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01-TheWordWasMadeFlesh

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Chapter 1

Christmas  2008

The Word Was Made Flesh

John 1:1-18[1]

I.     Introduction

I.  IntroductionA.      Views of ChristmasB.      Scripture perspectiveII.  Five truths About Word-Made-FleshA. His NameB. His Pre-existenceC. His IdentityD. His PowerE. He Is Life & LightIII. Point of ActionA.      No ResponseB.      Positive ResponseC.      It’s all goodV. Point of Action

I would like to draw your attention to the first chapter of the gospel of John as we begin a minnie series focusing on Christmas. 

A.     There are many views of Christmas. 

§         A little child sees Christmas as bright lights, trees, Santa, sort of a mystical magical time full of fun, full of anticipation and excitement like no other time during the year...a time to receive gifts. 

§         Teenagers look at Christmas as a time to be with friends, go to parties, be out of school, and get new cloths. 

§         Adults see Christmas as a time with family and friends, a time of overdrawn checkbooks and overcharged credit cards...shopping malls, trying to imagine whether all your relatives have gained weight or lost weight and what size they should be given without being insulted. 

§         Businesses see Christmas as a time to deplete the inventory and raise the profits. 

B.    Scripture perspective

As we turn to the pages of Scripture Christmas takes a different twist:

§         Romans 1:2-3 Paul sees the birth of Christ as the time that the word of the prophets in the holy Scripture came to pass.[2] 

§         Philippians 2 Paul sees Christmas as a time when God condescends in great humiliation to come into the world.

§         The writer of Hebrews, in 2:14 sees it as the time when Satan is going to be destroyed,[3]

§         In Hebrews 10 the writer sees Christmas as the great event in which God provides a sacrificial offering for the sins of men. 

§         1 John in his epistle, 4:14 talks about it being the birth of the Savior of the world.[4] 

§         In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul says it is the time when Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.  And then he adds a very personal note: "Of whom I am chief."[5]

C.     John 1:1-18

That brings us to John’s Gospel, another great Christmas passage. 

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 through 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 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 as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about 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 saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

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.’" 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 one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. 

I picked this passage for two reasons:

§         One, it is a great Christmas passage. The key verse is v14: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." This is the meaning of Christmas--God coming into the world, born of virgin, in the person of Jesus Christ.

§         The second reason that I want us to look at this passage is that it is full of truths about Jesus that we desperately need to embrace.

This is especially important because there are a lot of non-Christian groups giving the impression that Jesus mixes well with all religions. You hear this especially from Muslim leaders who point out that they honor Jesus more than we do because they do not think God would allow him to suffer the awful death of a criminal on the cross.

So it is crucial that Christians know Jesus Christ very well, and can tell the difference between the Christ of the Bible and the Christ which other religious groups say about Him.

What I would like us to do is take a closer look at Jesus from one who knew him on earth more intimately than anyone else, the apostle John . . .

II.   Five truths about the "Word-Made-Flesh" in this passage.

I have picked out five truths concerning Jesus, “the Word made flesh”, and then well contrast two starkly different responses that you might give to him this morning.

My aim is that you might see Jesus for who he is and treasure Him as your all-surpassing Treasure.

| II.                  IntroductionA.      Views of ChristmasB.      Scripture perspectiveII.  Five truths About Word-Made-FleshA. His NameB. His Pre-existenceC. His IdentityD. His PowerE. He Is Life & LightIII. Point of ActionD.      No ResponseE.      Positive Response |

So let’s begin with five truths about the "Word-Made-Flesh" in this passage.
 

A.     His Name: The Name of the Word-Made-Flesh on Earth Is Jesus Christ

V17: "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

1.      His Name: Jesus

In Matthew 1:20ff "Jesus" was the name Joseph was told to give the child by the angel of the Lord because it means "savior." "An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’"

2.      His Title: Christ

"Christ" was the title that referred to the long-awaited king of the Jews who would give victory to the people and bear the government of the world on his shoulders. When Andrew, Peter’s brother, told him that he had met Jesus he said (in John 1:41), "‘We have found the Messiah’ [and John adds, which means Christ)."

So the person we are speaking of in these verses is known in the Bible and throughout the world as "Jesus Christ." And each name carries tremendous meaning--He is Savior and King.
 

B.    | Robertson’s Word Pictures Three times in this sentence John uses this imperfect of eimi [was] to be which conveys no idea of origin for God or for the Logos, simply continuous existence. Quite a different verb (egeneto, became) appears in verse 14 for the beginning of the Incarnation of the Logos. See the distinction sharply drawn in 8:58 "before Abraham came (genestai) I am" (eimi, timeless existence |

His pre-extence:  The Word-Made-Flesh Existed as God and with God before He Was Born as a Man on Earth

V1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

1.      In The Beginning

John’s opening words, ‘In the Beginning . . . “  force us to ask the question, what does John mean? What “beginning” is He referring to?

I think John is taking us back to the beginning in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created..."  In that beginning, the only beginning we can know about because before the creation there was no beginning, there was only God.  So in the beginning, the only beginning we know, the beginning of God's creation, was the Word. 

John evidently has allusion here, and means to apply to "the Word" an expression which is there applied to God. In both places it clearly means "before creation," "before the world was made," "when as yet there was nothing." The meaning is, that the Word had an existence before the world was created. This is not spoken of the man Jesus, but of that which became a man, or was incarnate, John 1:14. The Hebrews, by expressions like this, commonly denoted eternity. Thus the eternity of God is described (Psalms 90:2): Before the mountains were brought forth, &c.; and eternity is commonly expressed by the phrase, before the foundation of the world. Whatever is meant by the term "Word," it is clear that it had an existence before creations. It is not, then, a creature or created being, and must be, therefore, uncreated and eternal. There is but one Being that is uncreated, and Jesus must be therefore divine. Compare the Saviour's own declarations respecting himself in the following places: John 8:58; 17:5; 6:62; 3:13; 6:46; 8:14; 16:28.

 In other words, when the beginning began, the Word already was.  That statement surpasses our ability to understand.  We just accept it.  When the heavens and earth were created the Word already existed.  From all eternity The Word was already there.

2.      The Word was with God

There have always been groups who resist the mystery in these two phrases: "the Word was with God," and "the Word was God."

§         They say you can’t have it both ways. Either he was God, or he was with God.

§         If he was with God, he wasn’t God. And if he was God, he wasn’t with God.

§         So to escape the truth sometimes they change the wording (as the Jehovah’s Witnesses do) so that it reads, "The Word was with God, and the Word was a god."

The term Logov is applied to Christ only in John 1:1,14; Revelation 19:13; 1 John 1:1 "concerning the Word of life" (an incidental argument for identity of authorship). There is a possible personification of "the Word of God" in Hebrews 4:12. But the personal pre-existence of Christ is taught by Paul (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:17) and in Hebrews 1:2 and in John 17:5. This term suits John's purpose better than sopia (wisdom) and is his answer to the Gnostics who either denied the actual humanity of Christ (Docetic Gnostics) or who separated the aeon Christ from the man Jesus (Cerinthian Gnostics). The pre-existent Logos "became flesh" (sarx egeneto, verse 14) and by this phrase John answered both heresies at once.

But there are grammatical reasons, and contextual reasons from other parts of the Gospel of John and other books of the Bible for why we don’t accept such teaching.

What v1 teaches is . . . that the one we know as Jesus Christ, before he was made flesh, was God, and that the Father was also God. There are two persons and one God. This is part of the truth which we know as the Trinity. This is why we worship Jesus Christ and say with Thomas in John 20:28, "My Lord and my God." 

C.    His identity: Before He Became Flesh, John Called Him "The Word"

V1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

1.      Was ‘with’ God

Not only did ‘the Word’ exist in eternity past, John tells us that the Word was with God.  

The word ‘with’ is the idea of being ‘face to face’ . . . it is the idea of equality . . . not under, not looking up, not looking down . . . but standing on level . . . eye to eye . . . it is the idea of intimate personal equal communion with the eternal God . . . But he doesn’t stop there, point blank, he says “and the word was God.”

2.      | The Logos is John's explanation of the creation of the universe. The author of Hebrews (Hebrews 1:2) names God's Son as the one "through whom he made the ages." Paul pointedly asserts that "the all things were created in him" (Christ) and "the all things stand created through him and unto him" (Colossians 1:16). Hence it is not a peculiar doctrine that John here enunciates. In 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul distinguishes between the Father as the primary source (ex ou) of the all things and the Son as the intermediate agent as here (di' ou). |

The Word

Why does John start his gospel in this manner?

The power that creates and sustains life in the universe is the Logos. This is what Paul means by the perfect passive verb ektistai (stands created) in Colossians 1:16. This is also the claim of Jesus to Martha (John 11:25). This is the idea in Hebrews 1:3 "bearing (upholding) the all things by the word of his power." Once this language might have been termed unscientific, but not so now after the spiritual interpretation of the physical world by Eddington and Jeans. Usually in John zwh means spiritual life, but here the term is unlimited and includes all life; only it is not biov (manner of life), but the very principle or essence of life. That is spiritual behind the physical and to this great scientists today agree. It is also personal intelligence and power. Some of the western documents have estin here instead of hn to bring out clearly the timelessness of this phrase of the work of the Logov.

Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV) helps us: 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.[6]

God places a high priority as to the Word. One reason is that he puts a high value on clarity and communication. I think the apostle John wanted us to conceive of the Son of God as existing both for the sake of communication between him and the Father, and for the sake of appearing in history as God’s communication to us.

One might say, in summary, calling Jesus "the Word" implies that he is "God-Expressing-Himself." To put it another way: If you want to see the Word of God, if you want to know the creative power of God, if you want to see that Word which brought the universe into existence which gives the mind of God to men, then look, He's here. 

D.    His power: All That Is not God Was Created through the Word

V3: "All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."

There are at least two reasons John says this about the Word.

1.    One is that it underscores that he is God. When we think of God, we think immediately of Creator. God is the origin and explanation of all that is except God. So when John says, "All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made," means he is God and he is not created.

2.    The other reason comes out in verse 10: "He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him." The point here seems to underline the seriousness of the world’s guilty blindness, and the greatness of the world’s evil in rejecting Jesus. He comes to us as our Maker, and still the world will not receive him.

The light shineth in darkness. Darkness, in the Bible, commonly denotes ignorance, guilt, or misery. See Isaiah 9:1; 2, Matthew 4:16; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 5:8; 11; Revelation 13:12. It refers here to a wicked and ignorant people. When it is said that "the light shineth in darkness," it is meant that the Lord Jesus came to teach an ignorant, benighted, and wicked world: This has always been the case. It was so when he sent his prophets; so during his own ministry; and so in every age since. His efforts to enlighten and save men have been like light struggling to penetrate a thick, dense cloud; and though a few rays may pierce the gloom, yet the great mass is still an impenetrable shade.

So John opens up his gospel, his Christmas story by saying the child is none other than the eternal God who made everything, who is self‑possessed of life eternal and who granted life and existence to all that is...for as Acts 17 puts it, "It is in Him we live and move and have our being."
 

E.     He is Life and Light: The Word-Made-Flesh Has Life in Himself, and That Life Becomes the Light of Men

V4: "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men."

All life originates in the Word. Simply put: because he is the Creator of all things. But here the focus is on spiritual life.

In other words, there are two overwhelming problems we humans face: we are spiritually dead and therefore spiritually blind. John is saying here: Jesus is the remedy to both of these problems: He has the life we need, and this life becomes the Light we need.

John 5:21 says, "The Son gives life to whom he will." In other words, he does for us spiritually what he did for Lazarus when he stood before Lazarus’ tomb and said to the dead man, "Lazarus, come forth" (John 11:43).

And how does that life given by Jesus relate to light? In two ways.

1.    One is that it enables us to see. When dead people are given life, they see. Or, to change the image, when you are born, you see. So it is spiritually. Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). So first Jesus gives life and then that life becomes light – the ability to see spiritual reality.

2.    The other way that the life Jesus gives relates to the light is not that it enables you to see, but that Jesus himself is the Light that is seen.

What, after all, are we blind to, when we are unbelievers? We are blind to the truth and beauty and worth – the glory – of Jesus. So when John says, "In him was life and that life was the Light of men," he probably means that Jesus Christ, the Word-Made-Flesh, is both the power to see spiritual splendor and the splendor seen.

That’s what v14 says, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory." And that is what Jesus prayed for in John 17:24, "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory." And that’s what he claimed when he said twice, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12; 9:5).

The personal experience of John and of others who did recognize Jesus as the Shekinah glory (doxa) of God as James, the brother of Jesus, so describes him (James 2:1). John employs teaomai again in 1:32 (the Baptist beholding the Spirit coming down as a dove) and 1:38 of the Baptist gazing in rapture at Jesus. So also 4:35; 11:45; 1 John 1:1; 4:12,14. By this word John insists that in the human Jesus he beheld the Shekinah glory of God who was and is the Logos who existed before with God. By this plural John speaks for himself and all those who saw in Jesus what he did.

So the Word-Made-Flesh has life in himself, and that life becomes the Light of men. He is the power to see and the splendor seen.

Skip down to v18 . . . John says, "He that believeth on Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." 

Then this explanation, "This is the condemnation that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.  For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light lest his deeds should be reproved, but he that doeth truth cometh to the light that his deeds may be manifest that they are wrought in God." 

So there John expands on that thought that light came into the world and men loved darkness rather than light but even in their love of the darkness, the darkness could not put out the light.  He is life and Light: the living power to see and the all-satisfying splendor to be seen.

III.  Point of Action

 So who is this child?  John says,

§         first of all, The Promised One—to save His people from their sins. 

§         Secondly, He is the pre-existent one. 

§         He is The Spoken Word. Eternity has come into time. 

§         He is Power: He created everything. All things exist, came into being, because of him.  

§         He is Life: And we know it because the light has shined in the darkness and the darkness couldn't put it out.  The world knows the light came.  They can try to deny it but they cannot extinguish it.  The world may deny till its blue in the face that the light came but the light did come.

That being so, what are the responses you might give to all this revelation about Jesus Christ, the Word-Made-Flesh?   

The whole point of the coming of the logos was to bring people into intimacy with the living God.  And that's why the Apostle Paul says that we are joint heirs with Him.  We are sons of God crying "Abba, Father."  John says in 1 John 3 that we'll be like Him for we see Him as He is.  We are drawn into intimacy, that His fullness dwells in us, that we possess the divine nature.  He's made us children.

A.     One Response: I Do not Know Him and I Do not Receive Him

One is described in v10-11, "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."

You might here this and say, "I do not know him and I do not receive him." That is a very frightening things so say about your Maker and your Life and your Light. At the very least I plead with you, Don’t do say that lightly this Christmas. 

B.    Another Response: I Know Him and I Receive Him

The other response is found in v12-13, "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."

This is the response I pray for this morning. Receive this great Word-Made-Flesh. Receive him as Savior and King and God and Word and Creator and Life and Light. And all that God is for you in him!

Christmas is like God sending his Son into the world to find all the Bin Ladens of the world, hiding in the caves of darkness and death. Instead of throwing flames into the caves, he first stands at the mouth of the caves and says,

"Come out into the light for I have died on the cross for sinners; if you will receive me as your God and your Substitute and your Treasure, my death counts for your death and my righteousness counts as your righteousness, and you will have eternal life."

That's the Christmas story according to John.  Here’s the final exam question:  Do you really understand the meaning of Christmas? 

An ill prepared college student took an exam just before Christmas vacation. He wasn't ready for the exam so he just wrote on his paper, "Only God knows the answers to these questions.  Merry Christmas." 

The professor wrote back, "God gets 100, you get zero."  I'm afraid that Christmas is that way for a lot of people.  God gets 100, they get zero. 

The test of Christmas, your test today.  Who is Christ?  Given you all the answers.  If you don't pass the test it's because you will not to, it's because you choose not to.  Oh, come to Christ, receive Him, believe on His name and become a child of God.

 Let’s Pray

Father, we pray that You'll bring to the prayer room those that You would desire to come.  And, Lord, that all of us might see this season in a new and fresh and wonderful new way, behind the history to the theology of what really happened 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem.  Do Your work in every life, we give You glory in Christ's name.  Amen. 


----

[1] John Piper, “The Word Was Made Flesh”  Desiring God 2001; John MacArthur, The Word Made Flesh, http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/1295

[2] Romans 1:2-3 (ASV) 2 which he promised afore through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,

[3] Hebrews 2:14 (ASV) 14 Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

[4] 1 John 4:14 (ASV) 14 And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

[5] 1 Timothy 1:15 (ASV) 15 Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief:

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.

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