15 ¶ John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
John the Baptist’s public declaration is an acknowledgement that Christ existed before he did even though John was born in the flesh before Jesus was. This verse is filled with meaning in that Christ, as God, pre-existed all things, including John. Jesus said about John the Baptist;
Matthew 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
John the Baptist was a greater man, a more important man in God’s eyes, than Hammurabi, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, or Julius Caesar, and yet the least person in God’s kingdom is greater than John because that person has God’s Holy Spirit indwelling him.
Verse 16 is a declaration that we who have believed and are saved have received the abundance and completeness of Christ by receiving Him and the unearned and undeserved favor of God multiplied by itself. There is nothing more we need and nothing more to get. There are so many promises and expectations that flow from this fullness, this ultimate blessing of eternal life with God that it is impossible to understand and books can be written and have been written about the promises given to us who believe.
The grace and truth given by Christ is greater than the Law given to Moses. Moses and the prophets declared the sins of the people. Christ declared the grace of God. The direction and focus of the message changes completely with Christ and is the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham, as Abram, without Abraham’s active participation, in Genesis 15. It is an act of God not resulting from mankind’s merit or intrinsic value. All Abraham had to do was to believe God.
Verse 18 is a very important verse in the Bible. The statement is made previously, in the Old Testament.
Exodus 33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
This is why humankind could only see the appearance in the form of an angel, of the Lord, before Christ, the, “angel of his presence.”
Isaiah 63:9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.
Judges 2:1 And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.
Which is how Moses was able to see Him face to face.
Exodus 33:11a And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.
And regardless of Alexander the Great having himself declared the Son of God in Egypt and the emperor Augustus signing his documents as Deus Fide, the Son of God, the statement is made here that only one time in human history has God appeared in the flesh, when Christ came.
The only time God was begotten in human form, as the son of a woman, was Christ, the meaning of, “the only begotten Son.” The Son of God, uppercase S, is God in the flesh, coming in the power and authority of God the Father as a king’s son would represent his father and, it was expected, even more than an ambassador or court official, be respected as the king himself. The only begotten Son is a very important doctrine of the Bible and must not be tampered with as its meaning is fundamental to understanding who Christ was.
This is why Satan, the originator of questioning what God said in Genesis 3, has had this verse changed in some modern versions of the Bible to, “the only begotten God,” or, “the one and only Son.” The first perversion is the mental quackery of modern translators who favor two or three manuscripts over all of the others while the second is a denial of the importance of the fact that Jesus Christ was God’s only incarnation in history but that there were other sons of God, lowercase s, of which believers are a part. Without going into a long argument over manuscript evidence, “the only begotten Son,” is the correct reading and any other can be safely discarded. It is the Alexandrian line of manuscripts, the line most affected by the heresy of Gnosticism, that supports, “the only begotten God,” in perhaps three manuscripts, not the true line of Bible manuscripts, the Byzantine textual line that originated in Antioch, where Christians were first called such.
Jesus, a part of God, revealed, in Himself, the evidence of who God is and His ultimate intention in coming to earth as one of us.
John 14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
1John 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.