Thursday, December 24, 2009

The True Temple: Glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father

We've been considering Christmas according to John, as John gives us a fresh, theological look into the significance of Christmas in the opening of his gospel. We've been focusing on three key words in John 1:14 that fight against the familiarity of Christmas and cause us to be properly affected by the glory of the incarnation.

First, we considered how Yahweh dwelt among His people in His tabernacle. Then, last time, we considered how the dwelling place of Yahweh is inseparable from His glory. We saw that first in the tabernacle, then in the temple, and finally in Jesus. And so John is proclaiming to his audience that this Jesus is Yahweh’s divine self-expression in the same way that the glory of the Tabernacle and Temple were.

But then he goes even beyond that! He goes beyond that when he mentions our third key word: “… and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father.” “Only begotten” there is better translated “unique,” or “One and Only.” And so when John says that this Eternal Word dwelt among us, the glory we saw wasn’t a cloud. It wasn’t a pillar of fire. It was the unique, one-and-only glory of the Father Himself. John presents Jesus, this Word-become-flesh, as the ultimate divine self-expression and the fulfillment of all the tabernacle and temple were! The glory of the tabernacle and the temple was amazing! But in Jesus, something greater than the temple is here (Mt 12:6; cf. John 2:19-21)!

Hebrews 1:1-2 - God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.

John 1:18 says, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” No one has seen God at any time. Paul tells us He “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1Tim 6:16). But Jesus, who is Himself God, has explained the unseen Father. Literally, “He has exegeted” Him. John is announcing that Jesus Christ is the exposition of God the Father. Even Jesus Himself said it to Philip: “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9). You wanna know what God is like? Look at Jesus!

  • Colossians 1:15He is the image of the invisible God.
  • Hebrews 1:3 – And He is the radiance of [the Father’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature.

And in 2 Corinthians 4:6, in magnificent sweetness, we are told that the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God is in the face of Christ!

This is what John wants us to see when we read verse 14!

  • Just as the glory of God appeared in the tabernacle, so now the fullest expression of God’s glory is in Jesus!
  • Just as everyone who sought God went to the tabernacle, so now everyone who seeks God must go to Jesus!
  • Just as the tabernacle was the place of condescension, where God met man, so now Jesus is where God condescends and meets man!
  • Just as the tabernacle was the place where God’s people are consecrated for service, so now Jesus is where God’s people are consecrated and sanctified!
  • Just as the tabernacle was the place where God spoke to His people, so now in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son Jesus!
  • Just as the tabernacle was the place where atonement for sin was made and God’s wrath was propitiated, so now Jesus is where atonement is made and is where God’s anger is satisfied!
  • Just as the tabernacle was the place where Israel worshiped God, so now the “hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24) for they will worship Him in Jesus, and in Jesus alone!

The Gospel of Christmas to the Believer

And so this Christmas, as you meditate on the birth of the baby in the manger, don’t neglect to hear John’s words: that in Jesus, God is tabernacling with men as He did in the wilderness. Grasp the weight of the fact that Christmas is about the God of the universe graciously coming again to dwell in glory among men after He had been absent for 600 years!

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,

Pleased as man with men to dwell,

our Immanuel.

Oh see the Godhead veiled in flesh! See Jesus, our Immanuel, our “God-with-us!” Don’t let this be just an academic exercise that stimulates your intellect! The inseparable connection between God’s dwelling place and His glory is screaming at us that the point of the incarnation – the point of the birth of Jesus… the point of Christmas! – is that we might behold His glory!

We didn’t talk about it much but when John says, “We saw His glory,” in verse 14, that word “saw” is theĆ”omai in the Greek. It means “to behold, to contemplate.” One Greek scholar says, “[It is] gazing with a view to satisfy the eye.” We can't miss this! The reason that the Word has become flesh, the reason that Jesus has tabernacled among us, is so that we might gaze at Him and behold His glory, full of grace and truth. And that by beholding Him in all His glory we might receive from that fullness, grace upon grace (Jn 1:16)!

Oh, Christian, would you receive grace upon grace? Would you look to Jesus and see His glory, glory as of the One and Only from the Father? Would you let these truths soak into you that they might satisfy your soul? Would you let them compel your heart to worship Him by embracing Him, and treasuring Him, and delighting in Him, and following Him, and displaying Him to your family and your friends and your neighbors, perhaps even more than you ever have? Oh dear brothers and sisters, receive grace upon grace from your Savior!

The Gospel of Christmas to the Unbeliever

But even as we exult over such glorious things, there is a tragic reality that we’re confronted with. And that is that there are some people reading this that can’t do that. You can’t do what I just described. You can’t receive grace upon grace from Jesus Christ. Because you haven’t believed in Him. Because when you look at Him you don’t see glory. You don’t see the most beautiful thing that ever was. You look at Him and He seems boring, or mythical and fairy-tale-like. You look at Jesus and you say, “Ugh! Get Him away! He’s the guy who spoils all my fun and tells me what to do and makes me feel guilty all the time!”

You need to be born again.

Because just as we read about the Israelites in 2 Chronicles 36, how God sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on them (2Chr 36:15), so I write to you as God’s messenger. And I declare to you that if you, like Israel, reject the glory of God which has tabernacled among us, and you continue to serve your idols of self, money, comfort, and pleasure… then on that last day when Jesus comes again in glory for judgment, the glory of God will depart from you as it did from Israel, and you will go into everlasting punishment. Just as sure as Ezekiel’s prophecy of destruction came upon Judah at the hands of Babylon, so will the Word of God come true for destruction upon those who reject His glory, who reject the Savior, Christ the Lord.

You need to be saved.

And the good news is that that is exactly why Jesus came!

Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die!

Born to raise the sons of earth,

Born to give them second birth!

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us ultimately that He might live a perfect life and die on the cross for the sins of His people, that by faith they might behold His glory and receive grace upon grace! The first grace to receive is the grace of the second birth, the grace of salvation, the grace of forgiveness for your sins!

Just as the Israelites did, you have an opportunity to turn from your sin, to turn from your idolatry, and to worship God alone! And so you, in this day, unbeliever, are bid to come to Christ! This is a day of salvation! Flee to Christ while He may be found. Oh, may it never be that you behold the glory of the Lord departing from you, never to return again! Forsake your sin. Embrace the glory of God in the face of Christ (2Cor 4:6). Receive your Savior!

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the One and Only from the Father, full of grace and truth. This is Christmas, dear friends.

This is Christmas.

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