The Incarnation of the Word of God
“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” (v. 14).- John 1:14–15
Scripture’s doctrine of divine transcendence tells us that God is set apart from creation and cannot be identified with creation. He “sits above the circle of the earth” on His throne and rules and reigns over the universe, the created order being subject to Him (Isa. 40:22–23). At the same time, the Bible tells us of God’s immanence, that though He is set apart and set over us, He is always close to us. We can hide nowhere from His presence, for He is present everywhere (Ps. 139:7–12). The Creator who is far above us as our Lord is also near that which He rules.
God’s willingness to be near His creation is seen perhaps most clearly in today’s passage, which describes the incarnation of the Word of God. The Word of God, being God Himself, “became flesh” (John 1:14). This expression stresses the humanity that the Word added to Himself in the incarnation. The Word did not merely fill a human body, taking the place of its heart, soul, and mind. No, the Word “became flesh.” He took on everything that is inherent to true humanity without surrendering anything of His deity such that the incarnate Son of God is no less human than any other human being.
In the incarnation, the Word not only became flesh but He “dwelt among us” (v. 14). Notably, this phrase is the same one used in the Greek to mean “pitch a tent,” and it is closely related to the Greek word for the ancient Israelite tabernacle, which was itself a tent (see Ex. 26). Here we have the first indication in John’s gospel that Jesus is the new tabernacle/temple for the people of God. If we want to meet our Creator and worship Him, we must do so in Christ.
John’s references to the glory of Jesus in John 1:14 confirm the idea that Jesus fulfills the old covenant tabernacle/temple. Under the old covenant, the glory of God took up residence in the tabernacle and the temple (Ex. 40:34; 1 Kings 8:1–11), and this is the very same glory seen in Christ. God frequently manifests His glory as bright, refulgent light (Ex. 34:29–35; Isa. 60:1; Rev. 21:23), so for John to say we have beheld the glory of Jesus almost certainly refers to his experience of the Transfiguration when the glorious light of Jesus’ deity was revealed to Peter, James, and John (Matt. 17:1–8). However, the Transfiguration does not exhaust the view of Jesus’ glory that John and others experienced during our Lord’s earthly ministry. Jesus also revealed His glory in His miraculous signs (John 2:11). In working miracles, Christ showed something of His glory in His authority and power.
In Christ alone can we meet God as Savior, so we can rightly worship God only in and through Christ. We cannot join with nonbelievers in their worship, for they do not worship God in and through Christ, and we must seek to proclaim the gospel so that others may know where they can meet God as their Savior.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 5:2–14