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And God Came Down (John 1:1, 14)

December 4, 2016 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: The Essentials: One Lord

Topic: John Passage: John 1:1–1:14

And God Came Down
John 1:1, 14
(One Lord: No One Like You)
December 4th, 2016

 

I. The Beginning of the Christmas Story

If someone were to ask you to tell them the beginning of the original Christmas Story, the story of the first Christmas, where would you start? Would you start with Caesar's census and Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem? Maybe you would you start with angel appearing to Joseph, or the angel appearing to Mary, or the angel appearing to Zechariah? Maybe like Matthew's Gospel, you would start with the genealogy of Joseph. Or maybe taking your cue from the Old Testament quotations in Matthew, you would go back to the OT prophecies that speak of the Messiah's coming and birth.

You wouldn't necessarily be wrong if you started to tell the story at any of these points. But it wouldn't be the best place to start. It wouldn't give you the full picture, the big picture we absolutely need if we want to understand the earth-shattering significance of Christmas.

So what would be the best place to begin? Where should we turn? Well, instead of turning to the traditional Christmas gospels, Matthew and Luke, we should look to the opening words of John's gospel. Let's look together this morning at John 1.

 

II. The Passage: “The Word Became Flesh” (1:1, 14)

We've already heard the opening words of John's Gospel this morning. But listen to them one more time. And as you do, think about why they serve as the very best beginning to the original Christmas Story. This is how John begins his Gospel...

[1:1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... [now drop down to verse 14]...[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.

Now think about this: John chose to begin his Gospel in this way. He doesn't talk about Joseph and Mary. He doesn't talk about angels or shephers or mangers. He doesn't cite OT prophecies or lay out a lengthy geneaology. His entire Gospel, all twenty-one chapters of it, like the other Gospels, has one aim, one goal. He summarizes that goal in John 20:31...

...but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

To accomplish that goal, John does not waste any time in revealing to his readers the inexhaustible depths of Jesus. He does not slowly accelerate. This entire Gospel begins going 150 miles an hour!

What do I mean by that? John begins by establishing for his readers that this whole book describing the ministry, and death, and resurrection of a Jewish rabbi named Jesus is, in fact, a book about God himself.

Listen to this phrase we find in four OT passages: “the LORD (Yhwh) came down” (Genesis 11:5), “the LORD (Yhwh) came down” (Exodus 19:20); “the LORD (Yhwh) came down” (Numbers 11:25), “the LORD (Yhwh) came down” (Number 12:5). In light of this, the prophet Isaiah cried out, Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down... (Isaiah 64:1)

In the opening chapter of his Gospel, John picks up this same theme and tells us that the Christmas Story is a story of earth-shattering, universe-shaking, mind-blowing proportions; it is the story of God himself coming down. How does John lay this out? If we run John's reasoning backwards, he does this in three steps: 1) Jesus is the Son, 2) The Son is the Word, and 3) the Word is God.

Therefore, when John lays that foundation, the inescapable conclusion is that when his readers read or hear throughout his Gospel about Jesus saying this or doing this, they are, in fact, reading about or hearing about what God said and what God did. Isn't that amazing?

God came down at Christmas. Let's dig into this a bit more and see how John's argument unfolds in our main verses. As always, we will use the context, we will use the other verses from this first part of chapter one, to make sense of our main verses. So here's how John lays things out. John tell us...

 

1. The Son is God Because He was “In the Beginning” (v. 1a)

The opening words of John 1:1 are intended to be familiar. “In the beginning” is undoubtedly meant to point us back to Genesis 1:1, which of course speaks about the beginning of everything; of all creation. The significance of this setting is confirmed by the following verses of John 1:

He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (vs. 2-4)

So when John is talking about Jesus as the Son as the Word, he wants his readers to know that the Word cannot be placed in the category of creation or created thing. This is for two reasons: 1) before anything existed, He already was; and 2) everything that was made was made through Him. In fact, the only reason there is life is because of Him. The author of the book of Hebrews confirms these same truths in his chapter 1 opening (Hebrews 1:1-3)...

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 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. 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.

Such things can only be true of God, because everything else has been created, whether things seen or unseen. All things have a beginning because of Him who has no beginning. All things have life because of One who is life. But there's more. John reveals...


2. The Son is God Because He is “the Word” (v. 1b)

John could not be clearer about this. Verse 14 makes it clear that the Word is “the only Son”. But verse 1 tells us this about the Son: and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. So John is stressing how the word is both distinct from God and one with God. Of course, this can be very confusing for us. How is someone with someone else, but also is that someone else.

It is statements like this in the Bible that led the early church to formulate what we know as the doctrine of the Trinity. This idea simply explains how the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. But there is only God, not three. So we have one being who is made up of three distinct persons.

Even though every earthly analogy must inherently fall short of describing such a lofty, spiritual idea, I've always felt the one that comes closest to helping us understand this is the idea of a musical chord. When you play for example, a C-chord on the piano, you are playing three distinct notes at the same time, C, E, and G. You are hearing one sound, but that sound is composed of three distinct notes. They are inseparable from the sound, but nevertheless, distinct.

The same is true with the Word. He was with God before everything that was made was made. But at the same time, as we already talked about in terms of the creation, He was not only with God, but must be God as well.

Why does John call him “the Word”. Well, the context seems to emphasize the fact that He is “the Word” because through Him, God created everything. The repeated refrain in the Genesis 1 creation account is “And God said...”. God created all things through His “Word”. And now, if the Word has become flesh, it must mark the beginning of a new creation. But look at where John goes next in verse 14...

 

3. The Son is God Because He is “from the Father” (v. 14b)

As we've already talked about in regard to verse 14, the Word is identified by John as also being the “Son”. This is important because over and over and over in John's Gospel, Jesus is referred to or refers to himself as the “Son”, or the “Son of God”, and sometimes the “Son of Man”. Chapter 1, verse 14 is the key we need to help us know that this Gospel is talking all about what “the Word” did on earth.

So the Word is “the only Son from the Father”. This is part of the language of distinction, like we saw in verse 1: “the Word was with God”. But how does show the Son is God? Well first, it is a matter of kind. My sons and I are distinct, but we are the same in the sense we are human. The Father and the Son are distinct, but they are the same in the sense they are God. John confirms this for a few verses later, in 1:18...No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

We hear more about the Son's relationship with the Father in chapter 17, where Jesus talks about what it was like “in the beginning”. He prays...

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed...[and also] Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

The Father loved the Son in the glory they shared before anything else that is ever was.
But there's one more link to connect here. John also tells reveals...

 

4. Jesus is God Because in Him “the Word Became Flesh” (v. 14a)

Remember what we said earlier about John's argument: 1) Jesus is the Son, 2) The Son is the Word, and 3) the Word is God.

The link between eternity past and the first Christmas is found right there at the beginning of verse 14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. Mary's miraculous conception and the birth of her firstborn is exactly what John is talking about here. Remember how the angel Gabriel explained this to Mary in Luke in chapter 1: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

To be clear, Jesus was not there “in the beginning” in the sense that Jesus is the Jewish man, the human being born to Mary. But at the same time, Jesus is the Son, who in turn is “the Word”, the same “Word [who] became flesh and dwelt among us”. So in that sense, He was there “in the beginning” with God.

So listen to how John connects all of this to the man Jesus, the same “Lamb of God” that John the Baptizer will point to in the next section of chapter 1. Look at John 1:14-17...

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.

 

III. Grace Upon Grace

So it's those verses that brings us full circle from “the Word” who was there “in the beginning”, to the birth of Jesus at Christmas, to Jesus, the Son of God, dwelling among us.

Remember what we said about the beginning of the Christmas Story? The Christmas Story is a story of earth-shattering, universe-shaking, mind-blowing proportions; it is the story of God himself coming down. Is that how you think about the Christmas Story? Is that what you see when you look, with eyes of faith, at that baby in the manger?

If it is, look at what John tells us about why this coming down of God is so important.

Remember, Exodus 19 also spoke about God coming down on Mount Sinai when He gave the Law to Moses and Israel.

But that's precisely why John wants to show the critical contrast. Remember the end of verse 14: He is the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Why does John highlight “grace and truth”? Well, look again at verse 17...For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

So when God came down at Sinai, condemnation and death were the result, because we received exactly what we deserved as sinners. But when God came down at Christmas, forgiveness and life were the result, because we receive the exact opposite of what we deserve as sinners. That's grace.

To be clear, grace does not ignore the truth about the rightness of God's law, or our failure to keep God's law. Jesus was “full of grace and truth”. Grace is only possible because the Word, because the Son, because Jesus both fulfilled the law's requirements and accepted the law's punishment...on our behalf.

John brings it all to head in verse 16. Christmas is about God's gift to us: Jesus, the Word who “became flesh”. But through that Gift we receive another gift. John 1:16...

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Did you hear that? No exceptions: “we have all received”. No limitations: “grace upon grace”. A heaping, lavish abundance of grace. And where does it come from? “From his fullness”. Isn't that what we've been talking about this morning, the “fullness” of Jesus Christ?

Let's review: 1. The Son is God Because He was “In the Beginning” (v. 1a), 2. The Son is God Because He is “the Word” (v. 1b), 3. The Son is God Because He is “from the Father” (v. 14b), and 4. The Son is God Because He is “from the Father” (v. 14b) What does this tell us?

It is the light and heat of Godhood that burns in the grace and truth Jesus brought. The quote-un-quote 'fullness' of men and angels could never accomplish the no exceptions, no limitations rescue we so desperately need.

When certain groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses argue that Jesus is not God, they are undermining the very foundation of our redemption. There is no real fullness apart from Him.

So what do we do with all this? We do exactly what you probably did a week and a half ago on Thanksgiving. Like that day, this morning we also stand in front of a great feast, a table of fullness, of heaping, lavish abundance. What's on the table? Truth, and grace upon grace upon grace.

So if you haven't yet eaten, what should you do? You should take a plate and dig in. And if you have already begun to eat, what should you do? You should savor, you should rejoice, you should give thanks. This morning, God is inviting you to the table. Come and receive “of His fullness”. Turn away from the world's empty offerings. Admit you are desperately hungry. Trust Him for what he offers.

And as you join us at the table, look who is always there, at Christmas and throughout the year: Immanuel, "God with us". Let's thank God for Him this morning.