- Gospels and Acts(NT)     John Intro
The Word became Flesh
THE WORD BECAME FLESH
Key Verse 1:14
1. Read vs. 1-4. What does this passage tell us about the Word? How are you related to the Word (v. 3)? What does this passage tell us about: 1) the origin of man's life; and 2) the way man's life exists and prospers?
2. Read v. 5. What does this passage reveal about the problem with the darkness? In what respect is this a serious problem? What wisdom can we learn in choosing to walk either in light or in darkness (Isa 55:6; Jn 3:19, 8:24)?
3. Read vs. 6-8. Who is this "John"? (Mt 3:1) Why did God send him? What can we learn from God? What can we learn from John?
4. Read vs. 9-11. What indicates that the world could have recognized the Savior but failed to do so? Why did this happen? Who are his own? Why did they fail to receive him? What lessons are there for us to learn?
5. Read vs. 12-13. To whom did God give the right to become children of God? Who acts to make them God’s children? What does this passage teach us about the way to become a child of God?
6. Memorize v. 14. Who are "we"? What does "glory" mean? What does the expression "full of grace and truth" tell us about Jesus? What makes their testimony credible? What does his being "full of grace and truth" suggest to us about the importance of receiving and believing in His name?
7. Read vs. 15-18. How is the Savior different from: 1) John the Baptist; and 2) Moses? In what respect is He above all men? What does this passage teach us about the significance of receiving Him and believing in His name?
** Write and share a Bible testimony regarding one thing you learned about Jesus the Savior of the world.
The Word Became Flesh
Key Verse 1:14
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Last Friday three sets of parents flew from Seoul, Korea to Los Angeles, California. They had each come to see their children who were living in Downey, California. Their visit reminded me of a parent’s heart for their children. Parents love their children. So they want to come and see them. Our Father in heaven has the same desire. Having created all of us he desires to have fellowship with his children.
But the Bible says that not all peoples on earth know the heart of their Heavenly Father. Some of them do not even know who their Heavenly Father is. The Bible calls these the “lost” ones; in a very true sense, they are spiritual orphans. But thank God. Today the Apostle John shares with us the good news: in order to look for what was lost, our Heavenly Father sent Jesus, his One and Only Son, so that through knowing his Son, all of us would likewise come to know our Heavenly Father and live under his blessings. Let us now think about our Heavenly Father’s search for his lost children.
I. The light shines in the darkness (1-11)
Look at vs. 1-4. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Here God refers to God the Father who sent Jesus. The Word refers to the pre-incarnate form of Jesus the Savior. In this passage the Apostle John reminds us how we are related to Jesus the Savior. How are we related to him? The answer is obvious: Jesus created us and gave us life. This is not a new idea. Genesis 1-2 teaches us the same truth. Many wonder how the universe and everything in it came into being. But Genesis 1-2 tells us that the Lord God made the universe and everything in it through Jesus, the Word.
So let us pause for a moment and go back to Genesis 1. Here, we see God creating the universe with 10 “speech-phrases.” Look at Genesis 1:3. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” And this pattern continues throughout the six days of creation. One of the greatest blessings of life in Los Angeles, California is that it is possible for us to enjoy all sorts of ethnic foods, including American, Mexican, Japanese, Vietnamese, and of course Korean food. God knows that not all people like the same kind of food. Some people like beef better, some chicken, and some are totally vegetarian. I grew up in a poor family. So my parents fed us a lot of barley. So, naturally, I hate barley. But I love white rice. However, my wife Rebekah grew up in a rich family. So she likes brown rice better. Shepherd Jay grew up in a fairly well-to-do family. So he likes brown rice better, too. In fact he only eats brown rice believing (perhaps accurately) that brown rice will keep his stomach clean. But I still like white rice. Let me ask you a question: when did the Lord God create rice? Answer: on the third day. Read Genesis 1:9. How did he create rice? Simple. “Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed bearing plants.’” There we go. Rice is one of these “seed bearing plants.”
Nowadays it is a little bit cold. So we wear winter jackets. This is because the earth’s rotational axis (which is tilted at 23.5 degrees relative to its plane of orbit around the sun) is tilted further away from the sun during what we call the season of winter; thus, the sun’s light is less concentrated and more diffused during the winter than it is during, say, the summer. Now, when did God create the sun? He did it on the fourth day. How did he create such a powerful sun? Through his word.
Some people love animals. I love animals. Personally, however, I thank and praise God from the bottom of my heart because he did not create me like any of the animals. He created me as a human being. In my backyard, I keep two Chinese quails. My wife Rebekah despises them because all they do is eat, eat, and eat all day long. All they do is peck, peck, and peck, constantly looking for food. They never look up to the sky. But we are different. We can think, read, write, and pray. We can cry, laugh, and sing. And when did God create us? Actually, more importantly how did God create us? Read Genesis 1:26-28. He created us through his word. He made us in his image! And this is what John says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” This means each one of us is his very own creation! He is our Creator. And it is he who sustains our life. It is he who made the sun. It is he who provides us food to eat, clothes to wear, and even places to live in!
But here is a problem. If we are his children, then we are supposed to know our parents. Therefore, since the Lord God is our Creator and real Father, we are supposed to know him. But not all people know him as their Father. Look at v. 5. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Here “light” refers to the light of God shining through his creation, particularly through his only begotten Son Jesus. “Darkness” refers to the first man Adam and all of his descendants who, after sinning against God, have separated themselves from God, living in darkness.
But God the Father did not leave them in their lost condition. He began to look for what was lost. And his search for the lost ones continues from generation to generation. In fact Genesis 3:1 through to the book of Malachi is nothing but a record of God’s long search for all his lost ones of each generation. Unfortunately, today we don’t have any time to talk about all of God’s efforts recorded in these Old Testament Scriptures.
Let us, however, think about the most critical efforts God the Father made to look for what was lost. The Apostle John records God’s efforts as they took place roughly 2000 years ago in the land called Israel. Look at vs. 6-9. “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” Here “a man who came from God” refers to John the Baptist. “True light” refers to Jesus the Savior. Specifically, the expression “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John” refers to the birth of John the Baptist, and the expression “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” refers to the birth of Jesus the Savior which in fact took place six months after the birth of John the Baptist.
So let us think about John. He is an interesting person. First of all he was born to a woman named Elizabeth in her old age, perhaps in her 70’s if not 80’s. In the United States, and certainly in the rest of the world, Elizabeth “Liz” Taylor is known as a famous actress. But Liz Taylor got her first name Elizabeth from the mother of John the Baptist. How was it that John the Baptist’s mother Elizabeth became so popular that even Liz Taylor got her first name from Elizabeth? Everyone thought that Elizabeth was barren, but by faith she kept praying and praying for a son. Finally, the Lord God heard her prayer. Thus she became pregnant. Then John the Baptist came out. And John adopted a very interesting lifestyle. That is, from his youth he went out to a desert area, and lived a holy life. The Lord God filled him with the Holy Spirit. And he ate locust and honey, and he wore a leather belt and a special cloak made of camel’s hair. This cloak became his sleeping gown, his business suit, and his Sunday clothes all at the same time. But what made him, and therefore his mom Elizabeth, truly famous was not what he ate or his fashionable, trend-setting lifestyle. Rather, it was his mission. What was his mission? His mission was to testify concerning Jesus the Savior. He came to help people repent of their sins, and prepare for the Savior to come.
Let us now think about Jesus the Savior. Look at v. 10. “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” This passage describes Jesus’ life here on earth in a painful way: both the world (referring to the Gentiles) and his own (referring to the Jewish people) rejected him. How did it happen? Well, let us begin with the story of his birth.
On a silent night Jesus was born in a manger in a town called Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph laid the baby Jesus in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. Jesus is the Creator of the universe. Plus, the Bible kept announcing the coming of the Savior of the world. People should have prepared themselves for the coming of the Savior so that, on the night of the Savior’s birth, even the Roman Emperor himself should have made a visit to Bethlehem, bowed down before him, and then let the baby Jesus and his parents Mary and Joseph at least stay at the five-star Jerusalem Hotel. But this was not what happened. What then happened to Jesus? Jesus’ parents put him in a manger because there was no room in the inn. This is a sad story. Suppose Dr. Abraham Jeong let his parents stay in a humble place like the basement at the Downey Bible Center. How would they feel? But the manger was worse than the basement at the Downey Center! Surely “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.”
Then Jesus grew up in a town called Nazareth. His father was a carpenter. Although Jesus was born of the Spirit (his father Joseph was not his biological father), Joseph adopted Jesus as his legal son according to the Law of God. And for the first thirty years, Jesus served his parents, perhaps running errands, working as an assistant carpenter, etc. and so forth.
But by the time he became about 30 years old, Jesus began his public ministry. His ministry lasted only for at most a few years – some people say 3 and half years, others even say just 18 months. Anyway, during his ministry, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus healed many people and preached the kingdom of God. He made 12 disciples. Then, because he claimed to be the Son of God, some of the Jewish religious authorities convicted and punished him for blasphemy. They crucified him. Referring to this tragic event, John says, “He came to that which was his own, but his down did not receive him.” This was a tragedy of tragedies.
God sent Jesus to help people know God the Father. But people rejected Jesus. This already tells us one important truth about the people of this world: they are spiritual orphans.
Orphans are poor because they do not live under the protection and provision of their fathers. Our Heavenly Father is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He is the giver of all we need for life. So he is the richest person of all. Yet how tragic it is for one to remain ignorant of his Father who is the richest one of all! The one who feels the greatest pain, however, is not those who do not know God the Father, but the Father himself who longs to take his children under his care. Nevertheless, these spiritual orphans sadly wander around out in the world, not knowing that their Father longs to help them live as his children.
II. The Glory of the one and only (12-18)
The Apostle John saw the pains God the Father has for all his lost ones. By God’s grace he received Jesus’ calling to live as one of his disciples. He saw God the Father in the life of his Son Jesus. Now, in the hope to help all the lost ones to become God’s children, he introduces the way for us to become his children. How can we become God’s children?
Look at vs. 12-13. ”Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.“ To become God’s children, there are two steps, if you will. The first step belongs to us and the second to God. Let us think about the step we need to take now: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” What we need to do consists of two parts in and of itself: we must first receive Jesus into our heart and, second, we need to believe in his name. About two thousand years ago Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again. Today, he is still with us through his Spirit. Everyone who opens his heart and accepts Jesus into his heart as Lord and Savior Jesus comes in through his Spirit. Thus he remains with us forever. As we have a fellowship with him, we can know him better. And thus we can come to believe in his name.
When we receive him into our heart and believe in his name, what does God do? Look at vs. 12-13 again. ”Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.“ God blesses our faith in the Lord. He helps us to be born again, born of God’s love and power.
Every child who is born again shows one powerful sign of life growing in him. That is, he is constantly growing up. This is true spiritually. Every child born of God needs to grow. As long as Jesus’ life is inside of him, the life of Jesus keeps growing until it reaches maturity.
How then is it possible for a new born child to grow into maturity? John answers the question in vs. 14-17. Let us read this passage altogether. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' " From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
The secret of growth lies in the five words “full of grace and truth.” Here growth refers to spiritual growth. For a man to grow and mature spiritually, he needs to take two pills: the pill called “grace” and then the pill called “truth.” Figuratively speaking these two are powerful vitamins which contain all the ingredients necessary to make man fully mature, as mature as our Lord Jesus, our Savior.
When taking vitamins, it is a good idea to know which vitamin does what sort of good to our body. For example Vitamin A is good for our eyes. Vitamin C is good for a cold. (If I am wrong, then Missionary Blessing who is a pharmacist can correct me.) So let us think about what the spiritual vitamin called Grace does for us. In John’s dictionary, the word “grace” is used in contrast to the word “law.” I believe the law refers to Moses’ law, such as Moses’ Ten Commandments. Moses’ law points out that we are all sinners. Just in case you don’t think you’re a sinner, go home and read Moses’ Ten Commandments. The Bible says that sin makes man fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But Jesus’ grace does what Moses’ law could not do. All Moses’ law could do is point out our sins. It could not help us to overcome our sins. But Jesus’ grace is different. His grace is like a mother who keeps changing her baby’s diapers. How many times does a mother change her baby’s diapers? Until her baby no longer needs his diapers. This is what John means by the word “full.” And you know what? In order to help us fully overcome our sinful nature, about 2000 years ago, Jesus shed his own blood to forgive all of our sins.
Let us think about the next pill called “truth.” In Hebrew the word truth is pronounced emet, which consists of three Hebrew letters: aleph, mem, and tav, which in turn are the first, the middle, and the last letter of the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet (plus 5 more in final forms for a total of 27). This indicates that truth refers to the Word of God in its entirety. What or who is the Word of God? John says, “The Word became flesh!” So the Word of God refers to Jesus. Jesus represents all the truthful words of God written in the 66 books of the Bible in living form! And Jesus lived according to the truths written in the Bible. He never sinned. He never failed to do what he was supposed to do nor did he ever do what he was not supposed to do. And when we have Jesus in our heart and live by faith in him, he transforms us into his children so that we too can obey God’s word just as surely as he did. Plus, when our bodily life is completed, as Jesus comes again, he will give each of us a newly resurrected life – the life which is as glorious as the risen body of Jesus himself.
Actually, the Apostle John himself testifies to the hope that, through Jesus, a believer can become a mature servant of God. Before he came to know Jesus, John was not a man of grace. Rather, he was a man of anger. Once upon a time, while he was living as one of Jesus’ disciples, Jesus and his disciples needed to pass by a place named Samaria. In those days (and today, too) the Samaritans did not like Jews. So they did not allow Jesus to pass through their territory. John saw this and became angry. He asked Jesus (along with his brother James, cf. Mark 3:17), “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus rebuked him. In this way John was not a graceful man. But later he became a very graceful man. A simple reading of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd epistles (letters) of John tells us that he is indeed an apostle of love, asking us to love our neighbors even by laying down our lives for them. In addition, at first John did not live up to God’s truth. While living as one of Jesus’ disciples, he had a hard time getting along with his fellow disciples, especially Simon Peter. Jesus kept asking him to love one another. But he could not love Simon Peter because it seemed as though Jesus regarded Simon Peter as No. 1 but John as merely No. 2. The truth was that Jesus treated all of them equally, in their own way. But John did not think so. Thus he could not love Peter as he loved himself. But later, he learned how Jesus loved all kinds of people. He saw how God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son Jesus to save the world. He personally experienced how Jesus loved all sinners, even to the point of dying on the cross for their sins. In short, John saw Jesus living the truth, especially the truth about the way of love. Deeply moved by Jesus’ truth, he too became an apostle of truth, particularly the truth about the way of God’s love.
With this truth, John says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”(1 John 4:7-16)
In conclusion, look at v. 18. “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.” This passage assures us once again that Jesus is all we need in order to know God the Father. By receiving Jesus and believing in his name, we can fully know God. Then we can live as children of God, not only in name but, far more importantly, in substance as well. This is why the birth of Jesus is indeed such good news of great joy.
One word: The Word became flesh.