John 1:14 – Part 3 / The Word Became Flesh
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.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…
In God’s sending His very logos, the Word of God to Earth to dwell among us, the move ‘to us-ward’ was made by Him (John 1:14). From Creation, He moves toward humankind despite Adam and Eve breaking fellowship and creates a means of escape from our terrible plight (Genesis 3:15). When ‘the Word became flesh’ a promise made became a promise kept and prophecy was fulfilled. Have you ever loved someone and wished you could take up residence in their body? A secret compartment where you might hide would come in handy! If only we could hop inside and zip ourselves up – forever with our love in body and spirit! My finite mind imagines this deep intimate love mimics the Father’s infinite love for humankind. Loving us so much that he took up residence in a house of flesh; and, wanting never to leave nor forsake us, He indwells the believer until at last we meet Him in Glory.
The important word here is dwelt as it has Old and New Covenant significance. The Greek word σκηνόω [skenoo /skay·no·o appears five times and means, “1 to fix one’s tabernacle, have one’s tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle. 2 to dwell. This was not the first time God pitched his tent among us. Each time, the Authorized Version translates it “dwell”. Other versions translate this “pitched his tent among us” which is a more accurate translation than the KJV’s translation “dwelt”. A more literal translation of the Greek here points the student back to the Tabernacle (Exodus 25; Exodus 40:34), the Temple (I Kings 6; Isaiah 6:1-3), and the promise that God would return to dwell in the midst of His people (Zechariah 2:10)! Through verse 14, the writer of this Gospel takes great care in being clear. Proof again the Christ was the Son of God lies in His ability to don flesh that He might pitch his tent among us. As the prophet Isaiah declared his name would be Immanuel which means ‘God with us’.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14 KJV).
Dr. Oliver Green wrote, “Christ took up His ABODE in flesh; flesh did not become the Word but the Word became flesh…The human nature of Christ Jesus is the ark of the New Testament, uniting the eternal God and man forever.” Christ Jesus being the God-man or the Second Adam bridges the gap between the natural and the supernatural making salvation possible. F.F. Bruce writes, “The truth of God incarnate safeguards the Christian doctrine of God the Father and the Christian doctrine of man as well as the doctrine of the person of Christ.” Without an incarnate Messiah, Christianity is just another religion with a god who is not real but imagined whose powers rise and fall according to the weight the human assigns to each. Yet, God comes forward and says, ‘let them make me a sanctuary…that I may dwell in their midst.’
(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)
In the book of John, seven witnesses are mentioned (if we include Christ as his own witness). In the prologue (vv. 1-18) John the Baptist figures prominently as a witness to the Trinity of the Godhead at the baptism of Christ. The word ‘begotten’ in the Greek does not mean ‘born’. This word means ‘unique, the only one of its kind’.
full of grace and truth
The Messiah comes to Earth full of grace and truth. He does not come to judge the world but to draw sinners to repentance. How we perceive God matters a great deal. Is God an ogre or is he a benevolent ruler? The gospel writer informs us that he is full of grace and truth – there is no lie in the truth. While truth is proving ground for all souls, the grace of God is our mediator. In Him, we also find a divine balance. The truth in our lives may damn us but God’s grace is able to save us. A beautiful portrait of His grace and truth is displayed in how he deals with the woman at the well. Christ knew all she’d done beforehand; yet, she confessed anyway. Christ forgave her and said, “Go and sin no more.” In Christ’s day, her sins brought the penalty of stoning. The mercy at the feet of the Father is more gracious than what is given us by other humans. Time and again, we find the love of Christ displayed in a way that is humanly impossible. Yes, human beings will say they love unconditionally – until the conditions become game changers. Then, everyone will agree the game changing circumstance gives the person a right to withdraw affection. Christ is able to love the unlovely, without reserve or malice, when a human finds that hard to manage once for all. This is the beauty of Divine Love. We cannot receive such love other than at the feet of Jesus.
Free Will and Election
The question of free will or election of the saints brings God’s love into question. Not, in that, it questions that He loves; rather, it questions how He loves and whom He loves. In my 30 years studying God’s Word, I do believe this argument is born from misunderstanding the concept of election and ‘the elect of God’. How we define election determines how election is perceived. To swiftly say that God loves some and not others is grossly inaccurate. Humanity is His creation. We are His masterpiece. To infer, the Creator hates the created defies logic and goes against Scripture and the nature of God (2 Peter 3:9). When we paint God in such a corner, we have opened the floodgate of scrutiny and delivered humanity a demon instead of the Savior of mankind. No matter how eloquent our words or proper our dissertations may be, the nonbeliever sees a preferential God with a thirst for blood and destruction.
The Dutch theologian, Jacobus Armininius, disagreed with John Calvin who wrote, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Armininius taught theology at the University of Leiden (Netherlands) and wrote papers openly refuting how Calvin interpreted Romans 9 in the New Testament. Yet, he never denied there was an elect but demanded that the catechism and the confession be rewritten for the church despite his belief in the elect of God. His refutations of Calvin despite his fence riding opened the gates for salvation through “justification by faith”. Both schools embraced salvation by grace; the question became to whom the grace was extended.
Note: This debate came about from the thoughts of two theologians. Always bear in mind the Word of God is the final authority on matters. Theologians merely have opinions or interpretations, which may or may not be consistent with God’s Word. This writer is also giving her opinion on this heated debate within Christendom. Always proceed with caution and depend on God’s Word for understanding.
There have always been competing schools of thought concerning the Bible and its message. Differences of opinion fueled the Renaissance and sparked the Reformation. And, Calvinists are still fighting the Arminians; and, for what, I ask? There are many reasons why but one has to wonder if this endless debate is worthy of our time when so many need reached with the Gospel of Christ Jesus. No one reaches consensus or gracefully concedes; and, in certain circles, this argument remains poker hot. Someone once said, “What is the view like at 30,000 feet?” The other man said, “Everything is flat.” At what point does the bickering between schools of thought seem altogether flat to God?
In the quest to clarify or defend the Bible and its message have our lives degraded to that which does not glorify Him? In pursuit of bringing the truth to the masses did the believer lose his/her witness? Then, one must determine from this distorted witness if truth can grow, spread its seed, and reap a harvest worthy of God? Arguing a fine point about whether God draws you or you draw near to God matters little really. The point is whether the soul meets God at all. One human cannot discern what other humans will accept or reject Christ (or if you prefer, were chosen to accept Him). No matter what position the believer holds, believers must fulfill the Great Commission. Adherents to both views are not exempt from spreading the Word that Christ took our place, he was our substitute, and now sits at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us that we too may share in eternal life with Him. No one is exempt from the command to witness and bear fruit.
If you have accepted Christ, I praise God that you are sheltered safe in the arms of the One who loves more purely than another human ever could (Psalm 91:1,2). John 6:44 tells us no one comes except the Spirit draw him or her. Yet, the merciful Lord also tells us in His Word that if we draw near to Him that He will draw near unto us (James 4:4-12). Which passage is correct? Both. God cannot contradict nor deny Himself (see John 2:21; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2).
How can both be true? I wrestled with this for years because while the Bible is rife with verses that declare the free will of the soul there are an equal number of passages that discuss ‘the elect of God’, souls that are ‘predestined’, and the ‘many who are called but few are chosen’ (Matthew 22:14). In that particular parable, we see the calling translates ‘invitation’. So, the guests receive a divine invitation and ‘many are called’ – this refers to all of humanity. Not everyone responds but note it is of their own will that they respond but ‘few are chosen’. Not everyone attends the party and those who decide to show without a wedding garment – covered in the blood of Christ – are not permitted. Hypocrites who claim to be Christians but have not received Christ will be cast out. The feast is for God’s children and those who are not clothed in His righteousness and covered by His blood (wedding garment) will not dine at the Lord’s table. Note also the language of this parable: ‘many are called…’ and in John 1:12 we see “…as many as received him”. In both instances, the word ‘many’ refers to ‘everyone’ in these verses.
Can a sovereign God create a human being and give him free will and not interfere in the human’s choice? If God directs the affairs of mankind, is he a micro- or macro-manager? All these questions and more must be answered when we wrestle with these concepts. I believed in the free will of the believer for 20 years before embarking on an in-depth study of the works of Arthur W. Pink. By the end of my study, Pink changed my position. I was convinced that men were predestined. Ten years went by and more questions presented themselves. Changing doctrinal positions is never a tidy affair; there were loose ends. After a thorough study the last six years, I believe that both are Scriptural. There is equal Scriptural representation for both views; therefore, I feel it is up to the Christian to find the fork in the road where these views meet.
The argument of free will versus election hinges on the sovereignty of God, which is just one of God’s attributes. God is many things. Studying the attributes of God or the doctrine of God is encouraged for those who wish to dig deeper. Some believe that if God is absolutely sovereign then one cannot possess free will. They add that If God absolutely directs the affairs of humankind then what place would human will, or the exercise of it, have? To be fair, supporters of Arminianism (free will) run the risk of downsizing God with their rhetoric before the debate is finished. While this is not their intent, the resounding ‘me,me,me’ that comes across in the argument almost drowns out the truth they wish to convey (they are equally supported with Scripture). Conversely, supporters of Calvinism run the risk of making God an ogre who loves some, not all, and wants to see certain people roast in hellfire.
Can this be? The Bible tells us that God is love (I John 4:7,8), that God is good (James 1:13-14), and cannot commit evil acts nor does he tempt any one. The Calvinist must grapple with the genus of evil and whether God causes a man to sin. If humans do not possess free will, how does a human sin? If a sovereign God directs the affairs of men, even their thoughts, then is that which drives a man to sin – God? The Bible tells us that this cannot be; so, we must take a different path. We have hit a logical dead end. Yes, we have because God cannot lie, is truth, does not tempt anyone, and is good.
The Calvinist feels the Arminian is haughty and blames his approach on the disease called ‘humanism’ infiltrating the Church unbeknownst to many and interpreting Scripture alongside the writings of Plato and Aristotle. It becomes then not just a matter of Scriptural support but infiltration of humanistic teachings into the Arminian belief system when the Reformers believed in Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). And, if theological must blame anyone, blame Sir Thomas Acquinas for his lofty ideas regarding intellect.
If you are unfamiliar with the Five Solas, click here: http://www.theopedia.com/Five_Solas
It is my feeling that theologians past and present have missed the mark. How we define “election” is the problem many have with election! The term ‘free will’ appears nowhere in God’s Word but we do find ‘the elect of God’ mentioned many times. However, the Bible is also clear concerning the will of man, the heart that is deceitfully wicked, the carnal mind, or the natural man. So, if man has a will the Bible tells me this will desires earthly pleasure not heavenly pursuits. In our Facebook group, a trivia question was posed: Can you name a predestined person in Scripture who also exercised free will? Several answered John the Baptist, Moses, Isaac, Daniel, David, Solomon, Samuel – and Samson. Jonah comes to mind and every prophet of old. Even the apostle Paul told us that when he willed to do good that evil was present with him. The apostle James warns believers of that sinful side of ourselves and instructs believers in those works befitting a Christian. Yes, man has a will but from birth this ‘natural man’ is inclined to his own wants and needs not the pursuit of God.
The Bible tells us of many lives, called by God from birth to do His will not theirs, and we see those men also exercise their free will. Even John the Baptist – the man ‘sent from God’ – doubted what He was doing and if Christ was really the Messiah for whom the people had waited and prophecy foretold. John had a decision to make in prison. He could either follow Christ and believe in Him unto death or reject the notion out of hand and beg for his release on the grounds of temporary insanity. John the Baptist could have just as easily betrayed Jesus as Judas Iscariot (much earlier than planned) but he chose to remain faithful. When your life is on the line, anything is possible. Even Peter denied Christ three times before the cock crowed. Was Peter not called? Did Peter not follow? Did Peter not receive blessing and instruction from Jesus himself? Yet, Peter acted on his free will and openly DENIED him only to bitterly repent afterward. Can both free will and election exist? Yes, it can. It does. It must. Students of the Word must diligently search the Scriptures to find where free will and election meet just as thoroughly as one researches where Paul and James also meet in their words. If we fail in this task, we have not just done the body of Christ a disservice; we have done a disservice to God himself and fail in teaching the whole counsel of God.
We cannot ignore what makes us uncomfortable. We seek to understand truth because the Word is truth. He cannot deny Himself. A lie cannot be found in Him. So, where do these roads meet? Election is not a means of salvation. You are not physically born saved, holy, and indestructible; if some were, then Paul lied when he wrote Romans 3:10-23. If anyone was, Christ had no need to die. We are born into sin; we are dead in trespasses in sin until we give our lives to God and repent of our sin. The Bible tells us the human will only desires evil and John 6:44 tells us that no one comes to God except the Spirit draw him. Yet, Christ begs us “Come unto me”. How do we get there? It is true that we do not choose God; he draws us and then we choose Him. That does not happen except the Word is preached or taught and the Spirit pricks your heart. And from the blood of your wrongs, silent pain, and agony the sinner finds solace in the blood of Christ shed for him on Calvary because Christ has touched the seeking heart. The soul then decides to follow or to remain. Following Christ is a choice just like rejecting him.
The disciples were chosen by God and he said “Follow me”. Yet, we know the Bible speaks of one rich man called to service by Christ who would not leave his family to follow Him. When God pricks the heart, we still have a choice to accept or reject like the parable of the wedding feast. Christ can send as many invitations to our hearts as He likes – that does not mean that we will attend the wedding supper. Election is not a means of salvation but is “unto salvation.” When God speaks to the heart, you have been elected for salvation. He invites all of us. Our conscience choice is the act of human will. If it were any other way, then one must conclude that God did not make humans but robots. Is election Scriptural? Yes, it is. Does man have a free will? Yes, he does. No, He did not but God is able to save us from our sin; however, He is not obligated to save us from the consequences of our sin (evil).
I hope my thoughts will get wheels turning. This is a long study and as God’s Word reveals truth, as the Word is truth, other facets of these two schools of thought emerge. I pray we can discuss them in love.
The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Jn 1:14). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G4637). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.
 Greene, Oliver B. The Gospel of John, a commentary. (Greenville. The Gospel Hour). 1966 (36).
 Bruce, F.F. The Gospel of John. (Grand Rapids. Eerdmans Publishing Co.) 1983 (40).