The Word Made Flesh
December 24th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM
THE WORD MADE FLESH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-24-61 7:30 p.m.
In our Bibles we turn to the Gospel of John and read together the first fourteen verses; John chapter 1, verses 1 through 14. The sermon tonight is the third of a trilogy. At eight-fifteen o’clock, the sermon was delivered from Isaiah, as the prophet looked and saw in the distant unfolding years the coming of the Lord Messiah. The sermon at ten-fifty o’clock was the fulfillment of those incomparably glorious prophecies of Isaiah, "Behold, behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel" [Isaiah 7:14]. And the sermon at noon was a physician’s description of the virgin birth of our Lord [Luke 1:26-35, 2:1-16]. Now the third of the series in the birth of our Lord is its result: what it means to us for our Savior to be born into the world. The text is John 1:14 and the reading of the passage is from the first verse to the fourteenth. Now sharing our Bibles with neighbors and friends, let us all of us read it together:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him: and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.
He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word was made 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.
And then may I read the following verse, 17:
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.
And the title of the sermon, The Word Made Flesh.
Not only we, but all of the generations before us, have wanted to see God. The first questions that children ask will concern God: Where is He? And what is He like? Where does He live? What does He look like? Questions you can’t answer, questions we’d like to ask. What is God like?
In the ancient day so long ago, in the story recounted in the thirty-third chapter of Exodus, Moses, the man who talked to God face to face [Exodus 33:11], Moses asked that he might see God [Exodus 33:18]. And the Lord said, "Moses, in the cleft of this great rock I will place you, and cover you with My hand; and I will have My grace and My goodness and My glory pass by, and after I have passed by I will take away My hand that you may see the glory that is passed," like the sun that is set; "but My face", said God, "no man can see" [Exodus 33:19-23]. And that gave rise to the biblical axiom that "No man could see the face of God, and live" [Exodus 33:20]. So God took Moses in the cleft of the rock, that shadows a dry, weary land, and He covered him there, with His grace and with His love, and sheltered him there with His hand.
Wanting to see what God is like; that is the same question that Philip asked of our Lord in this Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 8: "Lord, he said to Jesus, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. If we could just see God" [John 14:8]. And the Lord replied, "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father [John 14:9] . . . . For the Word was made flesh, and the Word was God [John 1:1]; and of His grace have all of us seen, and glory for glory" [John 1:14].
Now, what is God like? We read in the Book and find the whole revelation and the whole experiential presentation of the Lord God in our Savior. What is He like? All right, first God in heaven, Almighty, the Sovereign of the universe, who reigns above all of His creation, God when He came among men was in the form and in the fashion of a little baby [Matthew 1:23; Philippians 2:6-8]. These things stagger the imagination. But oh, how they contain answers that are full and rich, and all sufficient to those who look with skepticism and sometimes with ridicule upon the manifestation and the revelation of God. May I illustrate?
I one time remember when a cynic and a critic decimated me with this observation: "Do you think in the vast infinitude of this creation, in which infinitude our solar system is but a tiny infinitesimal part, and in this grand solar system, this planet earth is one of the smallest and most insignificant of the orbs that circle the sun, do you think," this cynic said to me, "do you think that the great Lord God of heaven would stop His great sovereignty, and taking care of His vast universe, to pay any attention to this little inconsequential planet, stuck away in one part of His creation, much less that He would come down to assume the form of a man and live in it? Do you think that?"
Well, I’m, I am honest to reply that he decimated me; he laid me low. I didn’t know what to say. For you see, I had the idea, as a youth, that for a thing to be important, and for it to be vital, and for it to be pertinent, and for it to be loved, and for it to be possessed, and for it to be effective and impressive, that it had to be big. Seemingly most of the world is impressed with a thing if it’s big. But if it’s not big, it’s not impressive. So for God to care for this universe, it has to be big; and for God to love this world, it had to have size! When he said to me, "Do you think God who created this universe would care for an inconsequential speck like this earth?" I didn’t have any answer. Ah, but man have I learned answers since.
First, bigness is always relative. There is as big, and there is as complex, and there is as intricate a world down there in that microcosm, the world of the atom, as this world of the microcosm above us! And the genius of God is found in that little as much as it is found in that big! And another thing: if you were to take all the space out of all of the atoms of the sun, you might be able to hold the ball in your hand.
And another thing I came to know about bigness and about God’s care for this universe and God’s care for this tiny planet, another I learned: suppose, suppose you were a wealthy man, and suppose you had a mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City. And suppose upon a day, going to the office, the New York Stock Exchange, trading in millions and millions of securities, suppose that morning you bid your wife good-day, and you kissed the baby goodbye, and as your custom was, made your way where big business is trading in enormously valuable securities, and then while you were there, there’s an emergency call for you, and you go to the telephone, and the man at the other end of the line says, "Sir, your rich, beautiful, gorgeous mansion on Fifth Avenue is burning down!" Well, just imagine.
And you say excitedly on the telephone, "Oh, my house is aflame, and my mansion is burning down! What of my silverware? Is it safe? Or what of my marvelous paintings, have they been rescued?" Or would you say, "What of my wonderful draperies, and what of all of the beautiful furniture in my mansion?" Would you? Or maybe would the first thing you’d say, "Is my little baby safe?"
Well, it all depends upon whether you have a heart or not, that’s all. If your mind is on bigness, wealth, riches, security, gold and silver, and the big mansion, of course, when the thing’s on fire, you’d ask first about the gold, and the silver, and the tapestries, and the paintings, and the house. But if you had a heart in you, you’d ask first about the babe. And God has a heart.
Out of all of His great universe, out of all of His planets, out of all of the creativeness wrought by His mighty hand [Genesis 1:1-25], the heart of God is with His people, with us, created in His image [Genesis 1:26-27], to think His thoughts, to say His words, to speak to Him in prayer, to live His life, to long and to yearn to see His face. That is God. So when He came down, He came in the form of a baby [Matthew 1:23; Luke 2:11-16]. That is God. And all of the world loves a baby.
One of the happy privileges of being pastor of the church is a thing like this: just before I came over to the baptismal service, one of our young couples brought over to my study a little newborn baby girl that God had placed in their arms. Why it’s a great occasion; a cause of joy and gladness in the home. God hath blessed them with a precious child.
And when Pharaoh’s daughter opened the little ark and saw the little baby, behold the child wept and her heart was moved in compassion to love the child and to keep it in her own home to be hers forever [Exodus 2:5-10]. These great stories in literature, so many of them concern a baby. You who’ve been in school have read Bret Harte’s famous story, one of the greatest of all time, entitled "The Luck of Roaring Camp." It’s the story of a baby placed in the arms of those rough men in the gold rush of California, as they loved and reared that little child; the story of a baby!
I read one time of the big, rough, woodsmen in the northwestern part of Canada. Upon a time their wives came to see them after they had cleared the wilderness and after they had built log cabins for homes, and in celebration of the occasion, they had a band to come, and all of them gathered together with their wives. And it happened to be that one of the wives had a little baby. And when the band started to play, the startled child began to cry. And a big, rough, woodsman stood up and said, "Shut up the band, I haven’t heard a baby cry in months and months! Close up the band, and let’s listen to the baby cry." And they shut down the music to listen to the baby cry. Ah, that’s the world. That’s the world.
Any of you read Sholem Asch’s great novel called The Apostle? It closes with one of the most dramatic scenes that mind could imagine; and it’s the story of a baby. In the great Coliseum, the vast bloodthirsty throngs and multitudes of Rome are looking down where the Christians are being fed to the wild beasts. The congregation has been huddled together and thrown there in the middle of the amphitheatre. There is one man especially, when the others have all been destroyed by those ferocious beasts, there’s one man who valiantly and courageously and to the last drop of his blood fights off a vicious, and ferocious, and ravenous wolf. And the bloodthirsty throngs stand looking at the bravery of that man as he wards off the fangs, the terror of that attacking wolf! When finally the man himself is torn to pieces, the crowd in amazement looks: the man had been sheltering in his arms a little baby. No wonder they shocked the world, and changed it, subverted an empire – the power of the affection of God, placed in the human soul for a child. He was born a baby, "the Word was made flesh" [John 1:14], born in a manger [Luke 2:7, 16].
That is our second observation of God: poor, born poor. What an astonishing thing is that! Like the first amazing thing; that He be born as a baby; that He be born in poverty and in need and in want; born poor. I would have been like the magi who came from the East: "Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star, and have come to worship Him" [Matthew 2:1-2]. And where did they ask? They made a straight path to the palace of Herod. Naturally, He would be born in a palace of a king! And there did the magi make their way, and there did they ask [Matthew 2:2-3]. When the old prophets pointed out the town of David, they made their way to Bethlehem, and the star stood over a manger scene [Matthew 2:9-11].
Born poor, that’s at the wisdom of God; for most of this world is poor, and most of this world will always be poor. And that’s the wisdom of God: for anybody could approach a stable, and anybody could feel welcome at a manger. Had He been born in a palace with its guard, had He been born in a palace in its seclusion, had He been born in a palace, all of us might have been hesitant to come, to ask, to kneel down, to seek; but born in a stable and born in a manger, anybody could come, anybody would feel welcome, anybody, the poorest of God’s children, bow down, kneel and worship the Word made flesh, born poor in a stable, in a manger.
Another thing about Him: the Word made flesh, born in trial, born in temptation, born in agony and in tears, born in conflict.
Verily He took not upon Him the nature of angels; but He took upon Him the seed of Abraham. In all things it behooved Him to be tried like His brethren, that He might be a faithful High Priest in our behalf unto God. For in that He Himself hath suffered, being tried, He is also able to succor them who are tried.
For we have not an High Priest that cannot be moved with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried like as we are, though without sin. Wherefore, let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we might find grace to help in time of trouble.
To the man who doesn’t need help, of course, there’s nothing in Jesus. To one who’s never been tried, there’s no message in Jesus. To one who’s never wept and never cried and never bowed in sorrow, there’s no word of comfort in Jesus. But to those who know tears, and who know trials, and who know disappointments, and the weariness of this world, to them there is in Christ a marvelous, incomparably precious revelation of God.
I am sent each month the "Bible Society Record," a publication of the American Bible Society. Looking through its pages, as I usually do, I found this little thing that happened in Japan. There was a missionary who walked through the snow to a little village high up in the mountains of Honshu and there conducted a service for about half a dozen Christian people. And in the group was a radiant faced Japanese woman named Mrs. Matsuyama and after the service was over, the missionary, walking back through the cold and the snow with a fellow villager, asked about that radiant faced Japanese woman. And the man replied, she has been a woman of trial and of suffering; the World War II left deep ravages in her family and finally in the death of her husband. In the days of her agony and her trial, there came to her a ragged little Japanese girl who had picked up out of the gutter of the city street a soiled little book. And the ragged little urchin said, "I have read it, and it tells of a Helper to the helpless." And the woman received it from the little girl and read it. It was one of the American Bible Society’s little pamphlets at Christmas time, the Gospel of Luke. And as she read it, she found the Lord as her Savior. And looking for other Christians, finding none, she went to another village and to another one, and found a minister of Christ who baptized her; and then in her witness, in her own town, had gathered together about six others who received Jesus, along with her own faith and commitment to the Lord. And it was that little half dozen Christians that the missionary had walked through the snow to preach to, who had been won to Christ by that radiant faced Japanese woman. A help for the helpless; that is God in the flesh [Matthew 1:23; John 1:14].
If you’re sufficient, you don’t need Him. If you’ve got all the answers, you don’t need Him. If there are no trials that overwhelm you, you don’t need Him. If you’re able for all of the future, you don’t need Him. When death comes and eternity comes and the judgment comes, if you can be your own advocate, your own pleader, and your own lawyer, and you can see yourself through, you don’t need Him. But if we’re insufficient for the things of life and the things of death and the things for the world to come, then Jesus is the answer to our hearts; "the Word made flesh, tried in all points like as we are; wherefore come boldly to find help and grace in time of need" [Hebrews 4:15-16].
And the last thing: first, born a baby – the word made flesh [Matthew 1:23; John 1:14]; second, born poor – anybody can come and worship, kneel at a manger [Luke 2:7-15]; third born to trial, to tears – "tried in all points like as we are" [Hebrews 4:15]; and then last, and gloriously, born a King, born to reign [Matthew 2:1-2]. Out of the trial of His life, our words of blessed encouragement; out of His cross, the forgiveness of our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]; out of His resurrection, the firstfruits of them that sleep [1 Corinthians 15:20], the hope and promise of our own life beyond the grave [Titus 2:13-14]; and in these sermons in the Revelation, born to come again to reign in the earth [Revelation 11:15].
Here is one of the prettiest poems I have ever read; it is entitled "There’s a Song in the Air." I don’t know whether it’s been placed to music or not, but it’s beautiful enough for somebody to write a melody, so effective and so true is this lyric. Listen to it:
There’s a song in the air! There’s a star in the sky!
There’s a mother’s deep prayer, and a baby’s low cry!
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
There’s a tumult of joy o’er the wonderful birth,
For the virgin’s sweet Boy is the Lord of the earth.
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
["There’s a Song in the Air," Josiah G. Holland (1819-1881)]
Born to reign; born to set up in this earth a glorious and millennial kingdom; born to the love and the reverence and devotion of His people in the earth; born in the love and glory of the angels of heaven; and someday, they and we, and we and they, shall live in His presence, shall look upon His face [Revelation 22:3-5], shall say, "Our Lord and our God" [John 20:28]. The only God we shall ever see is the God Jesus our Christ. The only God in whose presence we shall ever live is the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. "For the Word, for God, was made flesh, (and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of God,) full of grace and truth" [John 1:14], O Lord, our Immanuel, God with us [Matthew 1:23].
And while we sing this song of appeal, somebody you tonight, to trust Jesus as Savior, put your life in His hand, your destiny in His keeping. Somebody you, trusting Him as Lord, as Keeper, the answer to prayer, the Savior of our souls, somebody you, come tonight. Or a family you, put your life in the fellowship of the church. While we sing the song, while we make appeal, this Christmas Eve, as God’s Spirit shall bear the appeal to your heart, make it tonight. Answer tonight. On the first note of the first stanza, "Here I come, and here I am. Pastor, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God." As the Spirit shall lead, shall say the word; make it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE WORD MADE FLESH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The deep desire to see God
B. What is God like?(John 14:8-9, Exodus 33:18, 20-23, 1 Peter 1:12)
II. Born a baby
A. Once the cynic frightened me – God visit this speck of a planet?
1. Size is relative
2. God’s care for this universe and this tiny planet
a. Richest man on Wall Street gets a call his house is on fire
B. All the world loves a baby
1. Rough frontiersman – "Stop the musicâ€¦let’s hear the baby cry"
2. Bret Harte’s The Luck of Roaring Camp
3. Amram and Jochebed(Exodus 2:1-10)
4. Sholem Asch’s The Apostle
III. Born poor
A. Would think the opposite
1. Wise men inquired at Herod’s palace(Matthew 2:1-2)
B. The wisdom of God – practically all humanity is poor
1. Anyone would feel welcome at a stable
IV. Born to suffer
A. There are no trials and no sufferings He did not Himself share and bear(Hebrews 2:16-18, 4:15-16)
B. Jesus, the Helper of the helpless
1. Japanese woman in Honshu
V. Born to reign
A. Hymn, "There’s a Song in the Air"
B. Born to set up in this earth a glorious kingdom