And The Word Became Flesh

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

John 1:14 RSV

They greatly err who suppose that John differed from the synoptics regarding the virgin birth of our Lord, for it is in this verse recorded that the Word who was God did in fact become flesh, and that he was “the only begotten” of the Father!

John’s terminology here is fantastic.

He did not use any of the terminology employed by the synoptics, and yet he stated here the doctrine of the virgin birth in terms that were suggested by his presentation of Christ as the divine Word.

That the author was an eye-witness of Christ’s glory is affirmed in the parenthesis.

Significantly, the pronoun “we” indicates that others besides the author had opportunity to witness the Word incarnate; and thus the statement here has the weight of a confession by ALL the apostles of the deity and Godhead of Jesus Christ.

“The Word became flesh” connects with John 1:1,2 and means that God became a man.

This is John’s statement of the doctrine of the incarnation, the central mystery of our holy religion.

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.

Thus, our Lord was perfect in Godhead and perfect in manhood, and yet one Person.

“Flesh” as used here simply means human nature in possession of a body but does not imply any taint of sin (Romans 8:3).

This assumption of a human body by our Lord was of his own volition, as attested in Hebrews 2:16 and Philippians 2:7.

“Flesh,” as used by John in this verse, carries with it none of the implications of Paul’s frequent usage of the term, a distinction that Paul himself carefully preserved.

It means the genuine, perfect, holy, human nature of our Lord. Thus, in this single verse, John refuted all of the Gnostic disparagement of man’s physical nature.

“And dwelt among us” may imply a great deal more than the English words denote, because:

The Greek word (translated “dwelt”) derived from the noun for “tent,” is often used without any reference to its etymology; but so allusive a writer as John may well have been thinking of the tabernacle in the wilderness where the Lord dwelt with Israel (Exodus 25:8-9; 40:34), and more particularly of that pillar of cloud above the tent of meetings, typifying the visible dwelling of the Lord among his people.

On account of this, some translators, following the Greek more exactly, render it “tabernacled among us.”

The idea is that Christ’s earthly sojourn was not a fleeting, or illusory, appearance, but a sustained and continued existence as a man among human beings, giving his contemporaries every opportunity to observe and evaluate his life and mission.

“And we beheld his glory” The verb “beheld” does not refer to some casual or incomplete observance.

The verb “beheld” contains the root of the word “theater” and connotes more than a casual glance.

It involves careful scrutiny of what is before one in order to understand its significance.

The incarnate Logos was studied under all possible conditions, favorable, and unfavorable.

All the information that human investigation could produce was made available by his willingness to be questioned and observed.

There can be little doubt that John here referred to the transfiguration; but the glory of Christ included far more than that.

Not merely the visible glory of the Transfiguration and the Ascension, but the moral and spiritual splendor of his unique life, which revealed the nature of the invisible Father.

It was not a reflected glory, as would have been the case had he been a mere human saint or prophet, but it was the glory of God’s only begotten Son, and therefore God’s own glory, for Christ and the Father are one.

“Only begotten” is unique to the apostle John, and is used in John 1:18; John 3:16-18, and 1 John 4:9.

As noted above, such a title could never have been used except by one who understood and accepted the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ.

The unique authority and glory of Christ also appear in this, because such a title excludes the notion that any human being, or any angel, could be the Son of God in the sense that Jesus is.

The combination of “Grace and Truth” recalls the description of Jehovah, Exodus 34:6, and is not infrequent in the Old Testament.

As applied to the Lord, the phrase marks him as the author of perfect Redemption and perfect Revelation. Grace corresponds with the idea of revelation of God as love (1 John 4:8,16) by him who is Life; and TRUTH with that of the revelation of God as light (1 John 1:5) by him who is himself Light.

In the Beginning was the Word

And Jesus came and said to them,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

Matthew 28:18‭-‬20 RSV

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