How Has God the Son Explained the Father? John 1:18 (Sneak Peak)

9.  How has God the Son explained the Father?

As we conclude this Lesson we complete our analysis of verse 18 of chapter 1:

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

In order to answer this question more thoroughly we would like to spend a little more time than usual reviewing what we believe to be a significant word in this passage εξηγησατο.  The other biblical authors who use this word use it in a manner of relating in detail, tell, report or describe.55 The only other New Testament author who uses this word is Luke in the following passages:

Luke 24:35:  “They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.”

Acts 10:8:  “and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.”

Acts 15:14: “Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.”

Acts 21:19: “After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.”

This word is also used in the LXX (Septuagint), which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures in Job 12:8:  “Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you.”  These uses of the word, according to BDAG, are not quite the same as the use in our passage here in John.  The use in this passage is categorized as setting forth in great detail or expounding.  It is more common to uses in extra-biblical literature that is explaining the activity of priests and soothsayers who impart information or reveal divine secrets. 56 This word also falls under two semantic fields that can also help us to provide a context to its meaning.  First, communication, the word possesses the connotation of telling fully or providing detailed information in a systematic manner. 57 Second, know, the word possesses the connotation of making fully known through careful explanation or through clear revelation to make fully and clearly known. 58 Moreover, this is the word from which the English “exegesis” is derived, which is the technical label for Bible interpretation (which is hopefully what is being done with this Gospel through these lessons).  Therefore, it would be our preference to translate this word as “explained in great detail” in lieu of “made him known”.  The Apostle could have used the more common words φανεροω (reveal) or αποκαλπτω (reveal) in this situation to get the point across.  However, we believe that this was done intentionally to point out to the reader that this was no ordinary revelation from God.  All this said to enforce that this is a fairly uncommon word used in a unique way to explain something that is (was) truly unprecedented, the incarnation of our Lord.  We should keep the understanding of this word and its uniqueness in our minds as we continue through the answer to this question.

We should also keep in mind the context of this verse and where it lies within the passage.  We are at the end of the prologue or introduction to John’s Gospel that is going to tell us about the life and ministry of our Lord.  We are in the midst of section within that prologue where the significance of the Word becoming flesh and the Word dwelling among us was emphasized. Moreover, John has also just stressed the superiority of Jesus over Moses, no ordinary prophet (Num 12:5-8), as a mediator (see previous lessons).  We have also been inundated with words like λογος (the Word), μονογενης (the one and only), and θεος (God) within the space of 18 verses several times (λογος 4 times, μονογενης 2 times and θεος 6 times).  Moreover, we have also encountered some unique words in Scripture that should jump out at us εσκηνωσεν (dwelled or tabernacled) and εξηγησατο (made known or explained in great detail).

Finally, we should keep in mind context of this verse relative to time and the period in redemptive history in which it was made.  This was a period when the full disclosure of God, “who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16) was limited and concealed behind the veil.  This was also a period when the prophetic word from God had ceased to be used for a period of almost 400 years.  These were “prophets” as Peter points out “who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10-12).  And then out of nowhere “the fullness of time” came about and “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6)

We must keep all these things in mind and carefully consider the climactic, consummative, and culminative consequences of this Word becoming flesh and exegeting the Father in great detail.  Otherwise, we may fall into the trap of diminishing the sufficiency of this revelation. Thus, we have attempted to be responsible and diligent in our exegesis of the passage setting the grammatical possibilities, setting the literary context and the historical context to support our application (or hermeneutic) of this text.  In light of this background we believe that John is telling us that Christ in His incarnation is the pinnacle of redemptive history whom being the very Word of God has provided all the revelation or information that we need in this life until He returns.  He, as we quoted Calvin in the previous question, “has acquainted us with the most hidden secrets from the Father”. What we can expect with this; is that with the coming of our Lord the whole way that God makes Himself known to His people is being changed in a significant way.  This we believe was the clear intent of the statement made of the author to the Hebrews in the following:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:1-3)

This passage is indicative of the consummative effects that God has provided in the revelation of His Son.  As Hebrews states, “…God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”  The clear implication here is that God in Christ is not going to repeat the patterns of the past, since they are no longer necessary.  Geerhardus Vos states it this way:

It will be noticed that in Hebrews 1:1-2, as in the statements of the Old Testament, and of Jesus and Paul, the new dispensation appears as final.  And this applies likewise to the revelation introducing it.  It is not one new disclosure to be followed by others, but the consummate disclosure beyond which nothing is expected.  After speech in ‘a Son’ (qualitatively so called) no higher speech were possible.  Paul also speaks of the sending forth of God’s Son from God as taking place in the pleroma of the time (Gal 4:4).  Consequently there is nowhere any trace of the cumulative point of view:  Prophets, Jesus, Apostles; the New Testament revelation is one organic, and in itself completed whole.  It includes the Apostles, who are witnesses and interpreters of the Christ, but does not have them ab extra added to itself as separate instruments of information. 59 

The point that Vos states is important to note, the Apostles were not superceding or adding to the Words of Jesus, they were “interpreters of Christ” commissioned to be witnesses of Him and proclaim His truth to others. (John 16:13-15).  This witness did not pass away with the death of the last apostle nor was there a succession of the apostolic office.  This witness was preserved through the record of the New Testament, which would serve as the continued authoritative witness of God speaking to men now in His Son.  This revelation has explained in great detail all that we need to know about God and His great plan of salvation.  As Vos states “no higher speech” is possible and those who continue to seek additional revelation from God perform a disservice to the Scriptures and great injury to the sufficiency of revelation made known in Christ.

Therefore, we must conclude that the Apostle John’s careful choice of words within this section of the prologue, are designed to point us to Christ. Looking to Him we “reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2:2-3).  (Incidentally, Paul penned these words to a church in Colossae that was infatuated with the pursuit of “secret knowledge” diminishing the revelation they already had in Christ.)  And these riches are now recorded in the Scriptures, the Word of God, which is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17).  Now that we have completed our examination of the Gospel prologue we will be venturing into the life and mission of our Lord and Savior who is blessed forever.

53 The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary edited by Allen C. Meyers (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans Publishing 1987), 167

54 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 55

55 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature/ revised and edited by FW Danker (Chicago:  The University Chicago Press) 349

56 Ibid.

57 Louw & Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York, NY; UBS) 411

58 Louw & Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York, NY; UBS) 340

59 Geerhardus Vos (1948) Biblical Theology Old Testament and New Testaments (Banner of Truth Trust, 2000) p 302


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