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John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-3:17, Part 1 (of 9 Parts)

by Karl Kemp  
1/28/2013 / Bible Studies

"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."

These articles were taken from my paper on John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-3:17, which was published in November 2004. I was able to use different fonts, footnotes, bold, italics, underlining, small caps, etc. in the original paper, including the paper on my internet site (; Google to Karl kemp Teaching). I am modifying the original paper here in January 2013 to break it up into nine articles in the proper format to put on several Christian article sites. Unless otherwise noted all quotations from the Bible were taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition. Sometimes I make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]] to make them more obvious.

I'll include the Contents and the page numbers of the original paper for your information:


John 1:1-18..... 1

Colossians 1:15-29..... 14

Colossians 2:1-23..... 27

Colossians 3:1-17..... 43

Other Verses and Topics Discussed in this Paper:

Deuteronomy 6:4..... 14, 15

1 Corinthians 3:1-3..... 38

Ephesians 5:1-8..... 47

Philippians 2:12-16..... 20

Hebrews 12:22-24..... 16

On the DEITY OF CHRIST AND THE TRINITY see under John 1:1-5, 9-18 and under Colossians 1:15-18 (including the footnotes).

HOLINESS AND VICTORY OVER SIN are discussed throughout this verse-by-verse study of Colossians 1:15-3:17.

JOHN 1:1-18.

There is widespread agreement that this passage (John 1:1-18) is the prologue for the Gospel of John. These verses set forth the theme of this glorious Gospel. What a prologue! What a gospel! I'll quote a few sentences from what R. C. H. Lenski says here ("Interpretation of St. John's Gospel" [Augsburg Publishing House, 1943]. "This prolog sums up the contents of the entire gospel. It does this by brief, succinct historical statements. Each of these is wonderfully simple and clear and yet so weighty and profound that the human mind is unable to fathom them. Amid all that has been written by the instruments of Inspiration this prolog stands out as the one paragraph that is most profound, most lofty, and incomparable in every way" (page 25). "John's is the paragon among the Gospels, 'the one, tender, real crown-gospel of them all' (Luther), and the prolog is the central jewel set in pure gold. ..." (page 26).

I'll also quote a few sentences from what David J. Ellis says regarding this prologue ("New Layman's Bible Commentary" [Zondervan, 1979], page 1300). "There is probably no other place in the NT where so much is said, as here, with such economy of words. Here is set forth the uniqueness of Christ and the great consequences, which follow from His self-sacrifice embodied in the Incarnation. In this Prologue John announces his main theme, which is the glory of Jesus Christ shown by all which He both said and did."

"In the beginning [[Compare Gen. 1:1. (I had a footnote: Genesis 1:1 begins with the words "In the beginning," and these words are the title for the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible; it's all one word in the Hebrew, "bereshith.") These first words of the prologue of the Gospel of John take us back before God (the triune God; the Trinity) had created any being or any thing (including physical matter). God (the triune God) didn't have a beginning. We don't know enough to understand eternity and time or the details regarding how God functions in eternity and time, but it is clear that He is above (He is not limited to) the time system of our world, which He created. The time system of our world began when it was created. There is widespread agreement that God knows what will happen in our future; He doesn't have to wait to see what will happen.]] was the Word [[(I had a footnote: Note the use of the "word [Word] of Yahweh" in Psalm 107:20.) The Greek behind "the Word" is "ho logos," where "ho" is the definite article (similar to our English definite article, "the"). "Ho Logos" is a name, or title, for the eternal (He has always existed) Son of God; this name/title is also used of Him in John 1:14; 1 John 1:1; and Rev. 19:13.]], and the Word was with God [[Compare John 1:18; 17:5; 1 John 1:2; and Phil. 2:5-11. "The Word" was with God the Father (and God the Spirit) before any creating took place. "God" here refers to God the Father. ((I had a footnote: The fact that the word for "God" (theos) here has the definite article in the Greek helps confirm that it refers to God the Father. The word God typically refers to God the Father throughout the New Testament, but the New Testament makes it quite clear that the Son and the Spirit are God/deity too, and in a full sense.)) The Word's being "with" the Father included His having a Person-to-Person relationship with Him. The Word always existed with the Father (and the Spirit). John 1:3 shows that the Word (God the Son) was directly involved in the creation of every being and thing that was ever created; they were all created "through Him" (John 1:3; Col. 1:16), and "for Him" (Col. 1:16).]], and the Word was God. [[These last words are some of the most important words in the Bible that reveal the all-important fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is God/deity with God the Father (and God the Spirit), but there are many other passages that reveal this same truth (cf., e.g., John 20:28; see under Col. 1:15-17 in this paper). ((I had a footnote: The deity of the Lord Jesus Christ is a foundational doctrine of Christianity. This doctrine has often been attacked and challenged since the early days of Christianity, but orthodox Christians have always defended this essential doctrine. The idea that God the Son was a created being (and therefore not deity) was condemned by the councils of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople (AD 381). That heresy is still with us today in the Jehovah's Witnesses; The Way, International; and others. The Jehovah's Witnesses try, quite unsuccessfully, to get around what John 1:1 says with their own translation that proclaims the Word was "a god." What an insult to God the Son to call Him "a god." (The Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Word refers to God's first and greatest created being, Michael the archangel.) The Greek, unlike English, does not have an indefinite article (like our "a," "an"). Sometimes an "a" or "an" must be supplied in the translation from Greek to make good English, but we clearly do not want to supply an "a" at the end of John 1:1, not unless we want to promote a heretical idea.)) The word for "God" (theos) is used here without the definite article. An indefinite sense fits perfectly with the idea that "the Word" is under the umbrella of what it means to be God/deity. ((I had a footnote: If John had used the definite article with the word for God at the end of this verse (at the end of this verse the Greek has the word for God, then the verb, and finally "ho logos") it would have confused the issue in at least two ways: Without that article it is clear that "ho logos" is the subject; that is, the last words say "the Word was God," not "God was the Word." Also, the definite article with God here would have tended to communicate the wrong idea that "the Word" and God the Father are to be equated. We have already been informed that the Word (God the Son) was "with" God (the Father).)) He is an uncreated Person/Being, and He is not to be confused with the Person of God the Father, who was spoken of earlier in the verse, where the definite article was used. The apostle John had already made it clear that God the Father and God the Son are distinct Persons within the Godhead by saying "the Word was WITH God." I discuss the three Persons of the Godhead to some extent under Col. 1:15-17 in this paper and in references cited there. I have written four subsequent articles on this topic: "Who Do We Worship?"; "Who Do We Pray To?"; "More on the Trinity"; and "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son." They are all available on this Christian article site.

I am surprised by how widely spread the oneness view of God is in our day. This is a serious error, but not as serious as denying the deity of Christ/the Son of God. We may not be able to fully understand the Trinity (at least not at the present time), but the biblical evidence for this viewpoint is overwhelming.

The orthodox Christian view from the beginning has always been that there is one God, three Persons - there are not three Gods. The fact that God the Son (and God the Spirit) is in some ways subordinate to the Father in His role helps explain why the Bible doesn't speak of three Gods, even though God the Son is fully God (and God the Spirit is too). Each of the three Persons perfectly relate to one another, and they fulfill their functions in a perfectly harmonious way.

((I had a five-paragraph footnote: On the subordination of the Son to the Father in His role, cf., e.g., Acts 7:55; 1 Cor. 11:3; 12:4-6 (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:4-6. The "Lord" in verse 5 is God the Son. Verse 6 shows that the work of God the Son and God the Spirit is under God the Father.); 1 Cor. 15:24-28; Eph. 4:4-6 (God the Father, God the Son [the Lord]; and God the Spirit are mentioned in Eph. 4:4-6); and the Son was sent by the Father (cf., e.g., John 3:17; 5:24, 30). The deity of God the Spirit, His being a distinct Person within the Godhead, and His subordination to the Father in His role are also clearly taught in the New Testament (cf., e.g., Matt. 28:19; John 14:16; Acts 5:3, 4; Rom. 8:26, 27; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 11; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6; and 1 Pet. 1:2; and He too was sent by the Father (and by the Son; John 14:26; cf. Acts 2:33). The subordinate role of the Son of God to the Father (along with His full deity) is discussed in some detail in my four subsequent papers that I mentioned above.

I'll quote part of what Wayne Grudem says under the subheading "The Persons of the Trinity Eternally Existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" ("Systematic Theology" [Zondervan, 1994], pages 251, 252). "...there are no differences in deity, attributes, or essential nature between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person is fully God and has all the attributes of God. The only distinctions between the members of the Trinity are in the ways they relate to each other and to creation. In those relationships they carry out the roles that are appropriate to each person.

This truth about the Trinity has sometimes been summarized in the phrase 'ontological equality but economic subordination,' where the word 'ontological' means 'being' [Grudem has a footnote, "See section D. I. above, where 'economy' was explained to refer to different activities or roles."] Another way of expressing this more simply would be to say 'equal in being but subordinate in role [speaking of God the Son and God the Spirit].' Both parts of the phrase are necessary to a true doctrine of the Trinity: If we do not have ontological equality, not all the persons are fully God. But if we do not have economic subordination [Grudem has a footnote, "Economic subordination should be carefully distinguished from the error of 'subordinationism,' which holds that the Son or Holy Spirit are inferior in being to the Father (see section C. 2, above, p. 245)."], then there is no inherent difference in the way the three persons relate to one another, and consequently we do not have the three distinct persons existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for all eternity. ...

This is why the idea of eternal equality in being but subordination in role has been essential to the church's doctrine of the Trinity since it was first affirmed in the Nicene Creed.... Surprisingly, some recent evangelical writings have denied an eternal subordination in role among the members of the Trinity [[Grudem has a footnote here, giving examples. I'll quote one of the three paragraphs he has here, "...Millard Erickson, in his 'Christian Theology' (...Baker, 1983-85), pp. 338 and 698, is willing only to affirm that Christ had a temporary subordination in function for the period of ministry on earth, but nowhere affirms an eternal subordination in role of the Son to the Father.... ...." The viewpoint that Erickson expresses is in line with what I (K. Kemp) was taught, but I have always thought that that viewpoint didn't go far enough in acknowledging the eternal subordinate roles (I didn't say inferiority) of the Son and the Spirit.]], but it has clearly been part of the church's doctrine of the Trinity (in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox expressions), at least since Nicea (A.D. 325). ...."

In my brief remarks I didn't comment on an eternal subordinate role of the Spirit to the Son, which is widely held. You can argue for that subordinate role on the basis of verses like John 15:26; 16:7, 13-15; and Rev. 22:1, but that subordinate role isn't clear to me. The issue of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father or the Father and the Son has become a divisive issue in Christianity. I'll quote part of what Grudem says on this issue under the heading "The Filoque Clause," on pages 246, 247. In the original paper I had quoted some two paragraphs from Grudem. Here I'll briefly summarize what he said. "Filoque" is a Latin word meaning "and from the Son." This word was not included in the original version of the Nicene Creed (A.D. 325). The original version said only that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father," but in A.D. 589 "and the Son" was added with the result that the creed now said that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son 'filoque'." The statement was understood to speak of an eternal relationship between the Son and the Holy Spirit. Grudem says that the creed with the added word(s) "received an official endorsement in A.D. 1017." He went on to say that "this apparently very insignificant doctrinal point was the main doctrinal issue in the split between eastern and western Christianity in A.D. 1054," but he pointed out that church politics and struggles for power, which very much included the issue of "the relation of the Eastern church to the authority of the Pope" were key factors in the split that has "not been resolved to this day." That is the end of the five-paragraph footnote; now we'll go on to John 1:2.))]] (2) He ["This one"] was in the beginning with God [God the Father]. [[The apostle John has already given us this important information in the first verse. The fact that he repeats it here helps demonstrate the importance of this revelation. For one thing, this revelation concerning God the Son was something new for the Jews. Although there were quite a few verses in the Old Testament that indicated the deity of the Angel of Yahweh/the Messiah, God didn't clearly reveal God the Son (who became the Messiah/Christ) until the days of the new covenant. ((I had a footnote: See my paper titled, "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son: The Name Yahweh and a Listing of Some of the Large Number of Passages in the Hebrew Old Testament Where We Can See God the Son Along with God the Father"; see on Isaiah 9:1-7 on pages 8-15 of my paper, "Verse-by-Verse Studies of Selected Passages from the Book of Isaiah"; and see under Isaiah 9:6 on pages 16-18 of my paper, "More on the Trinity." The first and third papers are available on this Christian article site. All three papers are available on my internet site (]] (3) All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. [Compare John 1:10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; and Heb. 1:2. In other words, every being or thing that has been created (including physical matter) has been created through God the Son. He was active in creation along with God the Father and God the Spirit. Each Person perfectly fulfilled His role.] (4) In Him was life [Compare John 5:26; 11:25; 14:6; and 1 John 1:1, 2. The emphasis is on spiritual life, but physical life is included.], and the life was the Light of men [cf. John 8:12; 9:5; and 12:46]. [[The NASB undoubtedly capitalized the word "Light" in verses 4 and 5 because they assumed that "the Light" speaks of the God the Son. It's clear that God the Son is called "the Light" in verses 7-9, but it isn't clear that "the light" speaks of Him in verses 4, 5. The KJV; NKJV do not capitalize this word in verses 4, 5.

The way the words "life" and "light/Light" are used in this verse further demonstrates the deity of the Word; it would be blasphemous to say what verse 4 says about Him if He were not deity. God (the triune God) is the only source of life and light, and everything else that is good. The "light" includes the "truth"; the truth includes the existence of the God who is there (the God of the Bible, the God who is the Creator, the Judge, and the only Savior) and it includes the righteousness and holiness of God (cf., e.g., Eph. 4:24). Those who submit to the light of God learn the truth and are enabled to live in the light, which includes living in right relationship with God in His righteousness and holiness.]] (5) The Light shines in the darkness, and [[or "but" (I had a footnote: William Hendricksen translates "but." I'll quote part of the footnote he has here ("Gospel of John" [Baker, 1953], page 73). "The fact that [the Greek conjunction] "kai" especially in the Fourth Gospel frequently means "but" or "and yet" is clear from such passages as [John] 7:19; 16:32; 20:29. Cf. also Matt. 7:23; Mark 4:16, 17; Luke 10:24; 13:17. ...."]] the darkness did not comprehend it. [[What John says in verses 9-12 helps explain what he means here. The "darkness" originated with the fall of Satan (cf., e.g., 2 Pet. 2:17; Jude 1:6, 13). The "darkness" here (cf., e.g., John 3:19; 8:12; 12:35; and 12:46) refers to the darkness that has permeated the world of mankind since man joined the devil in his rebellion against God and died spiritually.

Instead of "did not comprehend it," the margin of the NASB has "or overpower [it]"; the NKJV has, "and did not comprehend it"; the KJV has, "comprehended it not"; the NIV has, "has not understood it"; the Amplified Bible has, "has never overpowered it - put it out, or has not absorbed it, has not appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it." It is clear that the darkness (speaking of mankind living in the darkness) did not understand/comprehend the light, and it is clear that the darkness (including Satan and his hosts) was not about to overpower or extinguish the light of God. But I believe the point that the apostle John was making here is that mankind (living in the darkness, which included following the devil in his rebellion and living in sin) did not receive the light that was made available to them/that shined on them - they (referring to most people) rejected God and His light. Like the last words in the Amplified Bible say, "has not absorbed it, has not appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it." Hendricksen ("Gospel of John," pages 73, 74) translates, "did not appropriate it." He points out the parallelism with the last words of verse 10, which he translates "the world did not acknowledge him," and with the last words of verse 11, which he translates "his own did not welcome him."

The light of God has been shining (to some extent) throughout the history of man, but mankind, for the most part, has rejected the light. ((I had a footnote: Some did receive and submit to the light of God in the days from Adam to Christ (like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and quite a few of the people of Israel, but typically not the majority of the people of Israel). The apostle Paul spoke of the sinfulness of the non-Christian Gentiles in these terms, "being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness" (Eph. 5:18, 19). Also see Rom. 1:18-32.)) The most amazing thing is that even after the Word (God the Son) became a man (the God-man) and dwelled among us, most people still rejected Him and chose to remain with the darkness (cf., e.g., John 3:19, 20), which helps demonstrate how deep and serious the sin problem of man is, far more serious than most people realize.]] (6) There came a man sent from God, whose name was John [John the Baptist]. (7) He came as a witness, to testify about the Light [Since "the Light" clearly refers to the LOGOS (God the Son) in verses 8, 9, the Light undoubtedly refers to Him here in verse 7 too.], so that all might believe through him. [[John the Baptist called for people to repent and submit to God and His unique Son (the Lamb of God and the Savior from sin), and all the more so in light of the fact that the day of judgment was at hand (cf., e.g., Matt. 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-11; Luke 1:5-25, 57-80; 3:1-20; John 1:19-37; and 3:25-36).]] (8) He [John the Baptist] was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. (9) There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. [[I can't live with the translation of the NASB for this verse, or for the alternative translation given in the margin, "which enlightens every man coming into the world," or for the translations of the KJV ("That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that comes into the world."); NKJV ("That was the true Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world."). I'll give a literal translation of the Greek that yields, I believe, the intended meaning (my translation is similar to the NIV, which I'll quote here, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.)": (I'll put the translation in CAPS to make it more obvious.)

"THE TRUE LIGHT, WHICH SHINES ON [[The Greek verb (photizo) that I would translate "shines on" here is different than the verb (phaino) that was translated "shines" in verse 5, but I believe the meaning is the same. (I had a footnote: The "Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament" by Barclay M. Newman (United Bible Societies, 1971) has "give light to, light, shine on..." for "photizo." I prefer "shines on" instead of "enlightens" or "give light to" because, as we discussed under verse 5, those in the darkness rejected the light. The light shined on them (it was given to them, it was shed upon them), but they were not enlightened because they rejected the light and chose the darkness. It is rather common for writers, including the writers of the New Testament, to use different (Greek) words with the same meaning for variety. The apostle John does this quite often.))]] EVERY MAN, WAS COMING INTO THE WORLD."

The words "coming into the world" refer to the true Light's coming to dwell among men through His incarnation. He was born of the virgin Mary and became the God-man. The first words of the next verse (verse 10) say, "He was in the world"; "He was in the world," living as the God-man (one Person, two natures), from the time of His incarnation. Verse 14 shows how the true Light came into the world, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us...."]] (10) He was in the world, and the world was made through Him [See John 1:3.], and the world did not know [Hendricksen ("Gospel of John," pages 74, 79, 80) translates, "did not acknowledge him."] Him. [[The world (speaking of the majority of people) did not (know Him or) come to know Him after He came because, as verse 11 says, they "did not receive Him." They rejected the Light and chose to remain with the darkness (the darkness of sin, Satan, and his kingdom - Satan is "the god of this world" [2 Cor. 4:4; cf. John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11]). This doesn't mean that every individual has rejected Him. Some individuals received and submitted to the light of God before the Word came into the world (see under verse 5), and, significantly, verse 12 speaks of those who have "received Him" as Savior and Lord in new-covenant salvation.]] (11) He came to His own [[The Greek more literally reads, "Unto His own things (or, "possessions") He came." "His own things/possessions" is a translation of the Greek "ta idia," where "ta" is a neuter plural definite article and "idia" is a neuter plural adjective. Apparently John used the neuter here (even though the masculine form of the adjective was readily available, as we will see when we discuss the following words of this verse) to make the important point that the people to whom the Word came were part of that which had been created through Him. Having been created by God (the triune God), they owed Him their allegiance, and all the more so after the Word condescended to become a man (the God-man), and all the more so yet after He died for them. The NIV has, "He came to that which was His own, but his own did not receive him."]] and those who were His own [["His own" here is a translation of "hoi idioi," where "hoi" is a masculine plural definite article and "idioi" is a masculine plural form of the same adjective that was used earlier in this verse. After making the point that the Word came to "His own things/possessions" with the first words of this verse by using a neuter plural form of this adjective, John switched over to a masculine plural form of this same adjective; the masculine was the typical gender used for people (unless the persons happened to be female).

Many believe "His own" and "those who were His own" is limited to the people of Israel. (I had a footnote: Some understand "ta idia" in the first part of this verse in the sense, "His own home," with the Word coming to His own home, Israel. John 16:32 confirms that ta idia can be used of one's home/possessions.) It is true, of course, that God had a special relationship with the people of Israel and that they had a special obligation to submit to the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. ((I had a footnote: The problem was that most of the people of Israel were far from God in the days that Jesus came. God's message to Israel (including His message through John the Baptist) started with the need for them to repent (cf., e.g., Luke 13:1-5).)) I believe, however, that John was speaking of mankind worldwide here in verse 11, as he was in verses 4, 5, 9, 10, and 12. ]] did not receive Him. [Mankind owed God (the triune God) everything, but they did not receive God the Son as Savior and Lord (who had been sent by God the Father), even after He condescended to become a man and died for them as the Lamb of God. We can be very thankful that the story didn't end with the sinful rejection spoken of in this verse. As John continues he shows that some (both Jews and Gentiles) did receive Him.]]

We will continue this verse-by-verse study of John 1:1-18 in Part 2, starting with John 1:12.

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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