C. JESUS: THE SON OF GOD (John 1:15-28, 49)
John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me. And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness; Make straight the way of the LORD,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. “It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap i am not worthy to loose.” These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (verses 15-28)…Nathaniel answered and said to him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (verse 49)
John the Baptist is one of the most important characters in the New Testament and is mentioned nearly 90 times. It was he that was given the special assignment of introducing Jesus. Part of his preparation for the Messiah’s first coming was to preach, day after day, a message of repentance. As a proof of their repentance, the people were baptized by John and then were instructed to live changed lives. The Apostle John summarized what John the Baptist had to say about Jesus in John 1:15-18:
15: John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me. 16: And the fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17: For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18: No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
First, he spoke of Jesus as being eternal in verse 15. Since the Baptist was actually born 6 months before Jesus, in this statement John is speaking of His pre-existence, not His date of birth on the calendar. The fact of Jesus’ pre-existence was a source of great consternation to the Jewish religious leaders of the day. This very fact is denied by many today as well. The attack on the divinity of Jesus Christ is a common denominator among all belief-systems other than true Christianity. Unfortunately, today there are growing numbers of so-called “Christians” who are deceived into questioning this non-negotiable doctrine of true Christianity.
After emphasizing Jesus’ pre-existence, John the Baptist went on to speak of His fullness of grace and truth in verse 16-17. God has granted His great favor and kindness to those who do not deserve it, and cannot possibly earn it. God deals with us by way of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection meeting all the demands of Old Testament law. Now, God is able to share every bit of His grace and mercy to those who trust in Jesus. Grace without truth would be deceitful; and truth without grace would be condemning. This is why the Apostle Paul was able to say, beginning in Romans 8:1:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin; He condemned sin in the flesh that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
We find the apostle mentioning the law of Moses in verse 17. John was not saying that there was no grace under the law of Moses. Every single sacrifice was an expression of the grace of God. The law also revealed truth. One of those truths was that fallen man could not keep the law successfully. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice made it possible for grace and truth to reach their fullness; and, it is available to us. We are saved by grace, but we also live by grace and depend on God’s grace in everything we do. The Apostle Paul penned these principles of God’s grace in the two passages below. In the second passage, Paul referred to the fact that God’s grace reached him when he was guilty of brutally persecuting and killing Christians wherever he could find them. God’s grace is amazing, is it not?
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)
Because of Jesus, God’s grace is offered again and again. In John 1:17 above we see that Jesus brought a fulfillment and perfection to the law of Moses. We find in the Book of James 4:6 the promise of God’s grace in abundance. In the second passage below, we find that God chooses to use what man would often throw away as useless. But, His grace more than makes up the difference because those who trust in Jesus as their Saviour and Lord are literally immersed in Him and His divine nature.
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleases God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18-24)
Now, as we get back to John 1:18, he pointed out that Jesus Christ reveals that God is invisible.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)
By faith Moses, when he because of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:24-27
As we have seen above, God in His true essence is invisible, but the Scriptures tell us that He is revealed in nature and through the supernatural works He has performed throughout history; but we can’t see God, as the passages below state clearly..
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge, there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run a race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end; and there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Psalm 19:1-6)
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20)
It is the Messiah who reveals God to us, for He is God’s exact image. It is important to understand the meaning of the word “image” in these passages. All of the features of Almighty God, whose true essence is invisible, are represented in the “Son” of God who walked on this earth with the disciples for 3 ½ years. This word “image” expresses the fact that Jesus Christ “is both personally distinct from, and yet literally equal to, God of whose essence He is the adequate imprint. He is not merely His “image”, He is of God’s substance, or essence.
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Colossians 1:13-17)
…who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when He had Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3)
In John 1:18, the word “declared” is properly translated “to explain, to unfold, to lead the way.” It is Jesus Christ who explains God to us and interprets Him for us. It is actually impossible for us to understand God apart from knowing His Son, Jesus Christ, the WORD.
The word “Son” is used for the first time in the Gospel of John as a title for Jesus Christ (John 1:18). The phrase “only begotten” means “unique, the only one of its kind.” It does not mean or suggest that there was ever a time when the Son was not, and then the Father brought Him into being. This is a wide-spread false teaching of many cult groups today. Jesus Christ is GOD; He has always existed.
John the Baptist is one of six persons named in the Gospel of John who gave testimony that Jesus is God. The others were Nathaniel, Peter, the blind man who was healed, Martha, and Thomas. The Scriptures of each of these instances follow:
Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49)
But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69)
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is he who is talking with you.” Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshipped Him. (John 9:35-38)
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27)
Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them, Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” ANd Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-28
The Baptist was strongly interrogated and rightfully so, since the Scribes and Pharisees were the custodians and protectors of the faith. They asked him several questions and his answers were direct and clear. John had gathered enormous crowds and many had been baptized. Although John performed no miracles, some of the people wondered if he might possibly be the promised Messiah. John denied being Elijah or the Messiah. John had nothing to say about himself because he was sent only to talk about Jesus, to introduce Him. He was the forerunner, the one tasked with preparing the way for the Messiah. John was the voice—that introduced the WORD, who was visible. John pointed back to Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 40:1-3, affirming that he was the fulfillment.
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
In answering those that questioned who he was, he was very clear about the contrast between himself and the promised Messiah (verse 23-32). His preaching and baptizing was his commission from God.
Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus and said, “we do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what Authority I do these things.
But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” they said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.
The Jewish religious leaders in that day baptized Gentiles who wanted to adopt the Jewish faith, but John was baptizing Jews! Once again, John was not drawing attention to himself or “his” message, nor was he establishing a new religion. He was pointing people to the one and only Saviour of the world, the Son of God. “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34). Later we learn that it was through baptism that Jesus would be presented to the people of Israel, and then to the entire world.
Continued in Part Four