The Word Becomes Flesh

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.

15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’”

16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. — John 1:14-18.

Jesus is the ‘Word’. When the Word takes on human flesh, His glory is seen in His human life as being ‘full of grace and truth’. John’s testimony is that Jesus, though born on earth after him, is preferred before him as the pre-existent God. So complete is the eternal Son of God on earth, that John testifies that all have received His fullness and His grace. Moses could only bring the law, but Jesus brings grace and truth and, as God the Son, declares His heavenly Father.

“the Word became flesh” (v.14). — This is the climactic assertion of the Prologue. To some of John’s contemporaries, spirit and the divine were utterly opposed to matter and flesh. To others, the gods were thought to visit the earth disguised as human beings (Acts 14:11). But here a chasm is bridged: the eternal Word of God did not merely appear to be a human being, but actually became flesh. He took to Himself a full and genuine human nature.

“dwelt among us.” — “Dwelt” means “pitched His tent.” This not only indicates the temporary nature of Jesus’ earthly existence, but does so in a way that recalls ancient Israel’s tabernacle, where God could be found (Ex. 40:34, 35).

“we have seen his glory.” — His “glory” is beheld, even as God’s was in the wilderness (Ex. 16:1–10; 33:18–23), in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–35), and later in the temple (1 Kings 8:1–11). There may also be a reference to the Transfiguration, since John witnessed it (Matt. 17:1–5). “Glory” applies supremely to God, who is the Creator and Ruler of the universe, and before whom all knees must bow. The Son has the divine glory by right (17:5).

Note: Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord return to the people in the imagery of the glory of the Lord filling the temple (Eze.43:4-5; 44:4). Haggai said that the latter glory of this house would be greater than the former (Haggai 2:6-9). The former glory was immense because Solomon built a temple that was filled with gold and precious stones. Further, God filled that temple with his glory (1 Kings 8:10-11). But the future glory of the temple would be greater. Jesus, the Word, was that future glory. Jesus is where God and humanity meet. Jesus is the revealing of the glory of God.

“the only begotten of the Father.” — The Greek word used here is monogenes which means “to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship, one and only, only; to being the only one of its kind or class, unique (in kind)” (BDAG Greek Lexicon). This is why most translations read “the only Son” or “the one and only Son” to communicate the uniqueness of the person of the Word and the uniqueness of the relationship the Word has with the Father (which is further pressed in verse 18). The Word has no equal. He is able to fully reveal the Father, like no one else. God’s personal revelation of himself has no parallel elsewhere, nor has it ever been repeated.

“full of grace and truth.” — These words correspond to Old Testament terms describing God’s covenant mercy that are often translated “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Gen. 24:27; Ps. 25:10; Prov. 16:6; cf. Ex. 34:6; Ps. 26:3). The Word made flesh fully manifests the gracious covenant-making and covenant-keeping character of God.

“He was before me” (v.15). –John the Baptist’s ministry preceded the public ministry of Jesus (Matt. 3), yet the Word, being eternal, existed before John (cf. 8:58).

“grace for grace” (v.16). — What John says in verses 16-17 should change our view of how God dealt with people in the days of the Old Testament. In Jesus, God unveiled the full measure of grace and truth. But John does not picture the time before Jesus as a time lacking grace and blessing. Rather, grace has been added to grace. Now we are left with the question: what does it mean that we have all received grace upon grace? What does it mean that grace was added to grace? Verse 17 is the explanation of this message. Notice that verse 17 begins with the word “for.” John explains what he means here. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John does not paint the law in a negative light. Rather, the law is described as the first grace that was offered.

The Law of Moses revealed grace in a number of ways. We must never forget the occasion of God giving his law to Israel. He had just delivered them from Egyptian slavery. God had just shown his power against Israel’s oppressors and had set them free. Grace was already flowing toward Israel. The Law of Moses reveals God’s grace in many ways. First, the law revealed the character, nature, and will of God. The law was a detailed explanation of God’s demands. God did not leave his people in the dark about who he was and what he desired. It was gracious for God to reveal himself through the law. This is one of the misconceptions we continue to have about the scriptures and about God’s laws. We often look at God’s laws as a bunch of rules given by a cosmic dictator trying to tell us what to do. Instead, we need to see the scriptures and the laws of God as grace. God is revealing himself to us. God is telling us about himself. God is telling us what we must become if we are going to have a relationship with our Creator. Law is not in opposition to grace. Law is the extension of grace, the revealing of grace. Israel’s deliverance under the first redeemer, Moses, issued the gift of the Law. The Law was given to the people. It was not a burden. The Law was the revelation of God’s will for his people.

Second, the Law revealed the truth about ourselves. The Law was gracious because it showed where the people stood before God. The Law revealed their shortcomings. The Law declared the character of God so that their hearts would be illumined that they fell short of his character. In this we truly see grace. The Law revealed sins and revealed that the people were law breakers. But God did not judge the people immediately for their sins. God did not destroy people for every sin they committed. Grace was extended to the people. Grace was being offered, allowing the people to repent and offer sacrifices so that the people would see the gravity of their sins. Fire did not come down from heaven and consume every person for every sin. We see that happen on a few occasions toward those who were standing in rebellion to God. But that was not the stance God had toward the world, nor toward his people. Grace was being offered through the Law of Moses in that though the people did not obey the law, God continued to have a relationship with his people. God continued to bless his people though they were violators of the law. This is the very point the apostle Paul was making about God in Romans 3:25. In speaking about Jesus being the propitiation for sins, Paul says, “This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (Romans 3:25 ESV). Carefully read those words: in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. Passing over sins is grace. God was being gracious to the people throughout their history.

But now we are receiving the fullness of grace through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus God has revealed the full measure of grace. God’s faithfulness has its ultimate fruition in Jesus. God’s character of grace and truth (faithfulness) was revealed with the giving of the law but was fully revealed and made available to all people through Christ. To parallel the exodus, the redemption brought by the second Redeemer (Jesus Christ) was a deeper revelation of God and the fullest experience of salvation, grace, and covenant faithfulness. God had been giving grace but now the ultimate reality of grace has been bestowed through Jesus. God’s grace and faithfulness are seen in Jesus. This thought leads us to the uniqueness of Jesus. (Extracted from Grace Upon Grace, Brent Kercheville.)

“Moses . . . Jesus Christ” (v.17). — There is both contrast and comparison. Grace and truth truly existed in Moses’ day, but they were fully revealed in the coming of Christ.

“No one has ever seen God” (18). — It is fundamental that God is invisible and without form (1 Tim. 6:16). Yet Christ reveals God. He brings the invisible and the visible together in a way that has no parallel or analogy.

Seeing God (John 1:18) — John is giving us the reasoning how seeing Jesus is to fully see the Father. First, Jesus is the one and only Son. We saw this phrase back in verse 14. We noted in that lesson that the Greek word is monogenes which means, “to be the only one of its kind within a specific relationship, one and only, only; to being the only one of its kind or class, unique (in kind)” (BDAG Greek Lexicon). This communicates the uniqueness of the person of the Word and the uniqueness of the relationship the Word has with the Father. The Word has no equal. He is able to fully reveal the Father, like no one else. God’s personal revelation of himself has no parallel elsewhere, nor has it ever been repeated. Jesus is unique. Jesus is like no other.

Second, Jesus is himself God. He is God. When you see Jesus you see God because he is God. This has been the point of the first verse of this gospel. The Word was in the beginning. The Word was with God and the Word was God. He is God.

Third, Jesus is in the closest relationship with the Father. Literally, it is that he is “in the bosom of the Father,” as some translations have. This is an image to drive home the absolute intimacy the Son has with the Father. Holding an object to one’s bosom declared the specialness of that object. Being in the bosom was a picture of intimacy, closeness, and fellowship. Consider when Jesus tells the story about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 that Lazarus is described as being in the bosom of Abraham. This is what makes Jesus the one and only Son, because he is in the closest relationship with the Father. Moses could only see the backside of the glory of the Lord. Jesus is face to face with the Father, side by side with the Father, and in a relationship with the Father that no one else can have. God the Son is the one and only to have this relationship. He is the eternal God. [Extracted from Grace Upon Grace, Brent Kercheville.]

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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