with Genesis 1:3, "Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light."
      1. There are many verses in the gospel of John that speak of Jesus as being the light.
        1. John 3:19, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil."
        2. John 8:12, "Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”"
        3. John 12:35, "So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes."
        4. John 12:46, "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness."
  5. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
    1. The allusion to Genesis is obvious. 
      1. Genesis 1:4, "God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness."
    2. In this verse of John 1:5, light and darkness are symbols of good and evil.
    3. The word for "comprehend" is katelaben, from katalambano.  It means to "apprehend, attain, obtain, find, lay hold of, seize."2  It is used figuratively here of "seizing the mind", comprehending, understanding.
    4. Related Verses
      1. John 3:19–21, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”"
      2. Acts 26:15–18, "And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 ‘But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’"


  1. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.
    1. Old Testament Prophecy of John the Baptist
      1. Malachi 3:1, "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts."
    2. The word "sent" is from the Greek apostello, to send, from which we get apostle.
    3. Jesus spoke of John the Baptist
      1. Matt. 11:7-11, "As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 “But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! 9 “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 “This is the one about whom it is written, ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’ 11 “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
    4. Biography of John the Baptist
      1. He was born in the hill country of Judah (Luke 1:39)
      2. He was the son of Zechariah a priest (Luke 1:5)
      3. His parents were godly and obey the commands of God (Luke 1:6)
      4. His birth was prophesied by the angel of the Lord (Luke 1:8-13)
      5. His name was assigned by the angel (John 1:13)
      6. He would be great in God's eyes, would not drink any alcohol, and would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15)
      7. He was related to Jesus (Luke 1:36)
      8. He lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance (Luke 1:80)
      9. He preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3)
      10. He bore witness of Jesus (Mark 1:7-8)
      11. He baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:14-17)
      12. He reprimanded Herod who imprisoned him (Luke 3:19-20; Matthew 14:3-5)
      13. He was beheaded by Herod (Mark 6:27)
      14. His body was laid in the tomb (Mark 6:29)
    5. John the Baptist as Elijah
      1. He is Elijah, Matthew 11:13–14, "For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come."
      2. He is not Elijah, John 1:19–21, "This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”"
      3. Spirit of Elijah, "It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
      4. John the Baptist wore a garment of camel's hair, Matthew 3:4, "Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey."
      5. Elijah 2 Kings 1:8, "They answered him, “He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”"
        1. "This was the description not of his person, as in the case of Esau, but of his dress, which consisted either of unwrought sheep or goatskins (Heb. 11:37), or of camel’s haircloth—the coarser manufacture of this material like our rough haircloth."3
        2. John the Baptist's father was Zechariah who was a temple worker and may have had access to artifacts from ancient times.
  2. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.
  3. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
    1. The function of John the Baptist was to bear witness of the light, being Jesus. John was sent from God (v. 6).
    2. The word "testify" occurs 33 times in the gospel of John.
    3. Testifying/bearing witness of Christ
      1. Jesus bears witness of Himself, (John 8:18; 14:6)
      2. Jesus' works bear witness of Himself, (John 5:36; 10:25)
      3. The Father bears witness of Jesus, (John 5:37; 8:18; 1 John 5:9)
      4. The Holy Spirit bears witness of Jesus, (John 15:26)
      5. The multitudes bear witness of Jesus, (John 12:17)
      6. The Prophets bear witness of Jesus, (Acts 10:43)
      7. The Scriptures bear witness of Jesus, (John 5:39)
  4. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
    1. Light
      1. 1 John 1:5, "This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all."
      2. John 8:12, "Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”"
      3. John 9:5, "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."
      4. John 12:46, "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness."
      5. Matthew 5:14, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden."
    2. World
      1. The word "world" here refers to the physical realm into which Jesus had entered via his incarnation and humiliation.
        1. Philippians 2:5–8, "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
      2. The word "world" is used in different ways in the New Testament. It can mean...
        1. The earth
          1. John 17:5, "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."
        2. A limited and/or known area
          1. 1 Peter 5:9, "But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world."
        3. People of all kinds
          1. John 3:17, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."
        4. Possessions, power, influence
          1. Luke 9:25, "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?"
    3. "Enlightens every man"
      1. What is meant by "enlightens every man"?
      2. Does in mean every individual who has ever lived, was then living, or will live?  If so, how is this done?  Via the Bible?  Preaching?  Is it I statement about the general idea of the gospel message going forth?
      3. What exactly is the enlightening? Does it mean that Jesus is making himself known to everyone all over the world?  Or, does it mean that in the process of evangelism he enlightens every man about the truth of sin and salvation and the necessity of trusting in him and his sacrifice?
      4. Could it be a conscience that is provided to every individual?
      5. Does "everyman" mean it in a literal sense or in a general sense to all types of people all over the world?
      6. Debate on the answers of the questions continues within the Christian church.
  5. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
    1. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He was born into the world and yet the world  was made by him.
    2. To not know who Jesus is, is to not know his divinity, his Majesty, his work, his love, his purpose.
  6. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
    1. Jesus came to the Jews but the Jews, as a whole, rejected him.
    2. Matthew 10:5–6, "These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
    3. Matthew 15:24, "But He answered and said, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'"
    4. Old Testament Verses as background about the Messiah
      1. Genesis 12:3, "And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”"


  1. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
    1. Receiving [lambano] Christ is an action performed by the believer.  It is enabled by God's regenerative work in us.
      1. The unbeliever cannot receive Christ of his own, sinful free will which is what the following verse 12 tells us.
    2. Receiving Christ means that we become the children of God.
      1. "in John’s Gospel believers are referred to as God’s children and never as “God’s sons.”4
      2. Children of God
        1. Romans 8:14, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."
        2. 2 Corinthians 6:17–18, "Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty."
        3. Galatians 3:26, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."
        4. Galatians 4:6, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”"
        5. 2 Peter 1:4, "For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust."
        6. 1 John 3:1, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him."
    3. Believe in his name
      1. This means to trust in Christ, to put hope and faith in him.  It does not mean simple intellectual acknowledgment (ascentia).  It means faithful trust (fiducia).
  2. who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
    1. not of blood - not of human origin
    2. not of the will of the flesh - not of carnal desires
    3. not of the will of man - human effort and desire
      1. It is man who is deceitful (Jer. 17:9), full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19), and cannot come to God on his own (John 6:44), does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12), is helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6), is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20; John 8:34), cannot receive spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1), is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15).
      2. It is God who appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48), grants the act of believing (Phi1:29), works faith in the believer (John 6:28-29), grants us repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-25), causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3), grants that we come to Jesus (John 6:65), and predestines us to salvation (Rom. 8:29-30).
    4. Regeneration precedes faith
      1. Since the unbeliever is in a precarious position and since it is God who must intervene, how then does regeneration and faith work?  here is an illustration using a light bulb.
        1. In a light bulb whenever electricity is present, light is also present. However, light is not the cause of electricity. Electricity is the cause of the light. Though they occur simultaneously, we would say that the electricity is logically prior to the light since it is the cause of the light. Likewise, in our salvation, regeneration is the logically prior condition that brings the result of belief. 


  1. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
    1. Jesus is the Word made flesh, he is God in flesh.
      1. Colossians 2:9, "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,"
    2. Dwelt among us
      1. The word in Greek for "dwelt" is from the Greek σκηνόω, skēnóō.  It means to tent, to encamp.
      2. Exodus 25:8, "Let them construct a sanctuary for Me [God], that I may dwell among them."
      3. God desires to dwell among his people. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. When they sinned he went looking for them.
        1. 1 Corinthians 1:9, "God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."
    3. Only begotten
      1. The Greek word for "only begotten" is μονογενής, monogenas.  It means both only begotten and unique.
    4. From the Father
      1. Jesus was sent by God the Father.
      2. Jesus says "sent me" in Reference to God the Father 33 times in the Gospel of John, in the NASB.
        1. John 6:39, "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day."
        2. John 6:44, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."
        3. John 8:42, "Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me."
    5. Full of grace and truth
      1. The term "full of grace" occurs only two times in the New Testament, here in John 1:14 and in Acts 6:8.
        1. Acts 6:8, "And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people."
        2. Stephen was "full of the spirit and of wisdom" (Acts 6:3).
        3. But only is Jesus is said to be "full of grace and truth".  Stephen was "full of grace".
      2. This is important in light of the Roman Catholic doctrine that Mary was full of grace. The Roman Catholics reference Luke 1:28 which says, "And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."
        1. "favored one" is the single Greek word kexaritomena and means highly favored, make accepted, make graceful, etc. It does not mean "full of grace" which is "plaras karitos" (plaras = full and karitos = Grace) in the Greek.
      3. V. 17 also speaks of grace and truth in reference to Jesus.
  2. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' "
    1. Again, John the Baptist is mentioned which signifies the importance of his testimony concerning Jesus.
    2. John the Baptist's 'crying out' signifies his proclamation, his prophetic activity regarding Jesus.
      1. Malachi 3:1, "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts."
    3. John the apostle makes it clear that Jesus was of a higher position than John the Baptist and the reason is because Jesus existed before John.
      1. This is reminiscent of primogeniture the teaching that the firstborn has priority and authority.
      2. Jesus is called the firstborn of creation:  Colossians 1:15, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation."
      3. See Also, John 8:58, "Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”"
  3. For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
    1. Who is the "all" who have received the fullness?  Obviously, it cannot mean those who reject him.
      1. The "all" probably refers to only those who have received Christ (v. 12).
    2. Grace upon Grace:  the term is not clear. It could mean blessing upon blessing.
  4. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
    1. Moses was the individual through whom God's Law was revealed.
    2. Grace and truth are realized only through Jesus.  The phrase only occurs here and in verse 14.
      1. John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
  5. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
    1. We know that God is seen in the Old Testament in many places (Genesis 17:1; 18:1; Exodus 6:2-3; 24:9-11; Numbers 12:6-8), so what we make of this phrase no one has seen God at any time?
    2. Contextually, John 1:1 speaks of the word in relationship to God. In verse 14 after the word becomes flesh, in the Gospel of John, each reference to "God" is in reference to the Father.
    3. This is consistent with the words of Christ in John 6:46, "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father."


  1. This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"
    1. Priests and Levites:  They were sent by the Jews, the members of the Sanhedrin.
      1. The Sanhedrin was the "Supreme judicial council of Judaism with 71 members, located in Jerusalem. It figures prominently in the passion narrative of the Gospels during Jesus’ trial and appears again in Acts as the judicial court which investigates and persecutes the growing Christian church."5
      2. The Priests were in charge of Temple worship in Jerusalem.
      3. The Levites were also priests, but were from the tribe of Levi, and were subordinate to the priests. There were various cities that were set aside for their use (Numbers 35:1-8; Joshua 21:1-45; 1 Chron. 6:54-81) and they were involved in the care and transportation of of the tabernacle.
        1. Levites were divided into three families: Kohath, Gershon, and Merari (Num. 4:1-49).
      4. Neither the priests and the Levites owned land. They received their support through their priestly duties in the temple and in religious education.
  2. And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ."
    1. The Jews had been awaiting the Christ, the Messiah, and John made it clear that he was not the one they were expecting.
    2. John the Baptist was the messenger sent by God (Malachi 3:1), to bear witness of Jesus, not himself.
  3. They asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."
    1. If John the Baptist was not the Messiah, then  was he Elijah or the Prophet?
      1. Elijah
        1. Malachi 4:5–6, "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6 “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”"
      2. The Prophet
        1. Deuteronomy 18:15, "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him."
  4. Then they said to him, "Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?"
    1. He denied himself.  So they wanted to know who he was.
  5. He said, "I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said."
    1. John claims to be the prophetic fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, "A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD [YHWH] in the wilderness. Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God."
    2. Notice that the Hebrew says YHWH and says he is preparing the way for God.
  6. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.
    1. Pharisees were the dominate religious group in Israel from around 100 B.C.
    2. “Traditional” View The “traditional” view of the Pharisees has been that they were a Jewish sect or party whose members voluntarily took upon themselves a strict regimen of laws pertaining to purity, sabbath observance, prayer, and tithing.”6
    3. Luke 18:9-14, “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
  7. They asked him, and said to him, "Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
    1. They wanted to know why he was gathering disciples through baptism. 
  8. John answered them saying, "I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.
    1. They wanted to know why he was gathering disciples through baptism.
  9. "It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie."
    1. Jesus comes after John because John is supposed to prepare the way for Jesus.
    2. Slaves untied the shoes of their masters.
    3. Feet were dirty and sandals covered dirty feet.
  10. These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
    1. They exact site of Bethany is no longer known. It was east of the Jordan, not the same Bethany that is near Jerusalem.


  1. The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
    1. A lamb was the animal of sacrifice.
      1. Exodus 12:3–7, "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. 4 ‘Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 ‘Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 ‘You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7 ‘Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it."
      2. Numbers 28:11, "Then at the beginning of each of your months you shall present a burnt offering to the LORD: two bulls and one ram, seven male lambs one year old without defect."
      3. "Every use of “lamb” in the New Testament is figurative: twenty-eight times with reference to Christ (twenty-four in Revelation; Gk. arníon), twice for followers of Christ, and once in the description of the beast out of the earth (Rev. 13:11)."7
    2. Sin of the world is all nations, not just the Jews.
      1. Matthew 10:5–6, "These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
      2. Matthew 15:24, "But He answered and said, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'"
    3. Jesus was crucified at Passover, the time of the sacrifice of the Passover lambs.
      1. John 19:14–15, "Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” 15 So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”"
  2. "This is He on behalf of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' 
    1. This is a repeat of v. 15 which says, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' "
    2. John is speaking of Jesus' pre-existence.
      1. The angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26) was sent to Mary revealing that John the Baptist was already in the womb of her relative for six months.
        1. Luke 1:36, "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month."
    3. Scripture about Jesus' pre-existence
      1. Micah 5:2, "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”"
      2. John 8:58, "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.'"
      3. John 17:5, "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."
      4. Colossians 1:17, "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
    4. Order of existence, physical before spiritual
      1. 1 Corinthians 15:45–47, "So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven."
        1. Adam the man, became a living soul. It is not Adam the pre-existing spirit became a living soul.
        2. v. 46, the natural is first, then the spiritual.
  3. "I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water."
    1. Baptism is a form of public identification.
    2. Either sprinkling or immersion
  4. John testified saying, "I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him."
    1. Matthew 3:16–17, "After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”"
    2. Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek
      1. Hebrews 4:14, "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession."
      2. Hebrews 6:20, "where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."
    3. To be consecrated as a priest, Jesus had to be:
      1. 30 years of age
        1. Numbers 4:1-3, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 2 'Take a census of the descendants of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their families, by their fathers’ households, 3 from thirty years and upward, even to fifty years old, all who enter the service to do the work in the tent of meeting.'"
        2. Luke 3:21-23, "Now it came about when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” 23 And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Eli . . . "
      2. Washed with water
        1. Exodus 29:1, 4, "This is what you are to do to consecrate them, so they may serve me as priests: Take a young bull and two rams without defect" ... 4 “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting, and wash them with water."
        2. Numbers 8:7, "And thus you shall do to them, for their cleansing: sprinkle purifying water on them, and let them use a razor over their whole body, and wash their clothes, and they shall be clean."
      3. Anointed with oil (represents the anointing of the Holy Spirit)
        1. Exodus 29:7, "Then you shall take the anointing oil, and pour it on his head and anoint him."
        2. Matt. 3:16, "And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him."
        3. 1 John 2:20, 27, "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know ... 27 And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him."
      4. Verbal blessing
        1. Exodus 39:43, "And Moses examined all the work and behold, they had done it (regarding the tabernacle); just as the Lord had commanded, this they had done. So, Moses blessed them."
        2. Number 6:22-27, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: 24 The Lord bless you, and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ 27 “So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.”
        3. Matthew 3:17, "and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'”
  5. "I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'
    1. God spoke to John the Baptist
    2. No definite article in the Greek here at "baptizes in the Holy Spirit."  This is the only location where this construct occurs in the Greek.
  6. "I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."
    1. The phrase, "Son of God," is a title of Jesus. It implies His deity (John 5:18) because the title is one of equality with God. In the Old Testament it was figuratively applied to Israel (Exo. 4:22). In the New Testament it is applied to Christ (Luke 1:35). It has many facets, for example: It shows that He is to be honored equally with the Father (John 5:22-23). That He is to be worshipped (Matt. 2:2, 11, 14:33, John 9:35-38, Heb. 1:6), called God (John 20:28, Col. 2:9, Heb. 1:8), prayed to (Acts 7:55-60, 1 Cor. 1:1-2).
      1. Exodus 4:22, "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn."
      2. John 5:18, "For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God."
      3. John 5:22–23, "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him."
      4. Luke 1:35, "The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God."


  1. Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples,
    1. We do not know exactly where he was, but from earlier verses the implication is that he was in Bethany, on the east side of the Jordan River (v. 28).
  2. and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!"
    1. see comment in verse 29 on "the Lamb of God"
  3. The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
    1. Two disciples heard John the Baptist speak about Jesus and so they followed Jesus.
    2. Regarding "two disciples". 
      1. Matthew 18:16, "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED."
      2. The two disciples that followed him were Andrew who was Peter's brother, and another unnamed disciple, v. 40.
  4. And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" They said to Him, "Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?"
    1. "Rabbi" means a doctor, a teacher, and a master. It is a title of honor that means that the person is qualified to speak on Jewish law.   It is used of Jesus in John 1:38, 49; 3:2; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2; 11:8.
    2. Rabbi is used of Jesus here as is also the word "teacher" and other verses in John's Gospel:  John 11:28; 13:13-14; 20:16.
  5. He said to them, "Come, and you will see." So, they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
    1. The 10th hour is equivalent to 4 PM.  John is using the Roman system of measuring the day from the rising of the sun which normally occurred around 6 AM.
    2. Was John using the Jewish system of reckoning time or the Roman one?  the measurement of the day in Roman reckoning began at midnight which would make the 10th hour be equivalent to 10 AM. But if it is the Jewish system which began at 6 AM and this would make it 4 PM. If that is the case, then the events of verse 41 and 42 probably occurred the next day since a 4 PM time reference would imply that the two disciples spent the night with Jesus.
    3. An aspect of discipleship in Christianity is spending time with Jesus.
  6. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
    1. The way "Simon Peter is introduced here implies that he was already well known.
  7. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which translated means Christ).
    1.  The word "Messiah" means the anointed one and is a Hebrew term.
    2. The word "Christ" also means anointed one and is a Greek term.
    3. It appears that the first one to witness of Jesus in this context is Andrew (v. 40).
  8. He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).
    1. In this act of discipleship, Peter is brought to Jesus.  Jesus should be the focus of who we are to follow as Christians.
    2. Jesus changes Simon's name to Cephas which is translated as Peter.
    3. The "John" spoken of here would be someone other than John the Baptist.
    4. "Cephas" means 'rock'. The word appears several times in the New Testament.
      1. 1 Corinthians 1:12, "Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”"
      2. 1 Corinthians 9:5, "Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?"
      3. 1 Corinthians 15:5, "and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve."
      4. Galatians 2:9, "and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised."
    5. To change someone's name implies authority But, is also representative of purpose.
      1. Abram was changed to Abraham by God (Genesis 17:5).
        1. Abram = father of many.  Abraham = father of a multitude.
      2. Sarai was changed to Sarah by God (Genesis 17:15).
        1. Sarai = Princess.  Sarah = Noblewoman
      3. Hoshea was changed to Joshua by Moses (Numbers 13:16).
        1. Hoshea = Salvation.  Joshua = Jehovah is Salvation.
      4. Gideon was changed to Jerubbaal by the men of Ophrah (Judges 6:32).
        1. Gideon = Hewer.   Jerubbaal = Let baal contend
      5. Daniel was "assigned the name" Belteshazzar by Ashpenaz, a commander (Daniel 1:7).
        1. Daniel = God is my judge.  Belteshazzar = Lord of the straitened’s treasure
      6. etc.


  1. The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow Me."
    1. Philip
      1. Philip was the first disciple called by Jesus and he became one of the 12 an apostle.
        1. Matthew 10:3, "Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;"
        2. It is not clear whether not he was a disciple of John the Baptist first.
      2. Philip "...appears fifth in every listing of the apostles (Mt. 10:3; Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:14; Acts 1:13)."8
    2. Follow Jesus
      1. Matthew 4:18–19, "Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”"
      2. Matthew 8:22, "But Jesus said to him, Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”"
      3. Matthew 9:9, "As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him."
      4. Matthew 16:24, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."
      5. John 8:12, "Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”"
      6. John 10:27–28, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand."
  2. Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.
    1. Bethsaida was a small fishing village on the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee. This is also the hometown of Andrew and Peter.
    2. Later in the Gospel of John some men approach Philip as the person through whom they could meet Jesus.
      1. John 12:21, "these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”"
  3. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
    1. Nathanael means "God gives".  He was from Cana (John 21:2).
    2. Nathanael is not listed as one of the 12 disciples though some say he might be Bartholomew (Mark 3:18).
    3. "Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" is a designation of identification. In Jewish culture to identify a person the place where he grew up or was born was used as well as to say he was "the son of".
    4. "son of Joseph" does not contradict the issue of the virgin birth. It designates the legal adoption Joseph of Jesus.
  4. Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
    1. There have been assertions made lately that Nazareth did not exist at the time of Jesus and that this proves the unreliability of the Gospels. But, this has been debunked by present scholarship. Nevertheless, Nazareth was a small village, not an important geographical or economic place.
    2. The phrase "can any good thing come out of Nazareth" may have been a local proverb. Perhaps it is because the town was out-of-the-way and rather insignificant.
    3. This is often the way of God to use the lowly.
  5. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!"
    1. "Israelite indeed" probably refers to being a true Israelite and is a positive comment my Jesus.
    2. Jesus is saying that Nathaniel submit of integrity and honesty.
  6. Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."
    1. "under the fig tree" is using the Old Testament and designates rest and safety.
      1. Micah 4:4, "Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken."
      2. Zechariah 3:9–10, "For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. 10 ‘In that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.'"
    2. The figtree is sometimes used as a representation of Israel along with the implication that Israel should be bearing fruit. When Jesus cursed the fig tree because it had no fruit, some commentators think this is a prophetic reference to the judgment upon Israel for its failure to recognize the Messiah and promote him.
      1. Mark 11:20–24, "As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. 23 “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 24 “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you."
  7. Nathanael answered Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel."
    1. The implication is that there was some sort of supernatural involvement on the part of Christ. We do not know for sure, but possibly Jesus simply knew that Nathaniel had been reclining under a fig tree some distance away perhaps earlier in the day.
    2. Nathaniel was most probably alluding to the Old Testament passage Jesus being the king of Israel.
      1. Psalm 2:6–7, "But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” 7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You."
  8. Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these."
    1. Jesus said that Nathaniel will have greater reason to believe in him than simply Jesus saying he saw him under a fig tree. Obviously, Jesus knew he would be performing miracles for all to see and that Nathaniel would have greater opportunity to witness them and, ultimately, to proclaim the name of Christ.
  9. And He said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.""
    1. "Truly, Truly, I say to you" occurs 25 times in the Gospel of John.  John 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24–25; 6:26, 32, 47, 53; 8:34, 51, 58; 10:1, 7; 12:24; 13:16, 20–21, 38; 14:12; 16:20, 23; 21:18.
    2. "Truly truly" only occurs in the Gospel of John and not in Synoptics.
    3. Ascending and descending
      1. This is an allusion to Genesis 28:12 but here Jacob's ladder is replaced with "the Son of Man".
      2. Genesis 28:12, "He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it."
    4. Son of Man
      1. Son of Man designates the humanity of Christ but is accompanied by various attestations of the majesty and authority of Christ which goes beyond the mere fact of being human.
        1. Matthew 12:8, "For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
        2. Matthew 13:36–38, "Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;"
        3. Matthew 16:13–16, "Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”"
        4. Mark 2:10–11, "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”"
        5. Mark 10:45, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”"
        6. Luke 9:44, "Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”"
        7. Acts 7:56, "and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”"
  • 1. Dockery, David S., ed. Holman Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.
  • 2. Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000.
  • 3. Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.
  • 4. Newman, Barclay Moon, and Eugene Albert Nida. A Handbook on the Gospel of John. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies, 1993.
  • 5. Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.
  • 6. Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988.
  • 7. Myers, Allen C. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987.
  • 8. Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.