John 1:14-18 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. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Good morning, it’s good to be with you all and worship our triune God together. Advent is a special time to gather together and worship Jesus and wonder at the incarnation. Beyond gathering for worship on Sundays and for Christmas Eve, I want to encourage you to look at the other events we have this week for Christmas. There are a number of ways to fellowship, serve others and love Jesus during this season.
So far this Advent we’ve looked at the first and second comings of Jesus. Jesus first came to proclaim the good news of the kingdom and offer atonement through his death and resurrection.
Then Pastor Dave preached about the second coming of Christ. When he returns all will be put right, he will come for his bride, the church, and he will judge all of humanity. We live in the time between these two comings of Jesus, so we look back at the work of his first coming, and look forward with hope to his second coming.
Last week we looked at the persons of the Father and the Holy Spirit with in the work of the Incarnation. I tried to give a crash course in the doctrine of the Trinity. I won’t review all of the points, but as we turn to look at the Son this morning, keep in mind the triune God. There is one God in three equal but distinct persons. Each is fully divine in their nature but different in their roles in the work of God. The Father sent the Son and the Spirit conceived the Son. In other words, the Spirit overshadowed Mary to ensure that the Incarnate Jesus would be holy and take on a second, human nature. Now, this morning we turn to look at the role of the Son.
The Incarnation is the miracle of miracles. There are plenty of incredible signs and wonders in the scriptures. People get healed, lives are spared from death through amazing events, there are even several who are raised from the dead in scripture. But there is nothing else like the Incarnation. At the Incarnation, the inexhaustible, invisible, eternal, sovereign God became flesh. Invisible made visible, where spiritual and physical meet. Where God became man. The Word became flesh.
He became flesh to reveal God to the world. There are several aspects of his Incarnation that we will look at this morning. Each of these were present in the Old Testament to lesser degrees, but through the GodMan, Jesus Christ, we see these in greater measure.
He came to dwell with us, his glory was witnessed and through Him we have received an even greater measure of grace. In Jesus, the Son, we have seen the invisible God. The Invisible God made Visible.
Would you pray with me? Pray that we would fight to be engaged and free from distraction. Pray that this sermon would move the needle, even if only slightly more, towards a greater understanding and awe of the Incarnation.
Father, we come to you this morning in need of grace. We come in need of more spiritual food. Please feed us through your Word and your Spirit this morning. I pray that we would behold the glory of Christ today. I pray that our Christmas celebrations would be enhanced and empowered by the glory of Christ. So please feed us. Please give us ears to hear and the eyes of faith to believe your Word. Stop distractions and quiet our minds and hearts so that we would hear your Word and see our faith strengthened. Thank you that you loved us first before we loved you. Help us to love you more and to give you all honor and glory this morning. I pray in the name of your Son, Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As I mentioned, the Incarnation is the greatest miracle. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God. God revealed himself in a number of different ways in scripture, but the ultimate revelation of who God is, is through Jesus.
Heb 1:1 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.
Jesus is the greatest revelation of God to humanity. He has made the invisible God visible. In our passage we’ll look at four ways that Jesus, in his Incarnation, is a greater revelation of God. We’ll look at his dwelling, the fact that his glory was witnessed, he is the fullness of grace, and through Jesus we have seen the Father.
I. Word dwelt (v14a)
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us
The stage for this dwelling in the flesh was set last week when we looked at Luke 1. God the father, through his angel Gabriel, spoke to Mary on how the Son of God would be born from a human mother. Here in his gospel, John is describing the same event in a different way. He calls the Son the Word, which goes back to verse 1.
John 1:1 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.
This Word is God. And now in verse 14, that same Word becomes flesh. The divine Jesus took on a second nature in the Incarnation. He maintained his divinity, but now took on humanity. Romans 8 says he was born in the likeness of sinful flesh. His nature was fully human, but without sin and the corruption that follows. The Second Person of the Trinity took on humanity. Two natures in one person.
A Puritan named Stephen Charnock described the two natures this way:
“What a wonder that two natures infinitely distant should be more intimately united than anything in the world…That the same person should have both a glory and a grief; an infinite joy in the Deity, and an inexpressible sorrow in the humanity; that a God upon a throne should be an infant in a cradle; the thundering Creator be a weeping babe and a suffering man; [the incarnation astonishes] men upon earth, and angels in heaven.” – Stephen Charnock
How does this work? How do the natures work together? The natures, divine and human remain separate, but they do interact. Both are necessary. For example to experience all of humanity, he needed a human nature. To experience it all and be tempted in every way yet without sin, he needed to be divine. IN order to be an atoning sacrifice for humanity, he required a human nature. In order to endure and withstand the wrath of God, he must be divine. These are a few examples of how His two natures have a mysterious union.
In the same way we talk about the trinity having mystery, the two natures of Christ has mystery too. How can a person have two natures in one person? One of the keys to understanding this is that, while Jesus’ divine nature means he is infinite, omnipresent and all-knowing, in his earthly ministry some of his divine attributes were limited. Not done away with or changed, but limited for a time.
One of the ideas that the Incarnation combats is a false or truncated understanding of our world. The Incarnation brings the divine and human together. The spiritual and physical are both important and work together. Our world tends to ignore this in one of two ways: Gnosticism or Materialism.
Gnosticism is the belief that the spiritual is good and the physical, material is bad. The goal is to escape the physical. But the Incarnation goes against Gnosticism. Jesus took on human flesh. if it was inherently bad, why would he do that? Even in our world that experiences the effects of sin, it is still the world God created. It is the world that God is at work redeeming.
Don’t fall into the idea that the spiritual apart from the physical is somehow more holy or better. This world was meant to reflect God’s glory. We are spiritual and physical beings. No matter how advanced the virtual world becomes, it cannot replace real, physical interaction with one another.
At the other pole is Materialism. I don’t mean buying too much stuff, but the larger belief that our world is only made up of the physical world. That all we can physically see and touch is what this world is made of. This causes people to believe that only the material matters and there is nothing beyond our physical world. The Incarnation combats this kind of thinking too.
Not only did Jesus take on flesh, but he dwelt among us. God’s presence is with man. One of the names given to the Son is Emmanuel, which means God with us. This points to one of the major questions of the Bible. The question is how can a sinful people be in the presence of a holy God? Adam and Eve dwelt in the presence of God, but then they rebelled. Their sin meant that they could not remain in God’s presence, so they were expelled. The Garden was then guarded by cherubim with fiery swords. There was no immediate way back for Adam and Eve. But the hope was to someday return to presence with God.
Dwelling harkens back to the tabernacle. God dwelled in the midst of Israel in a temporary tent. Now there were specific instructions on how to approach God in the holy of holies, but God’s presence was with the Israelites. Later the presence of God was found in the temple. And that was eventually taken away because of Israel’s unfaithfulness. And so now, with the Advent of the Son, God will dwell with man again.
God cares about the spiritual and the physical. At the end of the sermon we’ll look a little closer at how the spiritual and the physical will ultimately come together in a glorious way.
The Word was made flesh and his glory was witnessed. This is the second point. There are two witnesses in this passage that we’ll look at, both named John. John the Apostle and John the Baptist. First, John the Apostle.
and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
II. The glory of God was witnessed (14b-15)
Witness #1 – John the Apostle
The disciple John and the other disciples saw firsthand the glory of the Son. They saw him do miracles. He turned water to wine at the Wedding at Cana. He healed the sick and lame, fed 5,000, walked on water, opened the eyes of the blind, rose Lazarus from the dead, and then through the Holy Spirit, resurrected from the dead himself. And these signs of glory were all witnessed by people.
When the Son came, he made the invisible God visible. Thousands saw him. This was predicted in the prophets:
Is. 40:5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
John the Apostle witnessed the glory of God through the Son. He was there at some of the most glorious moments of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He was there at the Transfiguration, he was there at his arrest and Jesus even calls out to John from the cross. And John was there at the empty tomb after Jesus rose from the dead.
The second witness in our text is John the Baptist. Look at verse 15
Witness #2 – John the Baptist
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.’”)
John the Baptist is the forerunner; he precedes the King. Jesus came after John on the timeline of history, but he is before John in the cosmic timeline. John is also pointing to the greatness of Jesus. Jesus has a greater rank, in this sense he is before John. So even though he comes after, he is before John, in more way than one.
Jesus is greater in rank and time. John the Baptist came for repentance, but Jesus would baptize with the holy Spirit. John knew his role. He was a witness and prepared the way for something greater. Jesus came as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world, John said. John saw the glory of the Son and knew his role. John said, “He must increase and I must decrease.”
Witnessing God’s glory can only happen with eyes of faith. Again, thousands saw him, but not everyone recognized who he truly was. Some scoffed and asked, Isn’t that the son of the carpenter? Others were curious. Still others hated him.
John the Apostle witnessed the glory of Christ and wrote that we would believe. This is the greatest history book ever written. It’s much more than a history book, but this is the true account of God’s plan of redemption and it takes place in human history. This is how we can know the truth about God, humanity, and the living Word that bridges the two. In fact the whole purpose of John’s gospel is to witness to his glory. John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.
There is another group of people who witnessed Jesus too. The group who believed that he was the Son of God. The same call goes out for all of us. We must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
And if we believe in the work of Jesus, we would have eternal life. If you are here this morning, which group are you in? Are you familiar with the life of Jesus, but leave it at that? That is not enough, you must put your faith in Jesus Christ. You must believe that Jesus is the God-Man and the only one able to save your sins. You must repent and believe this good news. Kids, if you’ve been here for a while, you’ve heard a lot about Jesus. But do you know if you have eternal life? How do you know? Don’t take that lightly or dismiss it because you are familiar with information about Jesus. Do you actually know him as the only one who can save you from your sins?
III. Fullness of Grace (16-17)
16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Where does this grace come from? It begins with the Father and comes through Jesus to us. Out of the fullness of God, we receive grace. Again we see the persons of the godhead working together to carry out the work of God.
God was gracious in the Old Testament. A few years ago Pastor Dave preached through the book of Ruth. There was a Hebrew word that kept coming up: Chesed. It’s hard to capture the idea in one English word, but words like steadfast love, undeserved kindness and covenant faithfulness all contribute to its meaning. This is the New Testament idea of grace. The word Grace sometimes is too familiar to us that we don’t think of how incredible it really is. But it’s getting what we don’t deserve. Simply put, we don’t deserve anything from God aside from judgment for our rebellion.
There are so many instances of God’s kindness and steadfast love towards his people in the Old Testament. Rescuing them from slavery, providing mannah and water from a rock. He rescued them many times from invading nations. As we saw previously, God provided ways for the people to dwell in the presence of God through the tabernacle and temple. He provided atonement for sin. When the people sinned, they needed to offer the blood of sacrifices. Every instance of God not destroying them in wrath is a sign of grace. In talking about the grace of Jesus, he first starts with a comparison to Moses.
17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Hopefully it’s easy to see there is a comparison between the Law through Moses and grace through Jesus. But don’t mistake the comparison for law versus grace. As if they are opposed to one another.
The law was a form of grace. God reveals his character and moral code through his law. In other words, God provided boundaries for his people. If you stay within the boundaries, there is blessing and goodness. If you stray, there is curse and consequence.
Where we run into trouble is then thinking that through obedience to the law we can attain salvation.
One commentator describes it this way:
[The Law] is the law for God’s kingdom. Where converted into a way of salvation, the law is perverted. Where the law represents the government and obedience of faith, there the law fulfills its God-given purpose.” (Rushdoony, p303 Institutues of Biblical Law vol1.)
So the law is not bad when it’s used properly. In our sin, we are unable to obey the law perfectly. So it also acts as a mirror to our hearts. We know God’s written law and we break it. But the law isn’t bad. John is not saying that Jesus undoes the law or dismisses the law. He came as an even greater word. He came to fulfill the law and give us grace. This is sometimes called his active obedience. He obeyed the law his entire life.
Think about that for a second. He experienced all kinds of hard things in life, but he never broke God’s commandments. Jesus had brothers. Do you think they ever annoyed one another? Do you think there were times when Jesus got smacked by James or Jude? There are plenty of times when he was tired. When we tire, that’s when sin tends to come out more easily. But not with Jesus. He obeyed at every turn. In fact, take time this week to look at the 10 commandments. At G2g our older and younger kids are learning about the 10 commandments. Try to identify how Jesus fulfilled all ten of these commandments.
Because of his sinless record, he could atone for the sins of others. He was the spotless lamb without blemish. And not only did he atone for our sins on the cross, but he gave us that perfect record of righteousness. We get both forgiveness of sins and righteousness credited to us.
From the fulness of God, Jesus gives us grace upon grace.
IV. We have seen God (v18)
18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
There are a number of examples in the Old Testament of people seeing God and assuming they would die. People knew that you could not see God and live.
OT examples of seeing God and not dying. Several times it was witnessing the pre-incarnate Christ, which is often noted as the Angel of the LORD.
-Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the LORD, but his life was delivered.
-A similar thing happens to Samson’s parents in the book of Judges:
Judg. 13:21 The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. 22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”
We could point to other accounts of people seeing God and recognizing that they should die. Even Moses had to hide in a cleft in order to behold God’s glory. If he saw it full-on he would be consumed.
How can we behold the glory of God and not die? This is another wonder of the Incarnation. The Son, through the Incarnation, has revealed the glory of God to mankind without consuming us. We can behold him and not die. That’s amazing.
One of the questions that might arise is, ‘I actually haven’t seen Jesus. How does that work for me?’
It’s true. None of us here lived during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. But what was revealed during the Incarnation, has all been preserved for us. We can see his Word and believe. We do encounter Jesus through scripture. We do encounter the presence of God through corporate worship. We do behold Jesus through faith.
At the end of John’s gospel when Thomas the disciple asked to see Jesus hands and feet, Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
We must believe by faith and not by sight. But that won’t always be the case.
There’s still more to the Incarnation. This is something we don’t always remember. The resurrected Christ is still the Incarnate Christ. He did not shed his humanity when he returned to the Father’s side. He remains a man forever. He possesses both divine and human natures in one person forever. He is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Only now he’s glorified. Revelation 1 describes what he looks like now and forever. I read this passage last year during Advent, but it’s so important that we long for the resurrected and glorified Christ.
While the glory of Christ wasn’t seen by all during his Incarnation and earthly ministry, when we see him at his second return, all will see his glory. He remains the GodMan. His humanity was not shed after his Ascension. He is both God and Man eternally. But that’s not all. We will dwell in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Listen to Rev 21:1-4
The original vision for the Garden will finally be seen. The dwelling place of God is with man. That is the ultimate point of the Incarnation. To give us a taste of what is to come and to ensure that it will happen. When he took on humanity, he is permanently knitted to humanity.
Long for this reality. The hope for the Christian is dwelling forever in the New Heavens and the New Earth. It will be a physical place, where spiritual and physical perfectly meet. We will no longer experience the corruption of this world and all will be redeemed. That’s where we’re going. All who trust in the person and work of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. We will see him face to face and not die.
When Jesus came he came as a man. He didn’t lose his divine nature, but took on a second nature in one body. He came to reveal the invisible God. He was a greater tabernacle, and dwelt with man. He was a better witness to the glory of the Father. He was a better word than the law, a better Moses, because he brought grace upon grace. He made God known and secured a glorious future for his people through his death on the cross and resurrection. We will someday see him face to face, without sin in glorified bodies and dwell in his presence forever. This is the point of Advent and celebrating the Incarnate Christ. Let me close with a verse from 1 Timothy 3.
1 Timothy 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
Lord of Heaven and Earth, we thank you Father for sending the Son in the flesh. Even in four small verses, there is so much richness and depth to your Word. I’m not sure that I’ve covered everything well, so I truly ask that your Holy Spirit would apply your Word to our hearts. Give us a greater love of Jesus. Help us to celebrate your worthiness this Christmas in our celebrations and in our daily routines of life. Grow our awe at Jesus’ two natures. May we see your glory in our eating and drinking. May we remember your grace as we give and get gifts. Jesus, remind us through your Spirit of your presence. I pray especially for those who are bracing for hard times with family this year. Give them comfort. Comfort those who grieve the loss of loved ones. Strengthen those who might have a difficult holiday season with family members. Give them courage to graciously tell loved ones about Christ. May our children hear the story of Advent and respond in faith and worship. We love you, but not as much as you love us. Thank you for your Word made flesh. Amen.