Christopher Chelpka

The Incarnation and God’s Eternal Presence

And the Word became flesh. Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο.

These words in John 1:14 testify to the incarnation of the Son of God, and it’s what Christians celebrate and remember at Christmas. But the importance of the incarnation extends beyond Christmas. In his letters, John says that confessing that Jesus has come in the flesh is required for being a Christian.

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, (1 John 4:2 ESV)

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 1:7 ESV)

What makes believing in the incarnation so important? The Bible gives many reasons.

The incarnation is the self-revelation of God and godliness (1 Tim 3:16). It fulfills the Davidic Covenant (Rom 1:3). And it brought the Son under the law (Gal 4:4), to obey the law (Phil 2:7–8), and yet be condemned by it (Rom 8:3) for the sake of those who were under the power of the death and the devil (Heb 2:14), to give them life (John 6:51) that they would be holy and blameless before God (Col 1:22).

John’s focus, however, is on something else related to these things but worthy of special meditation too. John tells us that in the incarnation we received the glorious, gracious presence of God.

Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

After writing that the Word became flesh, John adds καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, and he dwelt among us. The word, εσκήνωσεν, evokes images of settling down and pitching one’s tent in a place. Specifically, it is a reference to the tabernacle in the Old Testament, which was the place where God dwelled with his people; the place where he was sought and was found. It was sometimes called the Tent of Meeting.

Because of his presence in that tent, the tabernacle was a place to be loved by his people. King David sings in Psalm 26:8 “O Yahweh, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.”

And you’ve got to read this from Psalm 27:4–6 where the idea is continued:

One thing have I asked of Yahweh, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of Yahweh all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of Yahweh and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to Yahweh.

David’s songs gives expression to the glorious blessing of being in the presence of God. In the presence of God we find beauty and knowledge, protection and honor, satisfaction and joy. Is that something you desire—to be in the presence of God, to see him as he is?

Amazingly, what the Bible teaches is that what was anticipated and enjoyed by David and others under the Old Covenant would be eclipsed by an even greater experience of God’s presence in the New Covenant. Not because God gets better, but because he would reveal himself more fully through the incarnation and the incarnate work of the Son. Moreover, for all who believe in the Son, God’s presence would be eternal. They would seek, find, and enjoy him all the days of their eternal life. As it is was prophesied in Ezekiel 37:27–28 concerning the New Covenant:

My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.

If you would like to know more, you can listen to my sermon on John 1:14–17.