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No one has seen God at any time. The unique One - fully God - the “I am” in the bosom of the Father, that One has explained him fully. - John 1:18

That stopped me dead in my tracks when I read it the first time in “Commentary on the Gospel of John” by Rev. Dr. W. Hall Harris III. Here’s the same verse in the NIV:

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. - John 1:18 (NIV)

It’s hard to say why exactly it hit me so hard. It may be the fact that Rev. Harris makes such an excellent case for why it should be translated this way, but I doubt it. I think it’s just because I was completely stunned by the sheer elegance and simplicity of the sentence. Four complete, separate claims to the identity of Christ, and a more succinct description of the nature of the mission of Christ than I had ever before heard uttered.

“The unique One.” The Greek for this phrase is translated as “the One and Only” in the NIV. In Luke it is used to refer to an only son or daughter, a child with no siblings. According to Rev. Harris, it’s used by Clement to describe the Phoenix, a unique creature. But in Hebrews, it’s used of Isaac who was not an only child, but as Harris points out, “was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of promise.”

My intention here is not to raise doubt as to whether Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. My point instead is that begotten doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning to me. I don’t really understand it except as the word that used in the Old Testament genealogies, “So-and-so begat such-and-such.” It doesn’t convey to me the same meaning as “The unique One.” It is not just a description of Christ’s existence, for he certainly is a one-of-a-kind because he is the child of promise. But it’s also a description of his relationship with the Father. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a relationship like Jesus has with the Father.

“fully God.” This is translated simply as the second “God” in the NIV. It is the same Greek word for God that is used in verse 1 “and the Word was God.” Harris argues that in context, John 1:1 is more completely translated “and the Word was fully of the essence of deity, and the Word was with God.” Here too it implies that this unique child of promise, this participant in the most unique relationship known to creation, that this Jesus is fully divine, sharing completely in the quality and character of the Father. It is not a word that could be rendered “god” as translators outside of the faith might suggest. It is a loud and clear testimony of the complete and eternal divinity of the unique One.

“the ‘I am.’” The Greek for this phrase, which is translated “who is” in the NIV, is used 5 times in Revelation, each time translated as “I AM,” God’s name as revealed to Moses in the burning bush. More to the point, the Greek translation of the Old Testament uses this very phrase as God’s name spoken to Moses in the account given in Exodus 3:14. It seems clear to Harris that John is not just saying “who is” but is even more loudly and more clearly giving testimony, not just that Jesus is completely and eternally divine, but that Jesus is and has always been Yahweh. Jesus Christ, the man of whom John is publishing these memoirs, is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was Jesus, fully God, the unique One, who said to Moses, and of whom John is now naming to us, “I AM.”

“in the bosom of the Father.” “Held to the breast of the Father,” how much richer and deeper does that relationship sound than “at the Father’s side?” This isn’t the first time birthing language is used in the prologue of John. John 1:13 is all about the birthright of those who believe in the name of Jesus, the right to be children of God. As the NIV states, these are “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision nor a husband’s will, but born of God.” Or if you will let me be so bold as to paraphrase Harris, “children born not by blood, nor sex, nor human desire, but by the direct action of God.” I’m afraid I do not have the same courage as John, what I have given as “direct action” is in the Greek, according to Harris, the verb “commonly used of the action of the male parent in the reproductive process.”

But I certainly digress. “In the bosom of the Father.” What “the unique One” hinted at has now been made perfectly clear. “No one has seen God at any time,” but Jesus, the unique One, fully of the essence of God, has not only seen God, not only been present with him for all eternity, shares not only his name, “I AM,” but his very space, his comfort, his heart. Not only is Jesus’ relationship with the Father unique, nothing else has ever even come close. No one has ever been “at the Father’s side,” certainly no one has ever been held to his breast.

“that One has explained him fully.” Folks, I hate to break it to you, Christ didn’t come to die. He doesn’t gain anything by dying. He wasn’t just sitting around on his throne, bored, nothing to do, and thought to himself, “Hey, you know, I never did try that whole dying thing. I wonder if I could pull that off. I suppose I am God, so I can do anything. Wouldn’t it be super cool if I could die and then come back to life? Talk about your mind freak.”

He didn’t just come to die; he didn’t simply want to experience what it was like to be one of his created things. He came for the sole purpose of fully explaining God. That’s the whole story. That’s why he lived and why he died and why he rose, to explain His Father. Not to excuse or justify his actions or his intents, but to explain.

Here’s the kicker: Explain to whom?

“To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” - John 1:12 (NIV)

Jesus isn’t the only Son of God. I’m one too. He has always been and will always be the Son of God, but when the Word became flesh, he became the Son of Man, the Messiah, the human child of promise as well. When he died, when he rose again, when he instituted and enacted the new covenant, the gift of himself for the redemption and rebirth of mankind, when he completed his mission, he explained God fully. To me. To you. To all who received him. To those who believe in his name. To the children of God.

Through the direct creative miracle of God, I, this miserable little man, have been born from above, born of God. Jesus is God become man. Through him, I am man become God’s. Amen.

Posted with : The Way