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John 1:14-18 Study Guide: The Word Became Flesh

Community Group Study Guide — The Word Became Flesh
John 1:14-18

Main idea:
God the son took on full humanity to reveal God’s glory and grace to his people so that God can be known more fully. This surpassed what God revealed about himself in the Law and is marked by grace and truth. 

Study Information:
John turns our attention to the humanity of Jesus and how the Word taking on flesh reveals God and makes him knowable in a unique way and essential way. John 1:14 displays the heart of God to draw near to us by assuming our human condition in order that we may know him and experience salvation through faith in Christ. Philippians 2:5-11 elaborates on John 1:14 by telling us that Jesus took on human form, and even the form of a servant and died in a humiliating and painful way on the cross so that he would be exalted and for us to experience salvation through his sacrificial death. God understands the sin and brokenness of this world and loves us enough to send his son to take on flesh so that we may experience his grace and his glory. 

John 1:14-15
Jesus Christ is Immanuel, God with us. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, meaning that God the son took on humanity and drew near to his people. The word “dwelt” is filled with lots of rich imagery. In the book of Exodus we read how God gave his people a place to set up as they traveled in the desert where they could meet with God for worship to offer prayer and sacrifices called the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a portable temple which was a place where heaven and earth overlapped - God manifesting his presence on earth. We first see temple language in Genesis 2 and 3 with the garden of eden. The word “dwelt” is the same word used for “tabernacle” and the idea here communicates that the Word was templing among us, meaning that Jesus himself was the place where God’s presence manifested and heaven and earth overlapped. Jesus makes this more clear in John 2:18-22 when he talks of his own body as the temple. What we see in the scripture is a progression of God manifesting his presence in a particular location starting in the garden of eden, moving to the tabernacle, then to the temple, next intensified in Jesus, in our time among the people of God who are a temple for the Holy Spirit and finally in New Creation. God draws near to his people in Christ and as we will read later on in John 14-16 he will send the Spirit to indwell believers, but for our purposes in John 1:14-18, Jesus is the temple of God to reveal God’s glory and grace so that God’s people may see and know what God is like. 

The Word becoming flesh also means that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human, he is not 50/50 and neither is he divided. 1 John teaches us that Jesus Christ coming in the flesh, becoming fully human, is essential to right Christian belief (1 John 2:18-25). Jesus did not just appear human or experience things in a human way; Jesus was fully human in every capacity like we are so that he would be a merciful and gracious high priest (Hebrews 2:10-11, 14-18). God authored our salvation to take place in such a way that only he could remedy our sinfulness and he did so by taking on our unique situation in becoming fully human and bearing the penalty for our sin and living the life we could not and being fully human he died a physical death but was raised again to break the power of death. All of this took place because Jesus is not merely a divine spirit or an angel, but fully God and fully man dwelling with the people of God. To give us a big theology word, this is called the “hypostatic union”; Jesus Christ is one person with two natures. He has a divine nature and a human nature that unite in the person of Jesus. 

Believing both natures of Jesus, human and divine, has been a theological flashpoint throughout history, it is quite tempting for various scholars and church teachers to deny one of these natures at various points. We looked at this the first week with how people want to say Jesus was a created being and therefore does not have a divine nature (this is a form of what’s called Arianism). What’s interesting is that it was also common during the first few centuries for people to deny his humanity and say that he just appeared or seemed human (this is called Docetism). We think that the ancient world would readily accept his humanity but that was not always the case. Today we likely are quick to accept he was human and struggle to understand his divinity; but the scripture clearly teaches he had both natures. 

John underscores this point in our passage with an interesting statement about Jesus in verse 15 where John the gospel writer comments on John the Baptist’s preaching about Jesus. John the Baptist apparently would testify about Jesus that even though Jesus “came after” him he ranks before him. John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus and was born a few months earlier than Jesus but despite that John testifies that Jesus ranked before him and was from “before” John. This is helpful because in the same paragraph John the gospel writer is pointing to how Jesus deity and eternality (that he is “from before”) can be paired with the human nature of Jesus. You do not have to pick and choose, Jesus has both natures and even it is a mystery for us it is necessary that he has both natures so he can fully save as God become man. 

Grace and Glory of God
John 1:6-18
The incarnation is also an act of exceeding grace from God. John says that from this fullness we’ve received grace upon grace and he compares the incarnation with the giving of the Law in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Law was too an act of grace from God. We learn in Exodus that God freed his people from slavery to Egypt and graciously gave them a covenant to live by so they’d do well in the Promised Land and reflect him to the watching world. The Law reflected the character of God in part and was an act of God’s goodness because of that, but it was still Law and commandments. However, Jesus coming was grace upon grace; the incarnation is not law but rather gospel. Grace and truth are seen in Christ meaning we not only have truth about God seen in Jesus but it is done so in an undeservedly kind way. Jesus ministry was marked by those two aspects both truth and grace. Truth about God and how to live faithfully to God but also grace demonstrated in God’s compassion and love towards broken and sinful people who struggled to walk in holiness and needed the forgiveness and love shown in Christ. Likewise, the Law revealed God’s intentions and character in his commandments often teaching us of his holiness and our need for him; yet John 1:18 makes it clear that Jesus more fully reveals God to us. John 1:18 tells us that no on has ever seen God, which brings to mind Moses’ encounter with God on Sinai where he asked to see God’s glory and was hidden in a cave as God passed by revealing his back and revealing his glory through speaking about his character (see Exodus 34:1-9). We get a statement about God’s glory namely that he is gracious and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Though, in Christ we get a fuller revelation of God’s glory as God the son makes him known. “The only God, who is at the Father’s side” is a way of speaking of the person of God the son who took on flesh. Jesus’ mission is to make God known. Jesus has depth of intimacy with God the Father that cannot be matched and is revealing him in unprecedented ways that no other form of revelation has been able to match. God in his kindness took on flesh to dwell with his people so they could experience his presence and find forgiveness since he was able to fully experience humanity in a way that satisfied the demands of the Law and reveal grace and truth to us. 

The incarnation of Jesus was an act of grace to meet the needs to forgive us of our sin as well as for God to draw near to his people in order to reveal truth, grace and his glory.

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?

Discussion Questions:

Why is it significant that the bible uses temple imagery for the Word becoming flesh? 

What is the hypostatic union? Do you think Christians have a hard time affirming both natures of Jesus? Which is more likely to be denied in our day and age?

How does the incarnation reveal the glory of God?

What are a few ways this passage personally encourages your faith in Christ and understanding of God?