The ‘only-ness’ of Jesus

…the only Son from the Father… (John 1:14)

Jesus (the Word) was with God in the beginning (John 1:1-2) and all things were created through him (John 1:3). Therefore we should not think of the ‘sonship’ of Jesus as coming about due to being born or created from the Father. The Son is a person distinct from the Father (Mark 1:11) but he is God and always has been.

Which all means that the phrase ‘only Son from the Father’ is not primarily saying that Jesus is born of the Father (as the KJV implies) but rather refers to the uniqueness of Jesus. He is the Son of God in that he is exactly like the Father in all his divine attributes. He is the ‘only Son’ in that he is unique, only Jesus is the Son of God, just as Isaac was the ‘only’ son of Abraham (Genesis 22:2) in the sense of being fully and uniquely the son of Abraham, born of Abraham’s wife, Sarah.

Jesus is the unique Son of God who knows all of his Father’s will, he is the only one who gives life (John 1:4), he is the only one who is the light (John 1:5), and he is the only one who can give the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Jesus is only way by which we can come to the Father (John 14:6) and he is the only one who makes known the Father’s will to us (John 15:15). Jesus is the only way we are reconciled to God (Romans 5:6-11) and the only source of the free gift of righteousness and justification for all (Romans 6:17-18).

There is only one Christ, and in Christ alone we have life and salvation. In a confused and darkened world, people do not like the idea of Jesus as the only way of salvation, as the only source of truth. But disliking or even hating the truth does not make it any less true. Jesus Christ is the only way, but he is the way for all.

Are you prepared to suspend your dislike of the exclusive claims of Jesus in order to consider the all-welcoming generosity of those same claims?

Where do you look for God’s glory?

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. (John 1:14)

The phrase ‘dwelt among us’ carries the idea of pitching a tent as a dwelling, in fact some translations express it as he ‘tabernacled’ among us (e.g., AmplifiedYoung’s). In choosing this wording John is giving us a connection, or comparison, with the tabernacle of God’s presence amongst Israel in the wilderness and Jesus dwelling in our midst. With the backdrop of this tent in the wilderness in mind, John writes of having seen the glory of the Son.

One manifestation of this glory was the overwhelming glory when the tabernacle was first set up (Exodus 40:34-35) which is seen in Jesus at the transfiguration (Luke 9:28-35). There are other instances of the glory of God being seen in Jesus, such as when he was baptized, when he calmed the storm, and when he raised Lazarus from the dead.

But John is not as concerned with the spectacular as we might be (note John 4:48 and John 6:26-29), he devotes large parts of his gospel to accounts of Jesus bringing light and life to those he meets (see John 4:5-42 and John 10:1-18). Most significantly, John devotes the last nine chapters (13–21) to the final day of Jesus’ life, the hour of Jesus’ departure (John 13:1) occupies over a third of John’s gospel.

Jesus loved his own to the end, and in this the glory of the only Son of God is revealed.

The Word became flesh

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (1 John 4:2)

If you find your mind filling with protestations, rationalizations and evidences against the belief that Jesus Christ was God incarnate, then be aware that these do not come from God and are attempting to deceive you. Even the very academic apostle Paul considered the incarnation of Christ to be a mystery, something true, but beyond our ability to understand (1 Timothy 3:16).

It is a common experience for us to ‘suspend disbelief‘ in order to enjoy a story, novel or a movie without constantly nitpicking over minor inconsistencies with reality as we know it. I invite you to do this regarding the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This is not faith, it is simply approaching the gospel with a willingness to at least hear the whole story before deciding whether to believe it or not.

While our minds may seek an explanation of how God could become a baby, born of a virgin, the New Testament writers simply state that he did and emphasize instead their amazement at what this means. Perhaps the best example of this is Philippians 2:5-11 in which Paul walks us through the significance of what Jesus did in his incarnation, with no explanation of the mechanics of how exactly it all worked. And so we come to John’s blunt statement:

The Word became flesh and dwelt amoung us (John 1:14)

It happened. Give John the consideration you would give your favourite author and read what he has to say. Maybe God will speak. Also remember that those disbelieving thoughts might be lies!

The hidden light

Pondering the curious situation in which Jesus, who is the “light of the world”, needs John the Baptist to go ahead of Him as a witness to the light.

Is it not strange that the one who is the light of the world, who dwells in unapproachable light, would need a witness to confirm who he is? Surely the light of men would shine so brightly as to be unmistakable?

John 1:5-12 begins by proclaiming the triumph of Jesus over darkness. But don’t jump to victory too quickly — where does the light shine? That’s right, the light shines in the darkness. When it is dark people don’t see very well and so God sent a witness to alert folks that the light was coming. He (the light) came to his own, but his own did not receive him. They either didn’t recognize who he was, or didn’t want him even if they did recognize him.

Here is tragedy, those who do not receive Jesus forfeit an astonishing gift — to become children of God. What is required is so simple:

to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
(John 1:12)

To all who believe in Jesus, he gives the right to become children of God. What is given is astonishing, and who it is given to is astonishing.

This blessing from God is given to those who are in darkness yet believe because a witness was sent from God to testify about the light. If the witness had not been sent (by God) then none would have believed and been given the right to inherit God’s kingdom. This is grace.


Photo of solar eclipse: Luc Viatour

The source of eternal life

The opening verses of John’s gospel are clearly alluding to the account of creation in Genesis 1. Compare John 1:1-5 with Genesis 1:1-4. As I have already commented, we see that in the beginning was Jesus who is God, he created, and there was darkness. In  Genesis 1:3 God creates light, in John 1:4 we are told that the life which is in Jesus is light.

This light which John refers to must be more than the light of Genesis 1:3 because Jesus is God, he is not created and John is saying that the light he is talking about is in Jesus in that it is of the life that is in Jesus — life that is uncreated. It follows therefore, that the light of Jesus is likewise uncreated, in other words, eternal.

Jesus refers to himself as being the light of the world (John 8:12). The life of Jesus is the light of men, and we also know from 1 John 5:11 that God has given us eternal life, which is in Jesus. It is consistent with John’s use of language to think of the ‘light of men’ as being the eternal life we receive from Jesus. In fact reading the entire prologue of John’s gospel (John 1:1-18) makes this quite clear.

2 Essential blogging tools

In my blogging I routinely use two tools which the experts seldom mention.

There is much discussion about the need to have quality content on a blog for it to attract people to read it, so where does that content come from? Short of simply repeating what others say (a.k.a. plagiarism) or using a wizard (why have a blog if you can’t write??), blog content comes out of your head, and unless you happen to have Dumbledore’s penseive you need a reliable way to get that stuff from your head to your blog.

My best ideas usually occur someplace other than where you can immediately do something about them. Therefore they need to be ‘captured’ – i.e., written down! I find that simply carrying a pocket notebook and pen with me results in the luxury of being able to choose which of my ideas to write about rather than struggling to remember what those ideas were.

For this capture process you need a small notebook and pen. Allow yourself permission to cross-out, scrawl messily, doodle and tear pages out – this will be a scruffy notebook because you cart it everywhere and are just scribbling down rough ideas.

The next step towards a blog post that does not resemble keyboard vomit is to take one of those ideas and work it into sentences and paragraphs (OK then, and lists, if you must). For this I also prefer to use pen and paper because it is quicker to access (no startup time), helps me see the flow of thought best and it is easier to concentrate on writing without gadgetry to distract me. Only once I’m happy with what I’ve written on paper do I type it into WordPress and add formatting, hyperlinks, images, headings, tags and category metadata (often I indicate on my paper version what formatting or tags are required).

Then comes editing to fix all the typos and etc. I know some folks don’t edit posts after publishing them, and it shows! Others care about the quality of their writing and take time to fix errors.

In summary, two essential tools for good blog writing are; a notebook and a pen. Any sort of  notebook or pen will do but in case you are weirdly interested, here’s what I’m currently using:

  1. Pen; Uni Lacnok – I like these as they are cheap and don’t clog so write reliably.
  2. Capture notebook; Moleskine pocket cahier journal, small and inconspicuous but nice to write in.
  3. Writing notebook; my old Moleskine 2008/2009 weekly diary/notebook, still has unused pages so I’m filling it up.

Overflowing, extravagant, glorious Life

Okarito beach

Our experiences as individuals make us sensitive to different aspects of who Jesus Christ is. For me, with fifteen years of working in biochemistry labs behind me, the statement, “In him was life” (John 1:4) hits me with an explosion of glory and wonder. I have painstakingly pulled apart cells and molecules searching out the mechanisms which sustain life, but life itself remains elusive.

In him was life

Jesus is not only a means or channel of life, it is in him, life does not exist apart from Christ. Life is in the Word and therefore there is life in his creation (John 5:26).

This was imprinted on my memory one day when I stood on Okarito beach in Westland National Park where, from the sea behind me, the stones under my feet, the seaweed on the beach, the grassy dunes, the scrub beyond and then the lush, vibrant rainforest cloaking every hill and mountain right up to the snow came a grand testimony to God’s love of life and living things. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), we should be very glad the life that is in the Word is indestructible (Hebrews 7:16) because the life inherent in Jesus Christ is our hope.

Cool free stuff!

Check out the amazing free stuff being given away at John 10:28!

We all like to get free stuff, especially if it is stuff we actually want rather than yet another set of steak knives or a free Big Mac after you’ve eaten your tenth one. Have you ever considered all the free stuff that God gives us? The air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, the clothes you wear …

Hey! You protest, I pay good money for my food, clothes, and in some cases, water. OK, granted. Where do you get the money? Did you work for it? Who enabled you to work? (See Deuteronomy 8:17-18.)

In fact, the air you breathe is from God, so to is the ability to draw your next breath (James 4:14-15).

If you actively look for them, there are loads of things that God gives us. While I walk my dogs I collect pine cones to use as firestarters, all free (and I’m puzzled that so few other folks bother to pick them up!). I get immense pleasure from looking at the view across the Otago harbour on a fine day. I enjoy being able to walk, just what for most of us is a normal thing — that’s free, from God! Sleep — also very good, also from God (Proverbs 3:24).

God gives us so much, even the very life which enables us to enjoy His blessings. Yet, by virtue of this life given by God, we become anxious and possessive of what we have or need or want. Jesus knows we get anxious but warns against it (Matthew 6:25-34). Instead, with modest material means yet having the limitless treasure of eternal life (Romans 6:23), we are sent into the world to share what we have received:

Freely you have received, freely give
(Matthew 10:8, NIV)

Jesus Christ is our creator

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:3

You will notice about the apostle John that he often uses quite circular language, making a statement and then restating the same idea with a different nuance. I rather like his style of writing (it really annoys others) because what it often achieves is to differentiate what he is saying from what he is not saying.

In the verse I’m considering here he is making it clear that the Word (Jesus) is the means by which all that exists has been created, but he is not himself created. The Word was in the beginning, he is God, he is not himself a created being (John 1:1-3).

So our perception of Jesus must include knowing him as Creator of all things. To bring it even  closer, he created you, and me. It is through Jesus Christ that you exist — to use a circular argument myself, it is impossible for Jesus not to exist because you exist and all things that exist only do so through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 8:6). Our continued existence reassures us that Jesus is God. (I know that argument won’t wash with an atheist because it requires trusting that the Bible is the revealed word of God.)

Not only were all things created by Jesus, they were all created for him (Colossians 1:16). In Johannine style, all that is made was made for him. This also takes some getting you head around, all that exists (or has existed) was made for Jesus, even Hitler, even Satan. (Chew on that, but please don’t choke on it — don’t destroy your trust in the goodness of God ( Mark 10:18) for the sake of an intellectual idea.)

Finally, Jesus created all and he will inherit all things  (Hebrews 1:2). In this we also know that all things are his to do with as he wills, he has been appointed Judge (Acts 17:31) and he judges in justice and truth (Revelation 16:7). The positive and glorious aspect of Jesus inheriting all things is that he inherits the Church, all the saints, as his bride — this indeed is a profound mystery!  (Ephesians 1:18, 5:32).

In Christ alone

To read In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson is like reading an exceptionally well written blog. Each chapter is discrete and self-contained, while all holding to the theme of living in Christ. This is not a narrative or treatise on Christ but rather, as the author describes in his preface, a tapestry in which descriptions and insights from life and Scripture reveal the person of Christ through lives lived in Him. Coming from many different angles, the articles build up an image of the life lived in biblical faith in Jesus Christ.

There is a progression in the book from the incarnation of Jesus, on to our apprehension of Him by faith, the work and person of the Holy Spirit, our transformation wrought by the Spirit of Christ, through to persevering in faith in Christ. However, it would be a mistake to read more than one chapter in a sitting, not because it wouldn’t fit together, but because the ten or fifteen minutes it takes to read a chapter is far too short to digest the meal it is for our souls. This is a book to pick up frequently for a short read before giving yourself time to ponder what you have learned, or been reminded of.

The humanity of Sinclair Ferguson is refreshingly revealed in this collection of articles, but as he writes himself, “Yes, our understanding is creaturely and limited; yet, even finite knowledge of the true God is still true knowledge.” What we get from In Christ Alone is a handrail to guide us in our creaturely and limited steps into the knowledge of Christ.

I thoroughly recommend this book to all Christians. I also recommend reading it several times, and slowly.


Update:

Daniel Wilson posted this today (31 May 2010) referring to the book In Christ Alone on the topic of seeking transformation.