Scripture: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. John 1:14, 16-18 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, John returns to the theme of Jesus being the substance of true light (1:9-13). His light shines on everyone because he created the world and entered into it as the incarnate Son. Still, the world (those blinded by unrepentant sin) did not grasp his messianic identity. And even though his mission focused on God’s chosen people (Israel), ironically, the vast majority rejected him. But those who believed Jesus is the Christ received their inheritance as children of God—born again not of human origin but of the Spirit of God.
For today’s devotion, John addresses the second aspect of receiving Christ: the Word. He tells us the Word became flesh (incarnate in human form) and dwelled with us (referring to John’s generation). Resultantly, they have seen his glory as the Father’s only Son, embodying grace and truth. And from this fullness of Christ, his generation of believers and all future generations of Christians have received his grace upon grace (i.e., in abundance). And while we have never seen God, Christ has made known the Father to us through faithfully proclaiming and living out the essence of his being as the Word.
Of note, the concept of a deified Word predated Christ. Plato was the first of the Greek philosophers to adopt the term Logos (the same Greek noun John uses in our text for the “Word”) to describe the supreme deity who possesses the perfected reality of his material creation. As Plato contends, what we see in our world are facsimiles. In our passage, John perhaps borrows from this metaphysical thought of the Greco-Roman world to help these Gentile readers grasp the ultimate truth of genuine Logos who created everything. And one aspect of that truth is that our material world is an imperfect reflection of the ultimate reality because of darkness (sin). And while John may have alluded to Plato’s Logos to explain the Word that created our world, remember that Moses wrote of this Word who spoke the universe into existence a millennium before Plato drew pen to papyrus.
Takeaway: Whereas verse 1 tells us the Word was with God at the beginning of creation (implying his permanent condition), in verse 14, the Word became flesh (involving a change in his state of being). The verb translated as “dwelt” literally here means “to pitch a tent” or “dwell temporarily” (Baur, Arndt, and Gingrich: Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.762). As such, theologian Merrill Tenney explains, “He left his usual place and accepted the conditions of human life and environment, with the attendant temporal limitations that all humans experience” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John, p.33). In other words, Jesus became one of us in all manners of life, including temptations, but unlike us, he (Logos) never sinned.
Our takeaway? As mentioned above, this is the second aspect of receiving Christ, the first being receiving him as the light. Whereas the light illuminates our hearts and minds and reveals Christ to us, the Word speaks to our hearts and minds and verifies his grace and truth. While this supernatural transaction far exceeds our complete comprehension, we know that when we receive Christ as the Word, he dwells in us; hence, his grace and truth infuse us.
So what does this look like in everyday life? Our generation has followed a rabbit trail regarding “truth,” subjectivizing its meaning to the beholder: “Your truth is your truth, and my truth is mine.” But Christ’s truth is unmarred by the noetic effect of sin and is absolute and uncompromising. As for grace, it is God’s unmerited favor. As such, it does not excuse our wrongful thoughts and behavior but pays the otherwise insurmountable penalty to set us free to live according to the truth of the Word.
In sum, grace and truth are our dynamic duo of supernatural power, for one cannot effectively provide its intended outcome without the other. And to rely on both, we need the incarnate Word indwelling us. So we must receive and treasure the One who is both the light and Word to navigate this fallen world’s ill effects, rise above our missteps and suffering, and enjoy the journey onward and upward.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, our light and Word. And we thank you that while his light enlightens our hearts and minds, his Word transforms them. So would you please help us to receive his Word with grace and truth so that we might triumph over sin and sorrow and rise to a life of renewal and fruitfulness in your Son? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling