9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16 For from his fulness we have all received, grace upon grace.
A. [John 1:14-16] The Campaign of Salvation
“The Word became flesh” simply means that the Son of God became a man and it is quite normal to ask why John didn’t just say so. Complaints about Jesus himself using figurative language are dealt with throughout John’s Gospel so, in manner of speaking, John is only starting as he means to continue. But there’s more: Jn. 1:1f. — “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.” — expresses the profound mystery of the Trinity without explaining it; and “The Word became flesh” expresses the mystery of Jesus being both God and Man without explaining it. You want more still? “Word” was an expression that fitted the characteristic Hellenistic search for wisdom better than it did the characteristic Hebraistic demand for a sign. It soon becomes evident that John was writing to Greeks who were being told by the Jews that Jesus was “theirs”; that they didn’t want him and that the Greeks couldn’t have him.
On the other hand John makes it just as evident that those Jews who did not reject Jesus were not disappointed with their choice. The implication is that we too will be disappointed neither with what we will see nor with what we shall receive. We are encouraged to read on in order to see what “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” might look like. Moreover we are challenged to make room for Jesus in our lives so that we might know what it is to “receive grace upon grace from his fulness.“
Mind you, the sight of Christ’s Glory and the experience of his Grace are consequences of him coming into our lives and dwelling with us. What the disciples of Jesus experienced physically — and John the Baptist anticipated — we must embrace spiritually; for it is a disruptive thing to have Jesus come to stay with us however that manifests itself. For some, at least for a while, involvement in the campaign of salvation means having Jesus bivouacked among us, but it is simplistic to suggest as some do that those who are not ‘on active service’ have somehow resisted the call. No, for most of us the disruption of having Christ dwell with us is better described as having him billeted among us.
B. [John 1:9f.] The Dawn of the New Creation
What we have in martial/domestic terms with the idea of Christ being billeted among us is raised to the full cosmic concept of a dawning of a new creation: “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” So great is the scope of this announcement that we can expect to find that “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” is the theme for the entire Gospel of John. And it is.
C. [John 1:11-13] God’s Children and their Birthright
If Jn. 1:10 gives us the theme of John’s Gospel then Jn. 1:11f. gives us the contents. So in Jn. 1:1-7:52 we have Jesus coming to his own; in Jn. 7:53-12:50 we have his own not receiving him; and in John 13:1-21:25 we have Jesus giving all who received him the right to become children of God. Not that these sections are hermetically sealed off from each other but bearing these divisions in mind is a decided help when reading through the Gospel. The shift from theme [v. 10] to contents [vv. 11f.] is achieved by having the three parts of the one correspond to the three parts of the other; save that the order of the corresponding parts swap places to give the triumphant climax: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God …”
This ‘right’ given to those who believe in Jesus’ Name is the famous ‘Justification by Faith‘ which is quite rightly lauded as the article on which the church stands or falls. But the personal issue for you is not about using the correct theological terms. If you would believe then read through John’s Gospel until you get to the bit near the end where he tells us why he wrote the book. But do not be surprised if you find yourself to be a believer long before the end. Just as John witnesses to having seen Christ’s Glory and to having received from Christ’s Fulness, so becoming a Child of God is not something you can achieve by your own efforts or brilliance.
Jn. 1:13 tells us that “[Children of God are] born … of God.” This stands in contrast to why cildren are generally born: of blood (because of a duty to continue the family line); of the will of the flesh (as a by-product of bodily pleasures); and of the will of man (just because someone decides that they want to have children). The words of this book are words of life because they turn our thoughts away from what we must do and on to what God has already done.