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WHO WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM?
by Philip Owen

            Of course, we know the answer to that question.  But the manner in which the Apostle John chooses to answer that question in the first chapter of his gospel is both fascinating and profound.  We noted last week that John identifies that One first as “the Word,” second as “God,” third as the Creator, then as “life,” and finally as “the Light.”  Appellations, titles, and descriptions, certainly, but not one of those is a word that we would recognize as a typical name.  In fact, not until we reach the seventeenth verse of the chapter do we find the Spirit of God through John providing us with words that we readily acknowledge to be a name.  Such was the nature of this unique child that one or two normal names were not sufficient to identify Him.  So John continues.

            6.  Jesus Christ.  “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (v. 17).  We might realize that the first name, Jesus, was a common, ordinary one in first-century Israel, deriving as it did from the Hebrew name which has been translated Joshua in our English Bibles.  But the fact that the name means “savior” arrests our attention.  Such a name given before a child had been born would ordinarily suggest hopefulness or hyperbole on the part of the parents.  But since it was given by God (Matt. 1:21) it immediately calls for the profoundest respect and reverence.  Even a common name, an humble name, if you will, elicits worship as we realize that this human Jesus, this very Man, is nevertheless very God and Savior of lost sinners.  The second name—Christ—emphasizes the reality of this truth.  Christ—Messiah, the Anointed One of God—is the One prophesied throughout the pages of the Old Testament.  He will be anointed, not with olive oil, as were the prophets, priests, and kings of Israel, but with the Spirit of God, and He will fulfill the functions of all three offices of those anointed ones.  As Prophet, His very Person and all His work reveal God manifested in the flesh and declare “thus saith the Lord.”  As Priest, He will offer the blood sacrifice for sin:  His own perfect life.  And as King, He will one day yet future reign in the Millennial Kingdom over Israel and all mankind.

            7.  The Only Begotten God.  “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (v. 18).  As many theologians have pointed out, this term does not refer to generation (that Jesus Christ was somehow sired by God); rather, it refers to the unique and exclusive relationship existing between the eternal Father and His coequal eternal Son. “The only begotten God” is a designation that expresses what the remainder of the verse records.  Christ has forever rested in the eternal bosom of the Father, one with Him in essence, nature, authority, power, and existence.  Moreover, because He is fully God, He alone fully explains God.  No one and nothing else can begin to explain Who God is and what He has done, and we mortals utterly fail to understand God until we behold Him in the face of Jesus Christ.

            8.  The Lord.  John the Apostle quotes John the Baptist, who, in turn, is quoting Isaiah:  “Make straight the way of the Lord” (v. 23).  The word means “supreme” or “controller.”  The name clearly indicates that Jesus Christ is God. By definition there can be only one “supreme” Being to which all others are inferior.  That One is God, and by calling Jesus Christ “the Lord” John is announcing in yet another way that He alone is God.  Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things, Who, by virtue of that power, owns the title of Lord.

            9.  The Lamb of God.  Marvel beyond expression—that the Lord of heaven and earth should be identified next as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (v. 29).  In this name we find both the mystery and the love of the gospel.  Under the law, a lamb had to be slain for the remission of sins.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4).  But it pleased the Father to send His Son to be the sacrificial Lamb Who would suffer and die that all who believe might be saved eternally.  Is He the One you celebrate—better yet, trust in for salvation, love, and obey?

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