“The Word Became Flesh”
Lesson Text: John 1:1-14
Background Scripture: John 1:1-18
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 40:21-26
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 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.
To show some identifying characteristics of “the Word” and how Jesus dwelled in our midst.
To tell how the incarnation of the Word fully reveals God to us.
To affirm that Jesus is God in the flesh, to believe in Him and receive Him into our lives.
Where do you turn in the Bible to learn about creation? Most students go to Genesis, and this is an excellent place to start. The first book in our Bible begins with a broad, panoramic description of the days of creation (Genesis 1:1-2:3). A second telling of creation follows immediately (2:4-25). But other books in the Old Testament include creation references too (see Exodus 20:11; Job 38:4-11; Psalm 8:3; 90:2; Isaiah 40:26; 45:7,12, 18; and Amos 4:13). A consistent theme is that creation is to be understood as an intentional plan, skillfully and powerfully executed by God the Creator.
The New Testament also has many references to God’s work of creation. The central argument of Paul’s address to the Greek philosophers in Athens was based on a common knowledge of God as the Creator of the world, and therefore of all humans (Acts 17:24-28). In Romans, Paul’s account of the progression of sin among humans begins with praise of God’s creating and creation (Romans 1:20; compare Genesis 1:31; 1 Timothy 4:4).
The New Testament authors also find a place for Christ in their references to creation (compare Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:2). The greatest of these “Christ as Creator” texts is the first part of the Gospel of John, our lesson text for this week.
Time: A.D. 26
Author: Apostle John
Purpose: “…These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31 NKJV).
Although the author is not named, we credit the fourth Gospel to the Apostle John. There are several reasons for this, including certain references within the book (John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7) and in early tradition outside the book. The book gives no pretense of being the dispassionate history we might expect from modern historians. John writes passionately about Jesus as teacher, friend, and Savior. John wants the reader to know the eternal significance of the being who was God in human form, who visited humanity for a brief time.
John’s knowledge of Jesus and the significance of His person are unsurpassed and unique. In his zeal to give a picture of Jesus and His work, John includes information that goes beyond eyewitness recollections. Some of what he tells us could only have come to him through the insights of divine revelation. For example, he goes behind and earlier than Jesus’ nativity to Christ’s role in creation. That’s where today’s lesson—and John’s Gospel itself—begins.
THE ETERNAL WORD (John 1:1-5)
1. Why does John use the term “Word” to describe Jesus? How does this explain Jesus’ existence prior to His nativity? (John 1:1,2)
A. “In the beginning was the Word”
In this first chapter, John recorded seven names and titles of Jesus that identified Him as eternal God. John knows that if Jesus is truly the Son of God, then there is a need to explain His existence before His human birth.
In the first verse of chapter 1 John calls Jesus “the Word” because He is God’s message incarnated in the flesh. Much as our words reveal to others our hearts and minds, so Jesus Christ is God’s “Word” to reveal His heart and mind to us. Jesus said “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). A word is composed of letters, and Jesus Christ is “Alpha and Omega” (Rev. 1:11), the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. According to Hebrews 1:1-3, Jesus Christ is God’s last Word to mankind, for He is the climax of divine revelation.
B. “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
John continued, saying that the Word (Jesus) was both with God, and was God in the beginning. This may make no sense at first glance, from either a Jewish or a Greek perspective. How can the Word both be with God and be God at the same time? The first idea implies separation; the second implies unity. How can this be? However, this is complete confirmation of Jesus’ deity. God the Father did not create God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God and have existed from eternity. There are relationships and roles within the Godhead (1 Cor. 8:6). The Word is true deity.
2. According to John, what was the role of the Word in the Creation? (v. 3)
The “him” of this and the following verses refers most specifically to the Word and more generally to God. John gives us two demanding, absolute statements here: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” These two statements together mean that the Word was not a part-time assistant in the work of creation, but was the primary agent of the entire thing. Paul echoes this in Colossians 1:16. There is no created thing in the universe that does not find its source in the creative Word of God (compare Hebrews 1:2).
The two statements in the verse before us also mean that the Word himself was not created. John has already implied this by saying the Word was there at the beginning, but this verse adds clarity.
3. How are the concepts of “life” and “light” key to John’s gospel? (v. 4)
John now introduces two key concepts of his Gospel: life and light (compare John 8:12). In Genesis, “life” is not a created thing so much as it is a gift from the Creator. The creation of man is pictured as the forming of a lifeless body, then breathing “the breath of life” into it. Only then does the man become a “living soul” (Genesis 2:7).
All living beings depend on God for life. Despite outlandish claims, scientists will never create true life in a laboratory or by using computers. There is no life apart from God (compare John 5:21). The mission of the Son is to bring life that is never subject to death—eternal life (John 5:24; compare 6:47; 20:21).
Directly connected with this divine life is light. John calls this the light of men, but he is not talking about light that has a human source, something we turn off and on like a flashlight. We would better understand this as “light for men.” This is a reference to revelation—divine enlightenment given to men and women. John will have much more to say about this topic later in the book, for he understands Jesus as the “light of the world” (John 9:5).
4. Explain how darkness is not able to have control over light and how this is figurative of Jesus’ resurrection. (v. 5)
In Genesis, the creation of light involves separating it from darkness (Genesis 1:3, 4). Darkness, however, is not created. Darkness is the absence of light. From a physical standpoint, darkness has no power to overcome light. Even a small candle will produce light in a pitch-dark cave. There is no anti-candle of darkness that dims bright sunlight.
This fact is important for understanding the word “comprehended.” This word has a broad sense here. It refers to complete mastery of something and therefore control over it. For darkness to have such a power over the light would mean that the light could be extinguished by darkness. John is not saying that the forces of darkness have merely misunderstood Jesus; rather, those forces have lost any battle to control or defeat the Son of God. This is a figurative way of understanding the Resurrection, for it is the triumph of both life and light.
What Do You Think?
What are some ways that you have seen the light of Christ overcome the darkness of this world?
Talking Points for Your Discussion:
-In personal habits
-In your family
-In your church
-Concerning a coworker or friend
JOHN’S WITNESS TO THE WORD (John 1:6-11)
5. Whom did God send to be a witness to the Messiah? (vs. 6,7)
Having painted a picture using a gigantic cosmic brush, John now narrows his focus to human history. He begins the events of the Gospel with John—not the apostle John, but John the Baptist (compare Matthew 3:1; Mark 1:4; Luke 1:13).
John the Baptist was the one who announced Jesus and prepared the way for His coming. As the last of the prophets, John’s mission and message came from God. His ministry was not his own; he was called and commissioned by God just as the Old Testament prophets before him. John was sent by God. His purpose is to lead people to believe in the Light, who is Jesus (1:35-37).
John the Baptist becomes God’s witness to many important things. To him it is given to see the Spirit of God come upon Jesus at His baptism (Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:32-34). John has the insight that Jesus is the “Lamb of God,” the perfect sacrifice for sins (John 1:29,36). John also knows that Jesus will bring the Holy Spirit to His followers (John 1:33; 20:22).
6. How did John take the focus from himself and point others to the True Light? (vs. 8,9)
When John the Baptist began his preaching and baptizing ministry, many people wondered whether he was the Messiah (vs. 19-22). However, John never pretended to be someone he was not. He made it clear that he was not the Messiah but was the one who had been sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah (vs. 23-27).
John the Baptist ends up being a type of light in that he is a conduit or channel of revelation from God to the people of Israel. John is not that Light, however, for he is no more than a gifted human instrument of God. All of his information is received from God. He can pass along only that which he is told, so he is a secondary source.
The True Light comes after John the Baptist prepares the way (John 1:9,23). We see this when Jesus begins His public ministry, and John points some of his disciples to Jesus (1:35-37). John the Baptist recognizes that he himself must “decrease” as Jesus must “increase” (3:30).
A central aspect of John’s portrayal of Jesus is that His life and message are a revelation (light) of truth and that this truth has the power to give freedom (8:32). As the “True Light,” Jesus brings light into a world that has been darkened by sin. Every person is exposed to the light and has the opportunity to either accept the light or reject it.
What Do You Think?
How can you improve the way you bear witness to the Light, Jesus Christ?
Talking Points for Your Discussion:
-Issues of preparation
-Issues of technique
-Issues of consistency between “talk” and “walk”
7. Why was Jesus rejected by His own people? (vs. 10,11)
The author now uses his previous point that all things were created by the Word to tell us of the greatest irony in human history. When the Word humbled Himself to enter our time and space (Philippians 2:7,8), the Creator was neither recognized nor accepted by His creatures (compare Romans 1:25). More specifically, the nation of Israel. Why did the nation reject Jesus Christ? Because they “knew him not.” They were spiritually ignorant. Jesus is the true “Light” - the original of which every other light is a copy - but the Jews were content with the copies. They had Moses and the law, the temple and the sacrifices, but they did not comprehend that these “lights” pointed to the true Light who was the fulfillment, the completion, of the Old Testament religion.
Later, John attributes this rejection to simple unbelief (John 3:18; 6:36). Even “though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him” (12:37). Those who refuse to believe in Jesus have rejected light, life, and truth.
Many of the people who had contact with Jesus never got beyond seeing Him as just a man. He was Joseph’s and Mary’s son to them – a common man, just like everyone else. People envisioned the Messiah coming in great glory and splendor and could not believe that a carpenter from Nazareth could be the promised Messiah.
What Do You Think?
What are some reasons that people fail to “receive” Christ?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
-Why people perceive the world is the way it is
-Things people believe about themselves
-Perceptions people have about God
THE WORD MADE FLESH (John 1:12-14)
8. What is the blessing for those who receive and believe in Jesus? (vs. 12,13)
Some people did receive Jesus and accept Him as their Saviour - not all were unbelievers! The ones who receive the Son of God are the ones who “believe on His name.”
John 1:12,13 gives us the marvelous promise of God that anyone who receives Christ will be born again and enter the family of God! John says more about this birth in John 3, but he points out here that it is a spiritual birth from God, not a physical birth that depends on human nature. The Light is still shining! Have you personally received the Light and become a child of God?
9. How does the Apostle John sum up the glorious incarnation of the Word? (v. 14)
How can all this happen: life, light, truth, and new birth? It required that the eternal Word of God take human form (made flesh) and live among men and women. We refer to this as “the incarnation” of Christ, literally “the enfleshment” of God.
John tells us that the eternal Word became man – not just looked like man or assumed human form – He became a human person without surrendering His deity. As a man, Jesus had human limitations, wants, needs and desires. He learned what it is to be human from the things He experienced and therefore understands the things we go through.
John introduces himself as the narrator of this marvelous story for the first time by adding a personal note: we beheld his glory. Some believe this is a reference to the transfiguration of Jesus (not mentioned in John, but see Matthew 17:1-9). This may be part of it, but more likely John is referring to his personal experience with the resurrected Christ. Jesus lives an extraordinary life, dies an atoning, prophecy-fulfilling death, and then comes back from the dead. To describe that as glory, a term reserved by the Jews for God alone, is understandable.
10. In what other ways does John describe Jesus, the incarnated Word?
Having presented the Christ as the eternal agent of creation, the bringer of life and light to humankind, and God in human form, John gives a couple more ways of understanding who this person is. He is the only begotten of the Father. This is later expanded to the “only begotten Son” (John 3:16). This expression does not imply a time when the Word did not exist, for “the Word is God.” It is better to understand this as a contrast with our new birth as children of God (1:12). We can be restored to God’s family, but we will never be a Son of God in the way Jesus is. He is the unique and eternal Son of God, and no one will ever take His place.
A final way of understanding the Christ in our lesson is found in an addition to the concept of truth. The Christ indeed brings life, light, and truth. But for us to understand this better, John now describes the human Jesus as full of grace and truth (v. 14b). The term grace emphasizes the gift nature of God’s revelation to us through Christ. It is not something we deserve or earn. We can never earn the right to know anything about God. The visitation of God in human form could have been an event of terror for sinful men and women, but that was not the case. It was an act of profound grace, a central characteristic of the Son of God (see John 1:16,17).
POINTS TO PONDER
1. Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of God and all things begin with Him (vs. 1-3).
2. Jesus is the source of life and light – without Him we have neither (v. 4).
3. God’s Word can shine through the darkness of sin in our life (v. 5).
4. As believers, we should let our light shine to glorify God (vs. 6-9; Matthew 5:16).
5. As we take the message of Christ to the world, it should be our testimony that grace and truth is available to all who will accept Christ as Savior (vs. 10-14).
The revelation of God’s glory is an important theme in the gospel. Jesus revealed God’s glory in His person, His work, and His words. It was given to John the beloved disciple, to write a book for both Jews and Gentiles, presenting Jesus as the Son of God.
The coming of the Son of God to bring salvation to the world was an act based on the gracious love of God for His creation, for His lost children. It is through our faith in the living Christ that we can be saved, we can be born again as children of God.
God our Creator, we thank You for loving us so much! We thank You for Jesus, who became like us in order to save us. We thank You for ways in which Jesus revealed You to us as our gracious Father. We thank You for the life, light, and truth He has brought to us. We pray this in the name of Your only begotten Son, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Christ’s humanity and His divinity are both key to our salvation.