From Matthew: Joseph’s genealogy (Matthew 1.1-17)
Let us examine this genealogy in a verse by verse fashion and draw conclusions along the way.
Verse 1: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
We immediately see that Matthew is aggressively attracting the attention of the Jewish reader. Who else would be stimulated by the words we have just read? The Gentile reader would ask, “Who are David and Abraham?”
“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ.” This would make the Jewish mind, schooled in Old Testament Scripture, think of Genesis 5.1, which reads, “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” As Adam was the head of the human race of sinful men, Jesus Christ is the Head of a new race of redeemed sinners.
“Jesus Christ.” This would certainly open the eyes of any Jewish reader. In English this name might seem unimpressive, but in the Greek language Matthew is saying, “Jesus the Messiah” or “Jesus the Anointed One.” He is calling Jesus the Messiah of God. This, then, was the One the Jewish people had been waiting for for so many centuries . . . . the Son of God!
Next, there is the phrase “son of David.” David was Israel’s glorious and godly king of the previous millennium, the king to whom God had promised a perpetual throne upon which his descendant would forever sit and reign. To call someone the son of David, then, was to ascribe to him the right to reign and rule over Israel as the sovereign king. What a revelation to Jewish people who had suffered the indignities of foreign domination for all those centuries.
Finally, Matthew writes, “the son of Abraham.” To the Jewish people Abraham was the most important man who had ever lived. He was the man to whom God made the promises and to whom God had given the covenants. He was the friend of God. He was the father of the faithful. He was the beginning of the nation of Israel. He was the foremost patriarch. A man could be nothing in Israel, for Israel, or to Israel, unless he was a son of Abraham.
Having captured the attention of all Jewish readers whose eyes fell upon these opening words, Matthew now proceeds with the genealogy of Joseph, the stepfather of the Lord Jesus Christ. Or more properly, this is the legal genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, this is the genealogy which will forever establish the Lord Jesus Christ’s legal right to sit upon the throne of His father David.
Verse 2: “Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren”
I find it quite interesting to note who Matthew left out of this genealogy. There is absolutely no mention of Ishmael, the first-born of Abraham. There is absolutely no mention of Esau, Isaac’s son who was Jacob’s twin. The reason for this is quite simple. These men were not participants in the covenants and promises. So far as a relationship with God is concerned and any contractual obligations that God freely entered into with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Ishmael and Esau were outsiders. You see, Ishmael and Esau were not ancestors of the Lord Jesus Christ.
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
Verse 3: “And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;”
It is in this verse that we are struck with the fact that our Lord’s ancestry was not spotless. You see, Phares and Zara were the bastard twins which Judah begat of his stepdaughter Tamar, when she posed as a prostitute and he mistakenly took her. Mistake #1 was being joined with an harlot, which is sin, according to First Corinthians 6.15-20. Mistake #2 is the incest which this harlotry made possible. Despite all of this sin, Phares, whose conception is recorded in Genesis chapter 38, was an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verses 4 and 5: “And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;”
There are some very important people mentioned in verse 5. There is also a person who is not thought of as important, but who is. Look first at Rachab, whose name in the Old Testament is Rahab. She is mentioned in Joshua chapter 2 as the Jericho prostitute who aided the spies sent in by Joshua and whose aid was very helpful in the defeat of Jericho, from a human perspective. In Hebrews 11.31 we see her behavior remembered as an act of faith. To do this she must have placed her faith, trust, and personal safety in the hands of the God of Israel. Thus, we see a beautiful example of the fact that even the sins of a harlot are taken care of by God’s provision for sins.
Verse 6: “And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;”
Do you remember the great sin of David in taking Bathsheba, the wife of another man, in adultery? Do you remember, also, that to cover up his sin of adultery when he found her carrying his child, David committed murder by arranging the death of Bathsheba’s husband in battle? If you read Second Samuel 23.39, you will see that Uriah the Hittite, the first husband of Bathsheba, the one that David had slain to cover his sin of adultery, was one of David’s mighty men. That is, he was one of thirty three men who had demonstrated time and time again their loyalty to David, by risking their own lives, by saving his life on countless occasions, by obeying his slightest wish as their own command. These were men of such caliber that when David was fighting the Philistines in a battle, they broke through the enemy lines and went into David’s home town of Bethlehem to fetch water for him, simply because he had reminisced about the wonderful taste of the water at Bethlehem. They risked their lives to get him a drink of water! Can you imagine the kind of treachery it is that repays such devotion as Uriah had by taking his wife in adultery while Uriah is off fighting and risking his life for the king? And then having him killed to cover things up? Is it any wonder that David received no loyalty to those under him, after he had demonstrated no loyalty to those under him?
7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;
The Ezekias of verse 10 is the good king Hezekiah of the Old Testament, one of the godliest kings Judah ever had.
Verse 12: “And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;”
The Jechonias of this verse gets us into very interesting territory as we draw closer to Joseph, the stepfather of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jechonias is referred in the Old Testament by three different names. He is known as Jehoiachin, and in the book of Jeremiah is referred to as Jeconiah and Coniah. Because of this man’s extreme brutality and wickedness, God pronounced a judgment on him that is recorded in Jeremiah 22.24-30:
24 As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence;
Thus far in Joseph’s genealogy, then, we have followed a blood line which was both legally and by blood-right entitled to the throne of David. But all of this changed with the pronouncement upon Jeconiah. Although this man did have children, God denied this man’s descendants the right to sit upon the throne of Israel. This seems to place God in an apparent bind. How do you reconcile the fact that a man has a legal right, but is denied the blood-right to the throne? From this point on in Joseph’s genealogy the men listed have the legal right to sit upon Israel’s throne, but are denied God’s divine permission to sit upon the throne because they have descended from Jeconiah.
13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor;
Notice what verse 16 does not say. It does not say that Joseph was the father of the Lord Jesus Christ. It only says that he was the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, Who is called Christ.
Verse 17: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.”
Matthew divides Christ’s stepfather’s genealogy into thirds; Abraham to David, David to the Babylonian captivity, then the Babylonian captivity to Christ. Some comments about this genealogy by way of conclusion are appropriate:
#1 This genealogy is not complete. Matthew did not list the names of every person in the family tree of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was neither desirable nor necessary as a means of establishing Christ’s credibility as the legal ruler over Israel.
#2 It is indisputable. Genealogical records were kept in the Temple. Matthew might even have obtained his information from the Temple records. At any rate, no Jewish person could or did dispute the right to the throne that the Lord Jesus Christ held. Through His stepfather, Joseph, the legal right to the throne of His father David was His. Thus, Matthew’s purpose in giving the genealogy was fulfilled.
#3 The genealogy was a humble one which our Lord took for Himself. Proud in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to be sure. But in taking Ruth, Rahab, Bathsheba, Tamar and others to be his ancestors, the Lord Jesus Christ was doing what Paul described in Philippians 2.7: “But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Thank God He did that.
From Mark: Silence
Why is Mark silent concerning preliminary information about the Lord Jesus Christ, His past, His genealogy, etc? Possibly because, being written to a slave-owning Roman world, the genealogy of God’s Perfect Servant was inappropriate for reaching them with the Gospel. After all, what Roman wants to know the genealogy of a servant, which is how Christ is portrayed in this Gospel? Or, possibly, there is no genealogy in this Gospel because, being written to a Gentile world, Christ’s ancestry would be meaningless to anyone who had little or no knowledge of the Old Testament revelation. Finally, it is possible that, since Mark’s Gospel is an action book, facts without action would be somewhat out of place in this action packed history of Christ’s earthly ministry.
Prologue (Luke 1.1-4)
1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
There are four things that Luke tells us in his prologue: He names his subject for us, he gives his sources of information to us, he describes the method of his work for us, and he reveals the purpose of his writing.
3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
He wants to reaffirm, in the mind and heart of Theophilus, the things this man had already been taught. He wants to strengthen the man’s faith and conviction. He wants to give this man reliable facts about his Lord and Savior’s earthly ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection. He understood, and we should also understand, that faith is properly rooted in fact. For that reason, our study of the “Life and Lessons Of The Lord Jesus Christ” will strongly emphasize application, but will major on the facts presented in God’s Word.
Annunciation of John the Baptist (Luke 1.5-25)
Verse 5: “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.”
“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea.” The Herod mentioned in this verse is also known as Herod the Great, the son of Antipater. He was born in 62 B. C. and began to rule portions of Palestine when appointed to governorship over Galilee in 47 B. C. Then, later on, he was promoted. Herod was not of Jewish descent, but was Idumean, which is to say that he was an Edomite, or a descendant of Esau. The Jews are descendants of Jacob, Esau’s brother. Genesis 25.21-23 records the beginning of the animosity these two races had for each other. Herod was a vicious and brutal psychopath who slaughtered anyone who he imagined to be plotting to overthrow him. His rule over the Jews was merciless, and they hated him for it. This period of time Luke brings us to was not a pleasant time in Jewish history.
Verses 6 and 7:
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Verse 6 obviously shows us that both of these two were godly people, who strived not only to obey the Law of Moses, but also to maintain a good testimony before the people. This was unusual during this period of time when the priesthood was by and large corrupt. Yet, in spite of their holiness of life they were childless. The Bible says that they “both were now well stricken in years.” This seems to indicate, according to some historians, that they were in the vicinity of 60 years old, which, for a woman, is usually well past child bearing age.
Verses 8, 9, and 10:
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,
Here, Luke sets the stage for what is about to happen to Zacharias.
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
What Zacharias was supposed to do was offer or burn the incense on the altar of incense and then pray for the nation in a posture of worship. However, before he could bow himself, he saw an angel standing on the right side of the altar of incense. Knowing the arrangement of the furniture in the holy place, this means that he was facing the west, looking directly toward the altar of incense, the angel was a little to his right, or in the northwest corner of the holy place. I do not know about you, but in a small and dark room where no one else was supposed to be, and illuminated only by a small seven-flamed menorah, I think I would get scared, too. The real reason for his trouble and his fear, however, may be found in the next verse.
Verse 13: “But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”
Before the priest could do anything else than fear, before he could run, before he could even speak, the angel said, “Fear not, Zacharias: for the prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.” Now we see, in this one instance, why Zacharias was fearful and why human priests descended from Aaron must be inferior to our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Zacharias was in the holy place, not to pray for himself, but to pray for his nation. Being human, however, he apparently offered up prayers to God for the desires of his own heart. When the Lord Jesus intercedes for us, He needs not pray for Himself, but only for us.
Verses 14 and 15:
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
Their son John is quite unusual in that he is one of the very few human beings ever born whose name was chosen by God. His unusual life and ministry would result in not only his mother and father having joy and gladness, but in many rejoicing at his birth. The angel gave a number of reasons for his statement.
Verse 16: “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.”
This verse is a sad commentary. It shows the sad spiritual state of the children of Israel. It also shows what God plans to do through this one life.
Verse 17: “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
This verse is really the key to our understanding of the ministry of John the Baptist. “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias.” What does this phrase mean? Who is the “him” referred to in this verse? It is “the Lord their God” back in verse 16. But who does John go before? Christ. See? Yet another of the many, many indications of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. To understand the rest of the phrase, we connect it to the phrase which follows it.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
These are the last two verses of the last Old Testament book. Notice how similar Malachi 4.5-6 and Luke 1.17 are. In considering these two passages, why do you think the verses are not exactly the same? Did the angel misquote Scripture? Hardly. In Malachi 4.5-6, we have a prophecy predicting the ministry of Elijah the prophet during the tribulation period, just before the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 will be Elijah come down from Heaven. In Luke 1.17 we have God’s angel, duly authorized, taking that prophecy and altering it slightly to make another prophecy concerning the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Elijah will have the honor of preparing the way for the Lord’s second coming and getting the people ready for His glorious return, so John the Baptist, in the spirit and power of Elijah, will perform a similar office and function for the first coming of Christ to earth from Heaven.
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
We will look at each of these three verses separately.
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
Imagine the worry the people must have felt. After all, when the priest approached holy ground he did so at the risk of his very life. And when the high priest went into the most holy place he went in with a rope tied around his leg, lest he sin before God and die and have to be dragged out with the rope, for no man would dare unauthorized entry. When Zacharias did emerge from the holy place and could not speak they knew, by his gestures and motions, that he had seen a vision. After all the commotion died down and the course of Abia had finished their month’s duties, Zacharias returned to his home and to his wife Elizabeth.
24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
By “hid herself,” Luke seems to be indicating that Elizabeth did not inform anyone that she was pregnant. With the kind of flowing robes and clothing that women wore in those days it might very well have been possible to be a long time pregnant, with no one except a personal maid to notice that she was with child until she told them.
This brings to a close Luke’s introductory remarks to his history of Christ’s life and lessons, which included his opening remarks to Theophilus and the annunciation of John the Baptist.
John’s introduction is the most theological of the introductions found in the gospels, and can easily be broken down into Christ’s relationship to all things, John’s record about the Word, the response of men to the Word, and the revelation of the Word to men.
In John 1.1-5, we are given His relationship to all things.
First, regarding His person (1.1-2).
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
There are statements of Christ’s eternity here.
Verse 1: “In the beginning was the Word....”
Did you know that there is no definite article in front of the word “beginning” in the Greek New Testament? The reason for the lack of the Greek definite article in front of the word “beginning” is because John is not admitting that there ever has been a beginning. You see, “the beginning” is that point in time before which nothing existed previously. However, since there has never been such a point in time John refers not to “the beginning” but to the concept of beginning.
Verse 2: “The same was in the beginning with God.”
How long do you suppose God has been around? Would you say that God is about as eternal a being as is possible? Well, verse 2 indicates that as long as God has been in existence the Word has also existed “with” God. I want you to note that word “with” because we will look at it more carefully in just a moment. However, to conclude the thought, verse 1 and verse 2 both contain statements showing the eternity of the Word.
Next, there are statements of the equality of the Word.
Verse 1: “. . . and the Word was with God . . . .”
The word “with” is the Greek preposition “proV” which carries the meaning of being toward something or facing something. The implications of this preposition are not lost on either John, or the Holy Spirit. The message conveyed is that whatever rank the Word has, the Word approaches and stands, as it were, face to face with the Monarch of the Universe. This simply cannot happen unless there is a direct equality of both rank and power between the Word and God.
Also in verse 1: “. . . and the Word was God.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses try to convince us that since the Greek language has no indefinite article, such as our words “a” and “an,” they are quite justified in adding the word “a” to their perverse imitation of Scripture that they call “The New World Translation.” They do this because they maintain that this phrase is not trying to teach that the Word is God, but that the Word is a god.
Verse 2: “The same was in the beginning with God.”
The word “with” being the preposition “proV,” means being toward or to when in the accusative case. It must be asked, how can this be unless the Word is of equal rank with God? To show you that I am not teaching heresy, note that in John 10.30, the Lord Jesus Christ declares, “I and my father are one.”
Finally, there is a statement about the Lord Jesus Christ’s essence: “. . . and the Word was God.”
As I mentioned, previously, the exact word order in Greek is, “and God was the Word.” This statement, along with such passages as Isaiah 9.6 and Hebrews 1.8, convince the truly honest inquirer that whatever else the Bible has to say about this “Word” that John refers to, the Bible does assert that the Word is God. Not a god . . . God!
In verses 1 and 2, John deals with relationships related to His person. In verse 3 John deals with relationships related to His power.
The nature of His power: “All things were made by him.”
Genesis 1.1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
Colossians 1.16: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”
Hebrews 1.2: “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”
Hebrews 11.3: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
Next, we see the necessity of His power: “and without Him was not anything made that was made.”
Notice the pronouns used in verse 3. The word “him” appears twice. This lets us know, contrary to some people’s beliefs, that the Word of God, that God, if you will, has personality. God is not a gigantic IT in the sky. He is personal. That is why, to be saved, men must have personal knowledge of the personal Savior. This is completely opposed to Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard, Religious Science, Science of the Mind, Christian Science, Buddhism, Hinduism and a number of other false practices and belief systems.
Verses 4 and 5 deal with the relationships related to His purpose:
The “life” referred to here is two kinds. Not only is the Word the source of existence, which we normally think of as life, but He is also the source of real and genuine spiritual life. We know from the Bible that spiritual death is separation from God. This is stated in such verses as Ephesians 2.1 and Romans 6.23. However, to be “in Him,” or to know Him as your personal Lord and Savior, is life spiritual life . . . eternal life . . . salvation.
Verse five reads, “And the light shineth in darkness….”
When Adam sinned and fell he plunged the entire human race, which was to later spring from him, into darkness. The resulting darkness makes it impossible for human beings, left to our own devices, to rightly perceive spiritual truth. This is true for at least two reasons:
Therefore, the darkness is a reference to the darkened understanding of the human race. We can also see why “the darkness comprehended it not.”
In verses 6-8 we are given the record of John the Baptist about the Word.
In verse 6, John’s authority: “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.”
This, of course, is not the Gospel writer, but John the Baptist, a different person entirely. Notice how that which is so common is blended in this verse with that which is so uncommon. What is common? “There was a man.” Nothing unusual about that. Nothing uncommon. However, note that the man “was sent from God.” “Sent,” the Greek word “apestelmenoV,” is a word that comes from the same root word as “apostle” and refers to sending someone with a message. This man has a message from the very throne room of heaven. It would be good to listen to the message that he brings.
In verse 7, his ambition: “The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.”
You might wonder at my selection of the word “ambition” to describe the ministry of John the Baptist, but wait until I show you what his ambition was before you object.
In verse 8 we see John’s attitude: “He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.”
Again and again and again he told men what he was not. In John 3.23-36 we see John’s attitude perfectly represented. This is the record of John the Baptist about the Word.
In verse 9-13 we see the response of men to the Word.
Verse 9 records the effect upon all men of the Word: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, and this verse declares that His light lights every man that cometh into the world. You may ask, “If He lights every man, why do so few men receive Him as Savior? Why do so few men claim Him as their Lord?”
Verses 10 and 11 record the attitudes of men to the Word:
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
Imagine the Creator of the world actually coming to His Own creation, and His Own creation not even being aware of His presence here! If that is not spiritual blindness then I do not have any conception of what spiritual blindness really is. However, that is exactly what happened with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born of a virgin in Bethlehem. God came and no one knew it! That is what verse 10 tells us.
Verses 12 and 13 record the acceptance of the Word by men:
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:
Here John throws light on three facets of men’s acceptance of the Word:
“Not of blood” That is, not related to genealogy or family religion or history.
“Nor of the will of the flesh” This means that it is impossible for your will or mine to be the initiating reason for anyone’s salvation, including your own salvation.
“Nor of the will of man” This lets out any religion which teaches that another human being must be involved in your salvation. Any religion which requires a priest for salvation is covered here. Any religion which requires baptism for salvation is covered here, because you cannot baptize yourself. Any religion which requires Church membership for salvation is also wrong.
Folks, nothing which REQUIRES the agency of man, any man, can possibly be Biblical according to this phrase.
“But of God.” Salvation, the new birth, justification, or whatever else you want to term it, must be of divine origin to be genuine. Your individual salvation must ultimately have been God’s idea for it to be real.
Thus, we see that any real and genuine response, on the part of man, to the Word is the direct result of God working in that man’s heart and life. The salvation which is real is of heavenly origin, not earthly.
In verses 14-18 we see the revelation of the Word to men. There are four facets to this revelation that we will examine.
In verse 14 there is the facet of the incarnation of God:
I am going to address the five phrases in this verse individually, because each phrase is so very rich and full.
“And the Word was made flesh”
If you go back and read verse 1 of John chapter one, you will notice that John has really dropped a bombshell on us. First, in verse 1, he tries to show, or rather he proclaims, that the Word has always been . . . in the beginning, with God, face to face, and has always been God. By the way in which John constructs his sentence we understand that the Word simply did not begin. The Word has always been.
The next phrase is “and dwelt among us”
The word “dwelt” means “to live in a tent.” Literally, the way in which the Word became flesh was to pitch a tent among us. It rather reminds me of the tabernacle in the wilderness. Though somewhat plain and ordinary as a tent on the outside, this thing fashioned of skins, fabric, wood and precious metals was a tent in which was housed the glory of Almighty God. In like manner, this plain and ordinary looking body in which Jesus Christ lived for something over thirty years was the tent in which the glory of God dwelt.
Next it reads, “and we beheld His glory”
The first eighteen verses of John’s Gospel are really his summary and conclusion. He is telling us in verses 1-18 what he is going to tell us in the body of his account. With this phrase he highlights one of the most significant occurrences in all of human history . . . that occasion when the Son of God’s glory could no longer be cloaked by His humanity and did dramatically burst forth. What do we call this event that John is referring to? It is termed the transfiguration of Christ. And we will study it at length when we have more time and are covering the passages which record the actual event in our studies.
After this, we read “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father”
This phrase is another one of the theological battlegrounds where those who do not believe in the trinity choose to try and defend their false beliefs. It is held, by those espousing non-Christian beliefs, that the phrase “only begotten” proves that Jesus Christ was “begotten” of His Father in the sense that He was created by God the Father.
#1 I read A. T. Robertson’s comment on this phrase: “Strictly, ‘as of an only born from a father,’ since there is no article with monogenous or with patros. In Joh 3:16; 1Jo 4:9 we have ton monogenê referring to Christ. This is the first use in the Gospel of patêr of God in relation to the Logos. Monogenês (only born rather than only begotten) here refers to the eternal relationship of the Logos (as in Joh 1:18) rather than to the Incarnation. It distinguishes thus between the Logos and the believers as children (tekna) of God.”
#2 Now for the second reason, which relates to “glory.” Turn to Isaiah, where we will read 42.8 and 48.11-12:
42:8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
48:11 For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.
Let this question sink in: How can Christ’s glory be seen as the glory of the Father if the Father will not share His glory with another? Simple. God will not share His glory and essence with any created being. For James and Peter and John to have seen Christ’s glory as of the only begotten of the Father must mean, therefore, that Jesus Christ is God. When they saw Christ’s glory they saw God’s glory, because Jesus Christ is God.
The final phrase of this verse reads, “full of grace and truth.”
What is “grace”? Some describe it as God’s unmerited favor. And the word does have to do with a gift. So, we ought to realize that everything Jesus Christ did was grace. You see, He did not have to come. He did not have to die for our sins. Thank God He did. Amen?
As verse 14 has to do with the incarnation of God, verse 15 has to do with the instruction of John:
“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.”
Let us review some facts that we know to be true. Whose existence began first, John’s or the Word’s? The Word’s existence, being without beginning, outstrips John’s. Who was born first into the human race? Right. It was John the Baptist. Remember, from Luke 1.26, that it was in Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy that Mary, having just been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit of God and carrying the newly conceived Christ child, came to visit Elizabeth. So, John’s statement about “He that cometh after me” refers to their respective chronological ages. John was, physically, sixth months older than his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth. But the Word is preferred before John. How can that be since John is older and age meant everything in Jewish society with regard to such matters? Simple. John is not preferred because the Word, being eternal, is before him and by right is preferred.
Four facets of the revelation of the Word to men. We saw that facet called the incarnation, verse 14, we saw that facet which is instruction, verse 15, and now in verses 16 and 17 we see the facet of the involvement of every believer:
16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
“Fullness” is a very interesting word in the Bible. In Colossians 1.9 and 2.9 the word is used to indicate that in Jesus Christ our Lord there is everything that makes God to be God. Further, there is not anything about God that is not in Jesus. Powerful word “fullness.” That same word, here in John 1.16, is used to show that what we receive from the Lord Jesus Christ when we get saved we receive from His infinitely abundant supply. Thus, you have everything from God He wants you to have, because He is not lacking in supply when it comes to the grace needed for daily living.
We have looked at the incarnation of God, the instruction of John the Baptist, and the involvement of every believer. Now, in verse 18, we will see the identity of God: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
Four phrases need to be examined individually in this verse:
“No man hath seen God at any time” At first glance this seems to contradict several Old Testament passages which indicate that men have seen God. This apparent conflict disappears, however, when you realize that here John is not speaking of a manifestation of God, but is referring to the real essence and nature of God. That has no man seen. Why had no man seen God in this way before? Because it is not possible. This is why Moses could only look upon the “back parts” of God, according to Exodus 33. Further, this is why the holy of holies in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple was filled with smoke during the Day of Atonement worship, so the priest would not die, having beheld God. “No man hath seen God at any time.”
“the only begotten Son” This phrase is used by cultists to twist Biblical truth, but it is actually very straightforward and simple. “Only begotten” refers to Christ’s uniqueness as the eternal Son of the living God. Despite notable opinion to the contrary, He did not become God’s Son by any event which has ever happened. He has always been God’s Son.
“Which is in the bosom of the Father” The bosom speaks of communion and intimacy and fellowship. Jesus Christ, being in the bosom of the Father, refers to the fact that the unity, the love, and the intimacy between the Father and the Son are absolutely unparalleled.
“He hath declared Him” The word “declared” comes from the Greek word that we get our transliterated word “exegesis” from. “He hath exegeted Him.” Exegesis is a word frequently used by Bible teachers. It means to bring out into visibility, to bring forth authoritatively into visibility. It is the bringing forth of something which has always been there, but which was not before seen until it was declared. Bible scholars and commentators use this word to describe the process of studying God’s Word so that you can bring forth truths which have always been contained in the Bible, but which you did not know or appreciate until your studies revealed them to you.
Therefore, this One about Whom we study is the indispensable go-between between man and God. If a man would see his God, he must first come to Christ.