In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 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 beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth… And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
The prologue of John’s gospel is as majestic as it is mysterious. The Apostle is giving us a picture of deity, a view from eternity, as well as what it means for that Eternity to enter into time. John is telling us that God became man, and this message can find no more appropriate time of the year than Christmas. As we celebrate so many things: family, gifts, and love, let us remember the foundation of it all. God loved us so much that He gave us His son so that we might become His children. In response, we should show forth His son to the world so that they too might become children of God through faith in His name.
In the Beginning
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (vs. 1-2). The Word was “in the Beginning.” This shows that He is eternal, and thus that He is divine. John’s gospel is echoing the opening verses of Genesis as well, showing us that the Word of God was before all creation and that He was, in fact, the instrument of creation. God spoke, God said, through His Word, and all else came into being.
Our third verse makes this clear. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” The rest of John’s gospel explains that this Word is Jesus Christ, the godman, and there are other relevant New Testament passages that emphasize Jesus Christ’s role in creation. Paul says that his preaching is meant to “make all see… what is the fellowshipof the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9) In Colossians he tells us, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). This means that Jesus is God, the creator of heaven and earth, and He is from the beginning.
But this also means that Jesus is distinct from God in some way. What we have is the makings of Trinitarian theology. “The Word was ‘with God.’” He “is in the bosom of the Father” (vs. 18) Jesus’ being from the beginning is equal to His divine sonship. He is from God. He is the Son of God.
And this divine sonship is especially connected to Jesus’ mission. He came into the world to make us all sons of God. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (vs. 12). He did this by coming into the world, at His incarnation. As the same John the Apostle says in his first epistle:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us (1 John 1:1-2).
The Word became flesh.
The Word came into the World
When the Word came into the World, this was God coming into the world, but in a special way. The incarnation of the Word was “light shin[ing] in the darkness” (vs. 5). This means that the Word came into the midst of a sinful world and sinful people. And as we are also told, he came into a hostile and unsympathetic environment. “The darkness did not comprehend” the Word, or perhaps, “the darkness could not overcome” the Word.
The Word came into his own creation. “He was in the world.” This world that was made by Him. And still, “the world did not know him” (vs. 10). This is because the world was dark. This is because of its sin.
And finally, John tells us that the Word “came to His own” (vs. 11). This most likely means the Jews, the people of Abraham, Moses, and David, the people of the covenant. But it might also simply be a repetition of the previous verses, indicating that all mankind belonged to God. Either way, the people should have been expecting the Word, since it was this Word that made them and Whose image they bore. But again, because of their sin, “His own did not receive Him.”
Yet some did receive Him. They received Him by faith, by “believing in his name” (vs. 12). And this special group, born not of the flesh nor even through their own willpower—a bit of Calvinism for your Holidays— to these “He gave the right to become children of God” (vs. 12). What the Word had by nature, He gave to his followers by grace. The only begotten Son of God came to make new adopted sons of God. And He did this through His ministry.
The Word showed us God
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God became man. He made Himself receivable among sinful men. And, in a way, He made himself interpretable, beholdable. The invisible God became the visible Christ. “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (vs. 14).
“We beheld His glory.” This was the same glory as of the Father, the eternal divine glory which is ultimate grace and truth. And we should note that this was something that no one else had ever seen. Oh there had been visions of God in the past, but they were always mediated by angels, smoke, shadows, or other visionary devices. People saw a likeness. But now, we who the end of the ages have fallen upon, we have been given the blessing of God in human vesture. “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (vs. 18).
And so Jesus Christ is the most direct vision of God man can have. He is what God looks like now, from the point of view of creation. He is the most appropriate picture of God. Do you want to see God? Then cast your gaze upon Jesus. “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). “The Son… who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3).
Jesus shows us God, but how do we see Jesus now that He has come and gone? He is ascended into heaven now, and for the past 2,000 years Christians have had to walk by faith, not by sight. How can the world see God, if Jesus is not here? Why, through us, His people, showing them Jesus as we preach the gospel, keep His commandments, and love the world.
You see, Jesus brought light, righteousness, grace, and truth into the world. “Of His fullness, we have all received, grace for grace” (vs. 16). And how will the world know that we are Jesus’ disciples? By our love for one another (John 13:35).
This too comes out in John’s first epistle. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us,because it did not know Him” (1 John 3:1). Yet there is a way in which the world can know us, if we manifest righteousness:
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. (1 John 3:10-12)
Notice that this message is “from the beginning.” Love one another! In showing the world the message from the beginning, we are showing them the One who is from the beginning. Love the world, and the world will see the love of God. If we look like Christ to the world, through our loving sacrifice, then the world will see Christ in us. And when the world sees Jesus, the world sees God.
Let us pray.
Almighty God, who has given us thy only begotten son to take our nature upon him, and to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy holy spirit, and that we may show forth thy Son through our love and charity, through the same our Lord Jesus Christ who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost now and ever. Amen.