God Came to Us

January 3, 2024
By: Jordan Wilbanks

The deity of Jesus Christ is fundamental to the Christian faith. The incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ—God “being pleased to have all His fullness [πλἠρομα] dwell in the Son,” (Col. 1:19, NET)—cannot be divorced from the text of the Bible. Like other primary doctrines of Christian belief (i.e., that this Jesus was resurrected bodily from the dead), everything stands or falls on whether this claim is true. Jesus must be both fully God and fully man, or the Bible would fall apart.

Some, however, have sought to reject this foundational belief and still preserve some ambivalent reverence for the Bible and retain the “Christian” name.1 But the Bible is consistent in its proclamation of the identity of Jesus, and the men who followed Him believed Him to be the incarnation of the Yahweh of the Israelites, the Almighty Creator of the universe who was maker and sustainer of all life. 

 Jesus is God

 The prologue of John’s gospel (John 1:1–18) is a key text that makes such divine claims about Jesus. Skeptics aim to pull this passage apart as inconsistent and derivative of historical myths. But John is far more consistent with the claims of the biblical authors before him than such opponents would have you believe. An often-overlooked thread which validates the claims about Jesus in John 1—and makes them sing—is the connection between this passage and the prophecy of Isaiah 40.

John opens with this exclamation in verses 1–5:  

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him was not one thing created that has been created. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it. 

Following an introduction to John the Baptist—interestingly placed, one might add—the gospel writer continues exclaiming that this “Word” is the true light about whom John the Baptist bore witness. Through this light, those who believe in His name are “given the right to become God’s children” (vv. 9–13). 

God is With Us

Then comes this astounding declaration: “Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.” In case one missed it in verse 1, and as will be seen again in verse 18, John the apostle says the Word not only is and was with God, but the Word is Himself, fully God. So, when he says this Word came and “became flesh,” he is describing what we call “the incarnation”—God in flesh. This may be abundantly apparent and so familiar that one may move quickly through this passage in his or her Bible reading to reach the narrative.

But there are some who would say this passage could not be the work of one author, because the pieces, particularly the references to John the Baptist are too jumbled or out of place. These references have been labeled even as “odd additions” or “rude interruptions.” But some good biblical theology can show this not to be the case. John the apostle has something in mind when calling on the ministry of John the Baptist so prominently in his prologue, and a significant proof comes in 1:23. When John the Baptist is approached by emissaries from Jerusalem to inquire about who they should say that he is, he equates himself with the “voice of one shouting in the wilderness” to “make straight the way of the Lord,” a direct citation from Isaiah 40:3. 

John the Baptist

Now, in Isaiah 40:3, “the Lord” is the LORD: Yahweh Himself, the God who is one. John the apostle is noticeably clear then, by using this quote from John the Baptist. The declaration of John the Baptist was that he was preparing the way of “the Lord,” Jesus; he was preparing the way for Yahweh. This was the primary ministry of John the Baptist: announcing the arrival of God in the flesh. 

John the apostle is keenly aware of this and so beautifully works the ministry of the Baptist into the lyrical declarations about the Word. It is on purpose and is by no means disjointed. If one were to then look at the message of Isaiah 40 alongside the prologue to John, what would one find? One finds a promise of comfort for God’s people, and John 1 shouts that comfort has arrived in the person of Jesus.  

Jesus Brings Comfort

Also, Isaiah declares an end to Israel’s warfare and punishment, and a revelation of the glory of God will be visible to human beings (v. 5; note, the NET uses “splendor” but the word is the same one used for “glory” as is used for Yahweh’s divine presence elsewhere). If there is any human in history who would never use the word for God’s “glory” frivolously, if there is one with a maximal view of the presence of God, it is Isaiah the prophet (see Isa. 6:1–5). In John 1:14, John the apostle, knowing of Isaiah’s view of divine presence and glory, claims the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:5: those who followed Jesus saw that same glory, the splendor of God when they saw him. And this is exactly what Isaiah prophesied that John the Baptist (“a voice”) would announce. 
The identity of Jesus is consistent in the story of redemption found across all of Scripture. And salvation depends on faith in this Jesus. We must settle for no one less.  

Jordan Wilbanks

Jordan Wilbanks serves as the Director of Church Partnerships at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. He also oversees The Timothy Track, a church-based mentorship program for residential MDiv students. 

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