IN THE END, JESUS IS
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
December 22, 2019
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 fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
— John 1:14-18, ESV
When you see a baby in a manger at Christmastime, what are your thoughts? I’m sure they are warm and fuzzy, then perhaps cooled by a chill in the air, only to be warmed again by cookies baking in the oven. But do you think seriously about God, or the theology of the Trinity, or the soteriological ramifications of the Incarnation?
When you imagine Jesus sitting on a hillside in Galilee talking about the kingdom of God to a people marginalized by the kingdoms of this world, what do you hear? You hear a nice man, who loves children and wouldn’t harm a fly, telling good stories and making vague promises to a small crowd without any fanfare, except for once or twice when He gave away free food. But do you catch a glimpse of glory, the glory of God more powerful than a bomb and more valuable than all the money in the world?
When you look at a cross, what do you see? Do you look at the cruelty and injustice inflicted upon the Son of God by religious hypocrites and political power mongers? Or do you see God’s grace, reaching out to sinners like you and me, who are just as guilty of sin as those who crucified the Lord?
Our pictures of Jesus Christ are typically too tame and our images of ourselves are a little too tall. Christ was a baby, born of Mary, to be sure. He was a nice man, a pacifist prophet, and a servant leader without pride or prejudice. He was falsely accused, tried in kangaroo courts, and martyred on an old rugged cross, for sinners like you and me, but He is not like you and me, according to John.
At the beginning of this beautiful prologue, Jesus was. As the end, Jesus is. Jesus was and is Almighty God. Jesus was and is the presence of God’s glory on earth and the promise of His glory in Heaven. Jesus was and is the gift of grace, from God through God to God’s people, atoning for sin and giving everlasting life. Jesus Christ is God, glory, and grace.
Jesus Christ is God
The doctrine that best separates real Christianity from the liberal, heretical, and cultic counterfeits is the deity of Christ. The doctrine of the deity of Christ simply states that Jesus is, was, and always will be, in the words of the Nicene Creed, “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” Creeds are useful, but Holy Scripture is supreme: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (ref. John 1:1,14).
The reality of the Incarnation proclaims that God has come to us, not merely as a baby to make us feel good or a teacher to tell us nice things or a dying man to make us feel sorry for the oppressed. The Creator and King of the heavens and earth came down to show us perfect love. He came to teach us perfect truth. He came to lay down His perfect life so that imperfect, sinful people like you and me can be forgiven and free.
The reality of the Incarnation reveals the mystery of the Trinity. There is only one true and living God, yet He has revealed Himself in three persons. The Father is the invisible Ruler. The Son is the incarnate Savior. And, the Holy Spirit is His indwelling Presence in the life of every believer. God is above us, for us, in us, all at the same time, which is something to be pursued and studied for a lifetime.
The reality of the Incarnation and the mystery of Trinity is a direct fulfillment of prophecy. “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (ref. Isaiah 9:6). Which leads to this, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (ref. Isaiah 53:5-6).
This is a lot to think about when you see a manger scene. But if the baby born in Bethlehem is indeed the One who existed before time began (as testified by John the Baptist), then He is God. He is Creator of everything, including you and me. He is alive and watching, over everything and over you and me. He is sovereign King and Lord, over everything and everyone. He is God and He is worthy of our love, faithfulness, and worship.
Jesus Christ is Glory
Jesus Christ came to us to reveal God to us, and more. He came to show and share God’s glory. John said, “We have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father.” Glory is a noun and God’s glory has come to us in a most special person, place, and thing.
Glory is the person of God in Christ. Though John writes, “No one has ever seen God,” the Apostle Paul explains “In [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (ref. Colossians 2:9, NASB). This is no contradiction but rather an expansion of the doctrine of the Trinity. You cannot see God the Father, but you can worship Him in spirit and truth, You cannot see the Holy Spirit within you, but He leads you to see the truth. However, John with eyes of flesh and we with eyes of faith can see “the only Son from the Father” who is “the only God,” and catch a glimpse of “his glory,” the best God has to offer, “full of grace and truth.”
Glory is the place built by God in Christ. The prologue has already established Jesus as the maker of all things (ref. John 1:3), and this means all things in Heaven and earth. Glory is the place Jesus left to endure the indignities of His human existence, which included poverty, persecution, and execution. Glory is the place Christ returned to after His work on earth was done. Glory is the place He will take those who believe in His name and submit to His Lordship. Glory struck the earth like lightning in the person and work of Jesus Christ, a stunningly short time on earth, but glory will fill the earth when Christ comes again.
Glory is the thing you can experience through a relationship with God in Christ. To quote again from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (ref. Colossians 1:27). You may know the glory of riches, but they will run out or you will run out on them when you die. You may know the glory of fame, but they will take that championship ring off your finger before lowering your body into the ground, from where you will no longer be able to see your name on some trophy or plaque. But the glory of God that comes now in flashes — like the moment you were born again, or the moments in private meditation or public worship when the assurance of salvation floods your soul, or the baptism of a child or grandchild into the family of God — will shine brighter than the sun in the new Heaven and earth, where God in Christ is the person at the center, Heaven is the place to be, and glory is the thing you will see, feel, and share with Him for ever and ever. How does one receive God’s glory? By grace!
Jesus Christ is Grace
When John looked at, lived with, and finally wrote about Jesus Christ, he saw God. He saw glory. And, he saw the connection between the two, “grace upon grace.” The grace of God in Jesus Christ is a free gift you cannot earn and a permanent possession you cannot lose.
You cannot do anything to earn God’s forgiveness and favor. Jesus can and did. Jesus is the grace of God. He is sovereign grace that saves through the gift of faith in His life, death, and resurrection. What “the law given through Moses” could not do, Jesus did, through the double imputation of the cross (ref. Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Moses teaches us we are sinners. Jesus teaches us we are saved, and that is by “grace!”
Once you have received the grace of God by faith in Jesus Christ, you will never lose that grace. That’s “grace upon grace!” The gifts people receive this Christmas will last a short time (for some children) or a lifetime. But the gift of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ will last for all time. Far from being a license to sin and forsake worship, grace allows you a blessed assurance and a burning desire to worship and serve the Lord until the day you die. “’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home” (John Newton), this is “grace upon grace.”
The prologue (John 1:1-18) is the first light of the Gospel of John. In he beginning, Jesus was. In the end, Jesus is. There is much more to see, and all of the spotlights will shine on the Lord Jesus Christ. But for now, take a fresh look at the prologue and ponder it the next time you see a manger scene. You will see Jesus and you will see Almighty God. The next time you read the word of God, look for glimpses of His glory. The next time you see a cross, see the grace of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptize yourself in God’s grace by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is. Jesus is God, Jesus is glory, and Jesus is grace.
In the first light of a new day, No one knew He had arrived;
Things continued as they ad been, While a new born softly cried.
But the heavens wrapped in wonder, Knew the meaning of His birth;
In the weakness of a baby, They knew God had come to earth.
As His mother held him closely, It was hard to understand,
That this baby not yet speaking, Was the Word of God to man.
He would tell them of His kingdom, But their hearts would not believe;
They would hate Him and in anger, They would nail Him to a tree.
But the sadness would be broken, As the song of life arose;
And the First born of creation, Would ascend and take his throne.
He had left it to redeem us, But before His life began,
He knew He'd come back not as a baby, But as The Lord of every man.
Hear the angels as they're singing, On the morning of His birth;
But how much greater will our song be, When He comes again to earth.
When He comes to rule the Earth!
— Robert John Kauflin
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org