14 And the Word became 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.
Now we come to a climatic and pivotal verse that shows the eternal Word taking on human form. We move from the eternity of the Word to time. In one short, pithy statement, the apostle John revealed the incarnation of Christ (the assumption of human nature). The crucifixion is the climax of His humanity.
The major point of verses 14-18 is to identify the glory of the Word clearly with Jesus. John 1:14 equates the Word with Jesus for the first time in the gospel.
The claims of verses 14-18 were a shock to both Jews and Gentiles. The idea that the Word became human seemed incompatible to both groups.
14 And the Word
This is the last use of the word “Word” in John’s gospel. The Word was the Son of God who came from eternity to become human. The Holy Spirit brings the prologue to a climax by the assertion that the eternal Word became a man. He could identify with us by being married to our nature.
The word “became” is important here because it means to become something that the Word was not before. What the Word was not before was “flesh,” or physical. By becoming flesh He assumed full human nature. He was not human in His eternal state. The tense of the verb indicates the incarnation took place at a definite point of time (aorist indicative).
The Word did not cease to be what He was before; He became what He was not before—a human being. The Word took upon Himself true humanity. He was not two persons but one. He did not have two egos. The same Person who existed from eternity took on a human body.
“Flesh” in this context means human nature, not sinful flesh. The idea includes more than a human body but also a human person. John used the term “flesh” to confront those in his day who denied that Jesus had a real body (Docetism). This heresy believed that Jesus only appeared to be physical. God to them could not have real contact with men.
It is important to note that Jesus took on human nature but not its sinfulness. This was because He was born of a virgin and did not receive a sin nature at birth.
The Bible never confounds the two natures of Christ.
In this pithy statement, John unveiled the incarnate Word when He assumed human nature. God does not come into being; He always exists fully in what He is. The deity and humanity in the Bible are never fused. In one sense we can never fully understand this, but on the other hand it is clear that the Bible presents both the deity and humanity of Christ.
Both natures of Christ exist in one person; they are not divided into two persons but reside in the “only begotten Son.” When we meet Jesus, we also meet the Son. Jesus does not have two natures or opposing modes of being.
Since the Bible never confuses the deity and humanity of Christ, it keeps His two natures separate. He is one person with two natures, but the natures are never confounded. The council of Chalcedon in AD 451 resolved the issue and said that Christ was “not parted or divided into two persons but one and the same Son…” The eternal Son took on an additional human nature to His eternal nature so that He could die for our sins with His human nature.
Since Christ’s deity and humanity are never confounded in Scripture, one nature does not undermine the other, for they are distinct. Christ never laid aside His deity. He never stopped being God. God is not temporal; at no time can He stop being God.
When the Word became flesh, He did not alter His deity. He did not cease to be what He was before but, rather, His humanity is an addition to His person. He became what He was not before—human (1 Ti 3:16).
The Word was not “changed into” humanity as if He ceased to be God. If a person becomes a pastor, that does not mean that he ceases to be a person. The Word became man without ceasing in any sense to be God Almighty. This means that there was a mighty transformation to the Word’s manner of existence. His deity remained unchanged and unmixed with humanity. The humanity was true humanity and not some hybrid.
Neither does it mean that He “appeared” human to people although He wasn’t (Docetism). He was no apparition. The idea is that the Word divested Himself of the voluntary use of His incommunicable attributes. He never ceased to be God; He ceased to use His divine attributes in His humanity. He was fully human, not half God and half man. He was fully both.
The infinite does not become finite, because that is not possible. The Word divested Himself only of the use of His attributes as God (His incommunicable attributes). He kept His communicable attributes such as love, justice, truth, and so on.
Further, we need to note that the Word in Jesus was a single subject; He did not have two modes of being co-existing in the same subject. He was a single subject who held both deity and humanity.
The Lord did not simply appear in human form but He became a true man (Php 2:5-9). He added His humanity to deity. This did not change His deity in any way; He was undiminished deity.