What If God Were One of Us?

Tom Pennington • John 1:14

  • 2004-12-26 AM
  • The First Testament of Jesus Christ
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Several years ago, Joan Osborne wrote a song that's called by the music industry a one hit wonder. The song was entitled What if God Was One of Us? Now, there are several problems with this song. The most obvious being the bad grammar. Another serious issue was that it was written for the soundtrack of a blasphemous movie called Bruce Almighty. So, I don't recommend the song, but I remember the first time I heard it. I was in a store somewhere, and it was playing over the loud-speaker system, and I stopped where I was and just listened to the flow of the lyric line. And I was struck with the irony that what seems impossible is, in fact, what really happened. God was one of us. That's what we celebrate when we celebrate Christmas. It's the human birth of the eternal God.

Perhaps you read the article, as I did, recently in Newsweek in which the virgin birth, and the concept of the birth of Christ was sort of downplayed as unimportant. In reality, it is foundational. This truth of Christ's coming is foundational to our faith. The Apostle John in 1 John 4 says that,

… every spirit that confesses that Jesus is come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus has come in the flesh is in fact the spirit of antichrist….

Because of its foundational importance, three of the four gospels give us details about the birth of Christ. Two of them, the ones we're most familiar with, the gospel of Matthew and the gospel of Luke, give us a vantage point of the birth of Christ that's human. We see Mary and Joseph, and we understand the trauma that this event brought into their lives. We're faced with the shepherds and their encounter with the angelic host on the fields outside of Bethlehem.

John, on the other hand, gives us, not the human perspective of the birth of Christ, but the divine perspective. John describes the birth of Christ from God's viewpoint. And he compresses that amazing event into one powerful verse. It's richly poetic, and yet it's profoundly theological. Notice John 1:14. "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." That is the most concise statement in the New Testament about the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you've heard that term "incarnation" and aren't sure you know what it means. When we use the word "incarnation" we're referring to the biblical doctrine that teaches that the second person of the Trinity assumed humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, and became from that time forward both fully God and fully man. That's the incarnation. And this verse, John 1:14, is foundational in understanding that reality.

In fact, it was this verse that served as the foundation for the formulation of that famous statement of the person of Christ issued at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. "The eternal Son of God took upon Himself full humanity. The Almighty Creator of the universe became one of us." And in verse 14 the apostle John explains that event. He explains three important details about the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Those details are the nature of the incarnation, the witnesses of the incarnation, and the character of the incarnate Word.

This morning, in the time we have, I want us to examine those three details together. Let's begin with the nature of the incarnation. Notice the first few words of verse 14, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

Leon Morris in his excellent commentary on the gospel of John writes, "in one short shattering expression, John unveils the great idea at the heart of Christianity—that the very Word of God took flesh for our salvation." Now when we come to verse 14, you have to understand that it connects to and flows from verses 1 and 2.

There's a sense in which John 1:3 - 13 is sort of parenthetical. The theme of the Word of God (the Word, the Logos that he introduces in the first two verses of chapter 1) he resumes in verse 14. The announcement of the incarnation in verse 14 corresponds to the declaration of His pre-existence in verse 1. Notice in verse 1, "the Word was God." In verse 14 he became flesh. In verse 1 He was with God, in verse 14 He was among us. As you understand this amazing event of the incarnation, you can grasp it if you understand two basic realities, and they're the ones that are outlined here in verse 14. What's the nature of the incarnation? Well, first of all, John says the Word became flesh. The Word became flesh.

Now, it's pretty basic, and most of us assume the truth, but we probably should start by asking the question, who is the Word? Who exactly are we talking about? Well, as John works his way through chapter 1, he sort of gradually removes the veil to allow us to see who this mysterious person actually is. In verse 1 he begins by telling us that the Word existed before creation. In the beginning, he says, was the Word. The Word existed before anything was created.

Verse 2, the Word was with God. It's an interesting expression. The word "with" is not the usual Greek preposition for "with". It's an unusual one. It literally means "face to face". The Word was face to face in personal intimacy with God. Also, in verse 2, we learn that the reason for that is because the Word was God. You know, it's ironic to me that many of the cults try to use this verse to argue that Jesus was not "the" God, but simply "a" God. In the Greek language, in the original text, it's clear that John intends to say that the Word existed as God Himself.

In fact, if you drop down to verse 18, he couldn't make it any clearer. He refers to Jesus Christ as the only begotten God. In verse 3 we learned that this person, the Word, created everything in the universe (all things that exist) exist because of Him and for Him and through Him. But when we drop down to verse 17, this mysterious person is given a name, Jesus Christ. The name Jesus, of course, is His historical name. It's the name that distinguishes Him as a historical figure that lived at the dividing point of our calendar in the tiny land of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth. That was His name. But we're also given His title, Christ. The title of the one promised in Old Testament Scripture, literally in the Hebrew text it says Ha-Mashiach, the Messiah, the Annointed One, the One God specially appointed to bring men into right relationship with Him. That's who the Word is.

And when you understand who the Word is, what comes next would be absolutely shocking if you had never heard it before, because in verse 14 he says, "the Word became flesh". Each of those words is carefully chosen by the apostle. "Became" describes an event that happened in a moment of time. The eternal Word who pre-existed as God, with God at a moment in time became flesh. The Greek word for flesh is a word that's often used not only to refer to a body, but to human nature (both aspects of man, both our material part, that is our body, and our internal being, the immaterial part of man). Christ became all that man is. He wasn't simply God in a body. He became fully man.

You see this in John 3. John uses this same expression in a way that's very clear. John 3:6, he says, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." He's saying that which is born of human nature is human nature. If it's in accord with human nature, then it remains and always will be human nature. And it can't be spirit, which he goes on to explain means, to know God through the person of His Son. So, when we learn that Jesus Christ was made flesh, or became flesh, we're learning something incredibly profound.

Theologian Robert Raymond writes this. "The second person of the Holy Trinity, the eternal Son and Word of God took into union with His divine nature, in the one divine person of the Son, our human nature, and so came to be with us as Immanuel, or God with us."

You see, what John is teaching in verse 14 is simple to understand at its most basic level, but it's depths can never truly be fathomed by any of us. It is unfathomable. The eternal God became everything that you are and that I am, except for sin. There're some things that just can't be illustrated. There're some things that we can't begin to fathom the depths of the condescension which Jesus Christ took.

C.S. Lewis puts it this way. "If you want to understand just a little bit of the reality of the incarnation, imagine what it would be like for you to become a slug." As amazing as it sounds, Scripture is filled with similar claims that the eternal Son of God took on Himself full humanity.

Romans 1:3 says God's Son was born a descendant of David according to the flesh. Galatians 4:4 says God's Son was born of a woman. Several months ago, we studied for several Sundays Philippians 2, where Paul, in his letter to the church in Philippi puts it this way. Philippians 2:6,

… although Christ existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be … [held on to at all costs.] but [instead, Paul goes on to say, He] emptied Himself. [How did Christ empty Himself? He emptied Himself by] taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Colossians 2:9 says, "… in … [Christ,] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form," amazing statement. You know, I think sometimes as believers we become so accustomed to those statements of Scripture that our eyes just wander right past them. All the fullness of deity dwelt in Christ in bodily form. Jesus did not simply assume humanity as something that He could put on and take off. In fact, He became flesh.

You know, I think sometimes when we think about the incarnation, we think of Christ something like we grew up reading Superman. We think that Christ somehow disguised Himself as a human being, and that if He chose, at any moment He could sort of pop into the nearest first-century phone booth and unzip His disguise and become who He really was. No, the amazing truth that Scripture teaches is that He became man. He became as much a part of the human race as you are and as I am. After all, what makes us human. It's the simple fact that we come from other humans.

This week I came across a thought that was really quite staggering. Let me share it with you. How many parents do you have? This isn't a trick question. Two. How many grandparents? Four. How many great-grandparents? Eight. How many great-great-grandparents? Sixteen. If you were to keep doing that and go back a mere twenty generations, you would discover that you have descended from a million people. The blood, if you will, of a million people flows through your veins. That explains why some of us look like Mr. Potato-head, I suppose. You and I are truly human because we are so uniquely tied to the race.

Listen to theologian Augustus Strong. He writes, "the name Smith or Jones or whatever name you bear, represents only one strain of all those million (ancestors that is). You might almost as well bear any other name. Your existence is more an expression of the race at large than of any particular family or line." And he goes on to say, "What is true of you was true on the human side of the Lord Jesus. In Him, all the lines of our common humanity converged."

Although Jesus humanity came only through Mary, He shared a common humanity with millions of people. In fact, let me say something that I hope will stagger you. Every one of us in this auditorium this morning are physically related to Jesus Christ. If we could draw the family tree of the world's humanity, we all go back to Noah and through Noah, ultimately to Adam. We are all physically related to the person of Jesus Christ. He truly shared our humanity.

There's a second component, though, of the nature of the incarnation. Not only did He become flesh, but He dwelt among us, John says. He dwelt among us. The word dwelt literally means to set up a tent. John uses the word as a contrast with those pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus Christ that we studied last week. The eternal Son of God, as we saw last week, came often to this earth in the Old Testament. Whenever you have a visible appearance of God in the Old Testament, it's none other than Jesus Christ. It was Jesus Christ who created the world. It was Jesus Christ who walked with Adam in the garden. It was Jesus Christ who appeared to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was Jesus Christ who appeared to Noah and gave him directions to build the ark. It was Jesus Christ who led His people out of Egypt. And so, it goes.

But in Bethlehem, He became one of us, and He stayed. And He stayed for 33 years. You know (I was thinking recently as I was contemplating approaching Christmas) we know a lot about Jesus' birth. And of course, we know even more about His three years of ministry, that's what most of the gospels are about. We know a little bit about His childhood, up through the incident at age 12 when His parents found Him in the temple.

But there is only one verse in all of the New Testament that has anything to say about the years between 13 and 30, when He began His ministry. It's a fascinating verse. In fact, turn there with me to Mark 6. Mark 6. This is all we know about those 17 silent years. Jesus is teaching in His home town of Nazareth, verse 2

When the Sabbath came He began to teach in the synagogue, and the many listeners were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him.

In verse 3 you have two descriptions of those years between 13 and 30. One of them is relating to His family. We know that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born, Jesus was her first-born. But after that, we're told in verse 3, she had four boys. Two of them end up writing books in our New Testament. They came to believe in their brother as the true Messiah, the Son of God. And then it describes sisters, plural. That means He had at least two sisters. So, we know that through those 17 years, Christ was growing up in a family—a large family. A family of at least seven, and if sisters describes more than two, then it was even larger than that.

But there's another description of those 17 years, begins verse 3. This is how they knew Jesus. Is not this the carpenter? Think about that for a moment. The one who spoke worlds into existence, spent 17 silent years simply working as a carpenter. He truly became one of us, and He dwelt among us.

Isn't that what Isaiah said? You remember Isaiah, in his prophecy 7:14 says that this child will be called Immanuel, God with us. Not simply God among us but God truly with us. John carefully chose the word "dwelt" back in John 1:14. There's an interesting word picture in this word "dwelt". I think he carefully chose it to present this word picture. It is the verb form of the noun "tabernacle". It literally says, "the Word tabernacled among us". This is an intentional word picture pointing back to the Old Testament tabernacle.

You see, in the Old Testament, God set up a tent in the middle of His nation (the middle of the people of Israel), and He dwelt with them. And there, they beheld a visible display of His glory that's called "the glory cloud", or as it came to be known after the Scriptures were written, the Shekinah. It was a visible manifestation, a blazing, white-hot glow that showed the presence of God was there in a special way among His people. In the same way, Christ came to live among us. But not in a tent of animal skins, but in a tabernacle of human flesh, of human nature. So, John explains the nature of the incarnation in these two brief phrases, "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us."

The second detail that John explains is: the witnesses of the incarnation. The witnesses of the incarnation. Notice the middle of verse 14, "and we saw His glory". It's kind of a strange parenthesis really. It breaks up the flow of his thought in a sense, so the question that I had, and that you should have as you read it is, why would John include this here? I think it becomes pretty obvious if you think about it. You see, for many the incarnation seems too fantastic to believe. There are many skeptics in our world. God, the creator becoming one of His creatures. So, how do you establish the credibility of such an important event?

Well, there are only two ways to establish the credibility of any event, and certainly an ancient historical one. The first is through a trustworthy authority. You want to read something about ancient history, you turn to an ancient historian like Herodotus, someone who was there, someone who accurately recorded the events.

Or, you appeal to reliable eyewitnesses. You remember in the Law of Moses, God had Moses write this in Deuteronomy 19:15. "A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; [No] on the evidence of two or three witnesses, a matter shall be confirmed."

That's what John is establishing. He's saying we, plural, there was more than just me. There were several of us. There were many of us. We saw His glory. The word "saw" is a word that means "to watch as in a theater, to view, to contemplate". John is saying the life of Christ went before our eyes, was lit before our eyes as if on a screen. We witnessed it all. We saw it.

He's saying (as incredible as what I'm saying to you may seem), there are witnesses of it. This is important to John. In fact, turn to the first chapter of his first epistle. First John 1:1, he begins his letter by saying,

What was from the beginning, [again, he's talking about this Word, the eternal Son of God] what we have heard, [notice that the personal testimony, what we have heard] what we have seen with our eyes, what we have gazed upon, what we have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, [that is, revealed, made obvious to us in a body] and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard, we proclaim to you also….

Listen folks, believing in the incarnation is not (as it was presented on Larry King the other night) a leap of faith. It is based on the testimony of a trusted authority, God Himself. And it's based on the testimony of reliable eyewitnesses who saw it, who observed it. Notice what John says specifically, back in chapter 1. He says, "we saw His glory." What does he mean, we saw His glory? I mean, Isaiah tells us that it wasn't that Christ's appearance was anything to really look at. It wasn't that He won people over by the sheer force of His physical appearance. What does it mean, "we saw His glory?"

Well, there are several ways those who saw Christ saw His glory. One of them was in His miracles. At His very first miracle, the turning of the water into wine in Cana, John writes this in John 2:11, "This beginning of … signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory." Christ showed His glory by the miraculous things that He did.

The same thing is in John 11:4 at the raising of Lazarus. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick and was going to die, He says to His disciples, "This sickness is not to end [ultimately] in death, [this time], but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." They saw His glory in the incredible miracles that He performed.

They saw His glory in the transfiguration, that time when His glory became obvious to three, Peter, James, and John. In fact, turn back a few pages to Luke 9. You see this event recorded in verse 28. Luke writes,

Some eight days after these sayings, … [Jesus] took along Peter and John and James, and went up to the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different. And His clothing became white and gleaming. [The word "gleaming" literally means, "that brilliant flash that accompanies lightning". And behold two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah who appearing in glory were speaking of His departure [His death] which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory."

John says, we saw His glory. We saw it in the miracles. We saw it in the transfiguration. But there's another remarkable place that they saw the glory of Christ. Turn to John 12. John 12:23. Some Greeks had come seeking Jesus, and Jesus says to His disciples in that event,

"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

He's of course, referring to His coming crucifixion. He says in My crucifixion, I will be glorified, you will see My glory. John 13:31, He makes the same point.

Therefore, when (this is of course the night of the last supper) … [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; [and] if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately."

The strange truth is that the greatest demonstration of the true glory of Jesus Christ was at the crucifixion, as He died for you and for me.

John says we saw His glory. You know, you and I may not have been there to see this amazing reality (to see the incarnation) to do what John did, to see Him, to behold Him, to watch Him as if we were beholding His life before us screen by screen, to touch Him. But there were plenty of eyewitnesses. That's what John wants us to know. You can believe it because God has said that it happened. And God did something more than just say it had happened. He provided us with eyewitnesses of the events. You may say, well, I still wish I could have been there. I wish I could have seen. I wish I could have beheld.

You know, Peter did. But you know what Peter says? He says, you and I have a more reliable testimony than our own senses, than our own observation of Jesus Christ. He says, I was there on the Mountain of Transfiguration. I saw His glory. In 2 Peter 1 he says, but we have a much more sure word of prophecy. We can believe it because we have the Word of God, not because we have observed it with our own senses.

So, John has set forth the nature of the incarnation, the witnesses of the incarnation, and that brings us to the third and final detail he explains. It's the character of the incarnate Word. Notice the last part of verse 14. "… we [beheld, or] saw, His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." "Only begotten" is really not a good translation of this word. The Greek word is monogenes. John only uses it to refer to Christ. But it doesn't refer to birth at all. It doesn't come from the Greek word meaning to be born. Instead, it refers to uniqueness of kind. It's often used of an only child. Luke 7:12, the widow of Nain's only son. Luke 8:42, of Jairus's only daughter.

But the clearest passage that helps us understand what this term means ascribed to Christ is Hebrews 11:17, where Isaac is called "the monogenes", or the only begotten of Abraham. Now, Isaac wasn't Abraham's only son. But he was the only one of his kind. He was unique among the sons of Abraham. He was the one that had been chosen and selected and promised by God. So, when John says that Christ is the only begotten, he means He's the only one of His kind. He's unique. He's the one and only one. Jesus is God's Son in a unique way. No other is or can be the Son of God as He is. But notice that John describes the character of this unique Son of God. He describes it in two amazing words. He says He was full of "grace". Full of grace.

"Grace" is the first word. Just the word itself is a wonderful word, isn't it? You've heard it's meaning many times before, probably. Grace is God's unmerited, or undeserved favor to those who deserve only His wrath. But what is "favor"? When we say God bestowed undeserved favor, what do we mean. Well, recently, on Sunday nights we've been studying the character of God and we looked at this idea of grace in detail, and what we discovered was that often in human relationships, the question arises about one person's attitude toward another. You know, you may ask the question, will that person welcome me? Will that person be open to a request from me? Is that person a friend or a foe? And if that person of whom you're asking the question has a positive attitude toward you, then they have favor toward you. To "show favor" means "to approve, to like, to kindly regard, to show kindness toward."

So, Christ has a positive disposition and attitude toward those who have earned only eternal wrath. To say that Christ is full of grace is to say that He responds to those who deserve God's punishment with kindness and care. How does He do that. How does He show that fullness of grace? Well, He did it first of all by coming. The greatest demonstration of the grace of God was in sending Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul writes, "you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor that you through His poverty might become rich". He's not talking about physical prosperity. He's talking about spiritual prosperity before God. He is full of grace.

Perhaps this morning you know all the facts about Jesus Christ. You know everything I'm saying. You've heard it many times before. Perhaps you've been connected to various churches all your life. You grew up, perhaps, in a Christian home. But sitting there this morning, if you're really honest with your own heart, you know that you don't really know Jesus Christ. And perhaps you even are tempted to wonder how would He respond to me if I were to finally come and humbly come before Him acknowledging my sin, crying out for His grace and forgiveness. How would He respond? How would He receive me? I mean, after all, there have been years of independence, or as the Bible describes it, rebellion. There have been years of prostituting His good gifts to me. How will He respond? Well, I can guarantee you how He will respond.

Listen to it in His own words. Turn to Matthew 11. I love these words. Matthew 11:28. Jesus calls out to the crowd.

"Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me [in other words, become my disciple—put your confidence and trust in me, let Me become your sovereign, your Lord] for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light".

John, in his gospel, gives similar demonstrations of the grace of God in Christ. Listen to John 6:35. Jesus says to the crowds, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." Two verses later, in verse 37 He says, "the one who comes to Me, I will in no wise [or I certainly will not] cast out." In John 7:37 on the last day of one of the feasts of Israel, the temple was absolutely jammed with people. "Jesus stood and [He] cried out [with a loud voice, he calls out to the people who gathered there, and He says, Hey,] … "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink." You want to know how Jesus would respond if you came, if you came to believe, to have your confidence in Him, turn from your life of rebellion and embrace Him as Lord? That's how He would respond. That's how He'd respond. He's full of favor toward those who deserve only wrath.

But there's another word here that describes His character in John 1. Not only grace, but "truth". He's full of "truth". John loves this concept of truth, and he uses it simply to describe divine reality, things the way God sees them and knows them to be. The truth is simply the reality that God sees, and the revelation of that reality to us. To say that Christ is full of truth is to claim that He is the perfect revelation of divine reality. You see this throughout his epistle. John 4, you remember the encounter Jesus had with the Samaritan woman. In verse 24 He says to her, "God is spirit, and those who worship … [God (you want to worship God?) you] must worship [Him] in spirit…." [That is, as opposed to form only. It must be with all your heart. You must worship Him in spirit, and you must worship Him in] "truth."

God isn't impressed with good intentions. God isn't impressed with a good heart, as we would say it. We must worship Him not only with all our hearts, but in truth, in accordance with divine reality. There are a lot of people who mean well and are involved in religions of various kinds, but it's not impressive to God. You want to worship God, you do it in truth. John 8:31,

Jesus was saying to those Jews who … believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then are you truly disciples of Mine, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

He says, My words are all about truth. They're all about divine reality. And He goes on to say, in John 8:40 - 46 that the reason they didn't listen to Him—they didn't receive His words of truth—was because they were of their father the Devil, and the Devil is a liar, and they wanted to believe the lie. They didn't want to believe the truth that He spoke.

Then there's the encounter in chapter 18 with Pilate. You remember, Pilate is trying to get out of crucifying Jesus even though the crowd is crying for His blood, and in John 18:37,

… Pilate says to Christ, So, You are a king [then]. Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, [Here's the reason] to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Pilate … [says] to Him, "What is truth?" [Pilate believed there was objective truth, he just didn't believe it could be known.}

Unfortunately, we live in a post-modern world that rejects the very concept of absolute truth. But Jesus Christ said, there is absolute truth. I came to make it known. Moreover, I am the truth. You remember those profound words of Christ in John 14:6. "I am the way." He says. I am the path. I am the truth. And I am the life. And then He says something that's chilling. No one comes to the Father but through Me. He is the perfect revelation of God. His exclusive claims run contrary to our inclusive age.

But the key question that all of us should ask is, how can we come to the Father through Jesus Christ? Well, the apostle John answers that question in the first chapter, just a few verses before the verse we're looking at. Notice verse 10. He says,

… [Christ] was in the world, the world was made through Him, and the world didn't know Him. He came to His own [possessions, His own creation, the things He had made], and those who were His own [His own people] did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right [or authority] to become [the] children of God, even to those who believe in His name….

What does it mean "to receive Him"? Well, it's defined by that last phrase—to those who believe in His name. To receive Christ is to believe in His name. To acknowledge His claims. To put your eternal confidence and trust in Him. To yield your allegiance to Him. To lay down your arms of rebellion and acknowledge Him as your Lord, your master, and become His disciple. If you'll do that, then John says, "to as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God". You say, how in the world can I become a child of God. Well, notice verse 13. It will be by supernatural re-birth. You'll be born not of blood, not of your own will, but by the will of God. God will do something miraculous. He'll give you a new heart that will make you fit for heaven.

From God's perspective, the birth of Jesus Christ looks like this. The eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace, and full of truth. I love John Milton, the great poet of the 16th—of the 17th century. In his poem about the nativity, he put the incarnation in these hauntingly beautiful words. He writes:

"That glorious Form, that Light unsufferable,

And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty,

Wherewith he wont at Heav'ns high Councel-Table,

To sit the midst of Trinal Unity,

He laid aside, and here with us to be,

Forsook the Courts of everlasting Day,

And chose with us a darksom house of mortal Clay."

That's the incarnation.

Let's pray together.

Father, we are overwhelmed with Your grace in sending Your only begotten Son, Your one, Your only, Your unique Son for us that we, through His poverty, might be made rich.

Lord, help both those of us who know Him, who have bowed the knee before Him, who worship and serve Him as Lord and Savior, Lord I pray that you would help us to adore Him, to be lost in wonder, love, and praise, as we behold Him.

And Lord, I pray for the person here this morning who knows everything I've talked about this morning, has heard it before, but they don't know the person of Jesus Christ. They have never turned from their sin and embraced Him as Lord and Savior. Lord, I pray that You would do that work in their hearts this morning, that You would help them see Him in all His glory and to see themselves in all their sinfulness, and to receive Him, to believe in His name, and then You will give them the right to be called Your own child.

Lord, may that be true this morning for the sake of, for the glory of Your eternal Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.

The First Testament of Jesus Christ