2. The Word over Time
By looking through the rest of the chapter, we can see the significance of the word of God. Initially, it was used in the creation process, but then that same word continued to have a role in the world.
In v6, we see John introducing himself as a messenger coming to speak the word of God to the world as a witness.
John 1:6: There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7. The same came as a witness, that he might testify about the light, that all might believe through him. WEB
John 1:14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. NKJV
This is presented as a very special case of the word being revealed. For so long that word had been given by God through the scriptures and the prophets, but at that point, the word became available as a whole in a person. That person, quite obviously was Jesus, the son of God.
John 1:17: For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18. No one has seen God at any time. The one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. WEB
Prior to that time, the law that had been given through Moses had been considered the definitive source of the word of God, but now there was another to rival that position. Jesus revealed a greater message, and a message of grace and truth. So much did Jesus represent the word of God, that he was the one who declared him. It was a sufficient substitute for being able to see God.
Some people have taken the statement of John 1:14 to indicate that “the word” in John 1 is precisely Jesus. That would require that Jesus lived right from before creation, but was known as “the word” up until the time of his birth. However, this is not logical in itself, and doesn't fit the progression of the revealing of the word through John 1.
Instead, in John, we would see it that God's word has been from the beginning, and revealed in many ways, starting with creation, and then through Moses and the prophets. In more recent times, his word has now been revealed through Jesus. There's nothing in this passage to suggest that the word is precisely Jesus any more than it is precisely the prophets.
The opening of the book of Hebrews his this same theme,
Hebrews 1:1: God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2. has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. WEB
God and the Word
Given the basic structure of John 1, there remains the question of what the message was of the first verse. It is focussing initially on the word, and how that is what drove the creation process. The next phrase is “The word was with God”. We may ask, what does it mean for a word to be with someone?
An answer can be found by looking at the first epistle of John. In John 1:2, the same Greek phrase appears, but this time connecting different things.
1 John 1:1: That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we saw, and our hands touched, concerning the Word of life 2. (and the life was revealed, and we have seen, and testify, and declare to you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was revealed to us); WEB
There are some overall similarities between this and the first gospel of John, but the focus is slightly different. In verse 2, the same phrase appears to say that “eternal life was with the father”. Here the intent is fairly clear. It is answering the question “where does the eternal life come from?” The answer is that the eternal life was with the Father.
Similarly, back in the Gospel of John, again it is a question being answered. From the first phrase “In the beginning was the word”, the question would be “where does the word come from? - or where could I find it?”. The answer is again that the word was with God.
Normally we would start with God, and then talk about His word, but here it is presented the other way around to emphasise the theme of the word. The next phase makes the connection more complete. It states “the word was God”. Already we know that the word came out from God, but this statement is even stronger. It states that not only is this word the expression of God, but it is the entire expression of God.
The point being made here is that the word of God is enough to fully represent God himself. It was not necessary to see his face, or to make an idol to see him, because one could know him entirely through his word. Creation was given as an example to prove this, showing that even the creation of the world needed just the word of God for it to happen.
John extends that significance by describing how Jesus fully represent the word of God in his life. It is explained more in chapter 14 how Jesus displayed the word of God,
John 14:24: He who doesn't love me doesn't keep my words. The word which you hear isn't mine, but the Father's who sent me. WEB
Quite clearly, that is how the word became human. Jesus chose to be the mouthpiece of God's word, in his speech and in his actions. This is why Jesus could say that there was no need for the disciples to actually see God, as when Philip asked,
John 14:8: Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us." 9. Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you such a long time, and do you not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How do you say, `Show us the Father?' WEB