Christ, The Word Incarnate

Dec 01, 2016
A.W. Pink

We first submit a brief Analysis of the passage, which is to be before us in John 1:14-18, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” 1. Christ’s Incarnation—”The word was made flesh:” John 1:14. 2. Christ’s Earthly sojourn—”And tabernacled among us:” John 1:14. 3. Christ’s Essential Glory—”As of the only Begotten:” John 1:14. “And the word was made (became) flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The Infinite became finite. The Invisible became tangible. The Transcendent became imminent. That which was far off drew nigh. That which was beyond the reach of the human mind became that which could be beholden within the realm of human life. Here we are permitted to see through a veil that, which unveiled, would have blinded us. “The word became flesh:” He became what He was not previously. He did not cease to be God, but He became Man. “And the word was made flesh.” The plain meaning of these words is, that the Divine Savior took upon Him human nature. He became a real Man, yet a sinless, perfect Man. As Man He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). This union of the two natures in the Person of Christ is one of the mysteries of our faith—”Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). It needs to be carefully stated. “The word” was His Divine title; “became flesh” speaks of His holy humanity. He was, and is, the God-man, yet the Divine and human in Him were never confounded. His Deity, though veiled, was never laid aside; His humanity, though sinless, was a real humanity; for as incarnate, He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). As “the word” then, He is the Son of God; as “flesh,” the Son of man. This union of the two natures in the Person of Christ was necessary in order to fit Him for the office of Mediator. Three great ends were accomplished by God becoming incarnate, by the Word being made flesh. First, it was now possible for Him to die. Second, He can now be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Third, He has left us an example, that we should follow His steps. This duality of nature was plainly intimated in Old Testament prediction. Prophecy sometimes represented the coming Messiah as human, sometimes as Divine. He was to be the woman’s “seed” (Genesis 3:15); a “prophet” like unto Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:18); a lineal descendant of David (see 2 Samuel 7:12); Jehovah’s “Servant” (Isaiah 42:1); a “Man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3). Yet, on the other hand, He was to be “the Branch of the Lord, beautiful and glorious” (Isaiah 4:2); He was “the wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Father of the ages, the Prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6). As Jehovah He was to come suddenly to His temple (see Malachi 3:1). The One who was to be born in Bethlehem and be Ruler in Israel, was the One “whose goings forth had been from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2). How were those two different sets of prophecy to be harmonized? John 1:14 is the answer. The One born at Bethlehem was the Divine and eternal Word. The Incarnation does not mean that God dwelt in a man, but that God became Man. He became what He was not previously, though He never ceased to be all that He was before. The Babe of Bethlehem was Immanuel—God with us. “And the word was made flesh.” The miracles recorded [in the Gospel of John] illustrate and demonstrate [how the word became flesh] in a peculiar manner. For example: He turns the water into wine—but how? He, Himself, did nothing but speak the word. He gave His command to the servants and the transformation was wrought. Again; the nobleman’s son was sick. The father came to the Lord Jesus and besought Him to journey to his home and heal his boy. What was our Lord’s response? “Jesus said unto him, Go thy way, thy son liveth” (John 4:50), and the miracle was performed. Again; an impotent man was lying by the porch of Bethesda. He desired some one to put him into the pool, but while he was waiting another stepped in before him, and was healed. Then the Lord Jesus passed that way and saw him. What happened? “Jesus saith unto him, Rise,” etc. The word of power went forth, and the sufferer was made whole. Once more: consider the case of Lazarus, recorded only by John. In the raising of the daughter of Jairus, Christ took the damsel by the hand; when He restored to life the widow’s son of Nain, He touched the bier. But in bringing Lazarus from the dead He did nothing except speak the word, “Lazarus, come forth.” In all of these miracles we see the Word at work. The One who had become flesh and tabernacled among men was eternal and omnipotent—”the great God (the Word) and our Savior (became flesh) Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13) “And dwelt (tabernacled) among us.” He pitched His tent on earth for more then thirty years. There is here a latent reference to the tabernacle of Israel in the wilderness. That tabernacle had a typical significance: it forshadowed God the Son incarnate. Almost everything about the tabernacle adumbrated the Word made flesh. Many and varied are the correspondences between the type and the Anti-type. We notice a few of the more conspicuous. 1. The “tabernacle” was a temporary appointment. In this it differed from the temple of Solomon, which was a permanent structure. The tabernacle was merely a tent, a temporary convenience, something that was suited to be moved about from place to place during the journeyings of the children of Israel. So it was when our blessed Lord tabernacled here among men. His stay was but a brief one—less than forty years; and, like the type, He abode not long in any one place, but was constantly on the move—unwearied in the activity of His love. 2. The “tabernacle” was for use in the wilderness. After Israel settled in Canaan, the tabernacle was superseded by the temple. But during the time of their pilgrimage from Egypt to the Promised Land, the tabernacle was God’s appointed provision for them. The wilderness strikingly foreshadowed the conditions amid which the eternal Word tabernacled among men at His first advent. The wilderness home of the tabernacle unmistakably foreshadowed the manger-cradle, the Nazarite-carpenter’s bench, the “nowhere” for the Son of man to lay His head, the borrowed tomb for His sepulcher. 3. Outwardly the “tabernacle” was mean, humble, and unattractive in appearance. Altogether unlike the costly and magnificent temple of Solomon, there was nothing in the externals of the tabernacle to please the carnal eye. Nothing but plain boards and skins. So it was at the Incarnation. The Divine majesty of our Lord was hidden beneath a veil of flesh. He came, unattended by any imposing retinue of angels. To the unbelieving gaze of Israel He had no form, nor comeliness; and when they beheld Him, their un-annointed eyes saw in Him no beauty that they should desire Him. 4. The “tabernacle” was God’s dwelling place. It was there, in the midst of Israel’s camp, He took up His abode. There, between the cherubim upon the mercy-seat He made His throne. In the holy of holies He manifested His presence by means of the Shekinah glory. And during the thirty some years that the Word tabernacled among men, God had His dwelling place in Palestine. The holy of holies received its anti-typical fulfillment in the Person of the Holy One of God. Just as the Shekinah dwelt between the two cherubim, so on the mount of transfiguration the glory of the God-man flashed forth from between two men—Moses and Elijah. “We beheld his glory” is the language of the tabernacle type. 5. The “tabernacle” was, therefore, the place where God met with men. It was termed “the tent of meeting.” If an Israelite desired to draw near unto Jehovah He had to come to the door of the tabernacle. When giving instructions to Moses concerning the making of the tabernacle and its furniture, God said, “And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee” (Exodus 25:21, 22). How perfect is this lovely type! Christ is the meeting place between God and men. No man cometh unto the Father but by Him (see John 14:16). There is but one Mediator between God and men—the Man Christ Jesus (see 1 Timothy 2:5). He is the One who spans the gulf between deity and humanity, because He is Himself both God and Man. 6. The “tabernacle” was the center of Israel’s camp. In the immediate vicinity of the tabernacle dwelt the Levites, the priestly tribe: “But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle” (Numbers 1:50), and around the Levites were grouped the twelve tribes, three on either side—see Numbers 2. Again; we read, that when Israel’s camp was to be moved from one place to another, “Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camp” (Numbers 2:17). And, once more, “And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. And the Lord came down in a cloud and spake unto him” (Numbers 11:24, 25). How striking is this! The tabernacle was the great gathering center. As such it was a beautiful foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus. He is our great gathering-center. And His precious promise is, that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). 7. The “tabernacle” was the place where the Law was preserved. The first two tables of stone, on which Jehovah had inscribed the Ten Commandments, were broken (see Exodus 32:19); but the second set were deposited in the ark in the tabernacle for safe keeping (see Deuteronomy 10:2-5). It was only there, within the holy of holies, the tablets of the Law were preserved intact. How this, again, speaks to us of Christ! He it was that said, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:7, 8). Throughout His perfect life He preserved in thought, word and deed, the Divine Decalogue, honoring and magnifying God’s Law. 8. The “tabernacle” was the place where sacrifice was made. In its outer court stood the brazen altar, to which the animals were brought, and on which they were slain. There it was that blood was shed and atonement was made for sin. So it was with the Lord Jesus. He fulfilled in His own Person the typical significance of the brazen altar, as of every piece of the tabernacle furniture. The body in which, He tabernacled on earth was nailed to the cruel Tree. The Cross, was the altar upon which God’s Lamb was slain, where His precious blood was shed, and where complete atonement was made for sin. 9. The “tabernacle” was the place where the priestly family was fed. “And the remainder thereof shall Aaron and his sons eat: with unleavened bread shall it be eaten in the holy place; in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation they shall eat it… The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten” (Leviticus 6:16, 26). How deeply significant are these scriptures in their typical import! And how they speak to us of Christ as the Food of God’s priestly family today, that is, all believers (see 1 Peter 2:5). He is the Bread of Life. He is the One upon whom our souls delight to feed. 10. The “tabernacle” was the place of worship. To it the pious Israelite brought his offerings. To it he turned when he desired to worship Jehovah. From its door the Voice of the Lord was heard. Within its courts the priests ministered in their sacred service. And so it was with the Anti-type. It is “by him” we are to offer unto God a sacrifice of praise (see Hebrews 13:15). It is in Him, and by Him, alone, that we can worship the Father. It is through Him we have access to the throne of grace. Thus we see how fully and how perfectly the tabernacle of old foreshadowed the Person of our blessed Lord, and why the Holy Spirit, when announcing the Incarnation, said, “And the word became flesh, and tabernacled among us.” Before passing on to the next clause of John 1:14, it should be pointed out that there is a series of striking contrasts between the wilderness tabernacle and Solomon’s temple in their respective foreshadowings of Christ. (1) The tabernacle foreshadowed Christ in His first advent; the temple looks forward to Christ at His second advent. (2) The tabernacle was first, historically; the temple was not built until long afterwards. (3) The tabernacle was but a temporary erection; the temple was a permanent structure. (4) The tabernacle was erected by Moses the prophet (which was the office Christ filled during His first advent); the temple was built by Solomon the king (which is the office Christ will fill at His second advent). (5) The tabernacle was used in the wilderness—speaking of Christ’s humiliation; the temple was built in Jerusalem, the “city of the great King” (Matthew 5:35)—speaking of Christ’s future glorification. (6) The numeral which figured most prominently in the tabernacle was five, which speaks of grace, and grace was what characterized the earthly ministry of Christ at His first advent; but the leading numeral in the temple was twelve which speaks of government [or fulness], for Christ shall rule and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. (7) The tabernacle was unattractive in its externals—so when Christ was here before He was as “a root out of a dry ground;” but the temple was renowned for its outward magnificence—so Christ when He returns shall come in power and great glory. “And we beheld his glory.” “We beheld” refers, directly, to the first disciples, yet it is the blessed experience of all believers today. “But we all . . . beholding, as in a glass (mirror) the glory of the Lord” (2 Corinthians. 3:18). The term used in both of these verses seems to point a contrast. In John 12:41 we read, “These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spake of him,” the reference being to Isaiah 6. The Old Testament celebrities only had occasional and passing glimpses of God’s glory. But, in contrast from these who only “saw,” we—believers of this dispensation—”behold his glory.” But more particularly, there is a contrast here between the beholding and the non-beholding of God’s glory: the Shekinah glory abode in the holy of holies, and therefore, was hidden. But we, now, “behold” the Divine glory. “We beheld his glory.” What is meant by this? Ah! who is competent to answer. Eternity itself will be too short to exhaustively explore this theme. The glories of our Lord are infinite, for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. No subject ought to be dearer to the heart of a believer. Briefly defined, “We beheld his glory” signifies His supreme excellency, His personal perfections. For the purpose of general classification we may say the “glories” of our Savior are fourfold, each of which is capable of being subdivided indefinitely. First, there are His essential “glories,” as the Son of God; these are His Divine perfections, as for example, His Omnipotence. Second, there are His moral “glories,” and these are His human perfections, as for example, His meekness. Third, there are His official “glories,” and these are His mediatorial perfections, as for example, His priesthood. Fourth, there are His acquired “glories,” and these are the reward for what He has done. Probably the first three of these are spoken of in our text. First, “We beheld his glory” refers to His essential “glory,” or Divine perfections. This is clear from the words which follow: “The glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” From the beginning to the end of His earthly life and ministry the Deity of the Lord Jesus was plainly evidenced. His supernatural birth, His personal excellencies, His matchless teaching, His wondrous miracles, His death and resurrection, all proclaimed Him as the Son of God. But it is to be noted that these words, “we beheld his glory,” follow immediately after the words “tabernacled” among men. We cannot but believe there is here a further reference to the tabernacle. In the tabernacle, in the holy of holies, Jehovah made His throne upon the mercy seat, and the evidence of His presence there was the Shekinah glory, frequently termed “the cloud.” When the tabernacle had been completed, and Jehovah took possession of it, we read, “then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). It was the same at the completion of Solomon’s temple: “The cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10, 11). Here “the cloud” and “the glory” are clearly identified. The Shekinah glory, then, was the standing sign of God’s presence in the midst of Israel. Hence, after Israel’s apostasy, and when the Lord was turning away from them, we are told, “And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city” (Ezekiel 11:23). Therefore, when we read, “The Word . . . tabernacled among men, and we beheld his glory” it was the proof that none other than Jehovah was again in Israel’s midst. And it is a remarkable fact, to which we have never seen attention called, that at either extremity of the Word’s tabernacling among men the Shekinah glory was evidenced. Immediately following His birth we are told, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid” (Luke 2:8, 9). And, at His departure from this world, we read “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9)—not “clouds,” but “a cloud! We beheld his glory,” then, refers, first, to His Divine glory. Second, there also seems to be a reference here to His official “glory,” which was exhibited upon the Holy Mount. In 2 Peter 1:16 we read, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” The reference is to the Transfiguration, for the next verse goes on to say, “For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” It is the use of the word “glory” here which seems to link the transfiguration-scene with John 1:14. This is confirmed by the fact that on the Mount, “while he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them” (Matthew 17:5). Third, there is also a clear reference in John 1:14 to the moral “glory” or perfections of the God-Man, for after saying “we beheld his glory,” John immediately adds (omitting the parenthesis) “full of grace and truth.” What marvelous grace we behold in that wondrous descent from heaven’s throne to Bethlehem’s manger! It had been an act of infinite condescension if the One who was the Object of angelic worship had deigned to come down to this earth and reign over it as King; but that He should appear in weakness, that He should voluntarily choose poverty, that He should become a helpless Babe—such grace is altogether beyond our ken; such matchless love passeth knowledge. O that we may never lose our sense of wonderment at the infinite condescension of God’s Son. In His marvelous stoop we behold His glory. Greatness is never so glorious as when it takes the place of lowliness. Power is never so attractive as when it is placed at the disposal of others. Might is never so triumphant as when it sets aside its own prerogatives. Sovereignty is never so winsome as when it is seen in the place of service. And, may we not say it reverently; Deity had never appeared so glorious as when It hung upon a maiden’s breast! Yes, we behold His glory—the glory of an infinite condescension, the glory of a matchless grace, the glory of a fathomless love. Concerning the acquired “glories” of our Lord we cannot now treat at length. These include the various rewards bestowed upon Him by the Father after the successful completion of the work, which had been committed into His hands. It is of these acquired glories Isaiah speaks, when, after treating of the voluntary humiliation and death of the Savior, he gives us to hear the Father saying of Christ, “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:12). It is of these acquired glories the Holy Spirit speaks in Philippians 2, where after telling of our Lord’s obedience even unto the death of the Cross, He declares, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). And so we might continue. But how unspeakably blessed to know, that at the close of our great High Priest’s prayer, recorded in John 17, we find Him saying, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me” (verse 24)! Before we pass on to the next verse we would point out that there is an intimate connection between the one, which has just been before us (John 5:14) and the opening verse of the chapter. Verse 14 is really an explanation and amplification of verse 1. There are three statements in each, which exactly correspond, and the latter throw light on the former. First, “in the beginning was the word,” and that is something that transcends our comprehension; but “and the word became flesh” brings Him within reach of our sense. Second “and the word was with God,” and again we are unable to understand; but the Word “tabernacled among us,” and we may draw near and behold. Third, “and the word was God,” and again we are in the realm of the Infinite; but “full of grace and truth,” and here are two essential facts concerning God which come within the range of our vision. Thus by coupling together verses 1 and 14 (reading the verses in between as a parenthesis) we have a statement which is, probably, the most comprehensive in its sweep, the profoundest in its depths, and yet the simplest in its terms to be found between the covers of the Bible. Put these verses side by side: (1) “In the beginning was the word:” (a) “And the word became flesh” tells of the beginning of His human life. (2) “And the word was with God” (b) “And tabernacled among us” shows Him with men. (3) “And the word was God” (c) “Full of grace and truth,” and this tells what God is.

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