"The Word Became Flesh"

"IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD." In this opening statement of the Gospel of John our thoughts are carried back to Eternity, and by the infinite grace of our God there is revealed to us who and what was there. Before Time began or ever the first creatorial word was uttered the Word was there. But He was not alone, "THE WORD WAS WITH GOD." The "with" of that statement not only reveals to us the distinct personality of the Word, but implies companionship and oneness of thought and life. The Word was in absolute accord with God. There was no breach in the harmony of that timeless eternity; between God and the Word there was perfect, ineffable communion. "The face of the eternal Word, if we may dare so to express ourselves, was ever directed to the face of the eternal Father" (Liddon); or to use those divinely inspired words in Proverbs 8. "Then was I by Him, as one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him," or to come to the more intimate and fuller revelation which is in this same chapter, we learn that this same Person, as the only-begotten Son, is in the bosom of the Father. No creature mind can fathom the depth and blessedness and intimacy of that eternal witnesses, but we know of no human language that could express it better.

This could only be because the Word was Divine in His nature and Being — "THE WORD WAS GOD." The Fellow of the Lord of Hosts (Zech. 13:7) must of a necessity be God, eternally co-equal with the One who delighted in Him and in Whose bosom He dwelt. Then as though to give a special emphasis to His distinct personality, so that we may be in no doubt as to it the Spirit of God adds, "The same was in the beginning with God." There was no period of time when that withness began, it was eternal in its character and blessedness. Here then are three things to ponder as to the glory of the Word. His eternal existence, His distinct personality, His substantial Godhead. "The language of the Gospel is plain as possible, and like the sword of Paradise, turns every way, in opposition to the thoughts and reasonings of men, to defend the Divinity [Deity] and the personality of the Son of God" (J.N.Darby).

The Word is a divine title, and it belongs to Him whom we know as JESUS, our Saviour. This makes us eager to know what it means. It means that whenever and howsoever and to whomsoever God has spoken and revealed Himself, He has done it by Him who is the Word. It means more than that — all that has been spoken by Him was in Him before it was revealed. The prophet Micah declared that His goings forth were from eternity. What those goings forth were we do not know, but we cannot suppose that God was inactive in those measureless ages, but whatever those activities were, they found their expression in the Word. But now in Time His goings forth have been brought within man's range: first in creation, and then in the revelation of the heart of God and the redemption of men.

"All things were made by Him, for without Him was not anything made that was made." The Word is the creator and in creation He expressed the power and divinity of God. And this is acknowledged by all men who are not wilfully blind, or alienated from the life of God.

He was the originator, the designer, the maker of the universe and every creature in it. It is by faith that we understand this (Heb. 11) and we have no need to waste our time and weary our brains, as does the evolutionist, in the vain search for some cause within nature of its multifarious life, the Cause was outside of it and transcendent to it. We are carried to the source and cause of it all in these words. We begin with the Word. He has made all things and He upholds all things that He has made, and we know that He will eventually make all things serve his glory, and so justify the making of them, then shall everything that has breath praise Him.

"And the Word became flesh." What great statements there are in this chapter they break upon us with an abruptness that would surprise and startle us if we had not become so familiar with them. Let us put two of them together. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh." The first sentence carries us back into Eternity, the second brings Him who was eternal into Time. First we learn Who and What the Word was, then what He became, and this opens up a new chapter in God's ways with men, that must issue in eternal blessing for them and glory to Him. It was the Word Himself, the Creator that became flesh. He did not take the nature of angels, it was the sons of men whom He loved and sought: frail, mortal, sinful men; and He was made in their likeness that He might dwell among them, not to condemn them or make them afraid, but that He might win them and save them. Here is the mystery of Godliness, which is very great, it transcends all human conception, and because of this we are only safe as we abide by the words of Scripture in considering it. Master Ridley, who was burned at the stake in the days of the infamous Mary said, "In these matters I am so fearful that I dare not speak further, yea, almost none otherwise than the text doth, as it were, lead me by the hand." He was a wise man. Many a fierce battle has been fought over the truth of Christ's person in the history of the church, to the damage of the saints of God and the glee of their foes. Gibbon, the historian, says of the early fathers, "The principle of discord was alive in their bosom, and they were more solicitous to explore the nature, than to practise the laws, of their Founder." We must shun such folly as that as we would shun the devil himself. Creeds have been formulated in the hope of defining the truth and fixing the faith of men as to it, and these have become in turn the subject of conflict, insomuch that the text which will lead us by the hand, according to Ridley's quaint words, if we are subject and willing, has been obscured or forgotten. We turn to it afresh, here are Holy Ghost-inspired words, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth." This is wholly of God. No man could have conceived such a thing as this. If the distance that separated us from God was to be removed, the best that we could have thought of was that we should struggle through impenetrable darkness and against incalculable difficulties out of the depth of our fall up to His throne — an eternal impossibility of course, but the awakened soul would say, His justice, His majesty the glory of His Name demands it, and because we are "without strength" to accomplish the impossible task, we are hopeless. But here we have the revelation of God that confounds us, that fills us with wonder, and changes all our false yet natural thoughts of Him. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth." It was the only way in which He could reach us, only by becoming one of us could He communicate the thoughts that filled the heart of God towards us, and make known to us that love which is greater than all our sin.

It has been said that He might have come as the Judge in righteous wrath, and the law which was given by Moses, seems to confirm this saying: for if when the law came to men, Sinai was swathed in darkness and tempest, and from its flaming summit the lightnings flashed and the thunders pealed, so that Moses himself trembled with fear at the sight of it, we might well conclude that the coming of the Lord whose law it was would mean the complete destruction of men, but in this we should be utterly wrong. If He had come as the Judge, His creatorial work would have been in vain, His eternal counsels would have failed. His thoughts would have perished. He would have lost the creature of His choice for ever, and Satan would have triumphed. No, He could not at the first coming, come as the Judge. The Scriptures bore witness to the great truth that if God came down to men He must come as their Saviour, and further, if they were to be saved, God must come and do it. The incarnation of the Word was the fulfilment of the Scriptures.

"He dwelt among us." He was not censorious and coldly distant from men, He ate and drank even with sinners with a freedom that angered the Pharisees; and so meek and lowly was He, so without self- assertion or insistence on His rights, that they despised Him. He was nothing more to them than a man, a Nazarene, a carpenter. How infinite was His condescension! From the eternal throne He came to tread the filthy streets of those Palestinian cities, and to move among men more vile than their streets, and to be with them "full of grace and truth." He spoke, in everything that He did, from whatever point He was approached, there was grace and truth. Grace, stooping down to the deepest depths of man's need to meet it, and truth — exposing the lie, making all who received it free, and setting men in right relations with God for ever.

Grace belongs to the New Testament, it came into the world when Jesus came, He was full of it and its fullness was brought to men in Him. It is God's favour to men, and it is infinite and unlimited. God could not have shown His favour to men in a more complete and perfect way than by the coming of His only-begotten Son into the world, this was the best and the greatest that He could do. No other than the Word could speak fully and finally for God, no other than the Son could tell the love that filled the Father's house; He came to do this, and that love in its wonderful activities on the behalf of men is the grace of which our verse speaks. It brought Jesus down to men when they were and as they were, and looked for no merit in them, only need; they needed Him, that was enough. That grace was the fullness of the Godhead working untiringly for the blessing of men.

How altogether suitable to the needs of men was Jesus as He dwelt among them. In other Gospels we see that He was equal to all their sicknesses and distresses, and it is beautiful to contemplate Him always accessible, always placing Himself at their disposal, but in John's Gospel there is something more and deeper. It is John's work to show us how He dealt, not so much with the burdens that were on men, but with the ignorance that was in them.

His mercy and power could heal every disease and deliver all who were oppressed from the devil's power, and lift every burden that was on them; but the grace that was in Him could meet and remove the darkness and crookedness that was in them.

"And of His fullness have all we received, and GRACE UPON GRACE." The needs of men, our needs, are greater than any human language can describe, but this fullness is greater than our needs, and it pours itself out now for us, as it did upon those disciples, in wave upon wave, just as the sea rolls in upon the shore, until every cave and crevice is filled. It goes beyond all our needs, and will, until we are filled into all the fullness of God.

And He was full of truth also; He was the truth. The law was true, but it was not the truth. It did not reveal what God is, nor did it fully expose what man was, nor the world nor Satan; it served its purpose, and has been superseded by grace and truth which came in Jesus Christ and abide in Him. He was the test of everything. What God is, and what man is, has all been shown by His coming, and that coming has not made demands upon men that they cannot meet, but has brought the unsought, unmerited, and inexhaustible favour of God to them to put and keep them right with God for ever.

But in the very midst of this declaration of his grace, there comes an interruption. The apostle breaks in with the words, "And we beheld His glory, the glory of the only-begotten with the Father." It would seem as though the Holy Spirit would allow no interval to elapse between the statement of the fact of the incarnation of the Word and the declaration of the unchanged and unchangeable glory of His Person. This testimony surely means that in becoming man He did not surrender what He was before. His circumstances were changed and His condition: He who was in the form of God had taken His place among men, in their likeness, and in a servant's form. He had become Man in the full sense of that word as God would define it, but He was still the Word, and more, He was the Only-begotten with the Father. This glory that the disciples contemplated, revealed the relationship with the Father that could not change, it ever must be as it was in those timeless ages before the worlds were made. In His humiliation, even down to the deepest depth of it, He was still "the Only-begotten with the Father."

It was not an earthly glory but a heavenly that these disciples saw; it was not a human glory such as Solomon possessed, for it had never rested upon a man before, it was a divine glory, and the Man upon whom it rested was a unique and heavenly Man. The distinction that rested upon Jesus was that He was the all-sufficient Object of the supreme delight and love of the Father, and that He lived and found fullness of joy in what the Father was, for He was the Son. He was enough for the Father and the Father was enough for Him. This had always been so, for He said to the Father, "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (chap. 17:24), but John is talking about what they saw, that that was in eternity had come into time and was lived on earth before their eyes. No angel could claim this divine and heavenly distinction, it belonged to One alone, even the Only-begotten with the Father, and He a Man dwelling among them.

But to go back to a previous statement in our chapter, The Word was the Light. The statement should read, "The true Light was that which, coming into the world, lightens [or, is light to] every man." The Light is the Word, but now He is not creating, but shining for the blessing of His creation. He came into it for that purpose. Yet, though He was in the world, and that not for judgment but for blessing, men neither perceived it nor desired to. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came to His own, and His own received Him not." How dense must the moral and spiritual darkness be in which the devil holds the world! How complete must be the alienation from the life of God in which men are by nature! Such a statement as this reveals it all to us.

The world did not know its Creator when He came into it. The elements owned Him, for the winds and the waves obeyed His command, and the fish of the sea knew His voice. It was man, made in the image and likeness of God, that did not recognize Him and did not obey Him. And, worse still, His own, that favoured nation to whom God had spoken in the law and by the prophets, who boasted that they were God's people, they received Him not when He came to them. They loved the darkness and not the light, because their deeds were evil. The Creator was a rejected stranger in His own world, and not rejected only, but hated.

There could be no other light but the true Light, and if the true Light shone in vain, if men loved the darkness and spurned this Light, there was none other to come, and what then? Must the whole race of men sink under the darkness in which they lived in this life into the outer darkness of the lake of fire? Well, if God's patience had been exhausted by the wickedness of men, Yes; but because it was not, No. A new energy was put forth, an energy mightier than the darkness and death that held men in thrall. Not only did the Light come into the world, the Son to reveal the Father, but the Holy Spirit took up His work in connection with that coming, that the eyes of men might be opened to see and appreciate the Light. So we read, "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His Name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." This could only be because the "THE WORD BECAME FLESH."

What inconceivable energy there must have been in that word, "Let there be light." The darkness of ages fled before it, but we see a greater, a more remarkable energy put forth here. It is active now, not to bring about a world or worlds in which the power of God is displayed. but A FAMILY in which His love can find its joy. His purpose was to have children, only such could satisfy His heart: those who should be morally like Him, able to appreciate His love and respond to it. The universe would have been nothing to Him apart from this. It was created for the Son of God and for them who were to be His companions, His brethren. Before He put forth His power to give it being His delights were with them, the sons of men (Prov. 8). And here we find them: out of a scene of darkness and death they come, not by man's power, not because they were of high birth, not because they had learned wisdom in the school of men, but because THEY WERE BORN OF GOD.

The Word became flesh with this end in view. He became Man that He might redeem men from their sins and the power of Satan, and this could not be done apart from His death. He became Man that He might die for men, that He might suffer for them, the Just for the unjust to bring them to God. "Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world." The Word who became flesh is He.