Pre-fleshly State of Christ Part 5 of 9 series: Harmony of the Gospels
by John Lowe
2. The true Christian’s dignity and privilege are twofold:—First, The privilege of adoption, which makes them into one of God’s children: to them He gave the right to become children of God. Previously, the adoption pertained to the Jews only (Israel is my son, my first-born); but now, by faith in Christ, Gentiles are the “children of God” (Gal. 3:26). The King James Version Bible translates right as power—no man can take this power for himself, but any man can receive it by the authority of the gospel. All of His saints have this power. It is the unspeakable privilege of all Christians that they have become the children of God. They were by nature children of wrath, children of this world. God calls them his children, they call him Father, and they are entitled to all the privileges of children. God is His Father and ours also. It is by virtue of our union with Christ, that we stand related to God as a Father. It was through Christ that we were predestinated to the adoption. We have received from him both the character and the Spirit of adoption, and he is the first-born among many brethren. The Son of God became a Son of man, so that the sons and daughters of men might become the sons and daughters of God Almighty.
This verse tells us clearly, how we can become children of God. It is not by good works, not by church membership, not by doing one’s best—but by receiving Him, by believing in His Name.
There are two actions described in verse 12: the action of man and the action of God. Man’s action is to receive and to believe. To receive means to accept for one’s self, and to believe means to place one’s trust in. Both of these concepts are a part of salvation. God’s action is to give them the power to become the sons of God. The word power (Gr exousia) means the right or authority to become the sons of God.
13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Alternate Translation (NLT): They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan—this rebirth comes from God.
To become a child in a physical sense, one must be born. But, to become a child of God, one must have a second birth. This is known as the new birth, or conversion, or being saved. This verse tells us three ways by which the new birth does not take place, and the one way by which it does.
First, the three ways by which we are not born again.
1. Not of blood. This means that a person does not become a Christian through having Christian parents. Salvation is not passed down from parent to child through the bloodstream.
2. Not by the will of the flesh. In other words, a person does not have the power in his own body to produce the new birth. Although he must be willing in order to be saved, his own will is not enough to save him.
3. Not of the will of man. No other man can save a person. A preacher, for instance, may be very anxious to see a certain person born again, but he does not have the power to produce this marvelous birth. How, then, does this birth take place? The answer is found in the words but of God. This means simply that the power to produce the new birth does not rest with anything or anyone but God.
Secondly, There is only one way in which a person can be saved, and that is, through the process of regeneration (being born again). All the children of God are born again; all that are adopted are regenerated.
Whenever God saves a person, he creates within that person the nature and disposition of a child.
14 And the Word became 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.
Alternate Translation (NLT): And Christ became a human being, lived here on earth among us, and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen his glory—the glory of the only Son of the heavenly Father!
And the Word became flesh. The Word became flesh when Jesus was born as a Baby in the manger at Bethlehem. He had always existed as the Son of God with the Father in heaven, but now, He chose to come into the world in a human body. To His divine nature, He added a perfect human nature. As Paul later explained, this involved His “taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). As the incarnate God, His wholly divine and perfectly human natures are united forever—in one Person—“I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Here the Lord Jesus added a further claim to equality with God: “I and My Father are one.” Christ and the Father are one in power. Jesus had just been speaking about the power that protects Christ’s sheep. Therefore, He added the explanation that His power is the same as the power of God the Father. Of course, the same is true of all the other attributes of Deity. The Lord Jesus Christ is God in the fullest sense and is equal with the Father in every way.
The term flesh speaks of man contaminated with sin, and Christ, though he was perfectly holy and harmless, appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3), and was made sin for us (2 C. 5:21). Do you wonder about this, that the eternal Word should be made flesh, when flesh has come to have such a bad name; that he who made all things should himself be made flesh, one of the most despicable things? It makes the Redeemer’s love even more wonderful, to know, that to redeem and save us, he was made flesh. The Word of the Lord, who was made flesh, endures forever; but when He was made flesh, he did not cease to be the Word of God.
And dwelt among us. He lived with us for a long time, in order to avoid mistakes and misunderstandings. God actually came to this earth and lived here as a Man among men. The word “dwelt” means “tabernacled” or “pitched His tent.” His body was the tent in which He lived among men for thirty-three years. “Dwelt,” refers to the fact that God dwelt temporarily among His people as the perfect God-Man, Jesus Christ; just as God manifested His presence to His people in the tabernacle in the wilderness (Ex. 24:16).
The Word could have been made flesh, and dwelt among the angels; but having taken a body of the same substance as ours, he came, and resided in the same world with us. He dwelt among us, who were like worms of the earth. He did not need us, and He got nothing from us, for we were corrupt and depraved, He dwelt among the Jews, so that the scripture might be fulfilled—“He shall dwell in the tents of Shem,” (Gen. 9:27). Now, see how He dwelt among us:
1. He dwelt here in very poor circumstances. He did not dwell among us in a palace, but like shepherds in a tent; for we are told that He had nowhere to lay his head, and was always on the move.
2. His state, while He was here, was a military state. Soldiers dwell in tents. He had long since proclaimed war with the seed of the serpent, and now he takes the field in person, sets up his standard, and pitches his tent, to prosecute this war.
3. His stay among us was not to be perpetual. He dwelt here like in a tent, not as if He had a home. The patriarchs, by dwelling in tabernacles, confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth, and sought the better country, and so did Christ, leaving us an example—“Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.” (Heb. 13:13-14). The application for the early readers of the Epistle was this: they should make a clean break with Judaism. Once for all they should turn their backs on the temple sacrifices and appropriate the finished work of Christ as their sufficient sacrifice. The application for us is similar: the camp today is the entire religious system that teaches salvation by works, by character, by ritual, or by ordinances. It is the modern church system with its humanly ordained priesthood, its material aids to worship, and its ceremonial trappings. It is corrupt Christendom, a church without Christ. The Lord Jesus is outside and we should go forth to Him, ... bearing His reproach. Jerusalem was dear to the hearts of those who served at the temple. It was the geographic center of their “camp.” The Christian has no such city on earth; his heart is set on the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, where the Lamb is all the glory.
4. In olden times, God dwelt in the tabernacle of Moses; He was the Shekinah that appeared between the cherubim, but now he dwells within us as the Holy Spirit, the true Shekinah, and the symbol of God’s peculiar presence.
And we beheld His glory. In the Bible, “glory” often means the bright, shining light, which was seen when God was present. It also means the perfection and excellence of God. When the Lord Jesus was here on earth, He veiled His glory in a body of flesh. But there were two ways in which His glory was revealed. First, there was His moral glory. By this, I mean the radiance of His perfect life and character. There was no flaw or blemish in Him. He was perfect in all His ways. Every virtue could be found in His life. Secondly, there was the visible outshining of His glory, which took place on the Mount of Transfiguration 20(Mt. 17:1, 2). At that time, Peter, James, and John saw His face shining like the sun, and His garments gleaming like bright light. These three disciples were given a preview of the splendor, which the Lord Jesus will have when He comes back to the earth and reigns for a thousand years.