As indicated by various scriptures, John developed a close affection for the Lord Jesus. John’s relationship with Jesus began when the Lord called him and his brother James from the family fishing business. John answered that call and began a journey that would land him in the inner circle of the Lord’s closest disciples.
He was with Jesus from the very beginning of our Lord’s ministry. So the apostle opens his first epistle by saying, “That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; For the life was manifested (made known), and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested (made known, revealed) to us.”
It is interesting to note the apostle John actually touches upon the birth of Christ in the first chapter of the gospel that bears his name. In St. John chapter one he clearly sets forth the proper theology that lies at the heart of Christianity and of the Christmas season. He sets forth the magnificent person of Jesus, the Christ.
While Matthew and Luke record the earthly details of the birth of Christ, John begins in heaven itself. He takes us by the hand and shows us the proper understanding of Jesus as the unique Son of God.
He does not discuss Mary, or Joseph, or the manger, or the heavenly hosts, or the shepherds, or even the wise men from the East. Rather, his inspired text takes us immediately into heaven and eternity past. John says in the first verse of his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
The first chapter of his gospel leaves no doubt in our minds as to exactly who he is talking about in verse one as he goes on to say, “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 says the eternal Word was made flesh. This expression speaks of the incarnation of the eternal Word. Without specifically saying so, John is actually expounding upon the virgin conception and making it abundantly clear that the child Mary gave birth to was Immanuel, God with us. In particular he identifies the distinct personality within the Triune Godhead who came to dwell among us in the person of Jesus the Christ. The eternal Word (another title for the eternal Son) came to us in the person of Jesus.
Brother John MacArthur calls our attention to this essential truth with these words, “If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words,
these would be the words: “God with us.” We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!”
Now, let us move on to the verse I alluded to earlier. The apostle John states in 1 John 4:9, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”
The wonder of Christmas is contained in John’s statement, “God sent his only begotten Son into the world.”
John repeatedly states in his gospel that the Father “sent the Son.” For example, Jesus states in John 6:38, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Again we read in John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Numerous times in John’s gospel it is said that the Father sent his Son into the world.
The point is this: the eternal Word (the eternally begotten Son of God) was sent to accomplish his Father’s will. The Son “came down from heaven.” The virgin conception clothed him with a human nature. While he remained intrinsically God as a member of the Triune Godhead, the incarnation veiled the glory he had with the Father before the world began (John 17:5).
Elsewhere Scripture states it pleased the Father that in him (Jesus) should all the fullness of the Godhead dwell in
bodily form. In the book of Colossians the word of God reveals that “it pleased the Father that in him (Jesus, the Christ) should all fullness dwell . . . For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 1:19; 2:9).
Again, it pleased the Father that in the person of Jesus the Christ all the fullness of the Divine Nature would dwell in bodily form. Thus, the miracle of the virgin conception clothed the eternal Word with a human nature. In the person of Jesus the Christ the second distinct personality of the great Triune God of eternity came and dwelt among men.
Joseph Pipa, Jr. speaking of this miracle said, “These two simple phrases - "sent forth" and "born of a woman" - sum up the mystery of the incarnation. The eternal Son of God was sent into the world through a process of taking a human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary. As a result he was one person existing with two distinct natures. Luther captured the mystery in his advent hymn, "All Praise to Thee, Eternal Lord":
Once did the skies before thee bow;
A virgin's arms contain thee now:
Angels who did in thee rejoice
Now listen for thine infant voice.
We state this truth by the term incarnation. As the Apostle John wrote in John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Look again into the Bethlehem manger. The helpless child lying there wrapped in swaddling clothes was heaven’s child. Although he was God from all eternity past he humbled himself. He made himself of no reputation, took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:7).
But why—why did our Creator humble himself in this way?
The Bible says in the book of Hebrews that “he was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death . . . that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9).
This passage in Hebrews goes on to say, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil” (Heb. 2:14).
The latter part of Hebrews 2:14 reaches back to the beginning of earth history. You may recall in the Garden of Eden God promised Adam and Eve that in time the promised Seed of the Woman would “bruise the head of the serpent” (Genesis 3:15). However, in the process of doing so he would suffer a “heel wound.” This language spoke of the future death of Christ and the victory he would win over Satan on our behalf.
God sent his only begotten Son into the world to free us from the power of death and bring the promise of eternal life. To do so required his death as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. Thus, he took upon himself human nature in order to die as the great sacrifice for our sin.
Think about this for a moment: the Son of God stepped down from his throne with a passion to free you from bondage to sin and death.
The Scripture reveals that Jesus understood the Father prepared for him a body to be offered in sacrifice for sin. Hebrews chapter ten says, “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering you did not want (in other words the Son understood that the Father could never be satisfied by the offerings made under the Old Covenant), but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast found no pleasure. Then said I (the Son is speaking), Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.”
This means Jesus understood his great sacrifice was necessary in order to fully propitiate the Divine wrath against sin. He fully understood his death on our behalf was necessary in order to reconcile us to God.
Consequently, “for the joy that was set before him” he endured the cross. (Heb. 12:2). With joy he looked beyond the cross knowing his sacrificial death would purchase freedom for a world held in slavery to sin and death. Moved by a passionate desire to save us from our sins, he took upon himself human nature for the suffering of death. Do you fully understand this?
In light of the Savior’s deep desire to deliver his own from the power of Satan, the message of the angel to the shepherds that holy night should fill our hearts with overflowing joy—“for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!”
Now, let’s read our text again: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him!”
That we might live through him! How glorious this is! And all we need do is receive the gift of God’s love!
I finish now with these familiar words from the gospel of St. John:
“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).
Do you believe upon his name? I believe it breaks the heart of God that so many in our world reject his love manifested through the gift of his Son.
And how do men reject that love? Many simply refuse to accept the overwhelming testimony of Holy Scripture that Jesus is the Son of God. All who refuse to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God are rejecting the love of God in Christ.
It matters not if you are Jew or Gentile. Nor does it matter what tradition you grew up in. Once confronted by the witness of the Word through the work of the Spirit you have a decision to make. Perhaps you must give up a misdirected loyalty that denies Jesus as the unique Son of God, God come in the flesh for your salvation. Or perhaps you must once for all turn your back on the love of the world as it pulls your heart away from the Savior.
But know this—you are making a decision. And your decision will seal your eternal fate. Will you be among those who refuse to receive the gift of salvation? He came unto his own and most of them rejected him, but are you any different?
Folks that say Jesus was “a son of God” and are unwilling to confess him as the Lord who came down from heaven are tragically lost!
Folks that say he was only a prophet are likewise in denial of his unique person. As John says in his first epistle, “he that denies the Son, the same has not the Father.” However, John declares, “whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God.”
Folks that strip Christ of his Deity and proceed to set him up as some kind of spiritual guru who came to show us the way to some kind of “Christ consciousness” are in terrible spiritual darkness! Unless you repent and turn from such folly soon you will slip into outer darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I beg you! Turn to the Lord Jesus Christ! Give up your idols. Give up the wicked imaginations of a rebellious heart and bow the knee to the Son of God. He is the only Savior of the world who came down from heaven to redeem you by the power of his cross and the power of an endless life! It is time to turn. It is time to bow at his feet and cry out for mercy and grace.
Hear me: Jesus Christ will save you. He will forgive you. He will deliver you from darkness. He will wash you in his own precious blood. He will raise you out of death and into life. If you will come to him, he will under no circumstance cast you out and reject you. But you must confess he is the Son of God. You must confess he is the Lord who came for your salvation.
I leave you with the words of the apostle John who said, “And we know that the Son of God is come . . . and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”