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I. Prologue: The Word Became Flesh (John 1:1-18)

1:1-2 When we read the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the story begins in history with Jesus Christ conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to Joseph and Mary. But in the Fourth Gospel, John reaches back even further—into eternity. We are given access to the prequel, so to speak.

1:12-13 But to everyone who received him he gave them the right to be children of God. To receive Christ is not like passively receiving a letter in your mailbox. Instead, it means to welcome him (based on his substitutionary atonement), like one welcomes a guest into his home. Those who do so are adopted into the family of God as his children. To believe in Jesus’s name is to believe in his person (who he is) and work (what he has done) (1:12). When someone receives and believes in Jesus for the free gift of eternal life, he undergoes a supernatural birth, the impartation of spiritual life. He is born . . . of God (1:13)—what Jesus would call being “born again” (3:3).

1:14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This verse testifies to the glory of the incarnation. Conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary (see Matt 1:20), the divine Son of God became a man. He is thus the God-Man—not half man and half God, but one person with a fully divine nature and a fully human nature. He is deity poured into humanity. He is fully human so he cried as an infant, but he is fully divine and gave life to his mother! He is fully human so he had to sleep, but he is fully divine and can raise the dead back to life. Our God fully experienced what it is to be human—yet without sinning (see Heb 4:15). He faced hunger, pain, temptation, grief, hardship, and rejection. You face no category of human experience that your Savior has not endured.

We beheld his glory. An obvious example of this is when Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured before their eyes (see Matt 17:1-2). But according to John, Jesus was also glorified through his miracles and ultimately in his cross and resurrection (see 2:11; 7:39; 11:4; 12:16, 23; 13:31-32).

1:15 John the Baptist affirmed the superiority of Jesus. Though Jesus’s ministry came after John’s, he ranks ahead of John because he existed before him. Though John was born before Jesus (see Luke 1:57-58; 2:1-7), he recognized that Jesus preceded him in eternity.

1:16-17 What does it mean to receive grace upon grace (1:16)? John explains: The law was given through Moses. This was a good gift to Israel, revealing God’s righteous character and his will for their lives. The problem was that the law couldn’t enable people to keep it. It highlighted their sin but couldn’t transform their sinful hearts. But grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (1:17).

When we personally receive the substitutionary atoning death of Christ on the cross, our sins are forgiven and eternal life is imparted. That’s amazing grace! The gospel, then, does what the law couldn’t do. Through Jesus, we have access to the unmerited and unlimited favor of God. In eternity he will “display the immeasurable riches of his grace” to us without interruption (Eph 2:7). Grace is the inexhaustible supply of God’s goodness that continuously brings his favor to his people, doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves. God will provide believers with a never-ending supply of “grace upon grace” through Christ, like waves crashing on the seashore.

1:18 John concludes the prologue to his Gospel by explaining that no one has ever seen God. In our sinfulness, to see God in unfiltered glory and holiness would result in our obliteration. Even Moses saw only the backside of God’s glory. No one can see God’s face on this side of eternity and live (see Exod 33:18-23). But the one and only (i.e., unique) Son who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him. In other words, the divine nature of the Father is fully expressed in the Son. Since Jesus is fully God, to know Jesus is to know God. As Jesus himself told his disciples, “The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9). He has perfectly revealed him. The only way to God is through the Son (14:6).

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