Joy To the World

December 1, 2007 John 1:14-18

 

Opening Text

John 1:14-18 (NIV)

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.

15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”

16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

Historical Background to “Joy to the World”

  • One of the most joyous of all Christmas hymns appeared in Isaac Watts’ hymnal of 1719.
  • Through the combined talents of Isaac Watts, English literary genius of the 18th century, Handel, a German-born musical giant from the same period, and Lowell Mason, a 19th century American choir director and educator, another great hymn was born.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;

  • “Joy to the World” is a paraphrase of the last part of Psalm 98:

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praise. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity.

  • Although it was originally a song of rejoicing for Jehovah’s protection of His chosen people and the anticipation of the time when He would be the God of the whole earth, this psalm was intended by Watts to be a New Testament expression of praise.
  • It exalts the salvation that began when God became incarnate as the Babe of Bethlehem who was destined to remove the curse of Adam’s fall.

Lesson

Let me ascend a flight of five stairs

  with you this morning. A flight of stairs that lifts man to a place of Joy.

From the invisibility of God to the great Christmas truth — the incarnation of God.

That we may receive (even this morning) grace upon grace from Jesus Christ.

The five steps are here in this text. And we will take them one at a time.

  1.   The first and lowest step in the flight of five stairs is that God is invisible.

Verse 18: No one has ever seen God.

  What fools we can make of ourselves by denying what we cannot see.

There was a video put out by the Fund for the Feminist Majority, called "Abortion for Survival." It is a powerful visual statement of why pro-abortionists think abortion is utterly necessary as a means of birth control especially in poor countries. The miseries caused by unwanted pregnancies among the poor are all graphically portrayed.

The reality of the unborn child would never be referred to in the video. The tacit assumption was that it didn't exist. Why? Because you can't see it. Just like God. At two points in the film they took a large syringe and squirted a bloody mass into a dish and said something like, "This is the result of an eight week abortion; hardly a child

Which is like getting your finger caught in a meat grinder and looking at the remains and saying, "O I guess it wasn't a finger after all. So I really won't miss it. No harm done."

  • At no point in the video was a picture of that baby shown before it was ground up by abortion.
  • Why?
  • Because the invisibility of the unborn child is a great help in building up faith in the child's non-existence or insignificance.

It's the same approach that Yuri Gagarin the first Soviet cosmonaut used in 1961 when he said in space, "I don't see any God out here."

So when John says in verse 18: "No one has ever seen God," he poses a problem. If you can't see him, how can you know him?

That's step number one

  in the flight of five stairs in this text:      #1God is invisible.

  1.   The second step is this: God revealed himself in the law of Mosesbefore he revealed himself in the Lord Jesus.

This is found in verse 17. Let's read verses 16 and 17,

John 1:16-17 (NIV)

16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

  • Does that mean that the law of Moses is contrary to grace and truth — that the law is not gracious and not truthful?
  • I don't think so.
  • What verse 17 says is

That

  Before the REALITY — the embodiment — of grace and truth came through Jesus,     A WITNESS to that reality came through the law of Moses.

  • The reason I don't think verse 17 intends to make a sharp contrast between the law of Moses and Jesus is what John says about Moses and the law in other places.

For example:

In John 3:14 he says,

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,

15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

  • Here Moses does something gracious and truthful that points to the grace and truth of Jesus.

Another example:

John 5:46where Jesus says, 

46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.

  • Here Moses is in harmony with Jesus and writing truth about Jesus and his grace.

Finally

John 6:32

32 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.

  • This means that the manna in the wilderness was a gracious gift of God, but it was not the true bread. It was not the reality of grace itself. It was a witness to the grace to come, a foretaste of Christ.

So John's point in verse 17

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

is that

  • The law was not the reality — the embodiment — of grace and truth themselves, Jesus was.
  • The law was a witness to grace and truth.
  • Jesus was the fulfillment not the contradiction of the law of Moses.

That's step number two in our flight of five stairs.

First, God is invisible.

Second, God revealed himself in the law of Moses before he revealed himself in the Lord Jesus.

  1.   The third step in the flight of stairs is this: God became human.
  2. The text begins with this statement. Verse 14 says

v14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

  • Now to hear the full force of that verse you have to go back up to verse 1:

v1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

  • The Word was God and the Word became flesh.

If the Word was God (v 1)

And

the Word became flesh, (v 14)

then God became flesh.

 = God became human.

  • Jesus Christ was human and Jesus Christ was God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

  • The word for "dwelt" is the word for "set up a tent" in Greek.
  • I used to think that implied mainly that he was here only temporarily.
  • But when I looked up all the places this word occurs in the New Testament, I found that it doesn't imply temporary status.

For example, in Revelation 21:3 where the eternal new heavens and new earth are described it says, 

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling (tent) of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

  • I think what pitching a tent with us implies is that God wants to be on familiar terms with us. He wants to be close. He wants a lot of interaction.
  • If you come into a community and build a huge palace with a wall around it says one thing about your desires to be with the people.
  • But if you pitch a tent in my back yard you will probably use my bathroom and eat often at my table.
  • This is why God became human. He came to pitch a tent in our human back yard so that we would have a lot of dealings with him.

That's the third step in our flight of stairs.

First, God is invisible.

Second, God revealed himself in the law of Moses before he revealed himself in the Lord Jesus.

Third, God became human and set up his tent among us.

  1.   The fourth step is that in Jesus we seeGod.

Verse 14 says, 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.

  • Notice: "we have — seen — his glory”.
  • Who does "his" refer to?
  • It refers to the Word.
  • "The Word became flesh, and we seen HIS glory."
  • "And the Word was with God and the Word was God."
  • So in Jesus we seen God — the glory of God.
  • God came to live in a tent so we can watch him more closely. God wants to be seen and known in his Son.
  • The same point is made in verse 18.

18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

Here the point is that   Even though God is a Spirit and is therefore invisible

He has now revealed himself in an utterly unique way — by the incarnation of himself in his Son Jesus.

  In Jesus we see God.

You don't have to wonder today if there is a baby in the womb of a woman eight weeks pregnant. And you don't have to wonder what it's like. We have pictures

and videos and models and detailed physiological descriptions.

And so it is with God.

  • You don't need to be in the dark about God.
  • He has gone beyond parchment and paper.
  • He has gone beyond tapes and cassettes. He has gone beyond videos and even beyond live drama.
  • He has actually come and pitched his tent in our back yard and beckoned us to watch Him and get to know him in the person of his Son Jesus.
  • When you watch Jesus in action, you watch God in action.
  • When you hear Jesus teach, you hear God teach.
  • When you come to know what Jesus is like, you know what God is like.

So what is God like? What do we see when we see Jesus?

John is very clear in what he wants to stress. We see the glory of God's grace and truth.

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.

Then John repeats this in verse 17,

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ

The point is this:

  1. Truth
  2. The essence of what God reveals about himself in Jesus is, first, that he is true — that is, he is real, more real than all that you can see.
  3. In a sense everything that looks so real to us is like a short dream.

(2 Corinthians 4:18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.)

God is truth. God is reality. And that is what we see in Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

  1. And secondly God is grace.
  2. Or as John says in his first letter:

God is love" (1 John 4:8)

  • God is free and overflowing and lavish in his goodness to sinful creatures. This is grace.
  • This is the essence of God's reality because nothing reveals the fullness of his deity more than his grace.
  • He is full, happy, and sufficient in himself so that he does not need us to meet his need but is surging with infinite energy and fullness to meet ours.
  • That's his grace.

And that's the capstone of his glory. "We saw his glory . . . full of grace and truth."

That's step four. 

First, God is invisible.

Second, God revealed himself in the law of Moses before he revealed himself in the Lord Jesus.

Third, God became human and set up his tent among us.

Fourth, in Jesus we see God and know what he is like: true reality and fullness of grace.

Which brings now to the top of our flight of stairs to the practical Christmas truth.

What is the connection between all this revelation and you?

Verse 16 gives the answer:

16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

  1. So step five is this: God came not just to show usgrace but togive usgrace; and we must receiveit.
  2. God doesn't just want to stock your head with knowledge about his truth and grace, he wants you to receive it and experience it.
  3. This Christmas he wants to give you personally a foundation of truth and reality to stand on so you won't cave in under stress.
  4. This Christmas he wants to treat you with grace — to forgive all your sins — all of them! — to take away all your guilt, to make your conscience clean, to help you with your problems, to give you strength for each day and to fill you with hope and joy and peace.
  5. Isn't that the meaning of grace?
  6. And isn't that why he pitched his tent among us?

But note well the word:

John 1:16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

Don't spurn it this morning.        Receive it.         Welcome it for what it really is.

  And let it fill your heart with everlasting joy — because “He is joy to the world!”