Foundational Framework Part 44 - The Word Part 2


Foundational Truths: The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
God declares one righteous by faith alone, apart from works.
The glory of God is the centerpiece and goal of all existence.
God’s glory is maximally realized in the promised, coming Kingdom.

The Word, the Life, and the Light are all used to capture the essence and significance of God’s reintroduction into the world in a manifested form. “The Word” speaks to both Jews and Greeks and their philosophical understandings regarding life, existence, order, and rational thought. “The Life” is eternal life, always existing within the Trinity before time began. “The Light” brings attention to Truth in a world that is saturated with darkness. It is the Source to which John the Baptist testified about in his ministry. The purpose of his testimony is “that all might believe through him” (John 1:7). Not only is the Life the Light of men (John 1:4) thus enlightening men, but the word spoken by John was to point men to the Light (See also Acts 19:1-4). Borchert writes, “the point is that the testimony and the enlightenment were intendedfor all.”[1]

John 1:10-13.John 1:10 is a startling truth. Notice that there are three uses of the word “world” but two meanings are meant among the three uses. The first two uses speak of the created existence of Earth while the third usage points to the people of the Earth. The Word/Light was in the world, and even made the world, and yet the world (the people) did not know (receive) Him. Hart provides clarity writing, “The ‘world’ is in need of forgiveness (1:29), a Savior (4:42), and eternal life (6:33; 8:12). It hates God (17:25) and Jesus (7:7) as well as believers (15:18, 19), and is ruled by Satan (14:30; 16:11). While believers are in the physical world (13:1; 17:11), they are separated out of the evil world system by their faith inChrist (17:6, 17).”[2]We understand this as the world not wanting God but desperately needing God. Whereas, ironically, God does not need the world, but He wants the world, and so much so that the Word was sent to give Life to the world, to all who would “receive” Him (John 1:11b).

The statement of John 1:11 is an extension of the remark made in 1:10 and a heartbreaking summary of the Jewish response to their long-awaited and divinely-promised Messiah. The Jews “did not receive Him” as the One that was promised to deliver them, though they were chosen by Him as His people and given maximum revelation in order to recognize Him (Rom 9:1-5). It has been noted in various lectures by Earl Radmacher that Matthew 1-4 and 8-12 expound in detail upon what is stated in this one verse in John, namely the Jews’ rejection of Jesus.

However, verse 12 gives hope. Not everyone rejected Christ. The fact of the Jews’ rejection of Him is tragic because of the heightened degree of revelation that YHWH had given to them as seen in the Old Testament. The use of the word “receive” in 1:11b and 1:12a are explained by John’s comments as “believe on His name” (John 1:12b). From the very beginning, John is clear: to receive Jesus is to believe in Jesus. Nothing else is added or required. The use of “believe” in 1:12 should draw our attention back to John’s purpose in testifying about the Light in John 1:7. The noted benefit of “receiving/believing” in Jesus is the “right to become children of God” (1:12b). 

The word for “right” is exousia which means “power, authority,” and is understood by Louw & Nida as “the power to do something, with or without an added implication of authority.”[3]This is a blessed and privileged position given by the gracious provision of God. Those who believe are considered God’s children, fully accepted and cared for just as any child on Earth should be accepted and cared for, having full rights in their earthly family. The concept of “adoption” for YHWH is not one that accepts those who believe as second-class offspring, or as illegitimate mouths to feed, but as fully embraced and validated kids,legitimate in every way, lacking no privilege or blessing. This is our first exposure to the majesty of the riches that are found “in Christ,” that are distributed freely based on no merit required of the person believing. It is the first of many blessings already blessed to us (Eph 1:3-14). 

With John 1:13 we see the first notion that the “receiving/believing” concept in 1:11-12 results in something else, namely that the person believing is “born” in some way, with this being the first of six uses referring to the spiritual birth of a person who believes in Christ (John 3:3, 5, 6 [x2], 7, 8, all being used in the conversation that Jesus has with Nicodemus). The order of the events involved is clear from the text. When one believes/receives Christ, they are then “born” (which we later understand as being “born from above/ born again”) and become children of God. This is an order that is consistent with what is seen in Ephesians 1:13 as well. 

This “birth” is from God (John 1:13d), as it should be, for He is the only One that can impart Life. However, John clarifies for us three means by which this “birth” do not take place. 

First, one is not born again by “blood,” meaning that it is not a matter of human decent or heritage. Just because your mother is born again does not mean that you are born again. Secondly, this “birth” is not of the will of the flesh, which is not of human desire or effort, and when compared with Jesus’ comments about being “born again” in John 3:6, we would also conclude that this “birth” is not the result of copulation. Finally, this “birth” is not “of the will of man,” which seems to have aroused various viewpoints from many commentators. The most plausible understanding is that this “birth” is not of the husband’s will, seeing that it was the husband who made the decision about having children in the first century. Such a decision to set the course for the family has no bearing on how one is born again regarding God. One birth is of the flesh, but the birth from God is of the Spirit (John 3:6)

John 1:14-18.The incarnation of the Word finds God stepping into a particular point in history to accomplish a divine purpose. Truth takes on skin and “tabernacles” among us. The idea of God taking on flesh finds its roots in the very creation of the first man and woman, being design in the image and likeness of God, designing them as He saw fit (Gen 1:26-28). This decision in time carried great implications knowing that one day the Lord Jesus Christ would inhabit an encasement of the same. Jesus does not “just appear” on the scene of the first century but chooses to be born and raised among a culture of Jewish makings, learning, growing, and lives among the people (Heb 5:8).

The idea that God could take on flesh and not have His “Godhood” diminished has been a debate among theological minds for centuries. This is what is known as the Hypostatic Union of Christ where Jesus stands as 100% Deity and 100% Humanity without one compromising the other, nor eclipsing the other. Jesus is both fully God and fully man in one entity. Such a pairing is essential for the sake of accomplishing a complete redemption. Enns notes this necessity stating, “As a man, Christ could represent man and die as a man; as God the death of Christ could have infinite value ‘sufficient to provide redemption for the sins of the world.’”[4]

The “glory” spoken of in 1:14 has been expounded upon previously and should not be considered anything other than the same type of glory that has been revealed in the Old Testament in the presence of the Shekinah Glory of YHWH on numerous occasions. However, the point here is that John writes of being an eyewitness to this glory, being the glory “as of the only begotten from the Father” (John 1:14b). This is a statement referring to the event known as the Transfiguration found in Matthew 17:1-8;Mark 9:2-8; and Luke 9:28-36, of which Peter seems to relate the same event in 2 Peter 1:17-18. The use of the phrase “only begotten” does not imply that Jesus was born in some way previous to the incarnation but deals with the uniqueness of Jesus. The Greek word used is monogenous and means “that Jesus is the Son of God in a sense totally different from a human who believes and becomes a child of God. Jesus’ sonship is unique for He is eternal and is of the same essence as the Father.”[5]

What makes Jesus so unique for John (or at least he felt that this elaboration needed to be mentioned within the same immediate context as His glory being reveled), was the fact that He is also full of grace and truth. Jesus perfectly represents the Father, showing His “hesed,” lovingkindness and compassion to the undeserving while also holding perfectly to the standard of righteousness being completely consistent with God’s revelation. The Word does not just encompass Life and Light, but Grace and Truth, and does so perfectly!

John the Apostle states that John the Baptist testified of Jesus regarding His superiority and His eternality (John 1:15). Whatever large crowds or ranking officials that attended Jesus’ meetings, and however grand John’s meetings in the desert were considered among the people, Jesus was greater; far greater than any could imagine, and of a greatness that John struggled to communicate to those who came to hear him and be baptized by him (Matt 3:5-7; Mark 1:5; Luke 3:7; John 1:19). John the Baptist also understood something about the eternality of Jesus, but it must be admitted by any credible student of the Scriptures that this is not something that is easily understood. John the Baptist was unique, seeing that he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” while in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). This could be speaking of John’s response to Mary’s arrival in visiting his mother Elizabeth (Luke 1:41), but the text specifies that it was Elizabeth who was filled with the Holy Spirit, with the text also specifying that John, being in Elizabeth’s womb, leaped for joy (Luke 1:44), and did not leap from the filling of the Holy Spirit. It would seem that the Holy Spirit filled John while in the womb and imparted to him the revelation necessary to serve as the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:17).

John 1:16 seems to be a commentary provided by the Apostle John and not a continuation of the statement made by John the Baptist, which is something that is characteristic of John’s writing throughout his Gospel (John 2:17; 4:9b; 5:18; 7:39; 8:6, 27; 9:22; 10:6; 11:13, 18, 51, 52; 12:6, 16, 33, 41; 13:11). The word “fullness” in 1:16 is the word plerōmawhich is only used by John this one time in his Gospel and carries the meaning of being filled up or having an abundance. 

The use of the word “all” in this verse serves as a qualifier for how it should be interpreted. In stating that “all have received His fullness,” weare sure that this does not include those who rejected Him, who did not receive/believe in Him (John 1:11), but of those who “believe in His name” (John 1:12b). Every believer in Christ has Him fully (Col 3:3). Not one Christian lacks in their union with Christ. We have “every spiritual blessing” simply by being “in Christ” (Eph 1:3). The use of “grace upon grace” in 1:16b is the continual heaping of grace upon the already complete blessings of the believer. It is not just that the believer in Christ is given an initial and unwavering dose of grace in the blessings that come with being in Christ, but grace continues to be poured upon the believer for his or her continual receiving. Hart describes it as “maximized grace, or one gracious gift upon another.”[6]There is nothing lacking for those who believe, who are in the Lord Jesus!

In John 1:17, the contrast between Moses and the Law and Jesus and grace and truth should not be seen as being in competition with one another, nor should one be seen as superior to the other. Such conclusions overlook the fact that the Law is the written perfection of YHWH which clearly taught the nation of Israel how to have fellowship with their Creator and Redeemer. 

The Law is equally the Word of God, so how could it not be truth? If we simply take Exodus 20:1-20 alone, we could not conclude that it was less than truth, for it was audibly spoken by YHWH for the hearing of the people of Israel. Exodus 20 should also not be deemed as irrelevant truth, for truth is always relevant because it is true, and the Law is still useful in dealing with those who are in sinful situations because its truth serves to establish a standard of morality and ethics (1 Tim 1:8-11).  

The Law has sometimes been portrayed as having no grace, when in fact the Law demonstrates grace in very practical ways. For instance, Exodus 21:2 shows remarkable grace for those who find themselves in slavery. It reads, “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.” Slavery in the Old Testament is drastically different than what American history records as “slavery” in the 1700-1800s. For one to buy a slave was for one to purchase a person for manual labor. The fact that this slave was a “Hebrew” is an intentional mention to denote kinship and to foster compassion from the one who purchased the slave. There were some Hebrews who came upon hard times and had no other way to feed themselves or to support their families than by hiring themselves (and their families) out for work under another. 

The conditions surrounding such situations could not have been as harsh as what has been learned about the slave trade in America seeing that the one purchased could actually come to the conclusion that he loved his master (Exod 21:5) at which point the slave would then be tagged on his ear to denote permanent servitude to his master (Exod 21:6). The grace is found in the fact that a purchased person for manual labor was to only be held for six years and then the slave was to be released, being set free without any restitution due to the one who bought him (Exod 21:2b). There was no concern with making back whatever money was lost, nor is there any mention of the slave earning their way to freedom. At the seven-year mark, freedom was guaranteed! This is a command in the Law of YHWH demonstrating grace to the one who has found themselves in a difficult situation.

So, what does John mean in stating that the Law came through Moses but that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ?

John is simply stating a progression in the revelation of truth as dispensed by YHWH and through whom He desires to dispense it. The Law is truth and it serves as one revelation of YHWH, while Jesus Christ exemplifies the grace and truth of YHWH in a second, equally-inspired revelation as played out in the life of Christ on Earth. Stanley writes, “Whatever Jesus did, He did with grace. Whatever He said, He said in truth. He was not gracious some of the time and less gracious other times, any more than He varied in the amount of truth He spoke.”[7]At no time was the grace and truth as given through Jesus of greater value than the Law as given through Moses. One is a progression in the revelation of the other that had been previously established on Mt. Sanai. If there is any aversion to embracing the Law of YHWH as equally-inspired truth as that of the words of the Lord Jesus, it is our lack of

personal righteousness and the conviction which the Law brings against our sin that arouses such emotions. But, with a joyful heart we can say “Thanks be to God that ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes’” (Rom 10:4).

With John 1:18, we have a strict observation, and one that corresponds perfectly with the apostle’s statement in 4:12 of his first epistle. “No one has seen God at any time,” despite what some health and wealth prosperity preachers may have claimed. An immediate mental objection might be: “Well, isn’t Jesus Christ God in the flesh, and there were plenty of people who saw Him, right?” To this we would agree, as would the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:4-8). So, what is meant by this statement if many people had seen Jesus during His time on earth in the flesh?

“God is Spirit (4:24) and is invisible (Col. 1:15, 1 Tim. 1:17) unless God chooses to reveal Himself. Humans cannot look at God and live (Ex. 33:20). Abraham, the friend of God, did not see God. Even Moses, the lawgiver, could not look at God’s face (Ex. 33:22, 23).”[8]It is this last point that aids us in making the connection that John may have been looking for. As stated above, no one can look at God and live (Exod 33:20) and what many have seen when encountered with YHWH was not looking at His face, seeing Him in the full exposure of His glory (remember the themes that John is using in this prologue). But as we read the remainder of the verse, we find that one of the highly-unique aspects of Jesus Christ is that He explains the Father in a way that He has never been explained before. 

In Jesus, we are seeing something that was not completely understood through previous revelation. By stating that Jesus is “in the bosom of the Father,” John is drawing our attention to His constant, abiding relationship with the Father, experiencing maximum fellowship, intimacy, etc. We are then told that Jesus is the One who has “explained” Him (“made Him known”- ESV, NIV, RSV; “declared Him”- KJV, NKJV; “has revealed Him”- HCSB). The word used is exēgeomai

which means, “to relate in detail, expound, interpret.”[9]Thayer understands the word to mean, “to lead out, to unfold, declare.”[10]

This Greek word is where the English word “exegesis” comes from, which means “to pull the meaning out of the text of Scripture.” The meaning is “drawn out” for the sake of a better understanding. This is exactly what Jesus Christ has done through His life, words, acts, interactions, healings, and miracles. He has made the Creator more-fully known! This is the essence of progressive revelation, perfect in keeping with what the Scriptures have initially established about themselves and something that has been clearly observed from the Scriptures as part of this Foundational Framework series. The Bible, God’s Word, is God’s self-revelation. God desires to be known by His creation and the unfolding of the life of Jesus Christ brings crystalizing clarity to this goal, displaying YHWH for a better understanding among the world, so that they would respond to Him in faith.

Again, Jesus Christ is everything that YHWH has ever wanted to say to the world because Jesus represents Him faithfully and completely.

[1]Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), p. 113.

[2]John F. Hart, “John,” The Moody Bible Commentary(Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), p. 1608. 

[3]Louw and Nida, p. 680.

[4]Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology(Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), p. 228.

[5]Edwin A. Blum, “John,”in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), p. 273.

[6]Hart, “John,” The Moody Bible Commentary, p. 1609.

[7]Charles F. Stanley, The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version(Nashville: Nelson Bibles, 2005), Jn 1:14.

[8]Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary(Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), p. 1312.

[9]BDAG, p. 349.

[10]Thayer, p. 223.