The Incarnation of Christ – John 1:14-18

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas. This morning with Christmas still fresh in our minds, I’d like to reflect on the wonder of the incarnation of Christ. Incarnation is the doctrine that the Son of God became human flesh. He was fully God and fully human. It’s amazing to stop and think about it. It goes beyond our comprehension and understanding that God would become man. Listen to a few thoughts from some prominent Christians on the incarnation…

The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding. (Martin Luther)

The Christian faith is founded upon … a well attested sober fact of history; that quietly, but with deliberate purpose, God himself has visited this little planet. (J. B. Phillips (1906-1982))

The Son of God became man to enable men to become the sons of God. (C S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.  Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 14)

We are going to look at John 1:14-18 this morning as we consider the wonder of the incarnation of Christ.

John 1:14  And the Word became 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.

15  John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'"

16  And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

17  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

18  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

The Word became Flesh (14)

In verse 14 we are told that the Word became flesh. The word flesh here refers to a human nature, not sinfulness or weakness. The Word who is Jesus and Jesus is God became a man. The Word became flesh. God came as a man. As J.I. Packer puts it…

God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation. (J. I. Packer (1926- ))

It truly goes beyond our comprehension that God would become man. The Word becoming flesh is a wonderful mystery. It fills us with awe and wonder when we stop and really think about the Word becoming flesh. C.S. Lewis paints this picture of the incarnation…

Lying at your feet is your dog. Imagine, for the moment, that your dog and every dog is in deep distress. Some of us love dogs very much. If it would help all the dogs in the world to become like men, would you be willing to become a dog? Would you put down your human nature, leave your loved ones, your job, hobbies, your art and literature and music, and choose instead of the intimate communion with your beloved, the poor substitute of looking into the beloved’s face and wagging your tail, unable to smile or speak? Christ by becoming man limited the thing which to Him was the most precious thing in the world; his unhampered, unhindered communion with the Father. (C. S. Lewis)

It’s a wonderful thing that Jesus Christ, the Word did for us by coming to this earth as a man. He left the riches and splendor of Heaven and became flesh.

Adding to the wonder of the Word becoming flesh are the words that follow in verse 14. He dwelt among us.

The word dwelt here literally means to fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent). We could say that Jesus came and pitched his tent among us.

John Piper has some helpful thoughts on this.

I think what pitching a tent with us implies is that God wants to be on familiar terms with us. He wants to be close. He wants a lot of interaction. If you come into a community and build a huge palace with a wall around it says one thing about your desires to be with the people. But if you pitch a tent in my back yard you will probably use my bathroom and eat often at my table. This is why God became human. He came to pitch a tent in our human back yard so that we would have a lot of dealings with him. (John Piper)

My family enjoys camping. Last summer we went camping late in August and there weren’t many camping at that time of the year. We kind of felt like we had the place to ourselves. It was nice. Most of the time when you’re camping you have neighbors all around you and they are much closer than the neighboring houses back at home.  My brother and his family visited with us last summer. They brought their tent and pitched it in our backyard. Tents aren’t equipped like RV’s so they of course were in and out of our house making use of the comforts of our home. We enjoyed the interaction and fellowship we had with them. We even talked them out of camping at the state park so we could visit more freely with them.

Think about Jesus pitching his tent among us. Think about Him coming here to dwell among us. It’s rather amazing to think about Him living on this earth. He lived among men. He came and lived among us to provide salvation for us so that we could live eternally with God the Father. What a wonderful thing to contemplate the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.

John goes on to say in verse 14 and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John was an eyewitness to the glory of the Son. He had seen it firsthand. Won’t it be wonderful one day to see Jesus in His glory? Jesus is the only begotten of the Father. This …

means that Jesus is the Son of God in a sense totally different from a human who believes and becomes a child of God. 1

Jesus is the only Son of God. He is unique and matchless. There is no one like Him. We become children of God when we trust in Jesus but the relationship of God the Son with God the Father is unique and special.

John’s Witness of Him (15)

In verse 15 John the Baptist is again mentioned. We’ve seen him in our previous studies in John. Look at John’s witness of Jesus.

15  John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'"

John the Baptist says that He who comes after me was before me. How can that be? As a man, Jesus came after John but as eternal God He always existed and therefore existed before John. John says of Jesus, He is preferred before me. In the NASB, it says, He has a higher rank than I. John understood the exalted position of Christ. Listen to how Jesus’ position is described in Colossians 1:18.

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

John was a great man but he understood that Jesus is far greater. He should have the preeminence in our church, our homes and our lives. As the Christmas season is fresh in our minds let’s not forget the rightful place of Jesus Christ.

We Receive Grace (16)

In verse 16 we see that we have all received grace from the fullness of Christ.

16  And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

Listen to this verse as it is translated in the NIV.

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

When God came to this earth as a man He came to show us His grace and offer us His grace.

“One blessing after another” is an attempt to express in modern English the Greek phrase "grace in exchange for [anti] grace.” When one supply of grace is exhausted, another is available.2

God showers His grace on us through Jesus Christ His Son. All of us are sinners. Not one of us can claim that we have lived perfect lives. As sinners we are deserving of punishment. As sinners we face an eternity in Hell separated from God. Yet God loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for us. Romans 5:8 says,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Christ died for us so that we could receive God’s grace and have eternal life with Him instead of facing eternal torment in Hell. God saves us by His grace. We do nothing to merit salvation yet He loves us so much that He saves us by His grace when we receive Jesus and believe on His name.

Perhaps you unwrapped some special gifts yesterday but nothing compares to the gift of grace that God has shown us through Jesus Christ His Son and offers to those who trust in Christ. Have you received this precious gift?

God Revealed Through the Law and Jesus Christ (17)

In verse 17 we are reminded that the law was given through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

God first revealed Himself to man through the law. The law makes demands of us that no one can ever meet. It points out the holiness and righteousness of God and our own unworthiness to meet the standards of the law and our need for a Savior. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. What we could not accomplish on our own, Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. He died for us and took the punishment for our sin. He rose again and defeated the grave. He died and rose again and when we believe in Him we can have life, eternal life. Romans 8:3 says,

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,

I’m so thankful that God did what the law couldn’t do by sending His Son. The law shows us our need for a Savior and the Savior was given to us through Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

The Son Explains the Father (18)

18  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

We can’t see God. He is invisible to our human eyes, yet that doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist or isn’t real. If we can’t see God how can we know Him? The answer is that the Son has declared Him or as the NASB puts it, the Son has explained Him.

Jesus came to this earth and gave us a clearer understanding of who God is. Ray Stedman illustrates it this way…

I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. R. A. Torrey, the founder of the Church of the Open Door, in Los Angeles, and the founder of the Bible School of Los Angeles (now Biola University). Dr. Torrey was an associate of D. L. Moody, and was one of the great Bible teachers of the past generation. He died while I was yet a baby, but I met his son one day. I took a picture of him and had a conversation with him. Everyone who knew both the father and the son were in agreement that the son looked exactly like the father; that the timbre of his voice, his expressions, his personality, reflected his father. Because I knew his son, I have always felt that somehow I knew Dr. R. A. Torrey.

And that illustrates for us well that as we understand and know better the Son so we come to know and understand better the Father.

The life and words of Jesus are more than an announcement; they are an explanation of God's attitude toward men and of his purpose for them.3

I hope this morning you have a sense of wonder as you think about the incarnation of Christ and all that it means to us.

Listen to this poem by an unknown author which captures some of the beauty and wonder of the incarnation for us.

The Maker of the universe
As Man, for man was made a curse.
The claims of Law which He had made
Unto the uttermost He paid.

His holy fingers made the bough
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow.
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed.

He made the forest whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood
Yet made the hill on which it stood.

The sky that darkened o’er His head
By Him above the earth was spread.
The sun that hid from Him its face
By His decree was poised in space.

The spear which spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made,

The throne on which He now appears
Was His from everlasting years.
But a new glory crowns His brow
And every knee to Him shall bow. (Author Unknown)

How privileged we are that God came to earth as a man in the person of Jesus Christ. He pitched His tent among us. He came to this earth so that we could experience God’s saving grace. He came so we could know the Father. If you have received God’s saving grace this morning rejoice in what Jesus Christ did for you by coming to earth as a babe and dying on the cross for you. If you have never received the grace of God which saves you from your sin will you receive Him today?


1Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

2 Expositor’s Bible Commentary

3 ibid