No man hath seen God at any time - Moses and others heard his voice, and saw the cloud and the fire, which were the symbols of his presence; but such a manifestation of God as had now taken place, in the person of Jesus Christ, had never before been exhibited to the world. It is likely that the word seen, here, is put for known, as in John 3:32; 1 John 3:2, 1 John 3:6, and 3 John 1:11; and this sense the latter clause of the verse seems to require: - No man, how highly soever favored, hath fully known God, at any time, in any nation or age; the only begotten Son, (see on John 1:14; (note)), who is in the bosom of the Father, who was intimately acquainted with all the counsels of the Most High, he hath declared him, εξηγησατο, hath announced the Divine oracles unto men; for in this sense the word is used by the best Greek writers. See Kypke in loco.
Lying in the bosom, is spoken of in reference to the Asiatic custom of reclining while at meals; the person who was next the other was said to lie in his bosom; and he who had this place in reference to the master of the feast was supposed to share his peculiar regards, and so be in a state of the utmost favor and intimacy with him.
No man hath seen God at any time - This declaration is probably made to show the superiority of the revelation of Jesus above that of any previous dispensation. It is said, therefore, that Jesus “had an intimate knowledge of God,” which neither Moses nor any of the ancient prophets had possessed. God is invisible: no human eyes have seen him; but Christ had a knowledge of God which might be expressed to our apprehension by saying that he saw him. He knew him intimately and completely, and was therefore fitted to make a fuller manifestation of him. See John 5:37; John 6:46; 1 John 4:12; Exodus 33:20; John 14:9. This passage is not meant to deny that men had witnessed “manifestations” of God, as when he appeared to Moses and the prophets (compare Numbers 12:8; Isaiah 6:1-13); but it is meant that no one has seen the essence of God, or has “fully known God.” The prophets delivered what they “heard” God speak; Jesus what he knew of God as his equal, and as understanding fully nature.
The only-begotten Son - See the notes at John 1:14. This verse shows John‘s sense of the meaning of that phrase, as denoting an intimate and full knowledge of God.
In the bosom of the Father - This expression is taken from the custom among the Orientals of reclining at their meals. See the notes at Matthew 23:6. It denotes intimacy, friendship, affection. Here it means that Jesus had a knowledge of God such as one friend has of another - knowledge of his character, designs, and nature which no other one possesses, and which renders him, therefore, qualified above all others to make him known.
Hath declared him - Hath fully revealed him or made him known. Compare Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:4. This verse proves that Jesus had a knowledge of God above that which any of the ancient prophets had, and that the fullest revelations of his character are to be expected in the gospel. By his Word and Spirit he can enlighten and guide us, and lead us to the true knowledge of God; and there is no true and full knowledge of God which is not obtained through his Son. Compare John 14:6; 1 John 2:22-23.
We may measure ourselves by ourselves, we may compare ourselves among ourselves, we may say we do as well as this one or that one, but the question to which the judgment will call for an answer is, Do we meet the claims of high heaven? Do we reach the divine standard? Are our hearts in harmony with the God of heaven? 1SM 321.1
The human family have all transgressed the law of God, and as transgressors of the law, man is hopelessly ruined; for he is the enemy of God, without strength to do any good thing. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). Looking into the moral mirror—God's holy law—man sees himself a sinner, and is convicted of his state of evil, his hopeless doom under the just penalty of the law. But he has not been left in a state of hopeless distress in which sin has plunged him; for it was to save the transgressor from ruin that He who was equal with God offered up His life on Calvary. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). 1SM 321.2Read in context »
As a personal being, God has revealed Himself in His Son. Jesus, the outshining of the Father's glory, “and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3), was on earth found in fashion as a man. As a personal Saviour He came to the world. As a personal Saviour He ascended on high. As a personal Saviour He intercedes in the heavenly courts. Before the throne of God in our behalf ministers “One like unto the Son of man.” Revelation 1:13. 8T 265.1
Christ, the Light of the world, veiled the dazzling splendor of His divinity and came to live as a man among men, that they might, without being consumed, become acquainted with their Creator. No man has seen God at any time except as He is revealed through Christ. 8T 265.2Read in context »
By one who listened to these words, they were long afterward re-echoed in that sublime passage, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not.” “That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1:4, 5, R. V., 9. And long after Jesus had ascended to heaven, Peter also, writing under the illumination of the divine Spirit, recalled the symbol Christ had used: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the daystar arise in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:19. DA 464.1
In the manifestation of God to His people, light had ever been a symbol of His presence. At the creative word in the beginning, light had shone out of darkness. Light had been enshrouded in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, leading the vast armies of Israel. Light blazed with awful grandeur about the Lord on Mount Sinai. Light rested over the mercy seat in the tabernacle. Light filled the temple of Solomon at its dedication. Light shone on the hills of Bethlehem when the angels brought the message of redemption to the watching shepherds. DA 464.2
God is light; and in the words, “I am the light of the world,” Christ declared His oneness with God, and His relation to the whole human family. It was He who at the beginning had caused “the light to shine out of darkness.” 2 Corinthians 4:6. He is the light of sun and moon and star. He was the spiritual light that in symbol and type and prophecy had shone upon Israel. But not to the Jewish nation alone was the light given. As the sunbeams penetrate to the remotest corners of the earth, so does the light of the Sun of Righteousness shine upon every soul. DA 464.3
“That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” The world has had its great teachers, men of giant intellect and wonderful research, men whose utterances have stimulated thought, and opened to view vast fields of knowledge; and these men have been honored as guides and benefactors of their race. But there is One who stands higher than they. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.” “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 1:12, 18. We can trace the line of the world's great teachers as far back as human records extend; but the Light was before them. As the moon and the stars of the solar system shine by the reflected light of the sun, so, as far as their teaching is true, do the world's great thinkers reflect the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. Every gem of thought, every flash of the intellect, is from the Light of the world. In these days we hear much about “higher education.” The true “higher education” is that imparted by Him “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” Colossians 2:3; John 1:4. “He that followeth Me,” said Jesus, “shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” DA 464.4Read in context »