John 1:14

Sermon preached on December 19, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. 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.

When I worked as a longshoreman during the summers when I was in university, I sometimes worked on a railcar ferry. One of the ships was named the Frederick Carter and could hold about 40 boxcars. The ferry had railway tracks in the hold and it held five or six rows of railcars. When the ferry docked, the railway tracks on the ferry lined up with the tracks on the dock. There was a slight downhill part on the dock just before the tracks joined the ferry tracks. Usually everything went well. A train engine would just push a line of railroad cars into a row on the ferry, then go back up and get another line of cars. But every once in awhile something would go wrong and there would be a derailment. It wouldn't be catastrophic and the boxcars and engine were never in danger of tipping over because they always went fairly slow when they were loading the rail ferries. But it was serious in the sense that it stopped everything. If it took them very long to get the cars or the engine back on the tracks it would play havoc with the ferry schedules. I was working there one day when the engine derailed just on the downslope of the dock where it met the ferry. The guys in charge did everything they could to get that engine back on the rails but nothing they did worked. I had no idea how they were going to get it back on the tracks. I thought they were going to be there a long time. I had visions of them having to get a huge crane in to lift the engine up and put it back on the tracks. But there was one foremen who had a reputation for being able to get derailed cars back on the tracks. When the people in charge saw that they couldn't do it, they called for this guy and he came running. Within five minutes he had that engine back on the tracks. He knew exactly how to do it, he had a knack for it. He got some blocks of wood and some two-by-fours, arranged them under and around the train wheels that were off the rails, gave directions to the train engineer when and how far to move, he then rearranged the wood some more, told the engineer to back up some more and the engine was back on the rails, like magic. It was amazing to watch. It was an incredible skill. The guys who sent for him made a really good call. He was the right guy for the job.

That is exactly what we should understand about Jesus and our salvation. He was perfectly suited to save us. There is no other like Him—a perfect Savior, who could meet all the demands that our situation called for—and triumph over them.

This morning we're going to look at verse 14 and see one of the ways that Jesus was perfectly suited to save us. If we understand this correctly it should help us to trust Him more, love Him better, and praise Him with everything in us.

Who is Jesus? Why is He able to save us. In our text John makes one of the most concise, yet at the same time, one of the most full and revealing statements of the incarnation. He writes, (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."

The main thing I want you to see from our text is the fact that

Jesus is God.

Jesus is divine. He is the God-man. God Himself, in the Person of Jesus Christ, came down and became flesh.

This is one of the most fundamental doctrines of the church is the deity of Jesus Christ. Donald Macleod writes, (A Faith to Live By, p. 37)

"If He [Jesus] is God, it is right to worship Him. If He is not God, then it is blasphemy and idolatry to worship Him. For that reason the whole of our religion is involved in this doctrine."

It's important that we understand exactly what John is saying here because it will help us resist one of the great reoccurring heresies that has afflicted the church. In the 4th century Arius began teaching that Jesus Christ was not God, but a created being. He gave Jesus a very elevated status, teaching that He was the greatest of all creatures, but a creature nonetheless. He was not God. He was not eternal. There was a time when He did not exist.

In the fourth century the church dealt with Arius' heresy effectively and the great Nicene Creed was the result. But the heresy continues. In our day the Jehovah's Witnesses teach a form of Arianism. Like ancient Arius, they deny the deity of Jesus Christ. They teach that He is not God. The deity of Jesus is also under attack by some Liberal theologians. So it's very important that we understand what John tells us here. Quite emphatically He tells us that Jesus is God.

This is evident from two things in our text.

First, notice that John tells us,

the 'Word' became flesh.

Who is this "Word". We read about Him in verse 1 of our chapter. We read, (John 1:1–5)

"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made
that has been made.
In him was life,
and that life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness,
but the darkness has not understood it."

The words, 'in the beginning' in there should remind us of the very first words of the Bible in Genesis 1:1. It reads,

"In the beginning
God created the heavens and the earth."

John takes us back to the beginning of creation and tells us that when God began to create, He did not create the Word. The Word was with Him. He was in existence at the beginning of creation.

Note how the first few verses of Genesis 1:1 and the first few verses of John 1 are parallel. Genesis speaks about God creating the heavens and the earth. John 1:3 says that the Word created all things. The clear implication is that Jesus is God. He is the One spoken about in Genesis 1:1.

The verb that John uses in the first part of John 1:1 is significant. It says, "In the beginning 'was' the Word." It doesn't say the Word 'became' God, like it says in our text (verse 14, the Word 'became' flesh. Instead John says that the Word 'was God'.

You may be aware that the
Jehovah's Witnesses produced a translation of the Bible called the New World Translation. They render the phrase here, 'the Word was a god'. Their contention is that in the Greek there is no definite article before the word, 'God', and they tell us that if God in the full and absolute sense were meant, it would have a definite article. They say that this is a rule of translation.

But all that is misleading. Their own translation of the New Testament illustrates this. It ignores their rule 94% of the time. (Robert H. Countess, The New Testament Student and Theology p. 85) They make up this rule and tell you it should be this way and yet they only follow their only 6% of the time. So, in this case, their understanding of Greek grammar is all wrong.

The Greek word that John uses here, theos, (Donald Macleod, Jesus is Lord, Christology Yesterday and Today, p. 10)

"is a predicate noun and it is a generally accepted rule that 'when a predicate noun precedes a verb it lacks the definite article: grammatical considerations therefore require that there be no doctrinal significance in the dropping of the article, for it is simply a matter of word order."

Someone may say, "Well, why didn't John use a different word order and state emphatically that Jesus was God? Why didn't he say that Jesus was, 'the God'? We can only speculate but there are reasons for thinking that if John wanted to say that Jesus was God, this was the best way to do it. Donald Macleod suggests that if John had used a different word order and used the definite article, literally saying, "the God", it would have `brought people's mind to God the Father and would have implied that Jesus was the Father. John didn't want to do that. Also, if God had changed his word order and used the article, that statement would also have implied that the Word was the Godhead exclusively, that no divine being existed except the Word. (Macleod, p. 10-11) It would have denied the existence of the Father and the Spirit. But John didn't want to do that. He was showing here that the Word was with God, He was with the Father and the Spirit in the beginning, and that He was God. Thus, in order to state that Jesus was God, and yet preserve the truth of the Trinity, John put it the way he did. In the context it was the best way of stating it.

The Word was God. God came down from heaven and took our nature on Himself. Paul speaks about this in Philippians 2:6f. He said of Jesus,

"Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness."

Jesus Himself testified to His preexistence. In John 8:57–59 Jesus said that He was the great "I Am" of the Old Testament, who appeared to Moses at the burning bush. He said that Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing His day, and he saw it, and was glad. When the Jews replied that Jesus was not yet fifty years old, so He couldn't have seen Abraham, Jesus answered,

"I tell you the truth,
before Abraham was born, I am!"

So what we must always remember about Jesus is that He is divine. He is God Himself. The baby that was born in Bethlehem was unique. It is true that His humanity began with His conception and that night as a human being He came into the world. But Jesus was and is much more than a human being. He always existed. Jesus alluded to this in John 3:13 when He said,

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

You'll remember from our readings two weeks ago in Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23 that Jesus was called, "Immanuel", which means, "God with us." Jesus was a true man, yes. But He was also God. The Word was made flesh.

Even more revealing for our purposes is the fact that Jesus is the glory of God.

In His prayer in John 17:5 Jesus said,

"And now, Father,
glorify me in your presence
with the glory I had with you
before the world began."

Jesus is God. He reveals the glory of God, the glory of the divine presence because He is God Himself.

This leads us to the second thing in our text that clearly shows that Jesus is God.

He is the Shekinah—the glory of the divine presence.

John wrote,

"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."

The Word, 'dwelt among us'. The word has connotations of pitching a tent, or dwelling in a tent. Vern Poythress tells us that what John is doing here is, (The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, p. 33)

"deliberating using a word for 'dwelling' that alludes to the Old Testament tabernacle."

In the wilderness God told His people to go to the promised land. But He was not going to simply remain in heaven and let the people go their own way. He was going to lead them to the promised land. He was going to come down among them. They were living in tents. He too would be in a tent, right beside them.

The reference to Christ's glory also takes us back to the Old Testament tabernacle. The place of worship for Israel during the wanderings in the wilderness, the place where God revealed His presence, was the Tabernacle. God's glory was associated with the tabernacle. In Exodus 40:34–35 we read,

"Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting,
and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
Moses could not enter
the Tent of Meeting because
the cloud had settled upon it,
and the glory of the Lord
filled the tabernacle."

It's also interesting is that the words, 'grace and truth' appear to be taken from Exodus 34:6. When Moses asked to see God's glory, God hid him in a cleft of a rock and passed in front of him and proclaimed, (Exodus 34:6) (NASB)

"The LORD, the LORD God,
compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, and abounding
in lovingkindness and truth;"

To cap it all off, John followed up in verse 17 by saying,

"For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth
came through Jesus Christ."

The tabernacle foreshadowed the fact that Christ would become incarnate and dwell among us. Donald Macleod writes, (Jesus is Lord, Christology Yesterday and Today, p. 27-28)

"By alluding to the incident on Sinai and using covenant language John is reminding the reader that the God who revealed himself to Moses has now revealed himself… in Jesus Christ… God is invisible, but he has become visible in Jesus…"

As John continued in verse 18,

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

Jesus makes God known. He can do that because He and the Father are one, (John 10:30) and as He told Philip, anyone who has seen Him has seen the Father. (John 14:9) (Macleod).

Now what does it mean that Jesus is God? What are the implications for our salvation?

First, it means that

you should have complete faith in Jesus, in His ability to save you.

The work of Jesus on your behalf, for your salvation, was not just the work of a sinless, perfect man. It was the work of God Himself! His two natures made Him eminently suitable to save sinners. John Calvin gives the sum of it all, (Institutes, II:12:3)

"In short, since neither as God alone could he feel death, nor as man alone could he overcome it, he coupled human nature with divine that to atone for sin he might submit the weakness of the one to death; and that, wrestling with death by the power of the other nature, he might win victory for us."

Thus, the fact that Jesus was God shows us that

He had the power and authority to save us.

John Calvin tells us that the what Jesus had to do was no common task. He writes, (Institutes, II:12:2)

"His task was so to restore us to God's grace as to make of the children of men, children of God; of the heirs of Gehenna, heirs of the Heavenly Kingdom."

As God Jesus had the power and strength to save us. Calvin continues, (Institutes, II:12:3)

"it was also imperative that he who was, to become our Redeemer be true God and true man. It was his task to swallow up death. Who but the Life could do this? It was his task to conquer sin. Who but very Righteousness could do this? It was his task to rout the powers of world and air. Who but a power higher than world and air could do this? Now where does life or righteousness, or lordship and authority of heaven lie but with God alone? Therefore our most merciful God, when he willed that we be redeemed, made himself our Redeemer in the person of his only-begotten Son."

Who could do this except for the God-man? Only a man could suffer and die. Only God could change our hearts, taking out our hearts of stone and replacing them with new hearts and move us to follow God's decrees and follow His laws.

Now someone might say,

"But it's the Holy Spirit who changes our hearts, gives us new life, and moves us to follow God's decrees and laws. It's not Jesus who does that."

The Spirit does those things but He does them on the basis of Jesus' work. Jesus had to complete His work and ascend to heaven in order for the Spirit to be given to the church. (John 16:7) Richard Gaffin Jr. writes, (Perspectives on Pentecost, p. 14)

"the work of Christ in its entirety may be said to consist in securing and communicating to the church at Pentecost the gift (baptism) of the Holy Spirit."

Jesus had to enter heaven to do that. As God Jesus had the power and authority to do that.

Part of Jesus' uniqueness in saving us was the fact that He could enter heaven. As God He could do that. Because He was God, Jesus operated on a different level than any man could. His relationship to the Old Testament priests makes this clear.
The book of Hebrews makes it clear that the earthy tabernacle that Moses instituted was a mere copy of the heavenly one. The first part of Hebrews 9 speaks about how the Old Testament tabernacle was set up and the rules and regulations that went with it and how the Old Testament High Priest was only allowed to enter the Holy place once a year, and had to be accompanied with blood. Verses 11-12 contrast that with Christ's work. It says,

"When Christ came as high priest
of the good things that are already here,
he went through the greater
and more perfect tabernacle
that is not man-made, that is to say,
not a part of this creation.
He did not enter by means of
the blood of goats and calves;
but he entered the Most Holy Place
once for all by his own blood,
having obtained eternal redemption."

Then in Hebrews 9:24 we read,

"For Christ did not enter
a man-made sanctuary
that was only a copy of the true one;
he entered heaven itself,
now to appear for us in God's presence."

Jesus, as the God-man, entered heaven itself, with His own blood, and perfected our salvation once for all. He then sat down at the right hand of the Father. No mere man could do that. As God He was perfectly suited to fulfill some aspects of what our salvation required.

Secondly, we should note that one of the things that the Bible suggests is the fact that,

Jesus' divinity gives incredible worth to His sufferings.

The divine nature and the human nature of Christ were united in the Person of Jesus Christ. Thus we read the amazing statement of the apostle Paul in Acts 20:28. He said to the Ephesian elders,

"Be shepherds of the church of God,
which he bought with his own blood."

What a statement. God purchased the church with His own blood. God doesn't have blood. God can't suffer. Yet Paul says that God bought the church with His own blood.

We have something similar in 1 Corinthians 2:8 which says,

"None of the rulers of this age
understood it, for if they had,
they would not have crucified
the Lord of glory."

There's such wonder in the sufferings of Jesus, the God-man. Theologians talk about the concept of 'communion of attributes', or, the 'communicating of properties', which means that in speaking of Christ, whatever is true of either nature is true of the Person. That's why Paul could say that the Lord of glory was crucified. This shows us the unity of the person of Christ, His two natures, one human, one divine, being so intimately connected.

Who suffered and died for you? We perhaps tend to think it was the human nature of Christ. But as Donald Macleod says, (From Glory to Golgotha, p. 52)

"Strictly speaking, natures do not act. It is persons who act."

The Person of Jesus Christ acted to save us. In his first letter the apostle Peter tells us how the Old Testament prophets searched intently, trying to find out the time and circumstances which the Spirit of Christ was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. Notice how Peter put those two things together—the sufferings and the glory. Peter then said, (1 Peter 1:12)

"Even angels long
to look into these things."

The sufferings of Jesus. What a mystery. What a display of the glory of God. Angels are amazed by it. That the Lord of Glory should take our nature upon Himself—that in itself is incredible. But that He, should suffer and die—goes way beyond our comprehension in terms of being amazing. How you should love Jesus.

Christians, God saved you. This means that your faith in Jesus should know no bounds. You are not saved by a mere human being, but you have been saved by Jesus, the God-man, who was perfectly suited to save you. Everything He did was done perfectly, completely, with weakness and power combining to achieve your salvation. He died for your sins. He rose from the dead and entered the heavenly tabernacle and secured your salvation. He is the perfect Savior. Trust Him. Rejoice in Him.

Thirdly, this means that

you should worship Jesus.

Jesus is God. This means that you should worship Him. Doubting Thomas worshipped Jesus. So should you. Don't neglect this. Jesus is Lord. Worship and praise Him. Be like Thomas when He recognized who Jesus was. Thomas exclaimed, (John 20:28)

"My Lord and my God!"

Jesus is fully and truly God. Christians, grasp this truth and never let it go.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, this means that

you should not despise Jesus, rather you should embrace Him.

He is God Himself. Yet you are not believing His message. You are treating Him with contempt. You are not trusting in Him.

Who is like Jesus? He is the high, exalted One, the Ruler over all creation—who stooped to take our lowly nature on Himself, in order to die for lost sinners. What love. What courage. How can you refuse Him? Bow before Him now and ask Him to save you.