THE WORD MADE FLESH
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2-2-64 7:30 p.m.
On the radio as here in this great auditorium of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, you are invited to read with us the Word of God, the Gospel of John, the first 14 verses, John the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, the first 14 verses. Many of you could quote it without following the text in the Bible, a passage we have learned since the days of childhood. Let us all read it out loud together, the Gospel of John, the first 14 verses, all of us 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.
These evening sermons are dedicated to the life of Christ. We are preaching through the life of our Lord. And the sermon tonight with the blessing and help of God seeks to delineate John’s written purposes for the incarnation. John writes in his gospel, in his epistles, and in his Revelation, John writes the purposes of God in the incarnation, in The Word Made Flesh.
The one of the mightiest and most significant and meaningful of all of the verses in the entire Word of God is the fourteenth verse, the one that concluded the passage we have just now read. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." It is a stupendous statement. It is an unbelievable thing. It is beyond imagination that God – he said, "the Word was God," – that God should be made flesh, should become a man subject to all of the ills, and sorrows and trials and despairs and disasters. He shared them all, to which we are subject. That God – you cannot conceive of it, it is beyond comprehension – that God should become flesh, a man. There must be, likewise, some amazing and astonishing and stupendous reason why God should do such a thing as is avowed of Him here in the fourteenth verse of this first chapter of the Gospel of John.
Now the sermon tonight is the purposes that John writes for the incarnation of Jesus Christ, why God should have become a man suffering as we do, dying as we do, why did God do that?
All right, first: in the eighteenth verse is his first written reason. "No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, – He is now up there in heaven in the bosom of the Father, the only begotten Son who is there in glory – He hath declared Him." When Christ, the Prince of heaven, came down into this earth and became a man, became flesh, John writes the first reason for His coming, that we might know and see God. "No man hath seen God at any time." All of those apparitions and epiphanies in the Old Testament were the ephemera of God, the periphery of God, the accompaniments of God, the twilight of the radiance of God.
It is like this when God answered Moses request, "Let me see You," said Moses. I have spoken with You forty days and forty nights, and I have heard Your voice, and I have written down Your words, ah, that I might see Thee in all Thy glory. And the Lord took Moses and hid him in the cleft of the rock and covered him there with His hand, and after the glory of God passed by, then the Lord withdrew His hand, and Moses saw the twilight, the afterglow of the glory of God. But no man, said the Lord to Moses, no man shall see My face and live. [Exodus 33:18-23] No man hath seen God at any time.
That we might know Him and that God might be revealed unto us, Jesus came into the world, the Word made flesh. I think this request that Phillip made of the Lord in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, when the Lord said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." And Jesus said to him, "If you had known me, ye had known my Father and from henceforth you know Him and you have seen Him."
And Phillip said to Him, "Lord, I have never seen the Father. I have never seen the Father. Show us the Father and sufficeth us." I suspect what Phillip was referring to. He was referring to the request of Moses when Moses said, "Let me look upon your face, let me see your glory." He was asking for the same thing that Isaiah saw in his great vision, the Lord high and lifted up and His train covering the earth. He was asking for a vision like Ezekiel, when Ezekiel saw the cherubim filled with the Spirit of God and all of their glory. Phillip meant that I think, "Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us." And the answer of Jesus is so meaningful, "Phillip, Phillip, have I been thus long time with you and yet you don’t know Me? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." [John 14:7-9]
Would you want to know what God is like? This is what God is like; Jesus. Would you know what God thinks? This is what He thinks, listen to the words of Jesus. Would you know what God responds to, what God likes, what God blesses, what appeals to God, what moves His heart? Would you know God? Look at Jesus. He came to us that we might know our great Father Almighty, Jehovah in heaven. He came to reveal the Father.
The Book of Hebrews begins, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake it times past to our fathers by the prophets, Hath, in these last days spoken unto us by His Son who is the express image of his person. By whom he made the worlds." The vision of God in the Old Testament was fragmentary. There would be the Lord speaking out of the burning bush saying, "My name is I AM." There would be the Lord in the shekinah of glory of a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. There would be the glory of the Lord above the altar in the new and dedicated temple, but it was only fragmentary.
In the new covenant and in the New Testament, we see the fullness of the glory and person and majesty of God in the flesh, in Jesus our Savior.
First he came incarnate, became a man that He might reveal to us God.
Second; John writes in that same first chapter quoting John the Baptist, next day John seeth Jesus coming unto Him and said, "Behold, behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." [John 1:29] And in the first epistle of John the disciple echoes that great introduction of the Baptist preacher, and you know that He was manifested to take away our sins. The second reason John says for the incarnation of the Son of God, that He might take away our sin.
John the Baptist was a man who was born to say one sentence, one sentence. He was the forerunner who went before his days to introduce the Son of God to the world. Born to say one sentence, what did he say in that one sentence? Did he say, "Behold, the man that can raise the dead?" Did he say, "Behold, a man that can feed the multitudes. Behold, the man who can walk on the waters. Behold, the man who can heal the sick. Behold, the man who can still, who can still the fiery tempest in their waves and in their fury." What did he say? Born to say one sentence; "Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world."
Jesus was introduced to take away, to destroy, to eradicate, the cause and the root of the destruction and want and waste and sorrow Satan has brought into this world; to take away the cause of it, the reason for it, the root of it. You take away a gun from a murderer, and he’s still a murderer. You take away the bottle from a drunkard, and he’s still a drunkard. You take away the needle from a dope addict, and he’s still a dope addict. You take away the harlot from a paramour, but she’s still a harlot. The coming of the Lord Jesus into this world was to take away our sin, to eradicate it, to destroy it.
Well, Lord, why in the flesh? Why couldn’t you do it by fiat from heaven? Why can’t God forgive sinful people just by saying a word from heaven? Why didn’t He do it that way? For two reasons, one: God refuses to come to terms with sin. Never any compromise between almighty God and our sin, never, never. And the Lord refuses just to yield the temples on our face. The Lord has addressed Himself to eradicate the bloodstream in our hearts.
And that involves the second reason; because there is in the moral character of God that leak of judgment wherever sin is present. If there is Sin, there is death. If there is unrighteousness, there is suffering. The soul that sins shall die and in that process of destroying sin there has to be judgment and penalty. And the judgment and the penalty of God upon sin is found in the atonement of Jesus Christ. There is something in the heart of God that cannot remove sin by fiat, by sentence, by word. Sin is judged, and sin is removed by blood. On the altar, "I have given to you this blood of the atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul." [Leviticus 17:11] And the Lord Jesus came down into this world to assume flesh and bone and body that He might give His life a ransom and atonement, a blood expiation for our sins.
"Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." The first reason for the incarnation, that He might reveal to us the Father. The second reason, that He might take away our sin.
Now the third reason that John writes for the incarnation of the Son of God, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." [1 John 3:8] First, that He might take sin out of our souls, the cause of our misery, now the third reason, that He might destroy the works of the devil. "For this cause was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." The devil has seized on God’s creation, and here he has built his dominion and his kingdom and his empire, Satan has done this here in the earth, and among men.
The completeness, the immeasurable hold that Satan has upon this world is almost impossible to conceive. It enters into every faculty of every man. It enters into every emotion that he feels. It enters into every action that he does. This lack, this unrighteousness, this sin, this short coming, and the works of the devil are manifest everywhere. There is never a newspaper that does not headline them. There is never a history book that does not record them. And there’s never a personal experience that does not war against it; the works of the devil.
He is a murderer from the beginning, a murderer, a murderer. He slays, and kills, and destroys. He destroys a man’s spiritual life, and alienates him from God. He destroys a man’s mental life until there is no place in a man’s mind for the vision of God, and it recedes and recedes and becomes dimmer and dimmer until finally we almost lose it altogether. And he destroys a man’s physical life, finally, finally, finally, finally, falling into the dust of the ground.
Our week has just begun, this is the first day. In the morning at 10:30 o’clock I have a funeral service. The next day at 11:00 o’clock I have a funeral service. And as the week shall wear on, sometimes we shall have five and six funerals in a week, in a week, in a week. This is the work of the devil. The destruction of a man in his mind, in his soul, and in his physical train; he’s a murderer from the beginning, the works of the devil.
He is a liar from the beginning. He is a liar and the father of it. In the third chapter of the Book of Genesis after God had made the man and the woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden, and the Lord interdicted, "The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, all the rest you may freely eat of, but not of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I reserved that for Myself," just that one interdiction. And Satan came and said, "Yea, hath God said?" [Genesis 3:1] That question mark, I would wonder if that question mark took its frame, took its course, took its outline from the sinuous, crooked, devious, psychotic ways of the devil. "Yea, hath God said?" putting a question mark after the Word of God, and the outright denial and lie, "Ye shall not surely die."
Oh, oh, oh, he’s a liar from the beginning. He changes the sign posts on the road to the cities of refuge. I can so vividly imagine a man hastening, running, panting, reaching out for the very life of him, to a city of refuge, there his hope, salvation, and life, and forgiveness in the city of refuge. And this man is running with all the strength of his life to the city of refuge, and somebody changes the sign and at the forks in the road where "the city of refuge and life lies here", he changes the sign and the man is guided here to death and to destruction, that’s Satan. He’s a liar from the beginning. That’s Satan.
He is the supreme sinner. Every time God sows the word, he over sows it with tares. Wherever God labors, there does Satan destroy. One of the most poignant of all of the visions in the Word of God is the concluding one in the fourteenth chapter of the Revelation when the great judge of all the earth puts in the sickle to reap the harvest of the earth and the grapes are cast into the wine vat and when they are trod, blood comes out! Blood goes out! Oh what a vivid picture of humanity when God judges us, and when the earth is doddered and reaped, blood pours out, blood pours out. That’s Satan. That’s the work of Satan.
He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. Phaneroo, He was manifested, by that John is saying, He was in heaven, He was pre-existent and He came down here into this world in the form of a man that He might grapple with Satan. He was manifested that He might destroy, and that word destroy is a different kind of a word, luo, luo, here’s luo, "by the latchet of His shoes, said John the Baptist of the Lord Jesus, the latchet of His shoes, I am not worthy to luo, I am not worthy to luo," here is that word luo, the Lord says, "You luo this temple and in three days, I’ll build it up." [Mark 1:7; 15:29]
Here’s that word luo, I take that two instances here in the Acts of the apostles, and when the congregation was luo, look it up, separated, went all their separate ways. Here’s another one, the twenty seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, the ship that Paul was sailing on to Rome, it ran into the bank there in the little Isle of Malta, and behind the part where it was broken with the violence of the wind, there’s luo, and behind the part was luo, with the broken – with the violence of the waves, broken up. Now, that is the word John uses here, the Son of God was manifested that He might break up the works of the devil, that He might break it up! Satan has a prison house, the Son of Man came to break it up! Satan has a dominion of death, the Son of Man came to break it up! Satan has a program of damnation, the Son of Man came to break it up. We’re helpless before him! Even Michael the archangel dare not rebuke him, but said, "The Lord condemn you." And the Son of Man came that He might break up the works of the devil.
Now John writes one other reason why the incarnation, the coming of the Son of God. One, that He might reveal the Father. Two, that He might take away the sin of the world. Three, that He might break up the works of the devil. Last, that we might have an ultimate and a final victory. In the twelfth chapter of the Revelation,
There was war in heaven. There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels, the archangel and his angels, fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not; neither was there found any place for them anymore in heaven.
And that great dragon, the old serpent, the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth! Woe unto the earth for the devil is come down unto you having great wrath knowing he hath but a short while. And they overcame him. And they overcame him.
"I heard a voice from heaven, saying, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ," [Revelation 12:10] and they overcame him! How, how? By the ingenuity of their philosophy? By the shrewd reasoning of their metaphysics? By all of their achievement in science and in space? "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by their commitment to Jesus, their testimony, and the loved not their lives unto death." [Revelation 12:11] To bring to us an ultimate and final victory, "they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their commitment" that we might achieve an ultimate victory, pleading the blood of the crucified One.
We had a prayer meeting here last, I wasn’t here the last New Year’s evening, some time ago, I can’t remember the purpose of that prayer meeting, but we had a prayer meeting and there was a dear sainted missionary named Rosalie Mills Appleby that got down on her knees and on her face there in that aisle, we were so crowded here around this altar that she knelt in the aisle back there and started to pray, and started to pray. And I’m not the only one, time and again have I heard others say when that woman started pouring out her heart to God, it seemed the very spirit of Jesus came down. And you know how she began her prayer and throughout her prayer, she pled the blood of Jesus. "Lord, not in our righteousness, but in the atonement of Christ we come, Lord, pleading the righteousness of Jesus, pleading His blood covering for our sins, oh, Lord, bow down thine ear to hear, accept thy servants." That’s the way to pray. That’s the way to live, in the expiation, and the atonement, and the forgiveness, and the grace, and the power of the Son of God. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony."
Then of course you have that final and triumphant coming of our Lord.
I saw heaven opened, and a great, great vision, a white horse, and He that sat upon him, Faithful and True.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, on His head were many crowns; He was dressed in a vesture dipped with blood.
And His name is called The Word of God.
And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
And with His mouth shall He smite the evil below and He rule the nations with a rod of iron.
[Revelation 19:11-13, 15, 16]
"And His name is called The Word of God." "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us," [John 1:14] that we might have an ultimate and a final victory.
Oh, bless the message to our comfort and assurance, to our strength, and faith, and trust, and commitment to the Lord Jesus.
While we sing this hymn of appeal, somebody you, give your heart to the Lord. Come into the fellowship of His church. A family you, a youth, a child, one somebody you, as the Spirit of God shall make the way, shall lead, shall speak the word, come and stand by me, while we stand and sing our hymn of appeal.
I. To be one of us (Hebrews 2:14-18,
A. The gathering on the
plain of judgment
B. The suffering of
II. To reveal the Father (John 1:18)
A. The heart-cry of all
humanity (Job 23:3, John 14:8)
B. The revelation in
the Old Testament is only partial
C. The full revelation
III. To take away sin (John 1:29)
A. Our sorrow and death
more deeply felt in heaven
B. To address Himself
to the root and cause of our damnation
IV. To destroy the works of the devil (1
A. Satan has universal
power in this world
B. A murderer and liar
from the beginning (John 8:44, Genesis 3:1, 4)
V. To make possible the final victory
(Revelation 12:7-9, 11)
A. He bore the sins of
B. Ultimate and final