THE MAN WHO GOD BECAME

John 1:1-18

The Bible gives us four major accounts of the life of Jesus. Each of these accounts presents a different picture of Jesus, showing a different side of His person and ministry.

In the same way that each of the four gospel accounts has a different emphasis, so also each has a different introduction that corresponds to its own separate theme.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1).

If we are to take each verse of the Bible and place it in chronological order, we would have to place this verse at the very beginning.

These first 18 verses form a prologue. If you are anything like me, then your first inclination is to skip the prologue and to go right to the heart of the book. That would be a mistake. This prologue is possibly the most important part of Johnís book, for it sets the foundation of all that is to follow.

One of the more striking movies to come out of Hollywood was the documentary-drama of Apollo 13. Man had already landed on the moon and the Apollo 13 spacecraft was on its way to the moon to make another such manned landing when an oxygen tank exploded, ripping a hole in the shipís outer skin and heavily damaging the craft. As the crew struggled to return home, another NASA astronaut, Ken Mattingly, was placed in a spaceship simulator in Houston to test out various solutions to see if they would be safe for the actual ship and crew to attempt. At one point, Mattingly realizes that the engineers in charge of the simulator have not fully duplicated the condition of the real spacecraft. In frustration Mattingly snaps into his headset, "Just give me what they have up there!" For him to do the Apollo 13 crew any good, his simulator needs to be as disabled as the actual ship.

That is what God did in sending His Son into the world. To rescue us from our damaged and disabled condition, He duplicated in Jesus the conditions we face. "Just give me what they have down there!" God did just that in the Incarnation. It is in such a cosmic manner that John opens his gospel account. He begins at the beginning.

This prologue can be divided into three sections.

John 1:1-5

John 1:6-13

John 1:14-18

The Word in Eternity and among Men

The Word in History and among the Jews

The Word in History and among Believers

Notice the movement in this passage. It takes us from men to Jews to believers. There is a steady progression. We begin with a broad treatment and then move to significant details. Our outline could be fashioned in three concentric circles.

Out of creation, man is chosen. Out of mankind, the Jews are chosen. Out of the Jews, believers are chosen (remember that all of the early believers were Jewish and it was this small group from the larger Jewish nation who initially followed Jesus).

 

THE WORD IN ETERNITY

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2).

This passage echoes with a resounding reverberation from the Old Testament. It takes us back to the creation. But there is a difference. In the Old Testament, Genesis begins by placing the emphasis upon Godís work of creation. Here the emphasis here is not upon God CREATING, but rather upon His BEING.

Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God created...

John 1:1. In the beginning was...

Here we read that in the beginning, something already WAS. When you go back in time as far as you can possible imagine, before anything else ever exists, God WAS. And yet, it is not God who is the primary subject of this passage, but One who is known as "the Word."

  1. The Designation of the Word.
  2. Johnís reference to "the Word" brought with it all sorts of connotations. We can see and understand these as we become familiar with the religious and philosophical uses of this term in that day.

    a. The Greek concept of the Word.

    Plato had made reference to the logoV as that supreme principle of logic that allowed man to make sense of and to understand his world. As such, the logoV was seen by the Greeks as an impersonal force.

    b. The Hebrew concept of the Word.

    In Hebrew, a "word" can describe both the verbal designation of an object as well as the moving energy of that object. As such, the word of God in the Old Testament is able to refer to more than merely the teachings and proclamations of deity. It refers to the active power and force of God Himself.

    By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,

    And by the breath of His mouth all their host. (Psalm 33:6).

    The word of the Lord indicated a personification of the manifested power of God.

    It is interesting to note that the Aramaic Targums (paraphrases of the Scriptures) often used the Aramaic word Memra ("word") in the place of God. For example, the Targums say that Moses led Israel to meet, not with God at Sinai, but with the Memra (Word) of God at Sinai.

    Does John have the Greek concept or the Hebrew concept in mind when he speaks of the Word who was in the beginning? I believe he had BOTH in mind -- Jesus is the One who bridges the Greek and the Hebrew world. He is both the One who orders and makes sense of the world and He is also Godís communication to man. He is the manifestation of God, for He is the One who is God and yet who became flesh.

  3. The Identity of the Word.
  4. This One known as "the Word" is identified in two different ways. This does not mean that He is two separate persons, but merely that there are two separate aspects to His being.

    The Word was God

    The Word became Flesh

    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1).

    "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14).

    It is evident from this second passage that "the Word" is a reference to Jesus of Nazareth. It is equally evident from the first passage that we are meant to regard the man Jesus as being God.

    A "word" is the verbal expression of thought. In the same way, Jesus is the visible expression and manifestation of God.

  5. The Pre-Existence of the Word.
  6. John 1:1 does NOT say that "in the beginning the Word came into being." Instead, it tells us that at the time of the beginning, the Word ALREADY WAS. The Word pre-existed. This is seen in the three statements of John 1:1.

    m The Word pre-existed.

    m The Word pre-existed with God.

    m The Word pre-existed as God.

    When we come to verse 14 we will see a change. When we come to that verse, we will see something take place that had not previously taken place. Instead of what "was" we will read of something that "became."

  7. The Significance of the Word.

What is the significance of the term "Word"? It signifies communication. Thatís what a word does. It communicates an idea.

If man was ever going to learn of God, it would have be God who first revealed Himself. Why is this? Because there is a communication gap between God and man.

That is why Jesus came. He is the communication of God to man. When God wanted to get "up-close and personal" with mankind, He did it by becoming a man Himself.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2).

The Bible is the history of God communicating to man. He started this communication all the way back in the Garden of Eden. But He did not stop there. He continued to speak to man.

m In dreams and visions.

m Through a burning bush.

m In smoke and in fire.

m Through patriarchs and prophets.

But He saved the best till last. Ultimately, God spoke to us in the person of His Son -- the Living Word.

  1. The Word with God.
  2. When John says that the word was with God, this refers to more than merely a physical proximity. The phrasing describes a plane of equality and intimacy. We could translate it to say: the word was face to face with God. John uses a similar construction in 1 John 2:1 when he describes Jesus being our advocate WITH the Father.

    This is the language of fellowship. That is significant. It means there was fellowship and communication taking place between the different members of the Godhead BEFORE the creation. This same true is described elsewhere in the Scriptures.

    And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. (John 17:5).

    Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24).

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:3-4).

    There was existence before the creation and this existence was personal and not static. There was no boredom. There was active relationship. The Father was active with the word and with the Holy Spirit.

    This has some very practical implications, not only in how we view the past, but also how we hope for the future. We Christians have done a terrible job of building up a hope for heaven. Ask most Christians what will eternity be like and you will get visions of singing and playing harps for eternity. Most of us have a hard time staying focused on worship for a mere hour and a half. If we are to be honest, we will admit that to say we will be doing the same thing for all eternity sounds more like hell than like heaven.

    This passage teaches us something different. It teaches that there was vital relationship from eternity past. I believe there will also be dynamic and vital relationships in the future. Yes, there will be worship, but it will be worship in the context of coming to know the workings of the infinite God whom we will spend all eternity getting to know and whom we will never exhaust.

  3. The Word that was God.
  4. Both students as well as scholars have struggled with this phrasing. The Greek text is a bit unusual in that both the subject as well as the object of the verse is given in the nominative form. This is done in Greek when you want the subject takes an equalitive verb like "is." Thus, to say that "John is a man," the name "John" is the subject while "man" would be the predicate nominative. This same construction is found in verse 8 when we read of John the Baptist that "he was not that light."

    It should be pointed out that the Greek language does not contain the indefinite article. It is for this reason that Jehovahís Witnesses have attempted to translate this to say that "the word was A god." Such a translation might have been possible were it not for the Greek word order. The word QeoV is specifically moved to the front of the sentence for emphasis.

    Greek Construction

    English Translation

    Would Signify

    kai o logoV hn o Qeon

    And the word was the God

    Jesus is the Father (Sabellianism)

    kai o logoV hn Qeon

    And the word was a God

    A denial of the deity of Christ (Arianism)

    kai QeoV hn o logoV

    And the word was God

    Jesus is God (Orthodoxy)

    It is this last construction that is found here in John 1:1. Note that the word order has been changed for the sake of emphasis. John wanted you to clearly get the point that the Word was God.

  5. The All-Creating Word: All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:3).

This is an amazing claim. Walk outside your front door and look around you. Look at the sun and the moon and the stars. Look at the galaxies through a telescope. Then look at the intricacies of all of life and nature through the most powerful microscope.

It was all made by Him. It was all made by the Word. There is nothing that exists that does not owe its ultimate existence to Him.

John 1:1-2

John 1:3

Jesus was present at the beginning

Jesus is responsible for the beginning

Who Jesus is

What Jesus did

 

THE WORD AMONG MEN

Having shown that the Word was the Creator of all things, the author now moves to describe specifically His interaction among men.

  1. The Bringer of Light and Life: In Him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:4).
  2. Just as John took us back to the creation of the world in his first three versus, so now he continues to draw on the description of Godís creative work in Genesis 1. Following the initial act of creation, the next thing of which we read in Genesis 1 is the creation of light. John also moves to speak of Jesus and His relation to that light.

    Jesus is the source of both life and light. But that is not all. There is also a relationship between these two qualities. One brings forth the other.

    Life

    ļ Brings forth ļ

    Light

    I would have been tempted to reverse these. It seems natural that when you come to the light and you see things as they really are, then you enter into life. But that is not the order that John uses. He says it the opposite way. He says that life brings forth light.

    When you come to the One who gives life, you get life, but you also get something more. You get light. You get that which allows you to see in a dark place.

    Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12).

    Those who have not come to faith in Christ are in darkness. They cannot see where they are going. They have no ability to perceive the spiritual reality around them. They look at life the way a blind man looks at a beautiful painting. It is only when men partake of the life that is in Christ that they are able to see things in their true perspective.

    The world says, "Let me see and then I will believe." The Lord tells us it is exactly the opposite: "Believe and then you will see."

    Notice the use of the present tense. John does not say that the light was once shining in darkness. He tells us this is an ongoing process. The light shines in darkness (1:5). This indicates it is still happening. Light continues to shine in darkness.

    This introduces what will be a continuing contrast throughout the Gospel of John. It is a contrast between light and darkness.

    Light

    Darkness

    Symbolizes Jesus Christ (John 8:12).

    Symbolizes unbelievers (John 3:20).

    Godís truth.

    Error.

    Godís revelation.

    Ignorance.

    Godís eternal life.

    Eternal death.

    Godís righteousness.

    Sin.

    The world today continues to abide in darkness. In the midst of that darkness, a light continues to shine. It is the light of the gospel. It is the light of Christ. It shines forth from the people of God -- the church.

  3. The Conflict against Light and Life: And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:5).

The word "comprehend" is translated from the aorist active indicative of katalambanw. It means, "to lay hold of, to apprehend, to obtain or grasp." It is a compound word:

ē Kata: Down.

ē Lambanw: To take.

The resulting word can be understood in two different ways.

a. Literal meaning: To take down the way a football player takes down the offensive quarterback -- to tackle.

b. Figurative meaning: To grasp the sense of a certain truth. This would be used of the college student who diligently studies a subject until he "gets it down" and "gains a grasp" of that subject.

Which meaning is in view here? Although there is a certain amount of truth to each sense, I think that the answer is found later in Johnís book.

Jesus therefore said to them, "For a little while longer the light is among you. Walk while you have the light, that darkness may not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes." (John 12:35).

The word translated "overtake" is the same Greek word katalambanw. It is very clear in this passage that it is the literal meaning that is in view. Those who are in darkness have always attempted to quench the light. There is something about the unbeliever that causes him to want to stop people from believing. It isnít only that he does not want to walk in the light. He also does not want other people to walk in the light.

 

THE WORD AND JOHN THE BAPTIST

6 There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. (John 1:6-8).

The author has been deliberately echoing the book of Genesis in his introductory prologue. He began as the book of Genesis began -- in the beginning. Then he spoke of creation and of light. Now he comes to man, only this is a specific man -- it is John the Baptist.

Although there are several different men in the New Testament who are named John, the Gospel of John only mentions one of them. It is John the Baptist. We are told four things about him.

  1. John was sent from God: There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. (John 1:6).
  2. This is a play on words, for the name John is a Hebrew name meaning, "Gift of Yahweh." Johnís name pointed to the fact that John was a gift from God.

  3. John was a witness of the Light: He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light (John 1:7).
  4. John had a special purpose. He came to be a witness. He came to bear witness of the light. When I think of a witness, my mind naturally goes to a courtroom. A witness is one who bears testimony of what he has seen. He need not be highly educated. He simply has to have seen that of which he will bear witness.

    We are called to a similar purpose. We are called to bear witness of what God has done in our lives. We need not be highly trained theologians or scholars or preachers or teachers. We simply need to have experienced the grace of God in our lives.

  5. Johnís purpose was that men might believe: He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. (John 1:7).
  6. John the Baptistís purpose is mirrored by the purpose of the author of this gospel account. He will make reference to it at the end of his book.

    Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31).

    The book begins and ends with a call to believe. That is the purpose of this book. It is that you might hear the testimony of those who saw the signs and that you might believe.

  7. John was not the Light: He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. (John 1:8).

The writer wants to make it quite clear -- John the Baptist was not the light. He was merely the one who pointed to the light. He was a witness of the light. You might say that he was a reflection of the light.

We are also called to be reflectors of the Light. We are to allow His light to shine in us that we, in turn, might shine out to a world in darkness.

 

THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD

9 There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 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, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13).

Having introduced the ministry of John the Baptist and his relation to the Word, the author now returns his focus back to the Word and His ministry among men.

  1. The Word that Enlightens: There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. (John 1:9).
  2. The author will return to the topic of John the Baptist and his witness in verse 15, but for now, he wants to speak of the light of which John bore witness. The writer wants us to know something about that true light -- it enlightens every man.

    Does this mean that all men are saved? Does it mean that all men receive the same amount of light? No. But it does mean that all mankind is without excuse. No one will ever be able to plead ignorance before the throne of God, for all men have been enlightened by the coming of Christ.

    N He has enlightened mankind through nature. Romans 1:20 says that the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. When a man looks at the world around him, he is seeing the evidence of the Creator.

    He has enlightened men through miracles. This will be a major theme in the Gospel of John. A number of miracles will be cited as giving evidence to the authenticity of Jesus as the Son of God.

    He has enlightened men through the apostles and prophets, men whom He sent as His spokesmen to the world.

    He has enlightened men through the Scriptures which today have been translated into every language under the sun.

    In seeking to understand the meaning of this phrase, it is helpful to list all of the POSSIBLE interpretations and then discuss their merits.

    1. It means that all people everywhere are saved (I don't buy this, as there is an abundance of Scripture to show that it just isn't so).

    2. It means that all people everywhere have been given some knowledge of salvation (again, I have difficulty with this because history seems to indicate that it hasn't been the case).

    3. It means that the light of the gospel has been made known throughout the world so that men in general have the opportunity to hear (as opposed to only those in Israel as was so often the case before Christ).

    The problem with this is that unbelievers are here called simply, the darkness (v 5), and they are still very much in the dark by chapter three (3:19).

    4. It is a reference to all of the elect (even though I am also a 5-point Calvinist, I don't buy this one as it seems to be reading too much into the text).

    5. It means that all who believe show that they have been enlightened (this sounds like #4 but is a bit different). This would have support from the conext which goes on to speak of how the world did NOT know Him (therefore it cannot refer to everybody) and that even His own did not receive Him, BUT there were SOME who did receive Him and these were not only enlightened, but also became Children of God.

    What John is saying is that any light that is given is given by Christ, and anyone who believes can be enlightened. This is a very common understanding of such a phrase. If a person sees an advertisement on TV for a sale, and the voice-over says, "Come see the savings! Free hot dogs for everyone!" Surly it would be understood that the reference to everyone is restricted to only the people who take a hot-dog.

  3. The Word Unknown: He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. (John 1:10).
  4. In spite of the enlightenment described in the previous verse, the world in general remained willingly ignorant of the Light. Even those who were His own people -- the Jews -- did not receive that Light.

    The story is told of a once-upon-a-time kingdom. It was known as the Kingdom of the Blind. One day, a man who was able to see came to this land. He began to tell these blind people about light and color and beauty that was around them but which they could not see.

    The blind citizens did not believe him. The demanded that he stop his foolish teachings and they told him that he would be permitted to continue to live among them only if he agreed to have his eyelids sown shut by the local doctors. When he refused, he was arrested. After a public trial in which all of the evidence was examined, he was declared guilty of heresy and condemned to death.

    The world today is blind to the spiritual world. When Jesus came to earth, it was to declare truth concerning the spiritual world to which men have been blinded. That truth has been rejected, but not by all. There are some who have received the word.

  5. The Word Rejected: He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. (John 1:11).
  6. Those who ought to have known and understood and accepted Jesus as the word of God were the Jews. They were guardians of the promises of God. They knew all about the promises of the coming Messiah.

    N That he would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

    N That he would be a descendant of David (Isaiah 11:1).

    N That He would be preceded by a forerunner (Isaiah 40:3).

    N That He would teach people the ways of the Lord (Isaiah 42:1-4).

    N That He would be pierced for the sins of men (Isaiah 53:5-6).

    N That He would redeem His people (Isaiah 59:20).

  7. The Word Received: 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, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13).

Notice the flow of thought from the previous verses. We move from those who did not know Him to those who did not receive Him to those who did receive Him.

Verse 10

Verse 11

Verse 12

The world did not know Him

His own people did not receive Him

Some people did receive Him

This verse tells us that not all people are the children of God. Only those who have received the Son have the right to be called "children of God." Some people have another father. John will make reference to this later.

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. (John 8:44).

By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10).

This tells me something about Christianity. Christianity is more than a religion. It involves a relationship. When you come to Jesus, you are coming into a family. This relationship does not depend upon what you are able to do. You are not told to work up to a certain level of goodness in order to be accepted. It is a gift to all who believe.

What does it mean to believe?

...that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9-10).

Believing is an inward action. This is seen in contrast to an outward physical activity. Admittedly, real faith result in outward activity. But we must not confuse that outward activity with inward faith.

This is where Christianity departs from all other religions and philosophies. Christianity doesnít say, "Do." It says, "It has been done for you; now believe that it has been done."

Faith cannot save anyone. Indeed, faith is harmful if it is placed in the wrong object. If a mountain climber places his faith in a frayed rope, his faith will not keep him from falling. Faith in an undeserving object is dangerous.

It is popular today for people to insist that it does not matter in what you believe as long as you believe. That is insanity. Of course it matters what you believe! Faith in an unworthy object is useless. It is not your faith that saves you. It is Jesus who saves.

14 What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. (James 2:14-17).

When you come to Christ in faith, God accepts you just the way you are. He saves you from your sin and declares you to be righteous based upon the One who died in your place. He accepts you the way you are. But He does not leave you the way you are. He begins a process in you. That process is making you into the image of His Son. He is molding the very character of Jesus in your life. The old you is being transformed into Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

That work will continue as long as you live. It will continue int he lives of Godís people until the day that Jesus returns. When you look at someoneís life and do not see any evidence of that work, it is an indication that there is no saving faith present.

Without the work of God in a manís life, he is unable to believe the message of the gospel and come to salvation.

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14).

10 as it is written,

"There is none righteous, not even one;

11 There is none who understands,

There is none who seeks for God (Romans 3:10-11).

These passages teach us that the unsaved man does not want the gospel and he doesnít understand it when it is explained to him. God has to do a work in his life in order for him to want to come to Christ in faith. If he is to come to the Lord, it will not be because he has willed himself to do so. It will only be because God has so willed. People are born again, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13).

 

THE WORD WHO BECAME FLESH

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14).

In verse 1, we identified the Word as being the one who was in the beginning with God and who, in the beginning, was God. Now we see the Word becoming flesh. As such, this verse becomes a pivotal point in the passage. It is the fulcrum that brings into line all that has been said up to now.

John 1:1-8

John 1:14

In the beginning was the Word

And the Word became flesh

The Word was with God

And dwelt among us

John... came for a witness

And we beheld His glory

The life was the light of men

He was full of grace and truth

This fundamental mystery is unique to Christianity. The God of the universe became flesh and lived among men. To most other religions and especially to Judaism, this concept is blasphemous.

The deity of Christ is central to Christianity. If Jesus is not God, then we should not worship Him. If Jesus is not God, then He has no authority to forgive sins. If Jesus is not God, then we are still in our sins.

God moved in time and space. The One who was from the beginning; who was with God and who was God did something marvelous. He became flesh.

Why? Why did God become flesh? Why would an infinite, eternal and unchangeable God stoop down to lay aside His glory and majesty in order to be born to a humble peasant girl in a backwoods town? Why would Creator take the form of the Created? I want to suggest several reasons:

  1. He Became Flesh that He might live among us: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (1:14).
  2. The story is told of a little girl who cried out to her mother from her bedroom, "Mommy, Iím afraid to be in my dark room alone." Her mother replied, "Itís okay, Honey. The Lord is with you." She called back, "Yes, but I want someone with skin on." Jesus is God "with skin on." And He has come so that we never have to be afraid again.

    In the Old Testament, God had manifested Himself in thunder and lightning, a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He had approached men through a sacrificial system - by the blood of bulls and of goats. There was a mediator in the priesthood and a holy place in the Temple - and before that, the Tabernacle.

    This passage says that "the Word dwelt among us." It reads literally, "He TABERNACLED among us." In the same way that people used to have to come to the Tabernacle and later to the Temple to meet God, it is now through Jesus that we must come to meet God.

    Notice also that in becoming flesh, the Word did something He had not previously done. There is a dramatic difference between the verbs of verse 1 and verse 14.

    Verse 1

    Verse 14

    In the beginning WAS the Word...

    The Word BECAME flesh...

    Imperfect tense indicates continuing action in the past.

    Aorist tense indicates an action that took place in a point in time.

    Language of continuing existence

    Language of change as the Word became something that He previously was not

    The Word took on flesh and, in doing so, brought about a change that will have eternal repercussions. The One who became God and man stayed that way. The One who was touched by a band of Galilean disciples is today worshiped by angels.

  3. He became flesh that we might behold His glory: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father (John 1:14).
  4. One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is where Moses goes to the Lord and says, "Lord, I want to see your glory." God says to him, "Moses, you canít do that, for to see me is to die. Here is what I will do. I will have you stand in a cleft of this rock and I will cover you with My hand and I will cause My goodness to pass by and then, after I have passed, I will remove My hand and you will see my afterglow."

    The coming of Jesus is the answer to the prayer of Moses: "Show me your glory." For the disciples saw the glory of Jesus and recognized it for what it was - the glory of the only begotten from the Father.

  5. He became flesh that we might know Grace and Truth: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14).

This will be developed a bit further in the next few verses, but we ought to point out that the reason we know grace and truth is because the One who is full of grace and truth has come to earth.

 

THE WITNESS OF THE WORD

John bore witness of 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.'" (John 1:15).

The author has already introduced John the Baptist back in verse 6. Now we return to John once again. This is a part of a parallel known as a chiasm. It is in the process of taking us full circle.

The Word with God (1:1-2)

 

 

His role in creation (1:3)

 

 

Gift to men - light and life (1:4-5)

 

 

Witness of John the Baptist (1:6-8)

 

 

The coming of the Word into the world (1:9-11)

 

 

By the Word, we can become the children of God (1:12-13)

 

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (1:14)

 

 

Witness of John the Baptist (1:15)

 

 

Gift to men - His fulness (1:16).

 

 

His role in bringing grace and truth (1:17)

 

The Son is in the bosom of the Father (1:18).

 

In verse 6, John bore witness of the Light. Now we are told some of the specifics of that witness. It was a witness to the pre-existence of the Word and to His pre-eminence.

He comes after me

Yet...

He has a higher rank than me

Because...

He existed before me

We have a saying today that goes: "First come, first serve." They had a similar idea in the ancient world. It said: "First come, first rank." The earlier you came on the scene, the higher rank you were considered to have.

Now here is the interesting thing about John and Jesus. John was born before Jesus was born, yet it is Jesus who had the higher rank. How could this be? It was because Jesus existed prior to His birth.

" He existed before John.

" He existed before Abraham (John 8:48).

" He existed before all creation (John 1:1-3).

" He existed before all things (Colossians 1:17).

You cannot say that about yourself. There was a time when you and I had no existence. We did not exist prior to our birth. But Jesus did. He existed before He was born. His existence goes back to eternity past and then He became flesh in a point in time.

 

THE WORD WHO BROUGHT GRACE

For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace.

17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17).

Grace is not a term that is going to be used a great deal in the book of John. In fact, it is used only here in the prologue. But it is used here three times.

What is grace? It is related to the idea of a gift. It describes that which is given without expectation of reward or repayment. The Greek word is cariV.

Aristotle, defining cariV, lays out the whole stress on this very point, that it is conferred freely, with no expectation of return, and finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver. But in Pagan Greece, this favor was always conferred upon a friend, not upon an enemy. (Kenneth Wuest).

Here lies the difference between the pagan use of cariV versus that which is used by Christians. The Greeks used it to describe the actions of an individual toward his friend. Grace was always directed toward someone who was a friend, never toward an enemy.

This is the complete antithesis of the Biblical description of grace. The Bible describes Godís grace as coming to men when they were at enmity with God.

Grace is the undeserved favor of God directed toward men. It excludes all human merit. It is the sum total of what God has done for you. It is described here as "His fulness." As such, there is a contrast to be seen between grace versus the Law that was given through Moses.

Law

Grace

Came by Moses

Came by Jesus Christ

Give at Mount Sinai

Given at Mount Calvary

Given to the nation of Israel

Given to all who will believe

Condemns the sinner

Saves the sinner

The wages of sin is death

The gift of God is eternal life

Condemns the very best man

Saves the chief of sinners

Reveals sin

Takes away sin

The process that was begun by the law was completed in Jesus Christ. The law could only condemn sin. Jesus fulfilled the law by providing for a payment of sin. The law demanded. Jesus fulfilled the lawís demand.

 

THE WORD WHO EXPLAINED GOD

No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18).

Johnís prologue is summed up in its entire message in this final verse. Jesus is said to be the declaration of the Father -- the One who has communicated who God is. That is why He has been called the Word. He is the communication of God.

  1. The Unseen God: No man has seen God at any time (1:18).
  2. There were many manifestations of God in the Old Testament. He appeared in a flaming bush, in a still, small voice and, most commonly, as "the angel of the Lord." But in none of these cases were people actually seeing God. God is invisible. He is unseeable. He cannot be seen.

    This is why it was considered a sin to try to make an image of God. To try such a thing was to try to make seen that which was unseeable. It was a denial of the invisible quality of God.

    It is also why I donít consider it a sin for artists or movie makers to attempt to portray an image of Jesus. He COULD be seen. He was the visible image of the invisible God.

  3. The Only Begotten God (1:18).
  4. When you examine the different Greek manuscripts that contain the Gospel of John, they are divided when it comes to this verse.

    The Only Begotten God

    The Only Begotten Son

    monogenhV qeoV

    o monogenhV uioV

    Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen

    Alexandrinus and the Textus Receptus

    Notice that the only difference is between two letters in the Greek that tend to look alike (qE with UI). Which reading is the correct one? I am not really certain. The truths taught by either one are doctrinally correct. Jesus is both the "only begotten God" as well as the "only begotten Son."

  5. The Explanation of God: The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18).

Jesus is the Word who was with God and who was God from the very beginning. It is because of Him that God has not remained unknowable. Jesus has come to explain God to us. That has made all the difference in the world.

Notice also the tenses that are used. Jesus is described, not as the One who WAS in the bosom of the Father, but as the One who IS in the bosom of the Father. This verse takes us full circuit from the beginning to the incarnation and then to the ascension of Christ. When we come to meet Him, we come to meet One who in the very bosom of the Father.

_____________________________

About the Author

Return to the John Stevenson Bible Study Page

Have a Comment?