Theology: Addressing John 1:14 Without the Trinity?
Rev Bobby Killmon
This is probably more simplistic than can be handled in this short column, but let me point to the text itself for an answer. What was it in Jn. 1 that could be “made flesh?” Even great Trinitarian thinkers who were men devoted to Scripture like J. C. Ryle stated unequivocally, “The main truth that this verse teaches is the reality of our Lord Jesus Christ’s incarnation, or being made man.” Apostolics affirm and believe unequivocally the mighty God of the OT became incarnate. But that’s not all we can say about this verse.
To address this a better way may be to ask, “What could not be ‘made flesh’ in Jn. 1:14?” We know Scripture states, “God is a spirit” (Jn. 4:24) and that Jesus was truly God and truly man. Not mixed. His absolute Deity was not overcome by humanity for the Bible reveals clearly that God was in Christ (2 Cor. 5:19) and God was manifest in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16). That said, Divinity was not reduced, or lain aside, so Jesus would become only flesh. Divinity was manifest in the flesh. The Word that could be “made” or created was the plan of the incarnation. That’s why Paul writing by the Spirit uses the same word “made” in Gal. 4:4, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”
How was that which would be “made flesh” with God also in the beginning and pre-existent? The real question here is, will we as modern interpreters try to understand the term “Word/Logos” from later Greek notions, or from the OT which John himself was steeped in as a Jew? The Word in Jn. 1:1-14 has in its view the OT “word” in Genesis 1 where God’s Word is again shown creatively acting in the going forth of Christ’s ministry. This is the recreation. Paul shows this interpretation right in 2 Cor. 5:17 saying, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Notice if we are in Christ, not the Trinity, we are literally “made new.” This has led many honest theologians to say like Berkhof, “These texts know nothing of a separate pre-existent life, apart from and different from the earthly and glorified life of Jesus.” So, the plain reading of the text itself shows it cannot be talking about a new theology of persons in a Trinity, because what could be “made” could not be God. God is by definition eternal. It has to be addressing the incarnation.
So, Apostolics do not lose the absolute Deity of Christ while discussing the incarnation, and because of this, we do not violate the plain reading of this verse in Jn. 1:14. We simply embrace the Apostle’s statement as he writes by Divine inspiration the truth regarding that which could literally be “made flesh.” We say along with John, with devotion, with humble assent to Holy Writ, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8) What a salvation plan which our Lord, our Savior had in mind from the beginning.