Words paint pictures in our minds. That’s what they’re intended to do. Sometimes the “painting” is very precise, the author using a lot of words to detail exactly what he wants to convey and to ensure that everybody sees the same picture — the picture he intends. Sometimes though, fewer words are used and it’s left to the reader’s imagination to paint the picture. In that case, you need to pick your words carefully. Different words can paint somewhat different pictures.
Case in point, something I read in John 1 this morning . . . the picture changing significantly, at least for me, depending on which words are used.
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Fathers side, He has made Him known. (John 1:18 ESV)
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18 NASB)
You read the opening verses to John’s gospel (1:1-18) and they are jaw-dropping. John writes his account so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). And he wastes no time in establishing the deity of Christ. In the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word created all things. Who is The Word? Jesus Christ, the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. He is the Light of the world and in Him is life. And for all who believe in Him, He gives the right to become children of God, born again of God. Like I said, jaw-dropping.
But what stopped me in my tracks this morning was the concluding verse of John’s prologue . . . and the difference words can make in the picture that is formed in the mind.
In verse 18, John concludes his prologue by again referring to two different persons as God. Just as in verse 1, the Word was with God and was God, so too, in verse 18, no one has seen God except for the only God who is at His side. And that’s where the imagination kicks in.
At His side . . . the only God who is at the Father’s side makes Him known. And when I think of Him being at His side I think of a dynamic duo. I think of two standing together, shoulder to shoulder, arms crossed ready to save the world . . . literally. The relationship between Father and Son is a working relationship . . . a missional relationship . . . a partnering to accomplish a purpose.
But, from I what I can explore from the original, it’s not that the Son is side by side with the Father, but that He is in the Father’s bosom. Not shoulder to shoulder, but enveloped in the front of the body between the arms. The Son drawn near to the Father’s chest, cradled within the hollow of His bosom. And the picture switches from that of a dynamic duo to that of a loving Father and His beloved Son. From that of a working relationship to that of an intimate relationship. Being not just about the mission and more about the motivation. Having experienced love, Father and Son seek to share that love.
God is love (1John 4:16). And the Father has loved the Son long before there ever was a world. Jesus lets us in on this through His prayer to the Father in John 17, “You loved me before the foundation of the world” (17:24). So we weren’t created that God would have something to love. Rather, God has always loved within the community of His triune being and desires to share the dynamic of His love. And that dynamic is shared through His Son . . . the only God who is in the bosom of the Father . . . the One who makes the Father, and His love, known.
In the bosom of the Father. O wondrous love of God . . . as shown with the Son . . . as made known through the Son.
All because of grace . . . all for His glory.