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Posts Tagged ‘the final revelation of God’

We are back in the Gospel of John today, looking at the introduction in vs. 1-18. As I said before, these verses are poetic, powerful and profound. And although it may take some effort to get at all that they are saying, it is more than worth the effort.

Last week in vs. 1-13 we learned that the Word “was God,” and also that the Word was “with God,” as God’s agent in the creation of the world filling all things with life and light. And we learned that after darkness fell over the creation, the Word continued to shine forth as the light of life in the struggle between light and darkness.

And then we learned that the light came to the world as a human, and although rejected by most, a remnant believed and experienced once again the light and life that God gives; being born of God. John is teaching us in all this that the same Word who brought forth life and light in the first creation, is the one who, with his coming, has begun the new creation.

Our theme today

If you will take your handout, we can look again at how this passage works. Remember with me, there are two sections and each has three parts that parallel each other.

  • In the first part of each section (A, A1) there is a statement about the Word, what the Word does and how the Word comes into contact with humanity.
  • Then the middle part of each section (B, B1), like an interlude, focuses on John the Baptist’s witness and his subordinate role in relation to the Word.
  • And then the last part of each section (C, C1) focuses on what is received from the Word, picking up on the themes of the first part of each section (A, A1).

So for us today, the focus of vs. 14-18, as you see underlined, is the grace and truth that the Word gives. Let’s look at our verses –

John 1:14-18

The Word. “14And the Word became flesh . . ..” Once again, the Word refers to God’s Word, personified, who is in the beginning with God, as we saw in Genesis 1 last week.

When it says “the Word became flesh” it means that the Word became a human being – Jesus; a true, living, breathing person [Also – 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7].

The Word’s coming into the world has already been referenced in vs. 10-13, but here John goes back and picks up the story line with a different emphasis and theme – the revealing of the fullness of God’s grace and truth.

 Just as the first section of our passage had Genesis 1 as a background, so our verses today have Exodus 33-34 as a background. And just in case you can’t recall the details of this story, I will help you.

After the golden calf fiasco, the Lord told Moses that he would not go with Israel into the promised land, because of their sin (33:1-6). But Moses interceded and asked God to go with them (33:12-17). God told Moses that he had favor or grace (LXX) with him and that he would go with him. But Moses insisted that God go with all the people. He is asking for God’s grace for Israel. And the Lord consented. The idea seems to be that God agreed that he would go with them in the tabernacle that they would build, his place of residence among them.

In the midst of all this Moses also asks to know more of the truth about God. In 33:13 he said, “please show me now your ways.” And in 33:18 Moses asked, “Please show me your glory.” God told him, “I will make all my goodness pass by you” (33:19). But he also said 33:20, “you cannot see my face, for a human shall not see me and live.” God only let him see an approximation of his glory. In 33:23, the Lord said, “you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

So the Lord passed by Moses and the Lord proclaimed his name, that is, his character and ways. He said, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness . . ..” (34:6). And then the Lord renewed his covenant with Israel, once again giving them his Law or will for them (34:10).

Alright, now back to John 1:14 – “. . . and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the beloved from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

There are several connections here with Exodus. The word “dwelt” literally means “pitched his tent” or “tabernacled” among us. In Exodus 33 Moses asked for God to go with his people into the promised land by means of the tabernacle, the same word as used here (in the LXX επηξεν). So Jesus is the presence of God tabernacling among us as a human being.

John also says, “we have seen his glory . . ..” In Exodus 33:18 Moses asked to know God’s ways and to see God’s glory. Here Jesus is the manifestation of the glory of God, dwelling among us. [Jesus’ glory will displayed through his signs 2:11, and as he is on the cross and then raised from the dead. Perhaps 34:10 is a background here.]

And then we have the phrase “full of grace and truth.” This refers back to all that Moses asked for in Exodus 33. As we just saw, he asked for grace from God, that God would forgive their sin and so be present with them. And he asked for truth in that he wanted to know God’s ways and see God’s glory. John teaches us that Jesus’ dwelling with us is the fullness of God’s grace. And Jesus’ showing us God’s ways is the fullness of God’s truth [Many connect the phrase “full of grace and truth” to 34:6 which the LXX translates as “abounding in mercy and truth.” This is too specific a connection however. First, the word “mercy” is used in the LXX and John uses the word “grace” (although grace does pretty much mean the same thing). Also the word for “abounding” is different than the word for “full” and “fullness” in John. But more importantly, the Hebrew word “emet,” translated by the LXX as “truth” has a different meaning than John’s use of the word “truth” in the rest of his gospel. Although it can be translated as “truth” (as in the LXX) the meaning is reliability, certainty or faithfulness. It means true in the sense of being true to one’s word. For John “truth” means something like a correct understanding of God and God’s ways. Also, in 1:14-18 John is making the point that Moses was limited in what he could make known of God, but Jesus is not. The truth that Jesus makes known is the fullest presentation of who God is. It is not just focused on a fuller presentation of the specific point of God’s faithfulness. “Abounding in mercy and truth is a part of what John means by “truth,” but it is not the whole.]

Notice the phrase “the beloved” (monogenes). Although it has been translated as “only begotten,” it is better translated as “the only one,” or “the beloved.” The idea is not procreation, but uniqueness. Jesus is the beloved of the Father. [In vs. 1-18 John distinguishes between Jesus who is the “beloved,” the unique and only son of God and those who are born of God through him who are called “children” (tekna).]

[Also notice the “we” “our” language in vs. 14-18. Although v. 14 may focus more on the actual witnesses of Jesus’ earthly life, certainly in vs. 16-18 it includes the whole Christian community who has received of his grace and truth. This section speaks from the point of view of the Christian community, the remnant that received him spoken of in vs. 12-13.]

And then, as in the first section, we have an interlude on John’s witness. “15John 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.’”

John the Baptist is very aware of Jesus’ preeminence. Usually the one who comes first is the greater one, and of course John baptized Jesus. But John is saying that even though from an earthly perspective he came first, in reality “he was before me.” John knows of Jesus’ preexistence, and this is why he can say that Jesus “ranks before me.”

vs. 16-18 pick up again the themes from v. 14 – Grace and truth from the Word. “16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the beloved, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

There is a contrast in these verses between what God gives  through Moses (from Exodus 33-34) and what God gives through Jesus. God gave grace through Moses, for he forgave their sin and tabernacled among them still. And God gave truth through Moses, for he revealed himself, his name, character and ways.

But what comes from the Word become flesh is much greater. As v. 14 says, he is “full of grace and truth.” And v . 16 says, “From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” As the word “fullness” means, what comes from him is complete, with nothing lacking. And what comes from him is bountiful, “grace upon grace.”

Yes, “the Law was given through Moses” as we see in Exodus 34 when God renewed his covenant with them. But “no one has ever seen God.” [Also John 6:46; 1 John 4:12]. Exodus 33:20 states that no one can see God’s face or they will die. God only let Moses see his back.

There was a limit to what Moses could know due to his humanity. He only saw God in part. With Jesus there is no limitation. He is the Word made flesh, the same Word who is God. This point is also made in v. 18, where John calls Jesus, “God the beloved.” Here the Word, or the Beloved is also called God, just as at the beginning in v. 1. [This is an inclusion that marks off the beginning and the end of the passage: The Word is with God and is God; The Word is God and is next to God.]

So Jesus is God the beloved and also he is “at the Father’s side,” which means he is in the closest possible relationship with the Father. And as such he is able, in human form, to show us all about God. John concludes “he has made him known.” Jesus has given a full account of God. He has told the whole story. Jesus has fully revealed and interpreted God. [Moses’ exaltation in Exodus 33-34 – God speaks to him face to face, etc. is trumped here with Jesus’ place by the Father and his being God.]

[There is also in all this the theme of covenant, or new covenant. In Exodus 33-34 God renewed his covenant with his people. And a part of this was revealing himself and his ways and choosing to dwell among them (this as covenant language – Leviticus 26:11-12; Ezekiel 37:27; Zechariah 2:10-11). And also with Jesus, he has begun the promised new covenant. He has revealed the fullness of God’s grace and truth and has come to dwell with us by becoming human and giving us the Spirit.]

If the first section moved from creation to new creation, our verses today move from the revelation of God’s grace and truth to Moses in the Law, to the final revelation of God’s grace and truth through Jesus, the Word made flesh in the new covenant. [Also, the Son is the first Word, at the begining in creation (vs. 1-13) and the last Word (vs. 14-18)]

So the message today is – Jesus is it!

  • With regard to grace – he is the fullness of grace. Not just in a tabernacle, but God tabernacling among us as a human being;  one of us.
  • With regard to truth – he is the fullness of truth. Not just an account of what God said, but God among us teaching us himself and living out in front of us God’s character and ways.

God’s provision for his old covenant people was amazing. But his provision for his new covenant people is more amazing and complete. For Jesus is the highest revelation of God.

So any who say we just need to do what the Old Testament says, No! Jesus is the final revelation of God’s grace and truth. We must check everything against him.

And any who come and say they can give more access to God’s grace and presence – No, brothers and sisters! Jesus is the final revelation of God’s grace to us.

And any who come and say they have more knowledge of God’s truth, another revelation, a supplement to Jesus in the New Testament – No, sisters and brothers! Jesus has given us the final revelation of God. When you look at Jesus in the New Testament you are looking at God!

Jesus is it. Rest in him and receive of his grace and truth. He is all we need.

William Higgins 

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