John 1:10-18

John 1:10-18

SERIES: The Gospel of John

The Visit

SPEAKER: Michael P. Andrus

Introduction: Our earth is of tremendous size to us.  Few of us have circled it even once.  Yet if our sun were hollow it could hold over one million earths, and there are stars in our galaxy that, if hollow, could hold over 100,000,000 of our suns!  And there are at least 100,000,000 other galaxies, each with at least 100 billion stars!  The sheer magnitude of this universe is mind boggling.  Yet the Bible says that the God who created all of it paid a visit to one tiny planet in one little solar system in one average-size galaxy in one minute corner of this universe.  

That visit was different from all other visits God may have made to other parts of His creation and even different from the other visits we know He made to planet earth, as for example when He walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden, or when He wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets, or when He stooped down to bury His great prophet, Moses, on Mt. Nebo.  The visit which concerns us this morning occurred when God became a human being at the moment a child was miraculously conceived in the womb of a young virgin named Mary.  We pay lip service to this event at Advent every year, but the subject is far too important to be relegated to an annual mention at Christmas.  Our Scripture passage today makes it explicitly clear that …

God “visited” Planet Earth when the Word became a human being.  

Let’s read together John 1:10-18:

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

There are hints in the earliest verses of John’s Gospel that the Word, who was with God and was God, was also intimately involved with our planet.  He created it, along with everything else (v. 3); His light shined in the moral darkness (v. 5) of this earth; and He was in the process of “coming into the world,” (v. 9).  But it’s not until verse 14 that the full extent of the Word’s “visit” is revealed, for there it says, “The Word became flesh.” 

He “became flesh.” (14). The name theologians have given to this event is “the Incarnation.”  It comes from the Latin word carne, which means flesh, as in our term carnivorous.  The eternal Word of God, identified clearly in the opening verses of John 1 as God, the Creator, the Light, and later as Jesus Christ, became a human being in the fullest sense of the word.  He shared not only a human personality and human characteristics, but He shared our physical constitution—a human body.  If liberals have neglected or denied the deity of Christ, many evangelicals in their zeal to defend His deity, we have unintentionally neglected His humanity.  The Bible never does that.  It portrays Him as fully human, yet without sin.

The very idea that God could become a man is on one level utterly astounding and, on another level, almost to be expected.  It is astounding when we compare the size of our planet with the universe at large and compare the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of humanity with the absolute purity and holiness of God.  In fact, the incarnation is so astounding that most people, even many religious ones, have rejected the notion as fanciful.  

Yet on another level the incarnation is eminently sensible and almost logically necessary.  If indeed God has created a species of creatures that is uniquely suited for fellowship with Himself, and if that species has rebelled against its Creator and lost fellowship with Him through sin, and if the Creator loves that species enough to try to bring them back into relationship with Himself, how else could it be done without God becoming one of them?  He could try to send messages; He could try to use intermediaries; He could try getting their attention through benevolent miracles or tragic judgments.  But given the fact that the creatures are time-bound and limited to three dimensions while God is eternal and infinite, how could the gap be bridged sufficiently for those creatures to understand God sufficiently unless He became an integral part of their universe?

There is a fascinating little book I read when I was studying philosophy in graduate school, called Flatland, written by Edwin A. Abbott, a schoolmaster who died in 1926.  It is the story of a geometric square living in a two-dimensional universe known as Flatland, who tries to understand those who live in universes with more or fewer dimensions than his own.  Four different kinds of worlds appear in this book:  Pointland, Lineland, Flatland, and Spaceland.  It helps to have an understanding of geometry to grasp Abbott’s plot, but perhaps I can give the gist of the story to even those who are not mathematically inclined.  In geometry, a point has no dimensions.  A line has one dimension—length.  A square has two—length and width.  And a cube or sphere has three—length, width, and depth.  

Abbot imagines that there are sentient beings in each of these worlds and reasons how difficult it would be for a being in one such world to communicate with a being in a world of different dimensions.  The most interesting of the subplots is when the two-dimensional square leaves Flatland to visit Spaceland and then returns and tries to convey to his compatriots in Flatland what the world of three dimensions is like.  Not surprisingly, they put him in jail for seditious teaching. Even when a sphere from Spaceland invades Flatland and creates phenomena that are unexplainable otherwise, they refuse to believe what the square had told them.  

Now I don’t know whether Abbott intended any kind of a theological allegory with his book, but to me it is a perfect parable of what God was up against when He wished to communicate with our merely three-dimensional world.  He allowed some of His prophets to catch a glimpse of the glory of eternity, but when they shared their knowledge, they were rejected, or worse, imprisoned or murdered.  So, God took the unprecedented step of personally invading our three-dimensional world by becoming one of us.  

Friends, the Bible makes it clear that the Incarnation is not an optional truth; it is not something over which good Christians can legitimately differ, as they can over the appropriate mode of baptism or the extent of man’s free will.  The Apostle John, in another of his NT books, wrote,

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God:  Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.  (1 John 4:1-3)  

The coming of God to Planet Earth in human flesh in the person of Jesus is a fundamental truth of Christianity.  But John goes further in verse 14. 

He “made his dwelling among us.”  (14)  The Greek term translated “made his dwelling” here literally means “to pitch one’s tent.”  It signifies a temporary sojourn rather than a permanent residence.  That fits the facts well, for while Christ’s Incarnation was permanent, His dwelling among us was temporary.  In other words, when the Word became flesh through the Virgin Birth, the result was the person of Jesus Christ, who was both God and man, and He is still both God and man, and He will always be both God and man, although He now has a resurrection body.  

However, while Jesus’ “dwelling among us” also began with the Virgin Birth and continued through a normal childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood (normal except that spiritually-speaking He was perfectly sensitive to His heavenly Father and, of course, committed no sin), it ceased at the time of His ascension.  

The third major truth we learn about God’s “visit” is that when the Word became a human being …

He revealed what God is like.  (14-18) Look at verse 18:  “No one has ever seen God, but God the one and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”  The invisibility of God is a clear teaching of Scripture:  

Ex. 33:210:  “No man can see me and live.” 

Deut. 4:12:  “Moses saw no form—He only heard a voice.”  

I Tim. 6:16:  “No man has seen God or can see him.”  

The reason no one has seen Him is that He is invisible; He is spirit; He has no body.  The references we find occasionally in the OT to God’s eyes roving to and from, or God’s hand of judgment landing on someone, or God’s strong right arm delivering His people are all metaphors called anthropomorphisms by theologians, a term which means “a description of God in human terms so humans can understand Him better.”

But all the anthropomorphisms in the world could not reveal God sufficiently to people who have no basis for understanding the infinite.  Yes, believers in the OT knew God to a certain extent, but they knew Him only indirectly, often vaguely and impersonally, and always incompletely.[i]  Witness the well-known fact that in the OT Israel was constantly going into idolatry.  They did so because they desired a God who was more knowable and tangible, as were the gods of the heathen. 

God condescended from time to time to make Himself more visible and tangible to His people.  He appeared to them in a burning bush, in the form of an angel, or in chariots of fire.  He showed the effects of His presence through miracles and mighty acts of providence and judgment.  But still God’s people failed to grasp what a great God He was or how much He loved them.  So, God sent His own Son to reveal Himself perfectly, and Jesus, the Son of God, “has made him known.” [ii]

Have you ever heard the word “exegesis” or “exegete?”  Seminary profs like to use it because it is the most precise word for the science of Bible interpretation.  To exegete the Scriptures means to study the original in detail, to draw out of them their full meaning—all the hidden implications and subtle nuances.  Well, the Greek term “exegete” is the very word used here to describe what Jesus has done for us.  He has made the Father known, He has explained Him, He has exegeted Him for us. 

In John 14 Jesus said to His disciples, 

“I am the Way, the truth, and the life.  No man comes to the Father except through Me?  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.  From now on, you do know him and have seen Him.”  Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.:  Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” 

In Jesus Christ our three-dimensional universe was invaded, the invisible God became visible, and ours became the Visited Planet.

Three particular characteristics or attributes of God which Jesus lived out before human eyes are mentioned in verses 14-18:  glory, grace, and truth.  Look at verse 14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  In this verse all three qualities are predicated of Jesus Christ, but we know from the rest of Scripture that all three are attributes of the Father as well.  So, in essence Jesus’ possession of these qualities is another proof that He is God incarnate.  

1.  Glory.  The best definition of glory I know is “the splendor of deity.”  Jesus was God veiled in flesh, but the veil could not hide completely who He was.  He didn’t have to go around saying, “I am God, I am God, I am God,” for people who took the time to examine Him could see His deity.  His glory shone through.  It shone through His words, His actions, His reactions, and His miracles.

2.  Grace.  Grace always has the idea of something undeserved, something one could not earn or achieve for oneself.  When John says that Jesus was full of grace, it means He was the embodiment of God’s undeserved love to us.  Verse 16 adds, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.”  The “we” here is limited to believers, for though there is a common grace that extends to every human being, the fullness of grace is available only to those who are God’s children.  His grace overflows into our lives.  The more we know of Him, the more wonderful He becomes.  The longer we live with Him, the more faithfulness we discover.  The more we think about Him, the more like Him we become.  As one act of divine grace recedes, it is replaced by another.  God’s grace to His people is continuous and never exhausted.  It knows no interruptions and no limits. 

3.  Truth.  Whereas grace is a subjective characteristic, truth is an objective one.  Truth means “that which corresponds to reality.”  Jesus always spoke the truth, always acted truthfully, and sent the Holy Spirit to guide His disciples into all truth.  In fact, He said in John 14:6, “I am the truth.”  

Since John is writing largely to those with a Jewish background, his further statement in v. 17 would carry a significant impact: “The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  As great as was the prophet Moses, and as great as was the Mosaic Law, they were not God’s final revelation, nor the highest.  Grace and truth came preeminently through Jesus Christ.

So much for the Visit itself.  What we need to look at now is how mankind responded to the Visit before we consider finally our own response.  In view of the way people respond to a presidential visit or a rock group’s visit or even the visit of a famous preacher like Billy Graham, one might think no theater or coliseum would have been sufficient to hold the crowds when God Himself came to visit.  But, of course, such was not the case.  

The Visit met rejection by most.  (10-11)

Verse 10 reads, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.”  Can you sense the pathos, even the outrage as John writes these words?  The Creator, the Owner, the Sustainer of the universe is not even recognized!

The secular world did not recognize Him.  (10)  “World” here seems to signify the secular world, and one need only read the life of Christ in any of the Gospels to notice the total disinterest of the Roman power brokers or the Greek intellectuals toward this itinerant Rabbi who walked the dusty paths of Galilee and Judea for three and a half years.  Only a rare contemporary writer even noted His existence or His influence.  More pathetically…

The religious world did not receive Him.  (11)  When John says “his own” did not receive Him, he’s probably thinking particularly of the Jewish people.  For centuries they had been looking for their Messiah—the one who would deliver them from their enemies and restore the great influence and power they once enjoyed under David and Solomon.  They longed for self-rule, for economic freedom, for moral direction.  

But when their Messiah actually came, how did they respond?  They refused to receive Him. In fact, there was a nearly total failure on the part of the religious hierarchy of Judaism to recognize Jesus as God or accept Him as the Messiah.  The Gospels trace this rejection from the fact that there was no room for the infant Jesus in Bethlehem, to the skepticism of the religious leaders when He appeared at the Temple at age 12, to the constant antagonism exhibited toward Him in His ministry, to the total rejection He suffered at the Cross as they chanted “Crucify Him.”

But before we come down too hard on these people, allow me to ask, “What would we have done if we were there?”  If we had been expecting a Messiah to deliver us, would we have expected Him to be born of an unmarried peasant woman in a backwater town like Bethlehem, or to be reared in a filthy place like Nazareth?  Would we have expected Him to be a carpenter, essentially silent on political and theological issues until after the age of 30?  Would we have expected Him to surround Himself with fishermen and roughnecks, prostitutes and tax men?  I think not. 

In fact, how can we be any harder on the Jewish people of Jesus’ day than we are on the American people of today, the vast majority of whom have likewise failed to recognize or welcome Jesus? And that in spite of the fact that the evidence of His deity and the truth of His claims to be Lord and Savior are far more clear to us than it was to them.  After all, we have 2,000 years of proof in the changed lives of His followers.  Tragically, the Visit of God to this world in the person of Jesus Christ met rejection by both the secular world and the religious world.  But praise God,  

The Visit was welcomed by a few.  (12-13)

Verse 12 reads, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  The number was not large, and it never consisted of any significant group of movers and shakers, but some believed.  It is the same today:  many call themselves Christians; some give evidence of having actually received Him. 

What does it mean to “receive” Jesus Christ?  (12)  There is a lot of jargon and shoptalk that Christians use to describe their conversion experience.  Among the varied expressions you are likely to hear are these:  I’ve been born again; I committed my life to Jesus Christ; I prayed to receive Christ; I invited Jesus into my heart; I went forward and surrendered; I trusted Christ; I was converted; I entered into a relationship with God; I came to know Christ; I was saved; I became a Christian, and on and on we could go.  Some of these terms are biblical and some are not; some are vague, while others are more descriptive.  But in my estimation one of the best terms to describe what happens when one becomes a child of God is found right here in John 1:12: “I received Jesus Christ.”  It is clearly a biblical term, and it reveals a lot about the process of salvation.

First, to receive someone or something implies that someone else initiated the exchange.  In other words, if you receive a gift, it first has to be offered.  And nothing is clearer in the Scripture than that the plan of salvation is initiated by God.  If He didn’t seek us out, we would never seek Him out.  Secondly, to receive is an action word.  One doesn’t receive Jesus merely by hearing the truth and intellectually assenting to it or even by refraining from actively opposing it.  Rather one receives Jesus by welcoming Him into one’s life as Lord, Savior, and Friend.  

An illustration I have often used with those considering the claims of Christ is to take out a twenty-dollar bill, hold it out and say, “Here I’m giving this to you.”  Then I ask, “Is it yours?”  Often, they hesitate and say, “Well, I guess so if you’re really giving it to me.”  And then I come back and say, “But as long as I’m still holding it it’s not really yours, is it?  You can believe I’m willing to give it to you, but unless you reach out and receive it, it’s not actually yours.”  That’s what I mean when I say that to receive is an action word.

Thirdly, to receive is a decisive term.  The tense used in the original makes it clear that receiving Jesus is “a point action with permanent implications.”  Had another tense been used it could have implied receiving Jesus today, perhaps again tomorrow, maybe again next Friday.  But the tense actually used implies a once-for-a-lifetime decision about Him.  It is analogous to the kind of decision a resident alien makes when he chooses to become a citizen of the United States.  In taking the oath of citizenship he is making a permanent decision to renounce his former citizenship and accept all that it means to be an American.  

Fourthly, John himself explains receiving Jesus as “believing in His name.”  The Greek reads, “believing into His name,” implying again more than mere intellectual assent.  Believing in Jesus’ name means believing in His Person, His character, His nature, His work (particularly His sacrifice for our sin).  It means believing in all that His names tell us about Him, namely that He is Savior, God, King of kings, Lord of lords, the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the End, etc.

A second very important question is this:

What does it mean to be a “child of God?” (12-13) “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” 

The greatest privilege in the world is for a lost sinner to become a child of God, but the only way to attain that privilege is to receive Jesus Christ.  There is, of course, a sense in which all human beings are children of God, for He created all of us.  Liberal theologians have focused exclusively on this sense of childhood and have ignored the fact that there is a far more common use of the term in Scripture that applies exclusively to those who have received Jesus.  

John is clearly talking about the “spiritual children of God,” and he indicates that these children are “born not of natural descent nor of human decision nor of a husband’s will, but born of God.”  The point seems to be that one cannot become a child of God by being born into a believing family or a predominantly Christian ethnic group.  It has nothing to do with human effort or sexual processes. You can’t buy your way in.  You can’t earn your way in.  You must simply receive God’s Son, believing in His name. 

Conclusion:  Friends, if this really is the Visited Planet, is it not the worst of all possible crimes for one of us to thumb his nose at, or even ignore, the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of this world?  I want to ask you to bow your heads as I pray a sinner’s prayer.  If there is anyone here this morning who has never received Jesus, you can do so right now.  The prayer won’t save you, and you don’t pray to receive Christ, you believe to receive Christ, but if the prayer is a genuine expression of your heart’s desire, you can right now become a child of God.

Prayer:  Father, I acknowledge that I am a sinner.  I have failed to live up to even my own standards, much less Yours.  Since the Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death, I know that I deserve spiritual death.  But I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for my sin.  He paid my penalty and offers me the gift of eternal life.  I believe in Him.  I receive Him as my Lord and Savior.  I thank you for allowing me to become a child of God.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DATE: September 27, 1992









[i] There were a few individuals to whom God made Himself known in a unique way:  Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, and David come to mind.  But even they lacked the fullness of revelation that Jesus provided through the Incarnation.  

[ii] The phrase in verse 18 translated by the NIV as “God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side” is an obvious reference to Christ, though the original Greek is difficult.  You may have a Bible that reads, “the only begotten Son,” or“the only begotten God.”  The term “only begotten” means “one and only” or “unique.”  No matter how it is translated, the meaning is clear:  God the Father has never been seen, but Jesus, God in the flesh, made known to us what the Father is like.  He explained God to us.