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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
October 24, 1999
The Word Became Flesh
This morning we begin our actual study of the text of the Gospel of John. Last week’s introduction was an overview with emphasis on the purpose of the book. John specifically states his purpose in 20:31, 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 wants us to know and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, so that believing we may have eternal life in Him. As we examined the historical setting in which John wrote, we found there were false teachers that had already appeared that were denying critical aspects of Jesus’ nature. In particular was the early gnostic heresy of Cerinthus that denied Jesus’ deity. John’s gospel account gives a clear presentation that Jesus is God in human flesh. We will see John’s emphasis on Jesus’ deity and upon the importance of believing that Jesus is the Christ throughout our study of this book.
John begins his gospel account with a prologue that will set the tone for the rest of the book. Jesus called John and his brother James the "Sons of Thunder" and John begins the book with thunder. In the first 18 verses John declares in a resounding manner the identity and work of Jesus. He is the divine revelation of the eternal God who entered into time and manifested Himself to the world. Most people reject Him, but some receive Him and are given eternal life. Jesus was attested to by John the Baptist, the apostles and the church. John will back up these claims of deity throughout the rest of the book.
Follow with me a I read John 1:1-18.
John 1:1 (NASB) 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. 3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
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. 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.
14 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. 15 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.’" 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained [Him.]
Throughout this message I will be making some references that are a bit technical in nature, or at least references to long ago forgotten grammar classes. Please bear with me, because many have fallen into heresy in these verses because they did not pay attention to what John wrote. Instead, they twisted the verses into matching what they already believed. We need to understand accurately what John has written if we are to know and believe the truth.
THE WORD REVEALED (1:1-5)
John begins by reaching back into eternity to establish the identity of this one revealed here as "the "logos," the Word." Who is the "Word?" It is none other than Jesus Christ as we shall see as we examine this passage in detail. Only Jesus fits all the declarations about the Word given here. There are those that spend much time musing that John is somehow making reference to the "logos" of Greek philosophy, especially that of Philo. If John is making any references to the Logos of Greek philosophy, it is only to correct them to the truth, for the Logos presented in these passages is nothing like the Logos of Greek philosophy. In addition, John is a Jew and writes from a Semetic point of view, not a Greek one. The concept of Logos, the Word, among the Jews is that of the God who creates by speaking and who reveals Himself through speech. Psalm 33:6, 9 – By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host. . . For he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. Heb. 11:3, Through faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. Heb. 1:1,2 – God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son. . .". Jesus Christ is the "Logos," the Word, through whom God reveals Himself to man.
NATURE: In verses 1 & 2 John establishes the nature of the Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
In the first phrase of verse 1, John brings out the eternal preexistence of the Word by using the imperfect verb tense to reach back into eternity past and refute the idea that the Word was created at the beginning. This is not good English, but we can bring out the definition of the verb and the meaning of the tense used here by translating it as "was continuing." "In the beginning was continuing the Word." We humans, being finite creatures, are bound by time. John brings us back to the edge of eternity past when God brings time into existence and states that the Word was already existing and continuing. The Word is eternal.
In the next phrase John sets the eternal relationship of the Word with God. The emphasis of the verb tense can be brought out by translating it as "The Word was continually with God." I must also point out that there are two Greek prepositions that are commonly translated as "with." One of them (peri) means "with" in the sense of alongside and around, the other one (pros), which is used here, means "with" in the sense of facing and moving towards. Some have translated this as "face to face" in trying to bring out the meaning. We could translate the whole phrase as "The Word was continually face to face with God." This describes the Word as being distinct from but having intimacy and equality with God.
Jesus speaks of this intimacy and equality Himself in John 17:5, "And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.
The final phrase of verse 1 points out that the Word is eternally God. Again, we can emphasize the verb tense by translating at "and the Word was continuing as God." This refuted the gnostic idea that Jesus was a man that took on aspects of deity at His baptism and then lost them prior to the crucifixion.
The Jehovah Witnesses try to back up their belief, which is really the ancient Arian heresy, that Jesus was not the true God, by translating this verse as "the Word was a God." This is a perversion of the Greek grammar. Let me give you several reasons why this is a wrong translation. This is a bit technical, but please bear with me.
First, the phrase in Greek is qeoV hn o logoV (theos han ho logos). logoV /logos is the subject and qeoV /theosis the predicate. The predicate stand first for the sake of emphasis. The omission of the article on qeoV /theoswas necessary to distinguish the subject and the predicate, and so it cannot be translated as indefinite – i.e. "a God."
Second, in Greek, a noun may be definite even if there is no article used (anarthrous construction). Many factors can make the noun definite including, as the case is here with qeoV /theos, the use of a noun which is treated like a proper name. In such cases the use of the article emphasizes the identity and the lack of an article emphasizes character of essence. The grammatical construction here places emphasis that the Word was and continues to be of divine essence. This same truth is stated again in a different manner in verse 14 & 18. Jesus stated it plainly in John 14:9,10, "Have I been so long with you, and [yet] you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father ‘? 10 "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? Heb. 1:3 states it this way, He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature. . .".
Third, if the article had been used, the subject and predicate would be interchangeable without distinction. The Bible declares each member of the triune Godhead to be God in character and essence, yet each of them is distinct from the others. The Bible teaches that there is one eternal creator God who exists in three distinct persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If you will, the eternal God is a plural singular. This is why the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is actually a plural, thought it is used as a singular – such as in Deut. 6:4 – "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God (Elohim), the Lord is one! This also explains the plural pronouns used of God such as in Gen. 1:26 – Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image. . .". God is speaking to other members of the Trinity. They make up the "us" and the "our."
John 1:1 is an incredible theological statement given in very compact form. The Word was always existing. The Word was distinct from but in perfect fellowship with God. The Word was continuing as God in character and essence.
Verse 2 reinforces these declarations by combining the first two phrases and referencing the third by stating that outoV outos, this one, this Word ("He" -NASB; "The same" -KJV) was in the beginning with God. John’s opening declaration is that Jesus, the Word, exists from all eternity as a distinct person who is in intimate fellowship with the Father and is Himself in character and essence God.
If the Jehovah Witnesses were consistent in their translation method of the Word being a God, then in the rest of this passage, John would be sent from a God (6), those who received Christ would become children of a God (12), and no man has seen a God at any time (18). The Jesus of the Jehovah Witnesses is a lesser God. Their Jesus is not the eternal Word described here in John 1.
CREATOR (3). In verse 3 John demonstrates that this Word is God by attributing to Him all of creation. John states this from both the positive side viewed from the past and from the negative side viewed from the present.
First, All things came into being by Him. The Word is not a created being, but the creator Himself. Col. 1:16,17 states of Jesus, For by Him 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 by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Deity is demonstrated in that Scripture attributes these same actions to God, not only in Genesis, but also in Rev. 4 where the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come (vs. 8), is worthy to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created " (11).
Second, John states that apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. This is a view from the present stated from the negative and so makes greater emphasis. There is nothing that exists currently that was not created by Him – no exceptions.
All those who would seek to deny the deity of Jesus Christ must reject what John says here or be
crushed under its simple, but powerful proclamation. Jesus is not a created being, but the creator.
LIFE (4) In verse 4 we find that in the Word was life and that this life was the light of men. The concept of life here is not just the physical, biological existence given to us by our Creator. All of God’s creatures have that. What is referred to here is the fullness of spiritual life. John will expand on this concept in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus about being born again in chapter 3. Paul understood this concept and expressed it in Ephesians 2 when he stated that we were dead in our transgressions, but God, by His grace, saved us and made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5). True life, the fullness of life, spiritual life is only found in Jesus Christ. And this life was the light of men. In contrast to the secrecy of gnosticism, the truth of spiritual life in Christ was available to all
LIGHT (5). John uses the analogy of light to describe that which belongs to God and darkness to describe which opposes Him. As 1 John 1:5 states, God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. Darkness is the antithesis of light. The light of the gospel of life in Jesus Christ is shining to all including those still in the darkness of false religions, cults and vain philosophies. But those in such darkness do not comprehend what before them and so they resist it. As Paul states in 2 Cor. 4:4, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Like a police officer walking a beat in a dark alley with his flashlight. Those who understand the joy of truth, righteousness and justice welcome him, but those who believe they will get what they want through lies, deceit, theft and murder will reject and resist him. So it is that the truth, righteousness and justice of the gospel is proclaimed throughout the earth, but those holding to their false religions and vain philosophies will reject it and resist it, preferring their darkness to the light. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend it.
THE WORD MANIFESTED (1:6-13)
In the first five verses John declares the character and nature of Jesus who is the Word, the Life, the Light. He next presents his first witness to the truth of his declarations.
THE WITNESS OF JOHN (6-8)
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.
The word, "sent" in verse 6 is the same root as "apostle." John the Baptizer was sent by God with authority to prepare the way for the Lord. We will examine John’s testimony and ministry in detail when we get to verse 19 in a couple of weeks. But for now, just note briefly that the purpose of John the Baptist was to prepare the way and be a witness for Christ who was the light so that all might believe.
THE LIGHT IN THE WORLD (9-13)
REVEALED: 9 There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. Jesus was the true light who came into the world and revealed Himself to mankind.
REJECTED: 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. John again points out that Jesus brought the world into existence. However, this time the emphasis is more on the relationship that should be there because of that it rather than on His deity as Creator. All creation belongs to Him, yet the world did not know Him. The word "know" here is from ginwskw ginwsko, the knowledge of relationship. The world has intellectual knowledge of Christ, they know about Him, but they have no personal relationship with Him.
Even more personal in nature is verse 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. God had chosen Israel out of all nations to be His special people (Ezek. 20:5). They were to be kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:6) and proclaim Him to all the other nations, yet they would not even receive Him themselves when He came to them. Perhaps you can get a hint of what this means if you can imagine good, gracious and generous parents who are rejected by their children. They are not even welcome to come to their homes. So it is that most people reject Christ.
RECEIVED: While most reject Him, there are the few that do accept Him and they receive a precious gift in return. 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. Here is the universal offer to all mankind. To all those who will accept Christ, which is further clarified here as believing on His name, there is a wonderful gift. The are given the right to become the children of God.
To believe on His name is to hold fast to all the truths about Jesus. In only these few verses that already includes His eternity, His deity, His being the Creator and His coming into the world to bring the light. If a person accepts the truth that Jesus is God, then that belief will result in the Christian life of following and obeying Jesus. John portrays salvation as being born into the family of God (Jn. 3, etc.). The words he uses here describe this too. When a person accepts Christ by believing the truth about Him and placing their trust in Him, they are given the authority, the right, to become (the root word here is begotten) children of God. We are born into God’s family. The birth takes place in a moment of time, but just as it takes time for a baby to grow and mature and take on the family characteristics, so it is that a new believer is born in a moment of time, but they must grow and mature to take on the qualities of godliness that now belong to them as children of God.
But notice now how this birth occurs in verse 13. who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Becoming a child of God is not a matter of your lineage. You are not a Christian just because your parents are. It is because of your own desire. Until God begins to work in you the desire of your flesh is against God (Gal. 5:17) and you do not seek God (Rom. 3:11). It is not because of somebody else wanting you to be a Christian. No one can force another person to believe. Being born into God’s family is due to God’s work upon the individual and that individual responding to that work. No one can boast. All glory goes to God.
THE WORD APPREHENDED (1:14-18)
In verse 14-18 John gives further testimony to the truth of nature and character of Jesus.
THE APOSTLES (14). 14 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 has alluded to this truth earlier, but now it is plainly stated. The Word became flesh. This one who is eternal, is God and is the Creator became a creature.
The "we" and "us" in this verse are those who lived with Jesus, especially the Apostles. As he states in 1 John 1:1, What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life, they were first hand witnesses. They heard Him. They saw Him. They touched Him. Peter, James and John were with Jesus at the Transfiguration when Jesus’ face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light (Mt. 17). John may be alluding to that, but in specific the glory he speaks of here is that of grace and truth that reflects Jesus being the only begotten from the Father.
There are those that will argue that the term "only begotten" would mean that Jesus was created by the Father. However, we have already seen that Jesus is eternal, that He created all things and that He possesses the character and essence of God though He is distinct from the Father. It is rather a term that speaks of eternal relationship of God the Son with God the Father.
Jesus was full of grace and truth that reflected the Father. His message was one of the Father’s unmerited favor to sinners and demonstrated in the miracles, His sermons and His atoning death. Jesus himself is the truth, the final reality. The Apostles were first hand witness to all these things.
JOHN THE BAPTIST (15). In verse 15, the witness of John the Baptist is again given, except this time the emphasis is upon Jesus having preeminence. 15 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.’"
THE CHURCH (16-18). In verses 16-18 John gives testimony of what he and all believers had received from Jesus. 16 For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace. What have you received from Jesus? It is grace upon grace. One manifestation of God’s unmerited favor to us is not even gone when another one arrives. There is no limit to God’s love or the grace and mercy He extends to His children.
As an example of what they have received, John reminds them, 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John is not implying the Law was bad in any sense, only that it was not sufficient. The Law was given by God to Moses to point men to their sin, but it could not pardon them. The sacrifices were but shadows of what had to come in order for man’s sin to be atoned. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ fulfilling the law and becoming the final sacrifice so that grace could be extended.
John concludes the prelude in verse 18 No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained [Him.] Moses had the great privilege of speaking with God "face to face" (Ex. 33:11), and he even was able to see the back of God’ glory (Ex. 33:19f), but even he could not see God in the fullness of His glory. No man has seen God at any time.
As Job 11:7,8 asks, "Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? 8 "[They are] high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know? The answer is, of course, that we cannot. God must be revealed to us, and that is what Jesus has done. Jesus, here called "the only begotten God" which again testifies to His deity, is the only one that can reveal the Father to us, for He is the one so intimate with the Father that John describes Him as the one "who is in the bosom of the Father." Jesus Christ has explained, or made known the Father to us.
There is a lot of deep theology in the passage we examined this morning, and I only scratch the surface of a lot of it. But the question must be put to you now. What do you believe about Jesus Christ? John has made his declaration and backed it up with the testimony of others. What do you believe and why? Have you received Jesus? If not, why not?
Let me close with this challenge. There is nothing more important than your relationship with Jesus Christ. Only in Him is there is life. If you do not yet know Him, then take a step of faith and ask God to help you understand Him and start seeking Him. Heb. 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please [Him], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." If you are a believer, be diligent and do not let anything hinder you in your relationship with Christ. Do as Heb. 12 1,2 says, . . . let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith . . .".
Sermon Study Sheets
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Why did John write this gospel? What does John try to do in the prologue (1:1-18)? Who is the "Word/Logos"? Why does John use that term? What is the importance of each of the three phrases in verse 1? Why is it incorrect to translate the end of verse 1 as "the Word was a God" as the Jehovah’ Witnesses do? What is the importance of verse 3? What heresy does this refute? How does verse 3 prove Jesus’ deity? What does "life" refer to in verse 4? What does "light" refer to in verse 5? Why can’t non-Christians understand Jesus? Why did God send John the Baptist? What are the responses people have to the light of Jesus? How does a person become a child of God? Why is the testimony of the Apostles important? What is "grace upon grace" in verse 14? Can you give personal testimony to this "grace upon grace" in your own life? What are the differences between Moses and Jesus in revealing God? What do you believe about Jesus? Why?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Write down all the different names use for Jesus in the sermon. Talk to your parents about what each of them mean.
Sermon Notes – 10/24/1999 a.m.
The Word Became Flesh John 1:1-18
The Word Revealed (1:1-5)
Eternal Relationship with God
Identifies Subject & Predicate
Distinguishes the Son from the Father
The Word Manifested (1:6-13)
The Witness of John (6-8)
The Light in the World (9-13)
The Word Apprehended (1:14-18)
The Apostles (14)
John the Baptist (15)
The Church (16-18)
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