May 19, 2019
[Jhn 1:14-18 ESV] 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
I saw a cartoon comic this week that said “Pessimist – glass half empty”; “Optimist – glass half full”; “Psalmist – my cup overfloweth.”
In our passage today from John 1:14-18, the final verses of the prologue to John’s Gospel, we find a fullness of grace and truth in Jesus Christ, a cup brimming to the top, so overflowing that we receive grace upon grace. Jesus Christ, we learn, is full of grace and of truth, and through Him, God is made known.
HEADING 1. THE WORD IS MADE FLESH.
First we come to verse 14. And this is the very important culmination of all that has been said previously in John’s Gospel. We read,
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
In the previous passages heard about “the Word,” and “the Life,” and “the Light of the World.” All of these terms, we learned, apply to Jesus. And we learned that Jesus is divine, and eternal, and has been working in the world ever since the creation of the world. BUT, there was a problem. Man fell into sin and so was in darkness. Though some “sparks of light” did shine even in the darkness, man had ignored God and was living in sin.
But now, God can no longer be ignored. The Light, the very Light of the World, came into the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus is no longer merely behind the scenes, He is now the main player. He came to world, not in some form that we could not see, but as a man just like us.
And he dwelt among us. This term “dwelt,” the commentators agree, means that he “tented among us.” This might remind you of how God “tented” or “tabernacled” with the people in the Old Testament. There can be no closer physical proximity and intimacy with a people than to tent among them.
On the Appalachian Trail small groups may form, may tent together, and hike together. And VERY quickly you learn about those in your trail family. A single 8-hour hike with someone will likely lead to hearing at least their partial life story.
Theologically, the term for this idea that Christ “became flesh” or “took on flesh”; it is called the INCARNATION. Now, that word is not in the Scriptures, but it is a good word, used in our confessions and elsewhere, to describe what is going on here. The INCARNATION.
Perhaps you have gone to a Mexican restaurant and ordered ‘Carne Asada.’ And what do you get? You get MEAT. Beef, more specifically. Or, in school, probably you’ve heard of animals that are ‘Carnivores.’ What is a carnivore? It is an animal that eats MEAT, or Flesh. These words all come from the same source. Carne Asada, Carnivore, Incarnation. They all related to MEAT or Flesh.
And so when we speak of the Incarnation, we speak of Jesus taking upon himself human flesh. The second person of the Trinity took on flesh and dwelt among us.
Now, one has to be careful here. Because, with the Incarnation Christ had not only a human body, but also a human soul. The Christian Church has always held that Jesus was fully human; he had both a human body and a human soul.
With the Incarnation, we now better round out a doctrine of Christ; an understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ. Two weeks ago, I had one of the points of my sermon to be “Jesus is God.” That is, Jesus is divine. Now, we find the other half of the Biblical teaching about Jesus Christ. Jesus is MAN. The Word became flesh. He took on the human nature. But He did not cease to be God. Jesus Christ was both fully man and fully God, two natures in one person.
We read again:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
It is possible that in saying “we have seen his glory” that John is merely saying “we have see Jesus who is glorious by nature” having fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, being God himself, and being the light of the world. All of these are true. John and the other Apostles came to know these things about Christ. But, perhaps more specifically and more literally, John saw Christ’s glory at what is called THE TRANSFIGURATION.
Do you remember what that is? Or possibly you’ve never heard of the transfiguration? I had to refresh my memory on this. The transfiguration was a time when John, and two other apostles, quite literally saw the glory of Jesus Christ.
In Matthew’s gospel we read about the transfiguration when Jesus becomes radiant in glory:
[Mat 17:1-2 ESV] 1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
And in Luke’s gospel:
[Luk 9:32 ESV] Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory
The Incarnation and the Transfiguration then show the Light of the World to be in the world and shining in an unmistakable glory. An unmistakable glory that is of the only begotten son of the Father. While there is a sense in which we are all children of God—and I preached this last week when we saw that we must be BORN again, born of God. While there is sense in which we who believe are all children of God, Jesus Christ is the only-begotten. He is not a created son, but eternally begotten of the father as one of the persons of the Triune God. And, as being divine, He is truly glorious.
HEADING 2: A BRIEF INTERLUDE – JOHN BORE WITNESS
Now, when we reach verse 15 we take a step back to John the Baptist. Remember, he is “the Witness” we heard of in the earlier passage. And we now read:
15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”)
While John the Baptist was the greatest of all men up to his time, he quickly announced that Jesus is greater. Jesus is greater because He is God. He was, he existed, before John. He was the creator Himself. And so John is merely the witness of Christ who is the Light.
HEADING 3: GRACE AND TRUTH MADE KNOWN
The importance for us in all of this, the importance for us in the Incarnation, and the glory of Christ, is that in him grace and truth are made known to us.
Grace and truth are two things are are closely connected with salvation.The Bible teaches that salvation comes through believing God’s TRUTH in the gospel, and through believing one receives God’s saving GRACE.” So in Jesus Christ the TRUTH of gospel is made clearly known. Though shadows of it were visible in the Old Testament, we now know more fully this truth. And the truth that we know is that salvation is by GRACE alone.
This truth is well seen in Acts 15:11 which reads:
But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus
Grace is well-defined as “God’s unmerited favor.” [REPEAT: “God’s unmerited favor.”] God, for His own purposes, not for any merit on our part, has shown us favor through Jesus Christ. And this grace is greater than all our sin. God loved us even though we were sinners.
So if you are a sinner — and I have a pretty good idea that you are, since ALL people are sinners — since you are a sinner, know that God’s grace is greater than your sin.
I told a friend this story recently. My nephew, when he was just a few years old, would put his hands out wide. His father asked, “How big is your sin.” And he’d put his hands out wide. And then his father would ask, “How big is God’s grace.” And he’d stretch his hands out even further. This marvelous grace is greater than all of our sin.
Like the Psalmist who’s cup overfloweth, we have all received, as the text says, “grace upon grace.”
We read in verse 16:
16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
From his fullness — his cup overfloweth. Though we receive grace from God, he is not depleted of grace.
Grace upon grace. Other translations better say “grace instead of grace.” Some commentators explain that this means we receive a “grace ever new and greater.” This is true. We are constantly receiving God’s grace. But, for a fuller understanding of verse 16, it is important that we read it in context with verse 17.
Verse 17 says:
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
This is a strong “for” or “because.” It connects the two verses.
From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace. For (or because) the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
So, in context we see that the Law of Moses was itself a type of grace. Though not a saving grace, it was a blessing to man to have the law. But now, there is a new grace “instead of” that grace. The law came through Moses, but grace and truth through Jesus Christ. THIS is a saving grace. A new and overflowing grace.
How do we know God’s grace and truth? Through Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus Christ that God’s grace and truth are made known, and it is through Jesus Christ that God himself is made known.
HEADING 4: GOD MADE KNOWN
We finally come to the last verse—verse 18—of our text which reads:
18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
We read last week in the shorter catechism, during our Sunday school hour, that God is a spirit. God does not a physical body, and so cannot be seen.
But now, Christ has made Him known.
Though we can’t see God directly, we can see Him through His work. It is like the wind. We cannot see the wind, but we can see a flag fluttering, we can see the umbrella flipping itself inside-out. We can see the effects of the wind.
Now we see that Christ, who is at the Father’s side, has made God known. It is as Jesus says in John 14:9: if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.
Jesus has made known, or declared, the Father. He has done this through the Incarnation and the Transfiguration as well as the Crucifixion and Resurrection. The Word became Flesh and Dwelt among us so that we can know the truth and the grace of God.
Now, I want to mention two applications, or at least “two things to think about” regarding this passage.
1. It is right to treat your physical body well. [REPEAT: It is right to treat your physical body well.]
While “flesh” is often synonymous in the Scripture with our sinful corrupt nature, that doesn’t mean that we are to treat the body poorly and elevate the soul. Man is both body and soul. And both body and soul have become corrupted in the fall.
So we see that Christ came to the world, not as just a spirit, but also in the flesh. This is not the sinful nature that is being referred to, but rather it is referring to the human body. Christ took on flesh, both body and soul, to redeem us. And he did not consider the body, the flesh, as something beneath him.
We likewise are not to treat the body as something without dignity, but we are to praise God for the physical bodies he has given us, and we are to take care of them, to take care of ourselves. As the Scriptures say, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
While bodily health is not some legalistic requirement for salvation, it is a good thing to attend to. We are not to spend our entire day in the gym like some who get obsessed with the body, but neither are to spend our entire day on the couch! If we are able that is. Activity is good for the body and should be done in accord with your abilities. And healthy eating is good for the body as well. The body is to be considered a gift from God, not to be despised.
So, it is right to treat your physical body well.
And a second application, or item to consider:
2. We need limitless grace, because we keep sinning. Fortunately we have a savior who is full of grace.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace of God, has been shown. And it is powerful. Through Jesus Christ, God forgives even the most hardened criminals. He forgives the repeat offenders. He forgives even us, all of us lowly sinners. So take heart in God’s grace. Your sins are forgiven in Christ. This bears repeating: Your sins are forgiven in Christ. Alleluia.
So we conclude with this:
Grace and Truth. These things we’ll hear much more about as we continue in John Gospel. Grace and Truth. But it starts here, at the Incarnation. We are saved by Grace alone. This is a great truth. But it starts with the Incarnation. The penalty for sin is death. And so to be saved from this penalty and from the wrath of God, we need another to take that punishment. For our salvation to be worked out, a major first step is that Christ is born into the world, incarnate. The Word is made flesh. We then have a Christ to be our savior. He must come into the world in order to accomplish God’s plan of salvation in the world.
And he did just that. His glory has been seen, and grace and truth are made known. And God has been made known in Jesus Christ. Amen.