The Word was made flesh…

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.—John 1:14

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is the Word. He is flesh. He is both in one person. In his becoming flesh and in his flesh, we behold the glory of God as the omnipotent, sovereign, gracious, merciful, and faithful God. Surely, you can behold the glory of God in the whirlwind, in fire, in thunder, and in the shaking of the earth.

In these few words—the Word became flesh—the whole Christian religion is summarized. Herein the gospel is summarized. On these words rest the hope, comfort, and joy of the believer.

By this truth every lie is exposed too. That man must first repent before God may forgive man is a lie that is exposed by the truth that the Word was made flesh. That the reception of, joy in, and assurance of the blessings of salvation cannot come apart from the obedience of man is revealed as a lie of the devil by the truth that the Word was made flesh. That there are activities of man that precede blessings of God is shown to be a damning false doctrine by the truth that the Word was made flesh. That believers abide in Christ by faith and by the works of faith is shown to be a wicked teaching by the truth that the Word was made flesh. All these lies, as every lie in the history of the church, make God dependent on man in the matter of salvation. These lies, as all lies before them, teach an impotent God, not an omnipotent God—an impotent God who waits on man to be first, not an omnipotent God who does all his pleasure. A God who is not omnipotent cannot perform the incarnation. Thus to teach an impotent God is to make the incarnation impossible. Indeed, if man must first repent, first turn, first fogive, and first obey, then the incarnation never happened. Such is the seriousness of the issues that we face. These false doctrines deny that the Word was made flesh.

But the Word was made flesh. Wonder of wonders! All glory to the only true, ever-gracious, perfectly sovereign, and omnipotent God, who does not wait on man, who is able to do all that he willed to do, and who is able to do all that he willed to do especially in connection with the salvation of his people in his eternal covenant of grace to the glory of his everlasting name. Man is not and never can be first in any sense whatsoever, but God accomplishes all things that he willed for the salvation of his people, including making them alive; causing them to believe and to repent; and justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying them according to his own sovereign will. For the Word was made flesh, so that everything God wills he is also able to accomplish.

Does not the truth that the Word was made flesh fill you with unspeakable joy and assurance? That the Word was made flesh means that Jesus Christ is God with us, that in Christ God came unto us, and that in Christ God fulfilled his promise and oath and showed himself the God who is able to do the impossible and thus who is able to accomplish all things for our salvation. If God were to say publicly and before the whole world, “God was made an angel,” would that not fill the angels with unspeakable joy? Would they not shout and sing and tell everyone that God was made an angel? But God says that God was made flesh.

All the scriptures proclaim this fact. That is certainly at the heart of the Old Testament. The whole Old Testament is nothing more than a revelation of God concerning Jesus Christ his Son, the seed of the woman, who would come and would crush the head of the serpent. And the New Testament and all its doctrine are nothing more than the revelation of God that Jesus of Nazareth, who was born of Mary and crucified at Golgotha, is the fulfillment of that promise of God that God would be made flesh.

In that becoming flesh the Word came unto his own. This does not refer to God’s entrance into the world, for God does not come into the world. He made the world. He is always present in the world, so that there is nothing and no one who is nearer to the world than God himself, who while he is totally transcendent above the world is also immanent in the world, present with the whole of his being in every point of space. That the transcendent and immanent God came unto his own means that God, the maker of all men, became a man, really and truly became a man; so that he did not take the nature of angels, did not become an exalted spiritual being aloof from man; but he took of the flesh and blood of man, of the lowly Adam, and became truly and really a man in all points except sin.

Still more, that the Word came unto his own means not only that he became a man but also that he became a man for the purpose of redeeming those who were his by eternal election in order to bring them into most precious fellowship with God. They were his own not only because he shared with them a nature of flesh and blood, but also they were his own because as the electing God he had chosen them in love and appointed them to salvation in an eternal covenant of grace. To realize that will of God, the Word came to them.

And in order to come unto his own, the Word became flesh. The Word of God was with God in the beginning. The Word of God is God, and the Word as God was with God. He is the God by whom all things were made and without whom was not anything made that was made.

In the beginning was the Word. So before he made anything that was made, he already was. He was already, not as the first and highest of creatures; but he was already as God, coequal and coeternal with the Father. The Word is the only-begotten from the Father. Not merely the only-begotten of the Father but the only-begotten from the Father. The Word is begotten as God from God, light of lighttrue God of true God, being begotten essentially and personally of the Father.

But nowhere was the glory of God
so revealed as when the Word
became flesh. There we see
God as the God of all truth and all grace.

Here is the most basic and most profound confession of Christ that a believer can make, the great mystery of godliness. Upon this fact that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God depends all our salvation; on this truth rests all our hope; in this truth is all our joy. It is the confession about Jesus: that this man is the only-begotten Son of God, God’s eternal Son according to his divine nature. He did not become a Son of God. It is true that according to his human nature he was begotten of God. He is the one human being who was begotten of God. He is that because he was begotten of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary. But when the Son of God was begotten in the womb of the virgin Mary, that was the revelation of who he was essentially and eternally.

When we confess that he is the only-begotten Son, we mean that the man Christ Jesus, who was conceived in the womb of Mary, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger and upon whose life Herod had designs, who walked among men, who spoke such gracious words and performed so many wonderful works, who was crucified upon Calvary and rose the third day according to the scripture—this Jesus is God. He was God in the womb; he was God in his mother’s arms; he was God as he walked among men; he was God when he spoke; he was God on the cross; he was God in the grave; he was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead when God said, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”

To beget is an act of love. God the Father begat his Son in love, and he loves his only-begotten Son in the Spirit. Father presses Son into his bosom, and Son presses himself into the bosom of the Father. The Word—who is God and who was with God, who made all things and without whom was not anything made that was made— is the only-begotten Son of God who is in the bosom of the Father, and the Son has declared the Father. Here scripture takes us into the divine love-life of God. Scripture takes us deep into the being of God and deep into eternity and reveals God the Father’s great love for his Son. Scripture lets us into a profound secret and mystery that are hid in God but that he revealed for our comfort and glory. God loved his Son, and he loved his people in his Son.

The Word became flesh. Oh, how far down we come from those heights! God, God of God, now has become flesh. God and flesh: how antithetical these two realities stand to one another. How different could two natures be!

The Word was made flesh;
thus all of salvation is sure,
the promise of God is sure,
and eternal life is sure.

Flesh is an ugly word. Flesh smacks of sin and smells of lust—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. “Flesh” in verse 14 means the whole human nature. Man as he came from the dust by God’s act of creation was flesh. Man was flesh in body and soul, in mind, heart, and will. He was of the earth earthy even in his perfection. As created he was upright flesh; but he could not see, hear, understand, and know the things of the kingdom of heaven. His heaven was Eden. But he did not so remain. He fell, and flesh was declared guilty and bound under sin. Flesh then signifies the nature of man as it fell under the power of sin, as it became weak, wretched, dead, and decayed. Now, what is born of flesh is flesh. It is full of lusts and sins. Flesh shakes, hurts, tires, and needs to be fed and watered. Flesh betrays us, so that although we will to do in the flesh, yet we cannot do in the flesh. Flesh cannot keep the law of God.

And the Word became flesh. He did not take to himself the nature of angels, those glorious and ministering spirits that he made in the beginning. Perfect, full of light and life, and faithful sons of God, bearing his image and partaking of his spirituality. We might be tempted to say that it would have been far more fitting to the Word to have taken the nature of angels. But he took flesh and became flesh. Thus the Word became man.

So the Word is two things: he is very God and he is very man, and that in one person. All that is God’s is the Word’s according to his eternal begetting. All that is man’s is the Word’s according to his conception by the Holy Ghost in the womb of Mary.

And the Word became flesh in order to dwell among us. If you would go to live in a chicken coop and would strip yourself of all your clothes and put on feathers and peck around in the dirt and cluck like a hen; if you would strip yourself of all your clothes and would wallow around in the mud in a pigsty; or if some mighty king would dismiss all his bodyguards and give up all his honors in order to live in a slum—in none of these does the humiliation come close to what the Son of God did when he became flesh. He exchanged his sapphire throne for a stable floor.

When he became flesh, he did not dwell in the air, in some ivory tower, in a castle in the sky, or even in cloistered luxury on the earth; but he dwelt among us. He did not come to us to make it appear as though he had a concern for those to whom he came, all the while remaining aloof and returning nightly to his high and lofty place. He actually came to us and took up his abode with us and dwelt among us.

These words are full of love and intimacy. The Word did not stand aloof from us and from our misery, but he entered fully into it and took his place in it. That the Word became flesh to dwell among us speaks then of his inexpressible humiliation. Man cannot comprehend fully the wrath of God against sin, a wrath of God against all who are born of the flesh and all who are flesh. For in Adam all perished. In Adam all flesh was made subject to sin and death. And the Word became flesh and thus made himself the object of the wrath of God against sin. When the Word was made flesh, he was also made sin and a curse. He was the most cursed and the most sinful flesh that ever was because he bore in his flesh all the sins of his people. He bore their original sin. He bore their actual sins. He became flesh; and when he did, God imputed to the Word all the sins of his people and made him to be sin for us and to be a curse for us.

So also when the Word became flesh, he became the lowliest and most miserable of all men, and he bore that in his flesh all his life long; but especially on the cross he bore the terrible wrath of God against sin. So great was that weight that it pressed out of his flesh bloody sweat. It also pressed out of him his great and terrible cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

And in that humiliation when the Word dwelt among us, he demonstrated his glory. I believe that is the meaning of the words “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” These words cannot be separated from the words that the Word became flesh. In that becoming flesh, in that flesh, in his weakness, in his humiliation, and in all his anguish he showed, and all beheld, the very glory of God. Behold him! He had to be swaddled as every other little baby. He needed his mother to nurse him and change his diapers. He had to be washed and fed and put to bed. He had to learn to walk and talk and learn. He had no place to lay his head; he tired and was weary; and he groaned and wept. He spoke and taught. He ate and drank as men and did all the things that men do. And he was despised and rejected and ridiculed. The people tied him up like a thief; they put him under oath and finally crucified him. How was he not a man like every other man?

In that humiliation he showed the glory of God. As God manifested his glory to Elijah, not in a whirlwind or in an earthquake but in the still small voice, so God manifested his glory in the highest sense when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. In Christ is seen clearly the power, sovereignty, grace, mercy, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, loving-kindness, and faithfulness of the triune God. Christ declares with saving power and with damning truth the name of God.

The glory of God is the radiant splendor of God in all the fullness of his goodness and perfection. The Word made flesh showed that too. All of that was obvious and demonstrably true in him. No one could gainsay that. By word and by deed, he proved that he is the only-begotten Son of God. Just as God brought all things into being by his Word—he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast—so Jesus spoke, and it was done. All who heard him bore witness that he spoke with authority, and they testified of the graciousness of his words. He said to the dead little Tabitha, “Arise.” He said to dead, stinking Lazarus, “Lazarus, come forth!” To the lame he said, “Arise and walk.” To the blind he said, “See” and to the devils, “Come out of him” and to the wind and the waves, “Be still!”

But that still was not the fullest revelation of the glory of God. The glory of God is the praise of God as the only good and ever-gracious God. The Word made flesh showed that too. The people saw that. All heard his gracious words full of grace and truth.

But that revelation of the glory of God came especially at the end of that life in the flesh. Was it when the mob came and he said, “I am,” and they all fell over? Oh, that was thrilling indeed. But that was not the full revelation of the glory of God.

You can see and all could see and all did see the glory of God when they took Jesus. They bound him; they tried him; they put him under oath; and they bore false witness against him, betrayed him, condemned him, and crucified him. And he prayed, “Father, forgive them,” spoke comforting words to the formerly blaspheming thief, and there in the darkness of Golgotha gave the piercing and anguished cry of the cross declaring, “It is finished!” There is the glory of God.

That is what the astonished and then believing centurion confessed: “Truly, this man was the Son of God!” Beholding the glory of God in Jesus Christ crucified transformed the centurion. That is what the Pharisees in their unbelief hardened themselves against when they asked for a guard for Jesus’ tomb. They beheld the glory of God in Christ crucified and were hardened in hatred against him.

He showed forth the glory of God as the God who has grace and pity and tender compassion on his dear, sinful people; so that Christ Jesus, for us and for our salvation, came down to us to perform in the flesh all things necessary for our salvation and glory. Because he is the onlybegotten Son of God in the flesh, his flesh is strong to save. Because he is the only-begotten Son of God in the flesh, he did save because in his humiliation and in all his suffering he made full and complete satisfaction for the sins of all his people.

All this he did in the flesh and as flesh in order to save flesh. Us! Flesh! He came to dwell among us! That we might dwell with him forever. What glory of God especially did they behold? That God is such a God that he condescends to us, who are of low estate, to glorify us in himself. That is the glory of God for which he wills to be praised to all eternity. A God full of grace and truth, who brought the fullness of that grace and truth to us.

The Word who became flesh is full of grace and truth! In a few words John describes the glory of God that all beheld in Jesus Christ. Flesh full of grace and truth. This is impossible. Flesh is full of sin, death, and condemnation. Flesh by nature is full of nothing but lies, wickedness, and death. That is what happened to flesh in Adam. To see how glorious flesh is in Christ, you have to contrast him with Adam. In Adam flesh, all flesh, became full of sin, death, and wickedness. To be in Adam, then, all that one has is sin, death, wickedness, shame, and condemnation. Adam is full of evil. That is all men are too in Adam. Christ is full of grace and truth as flesh. He took that flesh; and he filled that flesh with life, light, glory, grace, and truth because the one who became flesh is the only-begotten of the Father. He does not merely partake of grace and truth, but he is full of it; that is, he is all grace and all truth. He is grace and truth, and there is no grace and truth apart from him. To have grace and truth, you must have him; for he is full of grace and truth. If you have him, then, you also have all grace and truth that is necessary for salvation.

The incarnate Christ is full of grace. This means that everything in him and everything about him pleases God. God delights in him, loves him, anoints him with the oil of gladness above all his fellows, lifts him up, and glorifies him and will be glorified in him alone. The Father finds nothing in Christ but what is lovely and altogether pleasing to God. Nothing in the world pleases God except Christ. He is grace. He is the fullness of grace. He is the fullness of grace to overcome sin, death, hell, and the grave. He is the fullness of grace to forgive the sins of all who believe in him, to deliver them from the bondage of sin and from the pollution of that sin. He is the fullness of grace to make them not only servants but also sons and daughters of the living God and to make them unspeakably and eternally blessed in heaven. Whoever has Christ has the fullness of grace, and whoever has him has God for him and not against him. Then whoever has Christ has nothing to worry about or fear in this life, for God is working all things for his salvation.

And in Christ God revealed himself as the God of truth. Christ is full of truth. That truth is God’s promise. God in Christ, when the Son was made flesh, declared that he is the God of truth. That he does all that he promises and that his promise is fully accomplished in Jesus Christ. That is why to believe that the Word was made flesh is to believe that God is true to his word, so that without any doubt we believe that God is also favorable toward us, gracious toward us, and that he will certainly bring us to heavenly glory in Christ and perform all that he promises to us in Christ. To believe that the Word was made flesh is to believe that no sin or evil in us can hinder us from being received of God in mercy, to believe that God will destroy sin and all the works of the devil, and to believe that God will make us eternally blessed in Christ. And on the faithful God we alone rely for all of our salvation. The Word was made flesh to save flesh by doing in the flesh what flesh could not do, so that we might be made perfect in Christ in body and soul forevermore.

Oh, wonder of wonders, the Word was made flesh. Let all adore and worship and believe on him. —NJL

Taken from: Sword and Shield

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“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Titus 2:11