January 17, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

The Nature of the Incarnation

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. (1:14)

Verse 14 is the most concise biblical statement of the Incarnation, and therefore one of Scripture’s most significant verses. The four words with which it begins, the Word became flesh, express the reality that in the Incarnation God took on humanity; the infinite became finite; eternity entered time; the invisible became visible (cf. Col. 1:15); the Creator entered His creation. God revealed Himself to man in the creation (Rom. 1:18–21), the Old Testament Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20–21), and, supremely and most clearly, in Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1–2). The record of His life and work, and its application and significance for the past, present, and future, is in the New Testament.

As noted in the discussion of 1:1 in chapter 1 of this volume, the concept of the Word was one rich in meaning for both Greeks and Jews. John here clearly stated what he implied earlier in the prologue: Jesus Christ, God’s final Word to mankind (Heb. 1:1–2), became flesh.Sarx (flesh) does not have here the negative moral connotation that it sometimes carries (e.g., Rom. 8:3–9; 13:14; Gal. 5:13, 16–17, 19; Eph. 2:3), but refers to man’s physical being (cf. Matt. 16:17; Rom. 1:3; 1 Cor. 1:26; 2 Cor. 5:16; Gal. 1:16; Eph. 5:29; Phil. 1:22). That He actually became flesh affirms Jesus’ full humanity.

Ginomai (became) does not mean that Christ ceased being the eternal Word when He became a man. Though God is immutable, pure eternal “being” and not “becoming” as all His creatures are, in the Incarnation the unchangeable (Heb. 13:8) God did become fully man, yet remained fully God. He entered the realm of those who are time and space creatures and experienced life as it is for those He created. In the words of the fifth-century church father Cyril of Alexandria,

We do not … assert that there was any change in the nature of the Word when it became flesh, or that it was transformed into an entire man, consisting of soul and body; but we say that the Word, in a manner indescribable and inconceivable, united personally … to himself flesh animated with a reasonable soul, and thus became man and was called the Son of man.… The natures which were brought together to form a true unity were different; but out of both is one Christ and one Son. We do not mean that the difference of the natures is annihilated by reason of this union; but rather that the Deity and Manhood, by their inexpressible and inexplicable concurrence into unity, have produced for us the one Lord and Son Jesus Christ. (cited in Bettenson, Documents, 47)

No wonder Paul wrote of the Incarnation,

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:

He who was revealed in the flesh,

Was vindicated in the Spirit,

Seen by angels,

Proclaimed among the nations,

Believed on in the world,

Taken up in glory. (1 Tim. 3:16)

Charles Wesley also captured the wonder of the Incarnation in his majestic hymn “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,

Hail th’ incarnate Deity!

Pleased as man with men to dwell,

Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Some found the Incarnation so utterly beyond human reason to comprehend that they refused to accept it. The heretical group known as the Docetists (from dokeō; “to seem,” or “to appear”), accepting the dualism of matter and spirit so prevalent in Greek philosophy at that time, held that matter was evil, and spirit was good. Accordingly, they argued that Christ could not have had a material (and hence evil) body. They taught instead either that His body was a phantom, or an apparition, or that the divine Christ spirit descended upon the mere man Jesus at His baptism, then left Him before His crucifixion. Cerinthus, John’s opponent at Ephesus, was a Docetist. John strongly opposed Docetism, which undermines not only the incarnation of Christ, but also His resurrection and substitutionary atonement. As noted earlier in this chapter, in his first epistle he warned,

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. (1 John 4:1–3)

John was so horrified by Cerinthus’s heresy that, as the early church historian Eusebius records,

John the apostle once entered a bath to wash; but ascertaining Cerinthus was within, he leaped out of the place, and fled from the door, not enduring to enter under the same roof with him, and exhorted those with him to do the same, saying, “let us flee, lest the bath fall in, as long as Cerinthus, that enemy of the truth, is within.” (Ecclesiastical History, book III, chap. XXVIII)

The eternal Son not only became man; He also dwelt among men for thirty-three years. Dwelt translates a form of the verb skēnoō, which literally means “to live in a tent.” Jesus Christ’s humanity was not a mere appearance. He took on all the essential attributes of humanity and was “made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), “since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). As the writer of Hebrews goes on to explain, “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). And He pitched His tent among us.

In the Old Testament, God tented with Israel through His glorious presence in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–35) and later in the temple (1 Kings 8:10–11), and revealed Himself in some pre-incarnate appearances of Christ (e.g., Gen. 16:7–14; Ex. 3:2; Josh. 5:13–15; Judg. 2:1–4; 6:11–24; 13:3–23; Dan. 3:25; 10:5–6; Zech. 1:11–21). Throughout eternity, God will again tent with His redeemed and glorified people:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell [skēnoō] among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3–4; cf. 12:12; 13:6)

Though Jesus manifested God’s divine glory during His earthly life with a clarity never before seen, it was still veiled by His human flesh. Peter, James, and John saw a physical manifestation of Jesus’ heavenly glory at the transfiguration, when “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matt. 17:2; cf. 2 Peter 1:16–18). That was a preview of the unveiled glory to be seen at His return (Matt. 24:29–30; 25:31; Rev. 19:11–16) and the fullness of His heavenly glory as the only Light of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:23). But the disciples saw Jesus manifest God’s holy nature primarily by displaying divine attributes, such as truth, wisdom, love, grace, knowledge, power, and holiness.

Jesus manifested the same essential glory as the Father, because as God they possess the same nature (10:30). Despite the claims of false teachers through the centuries, monogenēs (only begotten) does not imply that Jesus was created by God and thus not eternal. The term does not refer to a person’s origin, but describes him as unique, the only one of his kind. Thus Isaac could properly be called Abraham’s monogenēs (Heb. 11:17) even though Abraham had other sons, because Isaac alone was the son of the covenant. Monogenēs distinguishes Christ as the unique Son of God from believers, who are God’s sons in a different sense (1 John 3:2). B. F. Westcott writes, “Christ is the One and only Son, the One to whom the title belongs in a sense completely unique and singular, as distinguished from that in which there are many children of God (vv. 12f.)” (The Gospel According to St. John [Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978], 12). Jesus’ unique relationship to the Father is a major theme of John’s gospel (cf. 1:18; 3:35; 5:17–23, 26, 36–37; 6:27, 46, 57; 8:16, 18–19, 28, 38, 42, 54; 10:15, 17, 30, 36–38; 12:49–50; 14:6–13, 20–21, 23, 31; 15:9, 15, 23–24; 16:3, 15, 27–28, 32; 17:5, 21, 24–25; 20:21).

Jesus’ manifestation of the divine attributes revealed His essential glory as God’s Son, “for in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9). The two attributes most closely connected with salvation are grace and truth. Scripture teaches that salvation is wholly by believing God’s truth in the gospel, by which one receives His saving grace.

The Jerusalem Council declared, “But we believe that we [Jewish believers] are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they [Gentiles] also are” (Acts 15:11). Apollos “greatly helped those who had believed through grace” (Acts 18:27). Paul described the message he preached as “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). In Romans 3:24 he wrote that believers are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,” while in Ephesians 1:7 he added, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” Later in that same letter, Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). He reminded Timothy that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). That same “grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11), with the result that believers “being justified by His grace … would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).

There is no salvation grace except to those who believe the truth of the gospel message. Paul reminded the Ephesians, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). In Colossians 1:5 he defined the gospel as the “word of truth” (cf. James 1:18). Paul expressed to the Thessalonians his thankfulness that “God ha[d] chosen [them] from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13). People are saved when they “come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4; cf. 2 Tim. 2:25). On the other hand, “those who perish” will do so “because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). Everyone will “be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:12).

Jesus Christ was the full expression of God’s grace. All the necessary truth to save is available in Him. He was the full expression of God’s truth, which was only partially revealed in the Old Testament (cf. Col. 2:16–17). What was foreshadowed through prophecy, types, and pictures became substance realized in the person of Christ (cf. Heb. 1:1–2). Therefore He could declare, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.… If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 14:6; 8:31–32).

A vague belief in God apart from the truth about Christ will not result in salvation. As Jesus Himself warned, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Those who think they are worshiping God, but are ignorant of or reject the fullness of the New Testament teaching about Christ, are deceived, because “he who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23; cf. 15:23). In his first epistle John affirmed that “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23; cf. 2 John 9). Those who reject God’s full revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ will be eternally lost.

Summarizing the magnificence of this verse, Gerald L. Borchert writes,

In analyzing this crucial verse of the Prologue it becomes quickly apparent that this verse is like a great jewel with many facets that spreads it rays of implication into the various dimensions of Christology—the theology of Christ. As a summary of this verse it may be said that the evangelist recognized and bore witness to the fact that the characteristics ascribed only to God by the Old Testament were present in the incarnate Logos, God’s unique messenger to the world, who not only epitomized in person the awesome sense of God’s presence in their midst as a pilgrim people but also evidenced those stabilizing divine qualities God’s people had experienced repeatedly. (John 1–11, The New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002], 121–22. Italics in original.)[1]

14 We now come to the most concise statement in Scripture regarding the incarnation. With eloquent simplicity born of brevity, John proclaims, “The Word became flesh.” The philosophical mind may have taken no exception to John’s teaching on the Logos up until this point. But any idea of the Logos (the eternal Reason) entering into our human estate would run counter to the fundamental Greek axiom that the gods were detached and separate from the struggles and heartaches of humanity (see Morris’s extended note, 115–26, on the Logos). By declaring that “the Word became flesh,” John answered the Docetics, who, while acknowledging that Jesus of Nazareth was divine, could not bring themselves to accept the fact that he was also fully human. They would claim that he only appeared (dokeō, GK 1506; used intransitively it means “to seem”) to be a real man. Throughout history Christian orthodoxy has always maintained the full humanity of Jesus, as well as his complete deity. He is the God-man. The incarnation is the embodiment of God in human form as Christ. In becoming human Jesus did not diminish in any way what he was before. While the voluntary restrictions of becoming human led him to resist any independent expression of his divine power, he was in no way less God by becoming human. He became what we are without relinquishing what he always has been and must be.

John goes on to say that the eternal Logos (God the Son) came and lived for a while (“made his dwelling”) among us. The reference is to his earthly ministry as Jesus of Nazareth. The verb skēnoō (GK 5012) means “to live in a tent [skēnē; GK 5008],” i.e., to take up a temporary abode. The term would call to mind the wilderness trek of Israel during which time God took up his abode in the tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting. During the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, his followers recognized in him the very presence of God. He was the shekinah glory, the visible expression of the glory of God. He was, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb 1:3). The glory that his followers “saw” (a weak translation of theaomai, “to behold,” GK 2517, from theōria, “an appearance or spectacle,” GK 2556) was the glory of the one and only Son. The KJV’s “only begotten” incorrectly suggests that monogenēs (GK 3666) is derived from gennaō (“to beget,” GK 1164) rather than from ginomai (in this context, “to be born,” GK 1181). John is saying that the Son is unique, the only one of a kind. God has as sons all who have been adopted into his family on the basis of personal faith, but Jesus is the Son of God sui generis (unique). He came from the Father, “full of grace and truth” (the phrase modifies “the Word” or “the one and only Son” rather than “glory” as some have suggested). These two great Christian terms reflect the unmerited favor of a God who, true to his essential character, gives of himself for the eternal benefit of humanity.[2]

1:14. This may be the most important verse in the Bible on the doctrine of the incarnation. John went back to verse 1 to pick up one of his favorite themes, the Word. God became human; God showed us his glory; God offered us grace and truth; God literally “tabernacled” among us. Remember the tabernacle in the center of the camp? It represented the place of the law, the abode of God, the source of revelation, the site of sacrifice, and the focus of worship. Now in the new covenant, Jesus provides all these.

And not only was Jesus here, but he demonstrated the glory of the One and Only. Other prophets, including John the Baptist, were sent from God, but the Word came directly from the Father’s presence. Borchert reminds us of some important implications: “This text makes it absolutely clear that the mission of the Logos was unique in the history of the world. This uniqueness of the Son makes it impossible for Christianity to be a syncretistic religion. In our mission to the world we cannot say ‘Jesus and Caesar’ or ‘Jesus and Buddha,’ and so forth. Our confession is Jesus, the one and only! The early Christians suffered and died because they refused to recognize any other pattern than that which was revealed in Jesus Christ” (Borchert, p. 121).

Finally, we cannot pass lightly over the wonderful phrase, full of grace and truth. John used the word grace again in verses 16 and 17, then never mentioned it for the rest of his Gospel! He used truth many times, but here the combination grabs us. Jesus perfectly blended two of the most important qualities of the divine nature and displayed them in human personality.[3]

1:14. The glory of the Word at the incarnation is the theme of 1:14–18. The fact recorded in verse 14 is not later in time than what has been described in the preceding verses. Rather, it is greater in love. The incarnation—and the realization of its purpose, the crucifixion—is the climax of God’s condescending grace. This is clear from the context; note verses 10, 11: “In the world he was … but the world did not acknowledge him. To his own home he came, but his own people did not welcome him.” And yet in the midst of this ungrateful world he manifested his supreme love. From the infinite sweep of eternal delight in the very presence of his Father, the Word was willing to descend into this realm of misery, to pitch his tent for a while among sinful men: “Veiled in flesh the godhead see.”

And the Word became flesh. (See also 1 John 4:2; Rom. 1:3; 8:3; 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:5–11; 1 Tim. 3:16; and Heb. 2:14. See on 1:1 for comments on “the Word.”) The verb became has a very special meaning here. Not “became” in the sense of ceasing to be what he was before. When the wife of Lot becomes a pillar of salt, she ceases to be the wife of Lot. But when Lot becomes the father of Moab and Ammon, he remains Lot. So also here: the Word becomes flesh but remains the Word, even God (see verses 1, 18). The second Person of the Trinity assumes the human nature, without laying aside the divine. John everywhere insists—over against heretics (see p. 33)—that the divine and the human nature of Christ became fully united without being fused. The true human nature of Jesus is taught throughout this Gospel (4:6, 7; 6:53; 8:40; 11:33, 35; 12:27; 13:21; 19:28). The relation of the two natures to one another will forever remain a mystery, far above our comprehension; but a better formulation than that which is found in the Symbol of Chalcedon will probably never be found:

“We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood … to be acknowledged in two natures inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably (ἀσυγχύτως, ἀτρέπτως, ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀχωρίστως); the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy fathers has handed down to us.”

The term flesh (σάρξ) has various meanings in the New Testament. In our passage it has reference to human nature, considered not as sinful (8:46), yet for a while with the curse due to sin resting upon it, so that until the ransom had been paid it is subject to weariness, pain, misery, death (4:6, 7; 11:33, 35; 12:27; 13:21; 19:30). It was that kind of “flesh” which the Word assumed in his incomprehensible, condescending love.

And dwelt among us as in a tent. These words (και ἐσκήνωσιν ἐν ἡμῖν) must not be regarded as a mere repetition of that which immediately precedes (“and the Word became flesh”). The idea is rather that the eternal Word which assumed the human nature permanently—though not permanently in its weakened condition—pitched his tent for a while among men, lived among them.

During that same period we—i.e., the evangelist and other eye-witnesses—beheld his glory. The verb beheld (ἐθεασάμεθα) indicates careful and deliberate vision which seeks to interpret its object. It refers, indeed, to physical sight; yet, it always includes a plus, the plus of calm scrutiny, contemplation, or even wonderment. It describes the act of one who does not stare absent-mindedly nor merely look quickly nor necessarily perceive comprehensively. On the contrary, this individual regards an object and reflects upon it. He scans it, examining it with care. He studies it, viewing and considering it thoughtfully (1:32; 4:35; 11:45; Acts 1:11). Thus, while Jesus was walking among them, the eye and mind of the evangelist and of other witnesses had rested on the Incarnate Word, until to some extent they had penetrated the mystery; i.e., they had seen his glory: the radiance of his grace and the majesty of his truth manifested in all his works and words (cf. 2:11), the attributes of deity shining through the veil of his human nature.

A glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. These words of verse 14 lend themselves to various interpretations.

The most natural meaning would seem to be that the glory which the eye-witnesses saw in Jesus was what could be expected with respect to One who is the only begotten from the Father. And this same Person—i.e. the only begotten from the Father—is full of grace and truth. The fact that the evangelist is actually thinking of the fulness of Christ is very clearly stated in verse 16: for of his fulness we all received grace upon grace. Thus, by reading on and on we arrive at the true meaning. We favor this interpretation for the following reasons:

(1) Jesus repeatedly declares that he came forth from God (παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ). See 6:46; 7:29; 16:27; 17:8.

(2) Unless there are sufficient reasons to do otherwise—and, indeed, there sometimes are!—it is a good thing to link a phrase with the substantive that stands closest to it. Hence, we construe from the Father as a modifier of the only begotten. And for the same reason we consider the words full of grace and truth to modify the only begotten from the Father. (Cf. Acts 6:3, 8; 7:55; 11:24.) As already pointed out, it is the fulness of this only begotten Son which receives further elaboration in verses 16 and 17, the context. (Objections against this interpretation are answered in a note. Other explanations are discussed in another note.35)

Accordingly, the glory on which John and others had fixed their adoring gaze is the proper and natural possession of the One whose name is the only begotten from the Father.

The question has often been asked: To what sonship does the term the only begotten from the Father refer? Is it the purely religious sonship, so that Jesus is here considered to have been a child of God in the same sense in which all believers are God’s children? This can be dismissed at once, for in that case the modifier “only begotten” would have no meaning. Is it, then, the Messianic sonship? But even those who maintain that the word μονογενής has nothing to do with the verb γεννάω and merely signifies that Christ was the “only” Son (the only, μόνος, member of a kin, γένος from γίνομαι), and being the only one, was therefore the beloved one, will have to admit that according to the context (see especially 1:1, 18) the sonship here indicated was present from eternity; hence, can have no reference to the Messianic office which was assumed in time. (On the question whether μονογενής should be connected with γίνομαι, to be born [Dutch: Eeniggeboren Zoon] or with γεννάω, to beget [English: only begotten Son] see G. Vos, The Self-Disclosure of Jesus, New York, 1926, pp. 218, 219.)

Is it, perhaps, the nativistic sonship that is discussed in this passage? If so, then the meaning would be that Christ’s human nature is here ascribed to the supernatural paternity of God. But in that case the evangelist would be thinking of one kind of sonship here in verse 14 and of another in verse 18, which is not probable. (See under verse 18.)

We conclude that the reference must be to Christ’s trinitarian sonship, i.e., to the fact that he is the Son of God from all eternity. This is favored by the context (1:1, 18) and by such passages as 3:16, 18, which prove that the Son was already the only begotten before his incarnation.

On this subject H. Bavinck states:

“But the name Son of God when ascribed to Christ has a far deeper meaning than the theocratic: he was not a mere king of Israel who in time became an adopted Son of God; neither was he called Son of God because of his supernatural birth, as the Socinians and Hofman held; neither is he Son of God merely in an ethical sense, as others suppose; neither did he receive the title Son of God as a new name in connection with his atoning work and resurrection, an interpretation in support of which John 10:34–36; Acts 13:32, 33; and Rom. 1:4 are cited; but he is Son of God in a metaphysical sense: by nature and from eternity. He is exalted high above angels and prophets, Matt. 13:32; 21:27; 22:2; and sustains a very special relation to God, Matt. 11:7. He is the beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased, Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; the only begotten Son, John 1:18; 3:16; 1 John 4:9 ff.; God’s own Son, Rom. 8:32; the eternal Son, John 17:5, 24; Heb. 1:5; 5:5; to whom the Father gave to have life in himself, John 5:26; equal to the Father in knowledge, Matt. 11:27; in honor, John 5:23; in creative and redemptive power, John 1:3; 5:21, 27; in work, John 10:30; and in dominion, Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; 22:29; John 16:15; 17:10; and because of this Sonship he was condemned to death, John 10:33; Matt. 26:63 ff.” (The Doctrine of God, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1951, p. 270).

Now, with reference to this only begotten One we read that he is full of grace and truth. Of grace, for when he spoke, his messages were filled with unmerited favor for the guilty (e.g., for publicans and sinners), and the same attributes were revealed in his miracles of healing, yea, in his entire life and death, considered as an atoning sacrifice whose very purpose was to merit for his people the grace of God. Of truth, for he himself was the finalreality in contrast with the shadows that had preceded him. Great, indeed, was the glory of the only begotten![4]

1:14 The Word became flesh when Jesus was born as a Baby in the manger at Bethlehem. He had always existed as the Son of God with the Father in heaven, but now chose to come into the world in a human body. He dwelt among us. It was not just a short appearance, about which there might be some mistake or misunderstanding. God actually came to this earth and lived here as a Man among men. The word “dwelt” means “tabernacled” or “pitched His tent.” His body was the tent in which He lived among men for thirty-three years.

And we beheld His glory. In the Bible, “glory” often means the bright, shining light which was seen when God was present. It also means the perfection and excellence of God. When the Lord Jesus was here on earth, He veiled His glory in a body of flesh. But there were two ways in which His glory was revealed. First, there was His moralglory. By this, we mean the radiance of His perfect life and character. There was no flaw or blemish in Him. He was perfect in all His ways. Every virtue was manifested in His life in exquisite balance. Then there was the visible outshining of His glory which took place on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1, 2). At that time, Peter, James, and John saw His face shining like the sun, and His garments gleaming like bright light. These three disciples were given a preview of the splendor which the Lord Jesus will have when He comes back to the earth and reigns for a thousand years.

When John said, “We beheld His glory”, he was referring primarily, no doubt, to the moralglory of the Lord Jesus. He and the other disciples beheld the wonder of an absolutely perfect life lived on this earth. But it is likely that John also included the incident on the Mount of Transfiguration as well. The glory which the disciples saw indicated to them that He was truly the Son of God. Jesus is the only begotten of the Father, that is, Christ is God’s unique Son. God did not have any other Son like Him. In one sense, all true believers are sons of God. But Jesus is the Son of God—in a class all by Himself. As the Son of God, He is equal to God.

The Savior was full of grace and truth. On the one hand, full of undeserved kindness for others, He was also completely honest and upright, and He never excused sin or approved evil. To be completely gracious and at the same time completely righteous is something that only God can be.[5]

1:14 The Word (Gk. logos) who was (continuous existence) God (1:1) became (point action; Gk. ginomai) flesh (Gk. sarx) (1:14). Verse 1 speaks of Christ’s nature and works being outside of space and time, before creation. Verse 14 presents the irruption of Jesus Christ into time and space, even the history of humankind. The Son of God who was from all eternity, at a point in time, took humanity to deity (Phil. 2:5–9). God became human with limitations in time and space. Jesus Christ uniquely and thoroughly identified with us as both God and man. He was fully God and yet He became fully human (He did not have sin but then sin is not part of the nature of humanity, but is an intruder). Since nothing of the essential nature of deity was lost in this event, we might better understand “became” to mean “took to Himself” flesh. John uses the word flesh for the physical nature of persons, not for the sinful disposition (unlike the apostle Paul; Rom. 8:1–11). God the Son will forever exist as a man with a resurrected body (Acts 1:11; compare 1 John 4:2, 3). God dwelt among us, that is, among the apostles. Dwelt comes from the Greek word for tent. It was used in the Greek OT for the tabernacle where the presence of God dwelt. He was not an armchair dictator issuing orders from a parapet of heaven. Rather, He was a man among humanity. In the OT, glory refers to the divine presence (Ex. 33:18). As God manifested His glory in the tabernacle, so Jesus displayed His divine presence before the apostles (18:6; 20:26, 27). Only begotten (3:16, 18) means unique, one of a kind. The same term is used of Isaac (Heb 11:17), who was not the only physical son of Abraham, but was the unique son of promise. All who trust Christ are born of God. In the Gospel of John, these “born ones” are called children of God (vv. 12, 13), but Jesus Christ is the unique Son of God. He is the only Son who is fully God. He is also full of grace and truth. When God revealed Himself to Moses, He proclaimed Himself to be “abounding in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6). As applied to Jesus Christ, this phrase marks Him as the author of perfect redemption and perfect revelation.[6]

1:14. The Word (Logos; cf. v. 1) became flesh. Christ, the eternal Logos, who is God, came to earth as man. Yet in doing so, He did not merely “appear” like a man; He became one (cf. Phil. 2:5–9). Humanity, in other words, was added to Christ’s deity. And yet Christ, in becoming “flesh,” did not change; so perhaps the word “became” (egeneto) should be understood as “took to Himself” or “arrived on the scene as.”

“Flesh” in this verse means a human nature, not sinfulness or weakness. In the Greek the words lived for a while among us recall God’s dwelling with Israel in the Old Testament. The word “lived” is eskēnōsen, from skēnē (“tabernacle”). Much as God’s presence was in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), so Jesus dwelt among people.

We have seen most naturally implies that the author was an eyewitness. His glory refers to the unique splendor and honor seen in Jesus’ life, miracles, death, and resurrection. The one and only Son (monogenous; cf. John 1:18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) means that Jesus is the Son of God in a sense totally different from a human who believes and becomes a child of God. Jesus’ sonship is unique for He is eternal and is of the same essence as the Father. The glorious revelation of God which the Logos displayed was full of grace and truth, that is, it was a gracious and truthful revelation (cf. John 1:17).[7]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 39–43). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 373). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Gangel, K. O. (2000). John (Vol. 4, p. 13). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 1, pp. 83–88). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1468). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1312). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[7] Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 273). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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