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A Critical Declaration

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
John 1:18

I walked into our house, arms full. Instead of switching on lights, I dropped my load and went directly to the pantry. I was on a mission to find forgotten Cheez-Its needed at school for a party. I looked on shelves. Nothing. I looked in the cracker basket. Nothing. I was a bit confused, but thought perhaps my child had remembered them after all. A little later, I decided to look again. By then, I had the light on. Without much trouble, I located the box. It was buried in the chip basket. Finding them left me relieved--I wasn’t losing my mind after all--but also smiling. It’s amazing what light can do.

And that’s what this Advent series has been about--John the Writer shedding light on the Eternal Word, the Life and Light, the UnNeutral Heart, the Unknown and Unreceived, the Received and Believed and the Fullness in the first 17 verses of the gospel of John. Today we will learn about a Critical Declaration as we study the last verse of this series on John 1:1-18.

In verse 1, John introduced us to the Word who was in the beginning, the Word who was with God, and the Word who was God. Now in verse 18, as he concludes the prologue, John once again alludes to distinct yet unified personalities of Jesus and of God. Not only that, but John writes of an unseen God revealed by the Begotten Son--the only God.

“Some ancient manuscripts say ‘the only son’ here, but the earliest manuscripts say the only God (using the same word for ‘only’ as 1:14, meaning ‘unique, one-of-a-kind),” states the ESV study notes. “John refers to two different persons here as “God,” as he did in v. 1. John concludes the prologue by emphasizing what he taught in v. 1: Jesus as the Word is God, and he has revealed and explained God to humanity.”

And we are left to marvel at this wonder.


Verse 18 starts off with a direct statement about people: No one has ever seen God. 

“As to His essence, God is invisible (1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27)” writes Warren Wiersbe in his commentary on John. “Man can see God revealed in nature (PS. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:20) and in His mighty works in history; but he cannot see God Himself.”

While there were some in the Old Testament who saw partial revelations of God, no one has seen Him in a full, complete way. 

David Guzik, in his study guide on John 1, offers a quote by Alford: “The sight of God here meant, is not only bodily sight (though that is true, see Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16), but intuitive and infallible knowledge, which enables him who has it to declare the nature and will of God.”

Man cannot see God in his fullness. And yet, John surprises us with his next statement.

Begotten Son declares Him

John writes,
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (v. 18, NKJV)

The only God--the only begotten Son--who is intimately connected to the Father--reveals God to us!  

The phrase “only begotten” means “unique, the only one of its kind.” “In the bosom of the Father” means "a kindred oneness of essence." (Guzik) 

Jesus (the Word) perfectly declares God (the Unseen).

"The word translated 'declared' gives us our English word exegesis, which means 'to explain, to unfold, to lead the way,'" says Wiersbe.Jesus Christ explains God to us and interprets Him for us.We simply cannot understand God apart from knowing His son, Jesus Christ.

Not only is there kindred oneness of essence between God the Father and the Only Begotten Son, there is an imperative connection between the two. He has made him known “means literally ‘interpreted’ or ‘narrated,” explains the New Bible Commentary. “Jesus Christ is the perfect exegete of God.”

Dictionary.com defines exegete/exegesis this way: "critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture.” I think that’s an enlightening way to think of Jesus. Jesus is the CRITICAL explanation/interpretation of God. Without Jesus, there isn’t understanding, explanation or interpretation of God. No one can see God without Jesus. Jesus wasn’t an afterthought. God wanted to reveal Himself and saw fit to do so through Christ. What a gift!

Advent Desire

May we marvel at the ability to know an unseen God through Jesus Christ!

More in this series:
the WORD Eternal
the Un-Neutral Heart

Unknown & Unreceived

Receive & Believe
From His Fullness

Let's connect!

Article Sources:
  • English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible 
  • Guzik, David. Study Guide for John 1. (Blue Letter Bible)
  • The New Bible Commentary: Revised. Edited by Guthrie, Motyer, Stibbs, Wiseman.
  • Wiersbe, Warren. Commentary on John.


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