Word Made Flesh — John’s Gospel, John’s First Epistle

The blog has been quiet for a while, a lot of things going on around here.  Anyway, I’d like to return in this article to my sermon on the incarnation of Christ — “The Word was Made Flesh” — using John 1:14 as my starting point.  As I said, I’m writing on this sermon in several installments.

Previous articles:
“The Reason” for Everything — an introduction to John’s use of the Greek word logos, translated as “Word” in John 1:1 and 1:14.
Word Made Flesh — the “Logos” Philosophy Falls Short — a contrast between the use of the word logos in human philosophy, and a discussion of how the human ideas of logos fell far short of the reality of God’s self-revelation.

This article is really just groundwork for the next.  Two key Scripture passages on the incarnation of Christ were penned by John, directed by the Holy Spirit.  He began both his Gospel account and his first epistle by discussing this foundational theological truth.

This post is not intended to deal with either passage in any depth, but rather to note the obvious parallels between them.  They use very similar wording, so we cannot miss the link.  Not only is Jesus called the Logos (Word) in both, speaking of both life and light in the first five verses of each, there are other parallels as well.  First, the passages:

John 1:1-18

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 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:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 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.
15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

I John 1:1-3

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The first column gives phrasing from I John 1:1-3.  The second gives parallel thoughts / words from chapter one of John’s Gospel (with the verse number in parentheses).

I John, first three verses
Gospel of John, first 18 verses
Verse 1 “That which was from the beginning” “In the beginning was the Word” (1)
“which we seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon” “and we beheld His glory” (14)
“and our hands have handled” “and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (14)
“of the Word of life” “In the beginning was the Word” (1)
“of the Word of life” “In Him (the Word) was life” (4)
Verse 2 “For the life was manifested” “and the light shineth in darkness” (5)
“and we have seen it” “and we beheld His glory” (14)
“and bear witness” John “was sent to bear witness” (8)
“that eternal life which was with the Father” “and the Word was with God” (1)
“and was manifested unto us” “and we beheld His glory” (14), “the only-begotten Son…He hath declared Him” (18)
Verse 3 “That which we have seen and heard” “and we beheld His glory” (14), “and of His fulness have we received” (16)
“declare we unto you” “John bare witness of Him” (15)
“and truly our fellowship is with the Father” “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (12)

The similarities are too great to be accidental.  It appears John is writing, in I John, to readers who already have his Gospel account, intentionally bringing it to mind from the beginning of his letter.  He wants them to think of the Word who had been declared to them in John 1, to remember what he had told them previously of this Word of life.  He has a slightly different emphasis in I John (more on this later, Lord willing), but he does not neglect to draw their attention to the foundation he laid in John 1.

More to come….

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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