John 1:14(4)

Sermon preached on March 3, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I think the expression 'one of a kind' is often used too loosely. People describe something as one of a kind and yet it's not. I find myself doing that. When I was around 4 or five years old my brother and I had a dog that I still think of as the most wonderful dog that could ever be. His name was Toby and he was the gentlest dog you could imagine. Everyone loved him. In fact, our neighbor would have loved it if he owned him. He was an older man, a bachelor and he was the janitor at the high school, which was right across the street where we lived. Our neighbor's name was Cenin. He was the nicest man. He loved Toby so much that he asked my dad and mom if he could take Toby with him when he went to work at the high school. He was often alone when he was cleaning the school and he was a little bit afraid to be there alone. So he would take Toby with him. Toby would alert him if an intruder or someone else came into the school. It was reassuring for him to have the dog with him. But more than that, the dog was great company for him and made the job more pleasant.

Cenin's house didn't have a basement and he had a problem with rodents under his house. So one day he put some rat poison around some of the little spaces under his house. Wouldn't you know that Toby went over and ate some of it and died. Cenin felt so bad. My brother and I were just devastated. It's funny, but I never wanted another dog after that. It's like Toby was the best that could ever be—one of a kind that could never be replaced.

But in the last 3 or 4 years I've had contact with a couple of other dogs and they have been pretty nice. So Toby was not one of a kind. There are other dogs that are just as nice as Toby.

One of my most prized possessions is a letter that Merle d'Aubigné wrote. d'Aubigné lived from 1794 to 1872 and he wrote a great history of the Reformation. I've had a copy for years and have really enjoyed reading them. When I was in Scotland an old Scottish minister gave me a letter that d'Aubigné wrote. It's a letter of recommendation for one of his students from Geneva to a Christian missionary organization in Scotland. I have the original hand written letter. But that letter is not one of a kind. d'Aubigné wrote lots of other letters.

The Mona Lisa. You could say that it's one of a kind. It's certainly priceless. But Leonardo da Vinci did other paintings. He painted other portraits. It's not really one of a kind.

Sometimes people will refer to another person and say that, 'He's one of a kind.' Is there anyone who was one of a kind? Yes, of course. Adam was our representative in the Garden of Eden. He was one of a kind. He was made out of the dust of the ground. He was unique in that regard. Eve was one of a kind. She was the only person that was made from a rib. Eve was also one of a kind in that she was the mother of all mankind. All human beings descended from her. The virgin Mary was one of a kind. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she became pregnant. That never happened to anyone else.

But it's her Son who is really the 'one of a kind'—the One of a King par excellence. This is true in so many ways. According to Luke 1:32 Jesus is the 'Son of the Most High'. According to Luke 1:35 He is the 'holy one', and 'the Son of God'. Matthew 1:23 tells us that He is Immanuel, 'God with us'. Colossians 1:18 tells us that He is the 'firstborn from the dead'. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that he is 'the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being…' Revelation 1:18 tells us that He holds 'the keys of death and Hades'. There's no One like Him. Consider what our text says about Him. (John 1:14)

"The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory,
the glory of the One and Only,
who came from the Father,
full of grace and truth."

Or, if you prefer the KJV, it reads,

"And the Word was made 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."

There's a difference in those translations, one has, 'the One and Only' and the other has 'the only begotten'. I'm going to get to that difference in a moment, but either way, they both teach the same essential truth, that is

there is no One like Jesus, He is absolutely unique in His relationship to the Father.

During the question and answer period last month a question was asked about the meaning of the word 'begotten'. For example, in the King James Version of the Bible, it says, (John 3:16)

"For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have everlasting life."

The NIV has it,

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

The Nicene Creed, which we have recited together on some occasions, says,

"We believe… in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;"

There are three begottens in there. Obviously it's a very important term. Indeed, there has been some controversy over it. One Web site I looked at recently condemned the Gideons organization, which distributes Bibles, for their decision to give out the New International Version. The New Testament of the NIV does not contain the word, 'begotten'. It has 'one and only' instead. This particular Web site said that this change indicated that,

"Satan has infiltrated their group."

Emotions obviously run high over this issue. I suspect that those who want to hold on to 'only begotten' in Bible translations want to protect the deity of Jesus. This is a good motivation and something that we should all be concerned about.

The controversy has arisen because there's some confusion about what the Greek word actually means.

Many years ago it was thought that the Greek word, monogenh/ß was derived from two smaller Greek terms, mo/noß, which means 'only' and genna¿w which means 'beget'. So thus the meaning would be 'only begotten'. But linguistic study in the last century has caused the majority of New Testament Greek scholars to believe that the second part of the word is not related to genna¿w as previously thought, but to the word, ge÷noß which means, 'class' or 'kind'. It's not unanimous but the majority of scholars think that the older translation is just wrong. Instead of meaning, 'only begotten', they think that it means, 'one of a kind' or 'unique'. So that's why you get translations that render it 'only' or 'one and only'. As far as I know it's not a conspiracy against the divinity of Jesus or anything like that. Rather it's a debate about what the Greek word actually means.

In my opinion the whole controversy has been overblown in certain quarters. If someone decides that the Greek word means, 'one and only' instead of 'only begotten' it does not mean they are of the devil. In fact, if you do understand it to mean, 'only begotten', it actually doesn't always mean, 'only son'. The Greek word is used 9 times in the New Testament. Sometimes it means 'only son', but not always. For example, in Luke 7:12 we read about Jesus,

"As he approached the town gate,
a dead person was being carried out—
the only son of his mother, and she was a widow."

She was his only son. We see the same thing in Luke 8:42. We read that Jairus went to Jesus,

"because his only daughter,
a girl of about twelve, was dying."

But in Hebrews 11:17 we see something different. It says,

"By faith Abraham,
when God tested him,
offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
He who had received the promises
was about to sacrifice
his one and only son."

But Abraham had another son—Ishmael. So if you think that the word means, 'only begotten', you have a problem there. Abraham begat another son before Isaac.

But, in a sense, Isaac was Abraham's unique son. And I think this is how we should understand the Greek word, as 'unique' or 'only', and not 'only begotten'. Even though Abraham had two sons, Isaac was the child of promise. The covenant was going to be carried on through him. He was different from Ishmael. Isaac was very unique, special. He was the son 'par excellence'. He was the beloved son.

Donald Macleod summarizes the essence of the word. (The Person of Christ, p. 74) He says that it says nothing about origins because the Son is unoriginated. Rather it emphasizes the uniqueness of Jesus' sonship. This uniqueness consists of four things—He is an object of special love, He is the Father's equal, He is the Father's likeness and He is an eternal, not an adopted Son. We see some of these things in our text.

Our text shows that He is the Father's equal, that He is eternal and that He is in the Father's likeness. If we looked at our text in isolation, we might not see them, but in the context of John 1 there are very clear.

"The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory,
the glory of the One and Only,
who came from the Father,
full of grace and truth."

Consider the fact that

He came from the Father.

This shows His absolute uniqueness. In John 3:13 Jesus said,

"No one has ever gone into heaven
except the one who came from heaven—
the Son of Man."

He is the Word, equal with the Father. Verse 1 of John 1 tells us that He is God Himself, that in the beginning He was with God. Verse 3 tells us that He made everything that was made. Verse 4 tells us that in Him was life and that He was the light of men.

John 3:16 tells us that He came from the Father to bring salvation.

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

When we looked at Revelation 5 a few months ago we saw that Jesus was praised with three rounds of praise. First He was praised by the living creatures and the elders because He was slain and with his blood He purchased men for God. Secondly, He was praised thousands upon thousands of angels and was said to 'receive power and wealth, and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise'. We saw that these are the attributes that God Himself is praised with in Revelation 7. Lastly, Jesus was praised, together with Him who sits on the throne. Jesus comes from the Father. He is unique.

Secondly, consider what our text says about

the glory of Jesus.

Jesus is absolutely unique in that He shows us the glory of God. Even though He was clothed in flesh, the majesty of God shone forth in Him. James, Peter and John saw it on the Mount of Transfiguration. The Greek word that is used here and translated 'dwelt' literally means to 'pitch one's tent'. It reminds us of God's presence of glory that dwelt first in the tabernacle and then in the Temple of the Old Testament. In Jesus, God's glory returned to His people. As we read in Hebrews 1:3,

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory
and the exact representation of his being…"

2 Corinthians 4:6 says,

"For God, who said,
'Let light shine out of darkness,'
made his light shine in our hearts
to give us the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God
in the face of Christ."

Donald Macleod writes that Jesus, (The Person of Christ, p. 80)

"is the glory made visible: not a different glory from the Father's but the same glory in another form. The Father is the glory hidden; the Son is the glory revealed."

He came from the Father to bring salvation and make God known. As we read in John 1:18,

"No one has ever seen God,
but God the One and Only,
who is at the Father's side,
has made him known."

As Jesus said to Philip in John 14:9,

"Anyone who has seen me
has seen the Father.
How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?"

If we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father.

The third thing that the context here shows us about Jesus, the One of a kind is that

He brings grace and truth.

The words grace and truth are taken from Exodus 34:6–7, where Moses asked to see God's glory and God passed in front of Moses proclaiming,

"The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate
and gracious God, slow to anger,
abounding in love and faithfulness,
maintaining love to thousands,
and forgiving wickedness,
rebellion and sin."

John is showing us that the God who revealed Himself to Moses has now revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. He is God Himself, their Savior. As God said in Isaiah 45:21,

"there is no God apart from me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none but me."

And in Isaiah 43:11 God said,

"I, even I, am the LORD,
and apart from me there is no savior."

In His ministry Jesus showed that He was the only way to God. In John 14:6 Jesus said,

"I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through me."

In Acts 4:12 the apostle Peter said of Jesus,

"Salvation is found in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven
given to men by which we must be saved."

When John the Baptist saw Jesus he declared, (John 1:29)

"Look, the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world!"

What this all means is that

you should know assuredly that Jesus is able to save you.

What a Savior we have in Jesus. There is no one like Him. He is the One and Only who came from the Father. It is through Him that grace comes. He came to save us and actually carried out that salvation. He also came to reveal God's glory to us, indeed to make us glorious. As we read in 2 Corinthians 3:18,

"And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

In his book, Jesus is Lord, Donald Macleod tells us that historically, Christian thought has seen glory and grace as being at the opposite ends of the spectrum of divine holiness. Glory repels and grace attracts. But he tells us that in Jesus there is no tension between glory and grace. He writes, (p. 28)

"The glory of God as defined in Jesus Christ is that he is One who enters into covenant with sinners and commits himself to them in terms of the most steadfast love and loyalty. The 'riches of his glory' (Eph. 3:16) are precisely the same as 'the riches of his grace' (Eph. 1:7)"

How you should trust Jesus. Was He lacking in any way? Was His work incomplete in any way? Did He lack power and ability in any way? No. He comes from the Father. He comes with grace and truth to save us. He comes with glory to make us glorious. He is One of a kind—the One who accomplished our salvation and who will be faithful to us forever. Trust Him! Adore Him! Rejoice in Him!

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

this means that if you reject Jesus, you reject your only hope.

Don't be so foolish.

"The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory,
the glory of the One and Only,
who came from the Father,
full of grace and truth."

You need Him. Go to Him today.