The Eternal Son
H J Taylor, Birmingham
Of the four Gospels the one written by John is that which appeals to us as being pre-eminently furnished with truth that is necessary for the well-being and comfort of the child of God. For him, particularly, it is a mine of spiritual wealth needing only his applied diligence for its extraction. The main purpose of this Gospel, clearly stated in chapter 20 verse 31, is to confirm belief that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name”.
From the very commencement, therefore, the foundations of this belief are firmly laid in the glorious person of the Son; they are then built up by a progressive unfolding of the glorious fulness of the Son in whom such belief is to rest. Step by step this unfolding is made; and as faith lays hold of its revealed wonders the heart rejoices in the evident complementary character of this Gospel of the Son to the three preceding ones in their consecutive presentation of Him as Saviour, Servant and Friend.
The first eighteen verses of chapter 1 are surely to be understood and accepted as being preparatory for all that is to follow. Not that they are elementary in their teaching -far from it - rather are they deeply profound in every respect. Only faith can scale such heights and enter within such mysteries as here confront us. Reason staggers; faith, alone, avails. We are asked to believe in the Son; therefore we are at once shown the Son in whom we are to believe, and the sight given to us of Him is not that which the natural eye can appreciate but which faith alone can apprehend. These divine opening features should first awake and energize our faith, and give zest to our spiritual appetites; secondly, they should create a holy atmosphere for their enjoyment and satisfaction.
In order that we may miss nothing of the fulness which is inherent in the Son, the opening words of this Gospel take us back to a beginning far beyond that of created things. We are taken, as it were, and placed in infinity - a situation where neither sight nor sense can avail us; here such things are impotent. We should learn that, encouraged as faith is to reach out in an attempt to apprehend the grandeur of such divine altitudes, it succeeds only as it is fixed upon and receives attractive power from the object before it. Here that object is the Son, the Author of faith. The scene at once makes us sensitive to the privilege that grace is affording us. As we face up to the sublimity of these opening verses, we ought to be impressed with the fact that we are as privileged as ever Peter and John were on the Mount of Transfiguration. Admittedly, that which meets our gaze comes within the orbit of our faith, whereas what they saw came within the orbit of their sight. Nevertheless, it is the same Person - the Son glorified.
On the mount the voice of God Himself attested “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him”; and this is exactly the revelation which is being given to us in these opening verses. What Peter and John actually saw in time, we here apprehend in eternity. Shall then our faith be less perceptive than their sight? The authenticity of what we read in faith is as surely confirmed to us by the still small voice of the Holy Spirit as was the transfiguration scene confirmed by the audible voice of God. Audible or inaudible, both are divine; both speak of the same Person.
There is, however, some difference of aspect seen in the revelation of the Son on the Mount of Transfiguration and that presented here in John. One main purpose of the mountain meeting was that revelation might be made of the appointed death of the Son and the glory that should follow. Here, however, in John 1. 1, one main purpose is to reveal the inherent glory of the Son and then the grace which should follow. We have this borne out in verse 14. Unquestionably, then, it is the glory that is inherently His that we are being called upon to apprehend - not the glory which His disciples beheld in Him on earth, but the glory which was His before the earth was. His disciples saw Him daily as He manifested His glory, but only the Father eternally saw Him in that glory before its public manifestation. If, then, in any measure, we ourselves are to apprehend Him in this, we must of necessity seek to view Him as the Father views Him, and not as we may be pleased to imagine Him. The settings of time are of no value for the scenes of eternity; they may appeal to sense, but they cannot satisfy faith. If, therefore, we would really apprehend the Son we must visualise Him within the sphere that He describes, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was”, 17. 5. What the Son refers to here is that very sphere depicted in chapter 1 verse 1 into which the Holy Spirit is seeking to lead us, that we might gaze enraptured with the sight of the Son’s eternal Person, Power and Godhead.
In all that this Gospel subsequently unfolds, this is the standpoint that the reader must take by an apprehending faith; the viewpoint obtained of the unfolding will be clear according to the measure of one’s apprehension. The words which follow in verse 2, “The same was in the beginning with God”, while in themselves a distinct declaration, should not be dissociated from verse 1. In fact, they seem to be part of it. We have in them not so much, if at all, a mere repetition of these same words in verse 1; rather their intention is a distinct presentation of the Son’s absolute unity with, as well as in, the Godhead. The Son was in God as God; He was with God in all the purposes of God.
Possibly no other passage of Scripture affords greater help in apprehending these opening verses than Proverbs 8. 22-23, where it is said of the Son in typical language: “Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way, . . . before the earth was”, J.N.D. Then further, in verse 30, “I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him”.
To the Father there is no one like the Son, and to the Son there is no one like the Father; the Son said “I and my Father are one”. In love and mercy the Father gave the Son to be our Saviour, and nothing delights the Father more than to regard His people engaged in appreciating His eternal verities and glories.