Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Word Became Flesh

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Selected commentary from The Orthodox Study Bible:

1:1 In the beginning recalls the creation but speaks of the Creator Himself. As Gen. 1:1 introduces the original creation, by itself an incomplete existence, this verse reveals the new creation, a fulfilled and complete existence.

Was the Word (Gr. logos): Was indicates existence without reference to a starting point. Therefore, In the beginning was the Word emphasizes (1) the Word's eternal existence in the Father without beginning, and (2) His oneness with Him in essence. Logos signifies wisdom and reason as well as word: the Creator. ("Creation" is Gr. logikos, participating in the Divine Word.) With the Incarnation, the Logos full participates in human nature.

The Word was with God: With in the Greek shows that the Word, the Son, is (1) a distinct Person from the Father, and (2) in communion with the Father.

The Word was God: The OT prophets saw the Word of God as the presence of the Lord. This phrase reveals He is not only from the Father, He is coequal and coeternal with the Father: one in divinity with Him. "I and My Father are one" (10:30). Some mistranslate this phrase "the Word was a god" to propagate their heresy that the Son is a created being, not fully divine. Such a translation is unwarranted and false.

1:3 The Word is co-Creator of all things with the Father (Gen. 1 and Ps. 33:6, 9), not merely the "instrument" or a "servant" of creation. Will, operation, and power are seen to be one in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Through Him shows the Word is not included in all things created by the Father. His eternal birth is by generation from the Father, whereas the works of creation are made. Thus, the heavens and the earth are the works of the One who made them, while the Son alone is born from the Father. Even when He comes in human flesh, the Word forever remains God, the Creator.

1:4 As the Divine Word incarnate, Christ is also the source of life and enlightenment. Because the Word is God, He is life: only God has life in Himself.

And the life was the light: By seeing and participating in Christ's life believers become light and children of light (12:36). Moses saw this light in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2), Isaiah saw it in his heavenly vision (Is. 6:1-5), and Peter, James and John saw it on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2). In the Divine Liturgy at Easter, light breaks forth from the night at the proclamation of the Resurrection: "Come, take light from the light that is never overtaken by night. Come, glorify Christ, risen from the dead."

1:5 Darkness: the satanic wickedness which actively opposes the light. Though the world has embraced darkness (3:19), the Word freely offers light to all. ... Darkness will oppose the light, yet cannot defeat the light.

1:9, 10 The true Light, Jesus Christ, enlightens every person, but the world refuses to receive and live in this light, and does not know Him (v. 10).

1:14 The Word became flesh: Here we turn to the humanity of Jesus. The Word became man without ceasing to be fully God: the mystery of God incarnate! He assumed complete human nature, both a physical body and a rational soul - everything we are, except for sin. As God and man in one Person, Christ accomplishes a redemption that fully heals and saves fallen humanity. He dwelt among us: "We" are the disciples, the people of God, pilgrims in this transient world. In the OT, God's glory, His radiant power, dwelt ("tabernacled") in the temple. Here, the eternal Word in His divine glory comes to dwell in the midst of humanity through the Incarnation.

We beheld His glory: The glory of the Word which the Apostles beheld was the manifestation of the very presence of God, shown in His words and deeds (2:11), and more fully beheld in His Transfiguration and His Resurrection.

Only begotten of the Father: The Son was eternally born from the Father; the Son has no beginning but He has His source in the Father. He is called Only Begotten because there is no other born from the Father. Thus, the Son Himself is God.

Full of grace and truth: This phrase qualifies not only "the Word" but also "the glory." Grace is Jesus' uncreated energy manifested to us through His lovingkindness and redeeming love. Truth includes His faithfulness to His promises and covenants, and the abiding reality of His gifts. By His grace and truth we enjoy a life in union and communion with God through Christ.

1:16 And of His fullness we have all received: Because Christ is God by nature, God's uncreated grace filled His human nature, thus deifying it. In union with Christ's deified humanity, we participate in the fullness of grace. Through Christ, God's children become gods by grace (10:34, 35), without ceasing to be human by nature. As metal thrust into the fire takes on the heat of the fire without ceasing to be itself, so human nature immersed in God's uncreated grace and truth becomes godlike without ceasing to be human.


Georgia said...

Splendid beautiful post and commentary.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols said much the same thing in His Christmas sermon (posted here

"If Jesus is indeed God yet not fully man, but simply God in disguise, then his message of God’s loving forgiveness is charming indeed but still out of our reach. If he is not truly human, it does not find a home in our flesh.

If Jesus is indeed truly one of us, truly man, but not true God, then his message of peace and forgiveness may well be humanly inspiring but it lacks the power to change us. For only God can do that."

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for the comment, Georgia, and also for the link to the Archbishop's Christmas sermon. Sounds very similar to the way Bishop Kallistos Ware puts it in the passage I cited in an earlier posting.