The Light in the Darkness
Tim Temple

Introduction

We had some neighbors who lived across the street from us who loved to travel. They had a very well equipped camper on the back of their pickup, and they went literally all over the United States at different times. When they returned from one of their trips, he told me a very interesting story about how they had gone to Yosemite National Park, and when they arrived, the ranger who was on duty at the gate said to my neighbor, “I see from the bumper sticker on your truck that you have been to Big Bend. That is my favorite place in the world, and I would love to live in Big Bend.”

Here he was, living in the very shadow of Yosemite National Park, and he was fascinated with Big Bend National Park. Sometimes I think that is the way we are with the Word of God. We have the opportunity to have the very Revelation of God in our hands and to read it any time we want to and to be familiar with it and yet, so many times we get fascinated with other things that we think are more important than the Word of God.

John, as he brings his Gospel to us, deals with the very important subject of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. It is a subject, because of our familiarity with it, that is easily taken for granted. I admitted to you in an earlier study that as I was praying about what to teach next, one of the first things that came to my mind was the Gospel of John, and I rejected it because I thought it was too familiar. It wouldn't be an exciting study for anybody. I continued to pray about it over a period of two or three weeks, and the Lord just kept bringing me back to the Gospel of John. I have been fascinated, as I have been studying it in more detail, at how much there is there, even though I thought I was so familiar with the Gospel of John. It is easy for us to take for granted the great things that we have right in our grasp and to not pay the proper attention to them.

John deals with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world on a first person basis. It is an eyewitness account of what it was like to have God in the flesh living right there in his neighborhood and being able to company about with God the Son on a daily basis for several years.

In this lesson, we will be looking at the midsection and hopefully we'll be able to complete the introduction to the Gospel that John gives. In verses 1-18, we have the introduction. That is not just the introduction to the chapter, for, in a general sense, it is the introduction to the whole book. In verses 1-18, John summarizes the various things that he is going to elaborate on in detail farther on in the book. In verses 19-34, we read about the introducer, the man who was sent by God to introduce Jesus Christ to the world. Then in verses 35-51, we have the inception of ministry. In verse 35 and following, Jesus actually begins His ministry on the earth.

We talked in our last lesson about the first five verses of the introduction, and those verses are about the Word Who was sent from God. We talked about how that unusual terminology describes the fact that this God-man, Jesus Christ, was the essence of all the truth about God. John, in using that term Word , was using a very popular intellectual concept of his day, and the Word was that overall concept of God that the people of John's day were trying to find. John said, in so many words, in verses 1-5, “That essence of God that you philosophers and wise men are looking for is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.”

The Witness

In this lesson, we want to look at the second section of the introduction in verses 6-9. We will see the witness whom God sent to prepare the way for that Word from God Who was coming. In our last lesson, we touched on the spiritual conflict because of the light of God that the Word of God brought into the darkness. “The light shined into the darkness and the darkness was not able to overcome it,” but there was a conflict there. That is one of the things that John is going to go into a lot of detail about in his book—that conflict between the darkness that was in the world and the light that the Son of God brought by His coming.

In verse 6, we see God preparing the world to believe in Christ by first sending John the Baptist as a witness to Jesus Christ Who was the light. We will see more in detail about him on down in the chapter, but John touches on that in this introduction in verses 6-9. The first thing that we read about John the Baptist is his mission in verses 6-8:

John 1

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

In our last lesson, we saw that John described Jesus Christ as the Word of God, and he said then after he had established that whole concept of the Word that that Word of God brought the Light of God into the world. Now we read that God sent a man who could be a witness to that Light.

Notice first that this witness was sent from God. Even though the focus of this whole introduction of the book in verses 1-18 is about how God went about bringing Light into the world, there is also this reminder all through the introduction and all through the book of the way God uses men to accomplish His purposes. This shows God's use of men even in accomplishing the supernatural. A part of bringing the Son of God into the world was having this human witness to the fact that He was the Son of God. We are going to see all through the Gospel of John this weaving of the work of God and the use of men by God in accomplishing His work on earth.

We see how carefully John specifies that John the Baptist was not the Light himself; he was only a witness to the Light. He makes it very clear in verse 8:

John 1

8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

In fact, John himself gives examples of this. In the latter part of the chapter, we see John saying, “I am not the Prophet; I am not the Messiah.” In another place he says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Later, he is going to say, “I must decrease, but He must increase.” There will be no question from listening to John that he was not the Light himself; he was simply a witness to the Light.

There is an important lesson in that for us because there is a sense in which we too are witnesses just as John the Baptist was. Jesus Himself commissioned us in Matthew, chapter 28, verses 19-20. He said, “Go into the world and make disciples of all nations.” We have a commission as witnesses—not on as broad a scale, a different witness, but still a witness to Jesus Christ—just as John the Baptist had.

An important lesson that people especially in leadership need to take from John is that we are not the Light. We are only a witness to the Light. We need to be very careful that we do not let ourselves or anybody that we are witnessing to think that we are the Light. It is easy to become followers of men instead of followers of Jesus Christ. As we have the opportunity to witness, we need to make very clear that we are only telling them about someone else. We shouldn't be calling people to ourselves; we want to be calling people to Jesus Christ. I say particularly for teachers and for spiritual leaders that is an extremely important principle to keep in mind. We are only witnesses to the Light; we are not the Light itself.

The Message

That is the mission that John the Baptist had as a witness, but in verse 9, we see his message:

John 1

9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

John was to give the message that the Light that God had sent into the world lights every man. A quick reading of verse 9 might give the idea that every man coming into the world has the Light of Jesus Christ but, if that is true, there would be no need for John the Baptist and there would be no need for you and me to be witnesses. This verse is not saying that God has given light to every man who cometh into the world. A translation that would be closer to the wording in the Greek would be to realize that the phrase coming into the world at the end of the verse is talking about the coming of Christ into the world. When He comes into the world, He makes light available to every man and every woman in the world. We would get the sense of the verse by simply adding the word by in the middle of the verse, so that the verse would read, “This was the true Light that gives light to every man by coming into the world.”

When Jesus Christ came into the world, He brought light and that light is available to every man, woman, boy and girl. He is going to say later that He is the Light of the world. Jesus is the Light of the world, and this Light, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is available to every man who comes into the world. There is no one who is unqualified to receive the Light that Jesus Christ brought when He came into the world. That was the message that John the Baptist was to bring. He was to be a witness, and his message was, “The Light has come into the world.” Jesus Christ, when He came, brought light and made it available to every person.

The Work

We have talked about the Word in verses 1-5, and we have talked about the witness to the Word in verses 6-9. Now, in verses 10-13, John begins to talk about the work that the Word of God came to do. Again, let me remind you that this is just a summary or introduction into some things that we are going to see in more detail in the book. He is just giving a preview of the various subjects that he is going to be talking about in the book as a whole. The third thing that we are going to find in the book of John is the work that the Word of God, the Son of God, came to do.

Verse 10 tells us about the reality of the situation in the world into which Christ came. Notice verse 10:

John 1

10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

When Jesus Christ came into the world, the very world that He had created, the world did not know Him. This word world is one of the key words in this Gospel. John uses it seventy-seven times in this relatively brief book and in almost every case, including this, it refers not to the world as a globe or the world population; it refers to that system of society that does away with God, that sphere of human life that chooses to be their own God, those human beings who say, “Give us enough time and enough money and we can solve any problem there is.” We call it humanism today. There have been other names attached to it through the years, but it is that idea that men can solve their own problems.

In most cases when you see the word world in the Gospel of John, it means that part of the world which thinks they can solve their own problems with enough money, enough time, and enough brainpower. John calls it the world , because in every segment of history it has been the majority of the human race who has lived in that way—apart from God.

The Revelation

Into the reality of that situation comes the revelation of the Savior in verses 11-12. First, in verse 11, there is the revelation that John calls, “to His own.” Notice verse 11:

John 1

11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

Who were His own? If He came into a world that was alienated from Him, if He came into a world that was composed of people who thought they could do it themselves, how could He come into His own? Of course, you probably realize that when it is talking about coming unto His own, it is talking about coming unto His own people, His own nation, the children of Israel. Jesus Christ was born into the nation of Israel, and the focus of the New Testament, especially the Gospels, is the nation of Israel. Jesus was born through a Jewish mother and an adopted Jewish father. His lineage can be traced all the way back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so He came unto His own nation. He came to people who should have been fully prepared to understand Who He was and to recognize Him, yet there are only two people recorded as having recognized Who Jesus was. There may have been more than that but only two, Anna and Simeon, were specified as having recognized Jesus.

From the Old Testament, it would have been possible for them to know exactly the time and the place where the Messiah would be born. It would have been possible for them to know all kinds of things about the Messiah that would have made Jesus Christ identifiable to them. Little by little, as we study through the book, we will see that there were various ones of the nation of Israel who did recognize who He was but, on the whole, His own people rejected Him. “He came into His own and His own received Him not.” In the majority, they refused to believe. In fact, Luke said that they said, “We will not have this man to rule over us.” They verbalized their rejection of Him.

There is also a present sense in which the words His own could be applied to people today outside the Jewish nation. There are many people who have been born in this Christian nation—I think most of us have quit kidding ourselves about that, although there was a time when it was a Christian nation. It was built on biblical principles, and there was a time when it was considered a Christian nation—where the opportunity to hear the Gospel is so much greater than anywhere else in the world who have rejected the knowledge of Christ. There are many people who have been born into Christian homes and have been brought up in Bible-teaching churches who, as far as their own personal relationship with God, have not received Him.

He has come unto His own and His own have not received Him in that broader sense of these people long after the Old Testament time should be able to recognize who He is and have not done that. That is a principle that continues not only with the Jewish people who lived in Jesus' day, but to many people down through the years.

I wonder if these solemn words, “He came unto His own and His own received Him not,” could apply to you? Have you received Christ as your Savior? To carry this even further, have you received Him as the One Who has authority in your life? What is your life built around? That is an easy question to brush off. That is an easy question to generalize about, but let me ask you to be very serious and think very analytically. What is it that drives your life? What is it that motivates your life? Upon what are the decisions in your life based? Is it the Son of God and the Word of God that God gave us to illuminate the Son of God? In that one generation, He came unto His own and His own received Him not. Down through the years there have been many people, spiritually speaking, who are His own because they have trusted Christ as their Savior, but is He really the One Who infiltrates your life, illuminates your life and is the center of your life? This is very sober thinking.

When His own rejected Him, He turned to the outsiders. Notice verses 12-13:

John 1

12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John, chapter 1, verse 12, is one of the clearest statements of the Gospel and one I like to use often when I am trying to make a statement of the Gospel because it is such a clear, concise statement: “But as many as received him…” Whoever they were. Not just Israelites. He came to His own and His own received Him not, but as many as received Him, whoever they were, Jews or Gentiles, rich or poor, to them who received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God. Who did He give that right to? To those who believed in His name.

That verse does not mean that they just believed that His name really was Jesus. It doesn't mean that they just believed there was a man named Jesus, but it means that they believed in everything that His name stood for—that He was the Messiah, that He was the Savior. This clear statement of the Gospel is that if a person believes that Jesus Christ is God, that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God gives that person, on that basis, the right to be called a child of God. It is not on any other basis—not by becoming a Jew, not by any kind of good works that we can think of. Good works have a place, but becoming a child of God, according to this verse, is simply by believing in His name, believing all of those things that are implied in the name of Jesus, the Christ.

The record of the Gospels is that even though the Jews as a nation did not receive Jesus as their Messiah, there were individual Jews who did receive Him as their Savior and many non-Jewish people who received Him as their Savior to the point that by now—2000 years later—there are probably many more Gentiles who have trusted Him as Savior than Jews. There is no way to say that analytically, but theoretically there are probably many more Gentiles. “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him, but as many as did receive Him, even if they were not Jews, they became His children.” The Church of Jesus Christ is built of individuals who, by their own personal choice, one by one, deliberately received Jesus Christ as God's own unique Son, the Light of the world and the only Savior from sin. That is where this multitude of the family of God has come from—individually, one at a time, believing in Jesus Christ.

Verse 13 reminds us that no matter what the outward circumstances looked like, this was entirely the doing of God. Notice verse 13:

John 1

13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

“Not of blood,” means “not of Jewish background.” He has already told us that He came to His own and His own didn't receive Him, so you don't have to be a Jew to become a believer in Jesus Christ. It is not of blood nor the will of the flesh. The “will of the flesh,” means “by sheer hard work.” “I will become a child of God; I will live the kind of life I need to live to become a child of God; I'll do it.” That is not how we become children of God.

It is not by the will of the flesh, nor the will of man. No matter how much you may want someone else to be a Christian, you cannot make them be a Christian. No matter how zealous an evangelist may be, no matter how many invitation hymns he may sing, people do not become Christians by the will of man. You cannot make someone else a Christian. It is an individual responsibility. In fact, it comes simply by God's provision. God's provision of the Son of God to pay the sacrifice for sin and God's work of the Holy Spirit in drawing men to Himself and opening their eyes to that message is all the work of God. He uses men to give the message. He uses men, women and children. He uses His children to be witnesses to others, but if a person comes to God and accepts Jesus Christ as Savior, it is entirely the work of God.

The Walk

We want to look at the walk in life that the Son of God pursued as is described in verses 14-18. Notice first his location:

John 1

14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
15John 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.
16And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

This is really the high point in this eighteen verse introduction to the book. In verse 1, we see the eternal past, for he said “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” This eternal past is linked with mankind on earth: “The Word became flesh…” When we talked about the Word, we saw that the Word was God the Son in eternity past. Now John says that the Word from the eternal past became flesh. He became part of this life in which we live, so the eternal past is linked with the present. The result we see in the last part of verse 14: “…we beheld His glory…” Human beings were able to physically look at the glory of God. In verse 16, he summarized it by saying:

John 1

16And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

It is a wonderful thing that we are not dependent upon weighty, theological treatise for our knowledge of what God is like. God has revealed Him to us in person. We will see that stated again in other verses. He has done it in such a way that there can be no question about it. Paul gave this same concept in II Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 6. He was talking about Jesus Christ and what we can learn from Him, and he said:

II Corinthians 4

6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The more we know about Jesus Christ as we study this book and as we learn and relearn more about Jesus Christ, the more we are going to see what God is like. He says, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Verse 16 makes an interesting statement. Notice it again:

John 1

16And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

We saw just a few verses above this that it was all the work of God. It was not of the will of man, not of the will of the flesh; it was of God. Look at this interesting phrase, “grace for grace.” From an English grammatical standpoint, that doesn't make any sense. You cannot get one thing for another thing exactly the same thing, but think about what John is saying. He is saying, “God, in His grace, sent His Son to live among us so that we could see what God is like, and we saw that and believed it. The result of that was more grace–the grace of salvation.” Because of the grace that He had in sending the Savior and letting us see who He is, we exercised faith in Him and God gave us more grace, the grace of salvation. That pattern continues: Grace for grace for grace for grace. The more we accept of God's grace, the more we respond to God's grace, the more grace He gives us. From the grace of salvation to the grace of meeting of our needs day-by-day. Grace for grace. What a beautiful way to describe what we have in Jesus Christ! He became flesh and dwelt among us. That is His location.

Verses 17-18 tell us about His method of communication. Notice verse 17:

John 1

17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
18No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

God's law for human life was revealed to Moses, but the experience of sinful human beings soon taught them that they couldn't keep that law. The law was given to Moses, but our sinful human nature was powerless to live by that law. In fact, as we have studied in other places, that was the purpose of the law. It was to show us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The great contrast to that is that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Grace is the undeserved favor from God. It is the undeserved favor that God showers upon us through Jesus Christ and because of what Jesus Christ did for us.

Truth is demonstrated through sending Jesus Christ. He is the standard by which grace is given. He says, “No one has seen God at any time. Do you want to know what God is like? You can learn all there is to learn about God from studying the life of Jesus Christ.”

There are many other places that talk about the nature of God or the attributes of God, but everything that we need to know about God is found in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son, for He has declared Him. Jesus Christ is the Truth. The Truth is not a concept. The Truth is a Person, the Person of Jesus Christ. He establishes the standard by which God's grace is given. That standard for grace is Christ's punishment in our place. You see, if He were not the standard for grace, if Christ had not been punished for our sins, there would be no grace. God would not be able to give grace. God could excuse our sins, but that wouldn't be grace; that would just be softheartedness on God's part. On the other hand, God could insist that we pay for our own sins, but that wouldn't be grace. That would just be the righteousness of God and the wrath of God playing their proper roles. But Jesus Christ, when He came into the world and paid the penalty for our sins, injected grace into the picture. He is the standard of grace. He is the essence of grace because when Christ died for our sins, God could be just and the justifier of the ungodly.

When Jesus Christ died for our sins, God had the opportunity to punish sin. He could be just in His punishment of sins but, by the same token, because Christ was willing to pay for our sins, God could be the justifier of the ungodly. That is grace. It is not the righteousness of God, and it is not the wrath of God; it is the grace of God which brings the righteousness of God and the wrath of God together in one place, and that place is Jesus Christ.

In that whole demonstration we see God, and that would have never been possible otherwise. We see God as He really is because of Jesus Christ. He is a God of wrath and yet, a God of grace. Without Jesus Christ, we would not see that because without Jesus Christ, God would not be that. Thank God He has demonstrated Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.

These eighteen verses comprise the introduction to the book. Each of these things that we have seen in this introduction, we will see in more detail, amplified fully in the rest of the Gospel of John.


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