For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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 And 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.
Let’s begin at verse 14 to see the main point of this paragraph. “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.” Go back to verse 1 to recall who the Word refers to. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). So the Word refers to God the Son.
I use the term Son because the term is used here in verse 14: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” So the Word is the Son of God.
One God, Three Persons
Muslims stumble over this word Son, as do many others. Some of them think we mean that God had sex with Mary and produced a son. That is not what the Bible means. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word.” That’s the Son of God. And he did not have a beginning. He was there in the beginning. He was there as far back as you can go—to eternity. And verse 3 says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” That means that he was not made. He is not part of creation in any way. So here is what we know about the Son of God: 1) He is God. 2) The Father is also God. 3) The Son is not the Father; he was with the Father. 4) He is uncreated and eternal.
There is so much more to say about the doctrine of the Trinity—the teaching that God exists as one God in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But keep that much in your mind and heart for now. The Son and the Father are one God, but they are two Persons. They have one divine nature. They are one God with two centers of consciousness.
God Became Man—Without Ceasing to Be God
Now, what verse 14 says—and this is one of the most important events in history—is that the Word, the Son, became human without ceasing to be God. This is what we will be looking at for two weeks: How do we know this is the case, and what does it mean for us personally?
“The Word became flesh.” That is, the divine Word, the divine Son of God, became a human without ceasing to be God. How do we know this? And what does it mean for us? We will spend all of our time today answering this from verse 14.
The Word Dwelt Among Us
The first reason we say that the divine Word did not cease to be the divine Word when he became human is the statement in verse 14 that the Word “dwelt among us.” The subject of the verb dwelt is the Word. And the Word is God. So the most natural way to take this is that God, the Word, dwelt among us. This is why the angel said in Matthew 1:23, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). The Word, the Son, did not cease to be God when he became man.
Glory As God’s Only Son
The second reason we believe this is the next clause in verse 14, “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” Whose glory? The glory of the Word—the Word who is God. And what sort of glory is it? It’s “the glory as of the only Son from the Father.”
When John says that the glory of the incarnate Word is “the glory as of the only Son from the Father,” does the word as mean that it’s an imitation glory? It’s not the real glory of the Son but only as the glory of the Son? I don’t think so. If I say, for example, “I have a book to give away, and I would like to give it to you as my first choice,” you don’t respond, “I’m not really your first choice; I’m only as your first choice.” No. That’s not what as means when I say, “I give it to you as my first choice.” It means: I give it to you as you really are my first choice. When John says, “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,” he means, “We have seen his glory, glory as it really is—the glory of the Son of God.”
We know this because again, in the first part of verse 14, John says simply and straightforwardly, “We have seen his glory”—no qualification. Whose glory? The glory of the eternal Word, the Son. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory.” So there is no diminishing of the wonder of the incarnation. The Word became flesh, and he did so without ceasing to be God. He manifests God’s glory.
What Does This Mean for Us?
Verses 15–18 give more reasons for believing that the Word became flesh without ceasing to be God. We’ll go there next week, Lord willing. But for now, let’s ask in verse 14 what it means for us that the Word became flesh—that the Son of God became human without ceasing to be God. Why do I ask this question? First, because the text answers it. But there is another reason.
Cultivating a Relational Culture
Do you recall that a couple months ago I preached several messages pleading with God that he would use them to grow what I called the relational culture of our church? I explained what I meant by reference to Philippians 2:3–4: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” In other words, let’s grow as a church in the way we go outside of ourselves and serve others and take thought for the interests of others.
And do you remember what the basis of that servant, relational mindset was? The next verses explained: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5–7). In other words, the foundation of humble, servant, love—and the renewed relational culture at Bethlehem was: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us—and died for us.
Incarnation and Application
The reason I point this out is so that we don’t say, “Well, we did our little relational emphasis last Summer, and now we are into theology.” No. The only theology that counts for anything is the Philippians-2 kind, which is exactly the same as the-Gospel-of-John kind. It helps us know Christ, and glory in Christ, and be transformed by Christ for the sake of love (13:34; 15:12)—which means it transforms our church relationally. It makes us more loving, more helpful, more servant-like, less proud, less selfish, less withdrawn, more caring.
So when I say, “Let’s not leave verse 14 until we ask what does it mean for us that the Word became flesh,” you can hear some of the heartbeat behind that question. I always have an eye on what difference this great theology makes for our personal and relational lives.
In Jesus We See God’s Glory
So what does it mean for us that the Word became flesh? Verse 14 says, “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” It means that in Jesus Christ we can see the glory of God. And it means that the glory of God revealed in Jesus does not consume us in our sin. Instead, it is “full of grace and truth.” That is, the glory of God in Christ is his gracious disposition to us without compromising his truthfulness, his faithfulness to himself. And this gracious disposition is very, very great. That’s why he uses the word full—the word full modifies glory. The glory of the Son of God is full of graciousness toward us sinners without compromising God’s truth.
Full of Grace . . .
This is really good news. God could have chosen to become flesh as a judge and executioner. And all of us would be found guilty before him and be sentenced to everlasting punishment. But he did not become flesh that way. The Word, the Son, who is God, became flesh to reveal a divine glory that is “full of grace and truth.” The Word of God became flesh to be gracious to us. The Word became flesh so that this graciousness to us would come in accord with God’s truthfulness. This will not be a wishy-washy, unprincipled, sentimental of grace.
This will be a righteous, God-exalting, costly grace. It will lead straight to Jesus’ death on the cross. In fact, this is why he became flesh. He had to have flesh in order to die. He had to be human in order to die as a God-man in our place (Hebrews 2:14–15). The Word became flesh so that the death of Jesus Christ would be possible. The cross is where the fullness of grace shone most brightly. It was performed there and purchased there.
. . . And Truth
And the reason it happened through death is because the Son of God is full of grace and truth. God is gracious to us and true to himself. Therefore, when his Son comes, he is full of grace and truth. When Christ died, God was true to himself, because sin was punished. And When Christ died, God was gracious to us, because Christ bore the punishment not us.
“The Word became flesh” means for us that the glory of God has been revealed in history as never before, namely, in the fullness of grace and the fullness of truth that shines most brightly in the death of Jesus for sinners.
Seeing Spiritual Beauty
Be careful here that you don’t say, “Well, I wasn’t there to see him and so that glory is not available for me to see. You religious types can talk all you want about the glory of the Son of God, but he’s not here to see.” Be careful. Don’t think of this glory in verse 14 as mere outward brightness or beauty. Jesus was not bright or beautiful physically. “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).
And don’t think of this glory in verse 14 as the mere demonstration of miracles. There were people who saw the miracles, knew they happened, and did not see anything beautiful or glorious. They wanted to kill him (John 11:45–48).
No, the revealed “glory” of the Son of God, the glory of the Word, the glory of Jesus Christ, in his first coming, is mainly a spiritual glory, a spiritual beauty. It’s not something you see with the physical eyes, but with the eyes of the heart (Ephesians 1:18). We look at the way he speaks and acts and loves and dies, and by grace, we see a self-authenticating, divine glory, or beauty.
A Matchless Mingling of Grace and Truth
Paul put it like this in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The “glory of Christ who is the image of God” is what John 1:14 calls “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
And remember, Paul is talking to people who never saw the earthly Jesus, and John is writing his Gospel for people who never saw the earthly Jesus—people like us. The glory of John 1:14 and the glory of 2 Corinthians 4:4 is a glory that you see spiritually when you hear the story of Jesus.
You don’t have to see him physically. Jesus said in John 20:29, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.” You meet him in the Gospel of John and the other writings of the Bible. And when you meet him, through these inspired stories of his words and deeds, his glory shines through—the self-authenticating beauty of that matchless mixture of grace and truth.
Born Again by the Gospel
It’s no accident that verse 12–13 describe being born again, and verse 14 describes seeing the glory of the Son of God. Verses 12–14:
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 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.
Remember verse 4: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” When new spiritual life is given, new light happens. The light is not a physical light. It the spiritual brightness of the glory of the Son of God referred to in verse 14. That’s how we come to see!
And how does that new spiritual life happen to us? Verse 13 says it happens when we are born not of man but of God. It happens by being born again. That’s how we come to faith and receive Christ and become children of God (John 1:12).
By the gospel—by hearing the story of Jesus’ saving deeds and words—God creates in us spiritual life. We are born of God through the gospel (1 Peter 1:23–25). And that new spiritual life sees the light of the glory of Christ (John 1:4). It does so immediately. That’s why John 8:12 calls it “the light of life.” When you are given spiritual life, you see spiritual glory.
See the Glory
Or another way to say it, according to verse 12, is that this new life and sight believes in light and receives the light as the truth and glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And in that life and light and believing and receiving verse 12 says we obtain the right to be called the children of God. That is, we are the children of God because this life and light and belief and receiving are our right to be the children of God.
So I lift up before you the incarnate Son of God: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us without ceasing to be God. See his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. See him, for the glory that he is, and live. Amen.