Dr. Jim McGowan
Beholding the Lord Through His Word, Part 2
5-28-17 John 1:1-18 (focus v. 14)
Good morning; I’m so glad that you’re here today, I’m glad I’m here today. I just want to thank the Lord for this wonderful Memorial Day, I hope that you’re thankful for all of the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform provide for us, have provided for us through the years and are doing so even now. We have a wonderful gentleman, police officer, out in the parking lot and if you haven’t had an opportunity to greet him you should greet him and tell him how much you appreciate his service here this morning.
I would also like to greet all those that are listening in our live stream, viewing in I guess I should say, live stream, we appreciate your being here with us this morning. And finally I’d just like to ask you all to please remember Pastor Woods because he’s going to be traveling, probably either late this evening or early tomorrow, he’s going to be on his flight back from Germany so we just want to pray and ask God for traveling mercies for that also. So having said that let’s open up with a word of prayer, shall we?
Gracious and loving heavenly Father, we are indeed grateful for the great grace and mercy that You have demonstrated in our lives by saving us, Father God, but not just saving us Father but also the fact that You have provided us the divine resources through which we can continue to grow and prosper in the things of God. Father, as we continue our studies this morning in beholding the Lord through His Word, my prayer is that we might be edified, we might be moved and challenged and motivated, Father God, to live for you more. May You be glorified in everything we say and do this morning. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
So let’s get started here; as I just mentioned we’re in Part 2, Session 2 of our Beholding the Lord Through His Word series and what our focus is here is we’re endeavoring to look at a few passages and see the living Word of God in the written Word of God, which of course is the Bible. Last time we got together we looked at 2 Corinthians 3:18, that was sort of our springboard and you see it says there, “But we all… beholding… the glory of the Lord” so when we’re talking about “beholding… the Lord” beholding the Lord through His Word, one of the aspects of that is beholding the glory of the Lord through His Word.
If you look at John 1:14, which we will be getting in depth into today, notice what it says here,
“we saw His glory…” that’s the glory of the Lord, “full of grace and truth.” We’re going to be covering, actually, verses 1-18 and isn’t that amazing, do you think we can cover 18 verses in one session? I’m going to do my best. In upcoming sessions we’re going to be talking about, or looking at 1 John 1:1-4, “we have seen with our eyes the Word of life” and we’re going to also cover Hebrews 12:1-2, “fixing your eyes on Jesus.” So that’s going to be the next two sessions coming up.
So if you have your Bible, if you want to go ahead and turn to John 1:1-18, this is the New American Standard 95 edition, I’m going to go ahead and read this rather lengthy passage to you; you can follow along if you’d like to.
It says here, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.  There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.  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,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
And verse 14 is the verse we’re going to be really focusing in on this morning.  And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John testified about 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.’  For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.  For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.  No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”
So before I go any further you should have picked up a handout; if you didn’t get a handout maybe wave your hand and somebody will see and bring one to you. Make sure you have a handout; that will help you this morning.
So as we move forward here let’s take a moment to make five preliminary observations. What we’re going do first of all, I say five and I’ve only got four up there and I think I missed one. John’s use of chiasms, we’re going to see that. We’re going to see John’s use of Chiasm (Chiasmus), going to see John’s use of Old Testament References. We’re going to see and notice John’s Unique Use of the phrase, “the Word” as a title for Christ. We’re going to explore John’s shared words and names in his writings, and John’s stated purpose for his Gospel. And these are things we want to highlight here at the foremost beginning, before we actually get into the text itself.
So let’s look at this: what is a Chiasm. Now our pastor wonderfully introduced this idea (chiasm) to us in the past but what exactly is a chiasm. It’s a literary device and in fact it’s an emphatic literary device in which an author presents a sequence of ideas and then repeats them in reverse order resulting in a mirror effect, which I hope you can see up here on this picture. I have a line dividing the mirror effect for you there; each idea is related to its reflection by a repeated or related word. And the author’s main idea is always found in the middle of the chiasm. So we’ll notice that here in just a moment.
Here it is. So there is a written form that expresses the same idea in various places throughout the Bible and here in John 1:1-18 it is one of those passages. Here’s what John 1:18 looks like when outlined chiastically. I won’t go through everything here but you’ll notice, because the pastor has done this in the past with us, but notice how A at the top is mirrored by A at the bottom. A at the top, B at the bottom, etc. And when we come to the very center of the chiasm we find “so that all might believe.” Now what did we say the chiasm does? The center of the chiasm brings about the emphasis and the focus for what the author is wanting to state. So we’ll talk some more about that also here in just a moment.
Let’s go into the next point here of our preliminary observation which is John’s use of Old Testament references. Many people are very surprised to discover that John was well versed in the Old Testament and what we notice here right away is that he’s going to draw from these Old Testament verses over and over again. We see in John 1:10 that he draws directly from Genesis chapter 1. In John 1 he’s say, “in the beginning,” he’ll use words like “light” and “darkness,” “life,” and “the world was made through Him.” This causes us to think back to Genesis chapter 1. Also in verses 11-13 he’s now going to draw from the Old Testament in Genesis 16 because he’s going to mention the issue of blood or descendants, and this is going to remind us Abraham, offspring and his descendants.
Another situation where he uses the Old Testament significantly is he draws very heavily from Exodus chapter 33, and I’ve just broken it down here briefly for you; if you look at this what you see is that in Exodus 33 the author, Moses, uses the term presence and tent. In verses 8 and 10 he talks about gazing and seeing, or that he saw. In verse 13 he talks about knowing God. In verse 17 Moses’ name is actually mentioned there. In verses 18 and 11 he reveals that what he’s talking about in Exodus 22 is to show God’s glory. And in verses 20 and 23 he gives the idea that we cannot see God directly. And what we’re going to see here in just a minute is that every single one of these concepts or topics that we’re seeing here is going to be reflected in what John writes to us.
So let’s go to the next preliminary observation and this is going to be something that perhaps is a little new to you so we’re going to take a little bit of time to talk about that. One of the things we find here is John’s unique us of the expression “the Word.” We’ll find this in John 1:1, “the Word was God.” In verse 14, “the Word became flesh.” In 1 John 1:1 “the Word of life.” And believe it or not we even find it in Revelation 19:13, “the Word of God.” So what we discover very quickly here is that John is very, very consistent in his use of this terminology, “the Word.” So the reference here to Christ as “the Word” is a part of John’s long-term and larger picture pattern. And he’s going to use these references regularly in his writings. Here are all those verses where you can see that, John 1:1 and verse 14; 1 John 1:1 and Revelation 1.
All right, let’s talk about shared words, did I mention that one already and skipped it? Shared words and names; this is the one I meant to specifically point out here. This is a very interesting concept here; let’s look at this for a minute. One of the things that John does here is he uses his words and names as if he’s in a relay race, and you’ll see him handing off certain words just like a relay runner would hand off a baton. And we’re going to talk about that some. And then finally John’s stated purpose for his gospel is what? Well, I think we mentioned that already but let’s mention it again. The middle of the chiasm is what? It’s verse 7, the last part of that verse where he says “sot that all might believe.” So it’s very interesting, isn’t it, that John doesn’t waste any time bringing out what his purpose for his book is here; it’s right in chapter 1.
BUT… where else have we seen John’s purpose statement? We’ve also seen it at the end of his book, haven’t we. John 20:30-31, he says that Jesus did all these signs; what was the reason? “…so that you may believe … and that believing you may have life in His name.” So this expression or this concept, this purpose statement if you will, they’re like book ends on the whole book of John. He starts with it and he ends with it. [John 20:30, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”]
So now we’re going to jump right into the text itself and I’ve broken this down into three separate highlights of high points. First of all we’re going to talk about verses 1-5 which accentuates the deity of Jesus. Then we’ll talk about verses 6-13 where John the Baptist is introduced. And then verses 14-18 where it talks about the Word being made flesh.
So here we go, the deity of Jesus Christ. Notice the expression right away, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
We’ve already mentioned this briefly but there are two books in the Bible that begin with this very same statement, “In the beginning.” Genesis and John… Genesis and John. That is unique to John; he’s the only other author that uses that expression. And what he’s doing here is he’s establishing a relationship; right away he’s establishing the relationship, I should say eternal relationship that Christ has with the Trinity or within the Trinity. Now I hope you can see that, I don’t know how well you can read it, but if you look at that chart up at the top where it says The Father, you’ll notice it says the Father is the Divine Architect. Then when you come down of the left hand side what do we see? The Son is the Divine Builder. And then on the right hand side The Holy Spirit is the Divine Artist. I like this chart, it helps me kind of understand some of these passages better.
And we can also compare this statement made here in John 1:1-3 with what’s said in Colossians 1:16-17. Notice what it says here, “For by Him” this is talking about Christ, “all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” This is a restatement, really, of what He said back in John 1:1-3; it’s fascinating how this theme is carried through the entire New Testament. There it is.
As we continue on we see, “ In the beginning was the Word,” now what you’re going to see me doing as we go along is I’m going to highlight different portions of the text to show you what we’re actually focusing on, so it says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. “ And notice He was “with God” it says. Right. Though it may appear here that John is being repetitive, in fact that’s not the case. What’s happening is he’s being very specific in what he’s saying. He’s written a different point, or his point is actually what sounds at first glance like repetition is something entirely different.
What is it that John is trying to say here? If we look at this and break it down, “In the beginning was the Word,” what John is saying here is that Jesus Christ is God’s personal expression and that He existed from the very beginning. When we see the expression “the Word was with God” what is he saying? He’s saying Jesus Christ, god’s personal expression, had fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. When he repeats the expression “the Word was God” what is he saying? That Jesus Christ, God’s personal expression, was indeed in fact deity Himself. And then it says, “He was in the beginning with God.” What is he saying? His fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit was already in place in the beginning.
So let’s look at verse 3. Verse 3 says, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” So what we have here is a positive-negative Hebrew poetry pattern which is often seen in the Psalms and the Proverbs; there’s a positive declaration saying that all things came into being through Him and then there’s a negative declaration that says apart from Him nothing that came into being has in fact come into being. And we can represent that like this: there’s your positive statement, there’s your negative statement.
So Jesus Christ made everything, is what John is saying, He made EVERYTHING, and if He didn’t make it, it doesn’t exist. John creates an absolute contrast; the contrast is “all things” versus “nothing.” And his choice of words here are absolute in the extreme; everything either came into being through Christ or it never existed at all, period, exclamation point! And for my wife, in case there’s someone here who isn’t a math person what I’ve done is I’ve placed on here the absolute value which, as she will tell you that absolute means what? Absolute, period, exclamation point!
Let’s talk for a moment about… we mentioned already that we have these handoff words or names, both cases, and what we find here, if you look at the next slide, look at the highlighting I have here, so what we see is a baton handoff where the word, or the phrase “The Word” in verse 1 then becomes “He” and “Him” in verses 2 and 3 and on into the beginning of verse 4. [John 1:2-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”]
So “The Word” becomes “He” and “Him” and “He and “Him” are referencing what? They’re referencing the Word. Right? In verse 4 we see “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. So what we notice here in verse 4 is that “life” now gets handed off to “the life” and then that gets handed off to “the Light” and then finally handed off to “the Light” again in verse 5.
So I want you to see this progression here, this handing off of terms or handing off of names. So the sequence is this: he starts with the Word then he goes to the pronouns “He” and “Him” to identify that Word, then He adds a new title, or a new description if you will of who this Word is, calling Him the life and then calls Him the Light. There’s a reason for this: the identity of Christ ends up getting passed from one descriptive word or title to the next and if you notice it grows fuller with each word. John is talking about the same person, the same entity, but he’s using different words for Him each time.
Now one thing that’s fascinating when you think about this is that here’s John, who is an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and he’s writing about the Lord Jesus Christ but what do you notice that’s missing in verses 1-5? Did you notice this—we have not yet encountered either the name or title Christ or the name Jesus; we haven’t even gotten to that yet. Why is that? Well, it’s because John isn’t quite finished with associating some other names and titles with this entity, with this person, the Word.
So that brings us to the next section which is John 6-13, and here it is: “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.  There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” So in verses 6-8 what we have happening here is… and be careful, make sure you catch this, that John, the apostle, is introducing and briefly talking about John the Baptist and he’s going to pick up his comments about John the Baptist again a few verses later and then ultimately toward the end of the chapter he’s going to go into some more depth about John the Baptist and we’re going to discover that John the Baptist becomes a very important character. So he introduces him here.
So that brings us again to verse 7, and what did we say verse 7 was? It’s the middle of the chiasm, right? It’s the middle of the chiasm. Now one of the things I’d like to point out here and you might want to document this if you haven’t previously, is that this is the very first occurrence of the word “believe” in John’s Gospel… the very first occurrence. What John is saying here is he tells us that the reason that, notice, John the Baptist came to testify…. What was the reason John the Baptist came to testify? It was namely so that people “might believe” and this is in line with his purpose for testifying. You remember that John the Baptist was happy, delighted, exuberant when in the end Jesus gathered and even took disciples away from him. Do you remember that? His disciples came, Master, look, Jesus is pulling all these disciples away from you. And he said yes, “He must increase but I must decrease,” John 3:30.
And then he also said my joy “has been made full,” now can you imagine how shocking that must have sounded to John the Baptist’s disciples? How many people that God is using are willing to stand up and say praise the Lord, I am delighted that this ministry or that ministry or this individual or that individual is receiving more blessings from God, it’s a good thing? Most of the time that’s not our attitude, is it? That’s not right, I’m working harder than they are, I’m doing more than they are. That wasn’t John the Baptist’s attitude at all; he was delighted, “He must increase but I must decrease.”
So we mentioned the fact that that was the first occurrence of the word “believe.” And right here in John 20 is the final or the last occurrence of the word “believe” in the book of John. And isn’t that fascinating! One of the things that’s really interesting about the book of John is the fact that you never find the word “repentance” in it, “repent” or “repentance” in it. But in the book of John, approximately a hundred times, let that sink in for a second, approximately a hundred times you find the word “believe” in one form or another. Why is that? Well, it’s easily explained when we consider what we’ve already said, that at the very beginning of the book he gives you his purpose statement and at the very end of the book he gives a purpose statement also.
And by the way, may I just say that as we look at this verse here on the screen it says “so that you may believe … and that believing you may have life in His name.” [John 20:31, “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”] Let me just throw this out there; there isn’t any other way to have life… no other way! You have to come through belief.
So after this brief introduction John the Apostle now is going to shift back, in verses 9 and 10 to his discussion about the life. Notice again, I’ve highlighted this for you, what we notice right away here in verses 9 and 10 is the passing of the baton again. So the word “light” now becomes an ongoing theme for John and we see “the light” “the light” “the light” and then notice what happens, “the light” becomes “the true light.” [John 1:9, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.”]
And finally, if you notice there, what happens again? We saw this in verse 2, now we shift back to the pronoun “in Him.” So John is identifying very, very clearly, very definitively who he’s talking about here, who is the Word, who is this Life, who is the Light? It’s a person, it’s a He, it’s a Him.
Let me back up just for a second, this expression “the true Light and Life if you’ll notice in the parenthesis down there you’re going to find those very same expressions used in John 8:12, chapter 9, verse 5 and in 1 John 2:8. Remember we talked about how consistent John is in the use of his terminology and his baton passing?
So now we come to this concept of world; so Christ’s relationship to the world or planet earth, and by the way, the word “world” here is the word cosmos, and it’s given here in verses 9 and 10, Christ was… notice what was He, “He was in the world” and He came into the world and that “world was made through Him,” so Christ is responsible for having created everything, as we’ve already stated. But isn’t it interesting as we look at this that nobody knew Him. They didn’t recognize Him. Look at that. “This was the true light which coming into the world, enlightens every man.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him..” We’re going to see this elaborated on here in just a moment. Notice also that this person that came into the world, what did He do? He enlightened “every man.” Notice that the “world was made through Him,” and again they “did not know Him.” Isn’t that sad?
Then we come to verses 11-13 and in verse 11 it says, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” It’s very interesting here as we think about this, on the one hand John, the Apostle, gets very specific when he refers to “His own.” “His own” here means the Jews, but He also presents a general summary of their response which is, notice, they “did not receive Him.” “He came to His own” and they “did not receive Him.”
But as we go on into verse 12 notice here it says, “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,” so on the one hand He gets specific about who it is that didn’t receive Him; on the other hand He does say that there were some that did and those few that did receive Him, they’re the ones to which or to whom “He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
I’ll just point out in passing here that as we look at this verse the verb “received,” the verb “gave” and the verb “become” are all aorist and what I want to point out about that is that’s talking about there was a point in time, a historical point in time that can be pointed to where they received Him and “He gave them the right to become children of God” and said “even to those who believe in His name.” So the majority did not receive Him but there were specific exceptions that are defined by the phrase “as many as” and again notice, though, that their receiving Him was expressed in their believing. In fact, in this verse, as I have noted here at the bottom, receiving is synonymous with believing. So we can put up a formula like this, receiving equals believing and believing equals receiving.
That brings us to verse 13 where it says they “were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Let’s talk about this for just a moment. What in the world does John mean when He says “born”? First of all let me point out that what he’s saying here is that when someone believes, let me back up here just for a second so you can see that verse, again he says when someone believes they instantly become what? They become children of God.
I don’t know about you but when I witness to people, when I share the gospel and someone miraculously through the grace of God comes to Christ one of the greatest joys that I have is being able to look them in the eye and say based upon your belief you are right now a child of God. See, what do religions and denominations tell us? Well, here’s twelve steps to becoming a child of God, right? Well, yes, we’re glad you believed but that’s enough, you have to do A, B, C, D, E, F, G. No, the instant that you believe you become a child of God.
Now that’s also interesting because what does that also tell us, and we’ll talk about this some more in a minute, but isn’t it true that most people that you talk to, if you say oh, are you a believer, are you a Christian, what’s your general response? Oh yes, oh yeah, of course I am. Many people think that they’re Christians because they were born in America and so we have to undo some bad theology to help them find out that they’re not truly a child of God and how they can become a child of God.
So again, “who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” What does he mean by “born”? This is very interesting because what we have is a clue in verse 12 and this clue is that in the context of verse 12 he says that those who received Christ by believing in Him become, and that’s that verb ginomai again, they “become children of God.” So this is fascinating; this is interesting because within the idea of this word, this Greek word ginomai is the actual idea of becoming by being born. So John purposely used that verb there.
Let’s untie some knots here; being born a child of God, he says, is “not of blood.” This is interesting, it’s in the plural, and literally what he’s saying is it’s not just from a Jewish bloodline. And we miss this as Gentiles because we’re not really fully equipped in our understanding of Jewish mythology, but let me share something with you that I find very interesting. Jewish mythology taught that in the end times that father Abraham would be standing at the gates of hell to guarantee that no Jew would ever pass through them. Now if we understand that then we begin to understand one of the reasons, perhaps, that when Jesus was talking to Nicodemus and He told him that he had to be born again, that is absolutely blew his mind; it astonished him, it stunned him. But he says here, it’s “not of blood,” so it’s not because you’re a Jew that you’re a child of God.
Then he says being born a child of God is not of the will of the flesh and literally what this is referring to is this idea of just the natural human desire to have offspring. I would tie this into the thought that if you go back into Genesis you’ll recall that when Cain killed Abel that Eve became pregnant and what did she say? “I’ve begotten a man” and in the English it says “from God” but that’s not there. It actually says I’ve begotten a man God. So there is within this concept of every Jewish individual, especially during this heightened Messianic involvement that was going on there in Jesus’ day, every maiden and every young woman wanted to be the one who gave birth to the Messiah, but didn’t he say it’s not of the will of human desire. And then he says to be born a child of God is not of the will of man. And the word here is specifically male, in other words, it’s not some idea that a man comes up with.
And then we can tie this directly in, to get a better understanding, with what happened in the story of Abraham. You remember that story, right? Sarah bring hers handmaid to Abraham because she’s barren, what a great idea that was, didn’t that work out well for the Jewish people and for the world as a whole? I don’t know how well you can see that chart but on the left hand side we see Sarah and her bloodline coming down, and we have Isaac and Jacob or Israel. And then we have all the Jews and their prophets, hallelujah! But oops, we have the human desire for fulfillment on the right hand side. So we have Hagar and then we have Ishmael and then we have Kedar and all the Arabs and we ultimately end up with Mohammed who’s the prophet of Islam. Do you think they slipped up a little bit when they tried to make it happen their own way? I think so!
So the word “man” is again andros, meaning specifically male, pointing to the fathering of a child as a strategy, and that doesn’t work, does it? So in verse 13 who are the children of God? [13, “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” ] This verse negates any and all human strategies or means for being born spiritually, but it says that spiritual birth is of or out of God. So the children of God are who? They are those who were born of God.
Now you might say Jim, what in the world is all this crazy highlighting on this slide. And what is all that tongue speaking down there at the bottom of that slide? Well, what I’ve done here is I’ve put the Greek in here for you and I just want you to see how these line up. The idea of being born of, “of” in the English does not capture what the original language says. If you look at the word “of” and you come down in verse 13 at the bottom in the Greek you’ll see the individual little words I have marked, that’s the word that we’re translating as “of.” What it literally means is of, really out of, or originating with is another way to say that.
Then something else I want you to see is the English portion, where it says at the beginning, “who were born” the “who were born” part is actually in the Greek the very last word in the sentence. Jim… who cares! Don’t fill our minds up with all this gobblety-gook, right? But listen, there’s a reason I’m telling you this, because in Greek very many times, often times the word comes at the end of the sentence is the word that receives the greatest stress and emphasis. So notice “who were born” is the important thing here.
Also, one other thing I want to point out to you; do you see the word “but of God,” see “but” highlighted there? If you come straight down and across to the right just a little bit you’ll see what looks like a funny a-l-l there. That’s the word alla but it’s abbreviated here in the context and let me tell you something very interesting about that word. In Greek this is a conjunction, it is a contrasting conjunction. And it is the strongest, most potent, most important, emphatic… did I say enough, did I give enough adjectives there, modifiers? It’s the strongest contrast you can make. So what he’s saying here is being born, which is the important thing spiritually, is not of blood, not of the will of man, not of the flesh, but on the contrary it is from or originates with God. That’s what John is saying here.
Sometimes knowing a little bit about the language helps us in our English understanding I think. I’ll just make a side comment here is that what we’re going to encounter if we go on into John chapter 3, you’re all familiar with this, right? John introduces this concept of spiritual birth here but what is he going to do? He’s going to have a private conversation with Nicodemus in chapter 3 and what he’s going to do he’s going to introduce this idea of being born again and remember what Nicodemus was likely thinking about—well, why do I need to be born again. Right! Father Abraham is going to be down there waiting for me and he’s going to make sure I don’t go to hell. So how surprising it must have been for him to hear this.
That brings us to the last section which is 14-18 and we’re going to spend some time here on this; this is fascinating material. John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Let me give you a quote, this is from Dr. Constable, and what he says here is that, “Flesh in Scripture has a literal meaning, namely, material human flesh. But it also has a metaphorical meaning, meaning the human spirit. Here John used it in the metaphorical sense saying that God the Son assumed a human, though not sinful, nature.
Now I’m going to give you a little caveat here, this is Jim’s commentary on Dr. Constable’s commentary, right? I think what Dr. Constable says here is good, I just don’t think it’s enough. All right, and I’m going to explain that here in just a moment. So what we want to understand here is “when the Word became flesh” what John is saying is that Christ set aside the privileges of deity to become a man. Notice He didn’t set aside His deity; He merely set aside the privileges of His deity and that’s a very, very important distinction because there are all kinds of heresies that have developed because of a misunderstanding of what John is saying here.
Now let me give you another quote if I may, that I think is a little bit better. This is from D.A. Carson and his book, The Gospel According to John. Listen to what he says; he says: “Here in this verse we see Christ, born of Mary in Bethlehem. He never ceased being deity, rather He took on or added a sinless human nature like that of Adam before the fall. But it’s important to understand that His deity was in no way modified or impacted; He is both fully God and fully man. The Word, God’s very self-expression who was both with God and who was God became flesh. He donned our humanity with the exception of our sin.” I think that’s a little bit better definition of what John is saying here. So He “became flesh,” He was a real human being. And of course we can discover this as we read through John and we see all the many things that describe His humanity: weeping, joy, hunger, thirst, etc.
When we stop and point out this next word I have highlighted is the word “dwelt.” This particular word was chosen by John and literally means tabernacled or to live in a tent. And in the New Testament it is used only five times and guess who is the only one that uses it—it’s the Apostle John. So only here and four times, and I have the verses listed for you right there where we find this. [Revelation 7:15; 12:12; 13:6; 21:3]
And here’s what you need to come away with: in each case this word that is being translated “dwelt” is used for God dwelling with men. So this is a theme that John continues through his writings.
Then we come to the next words here, “among us and we saw His glory,” in this case “among us” refers to Jesus having tabernacled, or tented, dwelled, specifically among His disciples and those who accompanied Him. They were the ones who saw or I prefer the word “beheld” here “His glory.” And the reason I prefer “beheld” is because the Greek word that’s being translated “saw” here literally means to behold; it’s the idea of to look closely, to examine it. So you will recall in the past sessions we’ve had that I have defined “glory” as the radiant essence of who God is. So John is saying here that he and those in company with Christ looked closely at Christ’s radiant essence, which was glorious because of His deity.
Then the next expression, “glory as of the only begotten from the Father,” in order for us now to understand the magnitude and the character of the glory he’s just mentioned he now adds something to his description, “glory as of the only begotten from the Father.” John used the word “only begotten” here, it’s monogenesis, more than any other New Testament writer, and by it he meant that Christ was unique. We could substitute this expression, “glory as of the unique one from the Father.” The Greek word here in this verse has no definite article and here’s where knowing a little bit of Greek helps. So when we look at the English we see “the only” but “the” is not there in the Greek and the significance of that is that in the Greek what John is focusing on is the character of Christ’s uniqueness. There’s no one else like Him is what John is saying.
So in keeping with the Christ having been uniquely from God the Father John is going to later profound and unique insight into the relationship that Christ has with the Father in his book, as well as the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In fact, John will later reveal to us that the Holy Spirit is in fact sent from both the Father AND the Son, or let me back up and say the unique Son. So Jesus Christ is God’s unique Son and here in this verse if you understand it correctly John is clearly presenting the doctrine of the Trinity.
If we look at the last expression here, “full of grace and truth,” as I was doing this study when I came to this part I almost had to stop and I’m sorry, I had to have a hallelujah fit. Have you ever had a hallelujah fit? No, you all are too prim and proper for that. Sometimes I have them, all right; I had one here. “…full of grace and truth,” John wrote that when Christ dwelt, tabernacled, tented among them they looked closely upon Christ awesome unique glory and that Christ was “full of grace and truth.” And again we said “glory” is the radiant essence of who God is and God is by His eternal character also infinite grace and truth.
So Christ’s capacity for and expression of “grace and truth” was not partial or limited but it instead was completely full… completely full! That’s awesome. When we come to verse 15, “John testified about 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.’” So John the Apostle now returns to his discussion of John the Baptist. You will recall that John the Baptist was six months older than Christ and that he also started his public ministry, apparently, before Christ did as well. But John the Baptist proclaims here that Christ was greater than him because Christ existed before Him.
John the Baptist says “He existed before me.” Why did he say that? Because He is acknowledging here Christ’s deity.
It never ceases to amaze me how people say, all the time, how the Scriptures don’t declare Jesus as deity, or Jesus doesn’t claim deity. Sometimes I think to myself have they ever read the Book of John because it’s very clear there, in both cases. John declares that He’s deity and Jesus Himself declares that He’s deity.
So John the Baptist proclaims that Christ was greater than he because Christ did in fact exist before Him. And John the Apostle will later record Christ’s own words. What did Jesus say in John 8:58, “Truly, truly,” “Verily, verily,” “Surely, surely, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
Notice that John the apostle wrote there in chapter 8; he wrote “I am” not I was. Why is that? Because God’s perspective of time is that all time is eternally present, it’s right now. And as the Second Member of the Trinity Christ’s perspective is the same. Neither John the Baptist, then, or John the Apostle’s declaration as we see here were a confusion of the fact.
You know, some people say oh well, you know, John was just happy, he was all full of the Lord and so happy that he said some things that well… you know… he got a little carried away. NO, he didn’t get carried away. These are declarations of facts and they’re a recognition that Christ, being God, has existed in all eternity past.
Now notice when we come to verse 16 we see again something very similar to what we see before. Verse 16, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John the Apostle and those who were in company with Christ, notice what it says, “all received” of the “fullness” of Christ’s character. What character is that? The glory, the grace and the truth.
Now here’s what I want you to get; this is great stuff here, if you get excited and you want to shout hallelujah it’s okay. Notice, he says they were seated in “fullness” it was full on, full out as if you were drinking from a fire hydrant. Have you ever tried to drink from a fire hydrant? Can you imagine what would happen? Would you get overwhelmed? Would you be overcome? Yeah, that’s what John’s saying here, that they received from this awesome, unbelievable, overwhelming grace. John said they all received “grace upon grace.” And he’s picturing two things here, very important. One, he’s picturing the abundance of grace and he’s picturing the continuity of grace and that all of this came from Christ. And it infinitely flows from Christ’s changeless character.
Sometime people, because they listen to their flesh or they listen to other people or they listen to the devil, when they make a mistake what do they do? They want to wallow in self-pity—oh, I can’t believe, oh I’m such a rotten person, oh, oh, oh. The only reason that you would want to do that is because you’re ignorant of what we just said right here. The Lord Jesus Christ infinitely bestows from His changeless character an abundance of grace upon grace. He’s just waiting for you to take advantage of it and use 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you really believe that? If you’re cleansed from all unrighteousness because of this infinite flow of grace, then how should you respond? That wasn’t even in here, that’s just added for you benefit. Amen! I’m getting excited here. Somebody get excited with me.
Look at verse 17 here, now John says “For the Law was given through Moses; the grace and” notice how I have this worded, “ the grace and the truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” John makes it very clear here that Moses carried out his charge by passing on the laws to all Israel. How many laws were there by the way? 613 laws; “the law was given through Moses” as moral and spiritual information but notice this. Catch this, that’s not how the grace and the truth were bestowed. Look at this, “the grace and the truth were” not just given through Christ, but came in the form of… get ready, you’re not going to believe what I’m going to say here—it came in the form of a walking, talking, living, breathing human with flesh and bones, the Lord Jesus Christ.
And that’s really different, isn’t it, the grace and the truth realized is not a law to look at; it’s Christ Himself and it’s beholding Him! You’ll notice that I used “the grace and the truth,” once again the definite articles are not used in the first part of verse 14 but they are used down here in 17. And so what’s happening here is in verse 14 John is focusing on the character of grace and truth as a whole but when we move down to verse 17 what he’s doing is he’s emphasizing the singular and specific character of grace and truth. In other words, in verse 17 it is “the grace and the truth” and it’s specifically attributed to and flowing from Christ Himself. Sadly, as is the case here, most of our English translations do not reveal that.
We get now to verse 18, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” Well, if “No one has seen God at any time” why do we read of people seeing God in various forms in the Bible? What’s John saying? Well, the answer is that while God has taken on Biblical forms at times (and I have some pictures up here representing that) what are some examples? Well, you remember when the three angels appeared to Abraham and Sarah? From the context it’s very clear that God was there present, one of them. When we come later to the second picture that’s supposed to be Jacob wrestling and we discover from the context that was the angel of the Lord, that’s God. And then what happens when the children of Israel come to Mount Sinai? Do they, in some small way, see a physical manifestation of God? I should say so, they see fire on top of the mountain and smoke, and what did they see for fourteen years in the desert? They saw the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day, didn’t they?
So God has revealed Himself at times in a physical form. So John, what in the world are you saying here? What John is actually saying is that no human being can see God in His essence. God is an uncreated spiritual being, John 4:24. [God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”] So no one can see Him in the fullness of His essence.
The next part of that verse, “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” The one who is the only begotten in verse 14 is here called “only begotten God.” Jesus Christ, once again, is being declared to be deity but “gotten” is unique… unique. You could substitute the word unique there, “the unique God who is in the bosom of the Father.” John 8:59 and 10:31 are two inferences where the Jews picked up stones to kill Jesus because they interpreted and understood that Jesus was claiming deity, which in their minds was blasphemy. And again I just make the comment, how can anyone say that Jesus never claimed deity; He in fact did.
The last part of this verse says “ He has explained Him.” When John wrote that he saw Christ in verses 14 and also in 1 John 4:1-4, he was not saying that he saw the essence of God but he was saying that he saw Jesus Christ, a personal being, who being deity expressed that deity in human form. And as He did so He was revealing and explaining in the context of real life the matchless and changeless and eternal character of God Himself. [1 John 4:1-4, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;  and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.  You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”]
Wow, that’s good stuff! That’s what He said back in 14, “He was among us and we saw His glory.”
This brings us to the conclusion of our session. What we have been talking about in session 1 and session 2 is this idea of seeing the living Word through or rather in the written Word of God and again, here are the two verses, 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all with unveiled faith beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, just as from the Lord the Spirit.” And then we see in John 1:14 what John says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
So Jim, how do we tie these two verses together. Here’s what you need to understand, that as we read about how John beheld the glory of Christ in His first coming what Paul is saying is that we are also beholding Christ through the Word; as we’re reading about John’s beholding, which is what we’ve done today, we too are beholding and we are being transformed from glory to glory and that is a work of the Holy Spirit. Have you thought about that? When you come to God’s Word do you come with the understanding that you are beholding the glory of our Lord? Do you come to God’s Word with the expectation of being transformed? I hope so.
Quickly let me just sum this up with an expanded and an explained translation. I’m going to combine these two verses. Here’s what it would look like? “And Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and God’s communication of His own personal essential being came so as to be born in human form and though total deity He was dwelling in that human form, even while among us, and we beheld and oh this is awesome, we beheld His glory, that radiant essence of God Himself, since Christ is the unique Son of God, an expression from the Father, full of the grace and the truth which are God’s eternal and infinite character. As we behold John’s description of how he and the disciples beheld Christ we too are beholding Him as well, and as a work of the Holy Spirit are being made to grow in and into the glorious character of Christ. Hallelujah! We want to see the living Word and the written Word of God.
Let’s close in prayer. Abba, Father, we thank You for the amazing privilege we have to behold the glory of Your unique Son through Your written Word. We know that Your desire is that we not only take in biblical and spiritual information but that we might actually be touched and transformed and changed by beholding Him who is the living Word in and through the written word, even our Lord Jesus Christ. And Father, we pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.