John 1 Part 2

Logos is an interesting word because at the very least it means that there is intelligence. One of the beauties of this intelligent design movement that is now developing is the idea the universe now points to an intelligent source to account for the complex systems that we observe. We have now in the beginning, an intelligent personhood and this was all in the beginning, timeless outside the boundaries of time and space.
All things came into being through Him and through Him was life and the Life was the light of men. We have this idea of life and light. In looking at the idea of life then we see that this life in Him, again zoe, is that which provides light for us. Now he goes on to speak about this light and speaks in terms of it as the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness does not comprehend it. The darkness cannot defeat or overcome the Word. There seems to be an opposition, there’s a hint of struggle here already going on between the light and the darkness. In one sense we can certainly say that the darkness cannot understand it; cannot comprehend the light. That’s why it’s very intriguing to me that you can be in a cave that’s totally black and off in the distance the smallest pinpoint of light would be enough to tell you that that’s the way to go. The slightest pinpoint of light shines in the darkness.
Remember that wonderful theme of light and darkness found in II Peter 1:19, “And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” Imagine then a moonless night without electricity. In Palestine, Canaan, you didn’t have electric lamps so you’re in a wasteland here and suppose you’re not at a village so you don’t have artificial light. Imagine then how important it is for that lamp to illuminate your pathway. It’s sufficient to illuminate your pathway one step at a time but what happens when the sun rises? You’d feel rather silly wouldn’t you having this lamp that now becomes hard to tell if it’s either on or off? There comes a point when the sun rises and you turn it off. So he goes on to say, which you would do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. The day will come when the light of God’s manifest presence will be so great that you will no longer need now the revealed word in that regard but you’ll have the light of God Himself that will illuminate your understanding on your path. So right now we see things darkly but then we will see face to face.
We have this picture of darkness. Darkness is an image then of the response of the world. He goes on to discuss this concept, which I’ll talk more about later.
He talks about the idea of John and says, “There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. (John 1:6-8) One of the important things to understand about John’s mission is the denial of his own significance as an end in himself. John continually emphasized, I’m not the one to be pointed to, I point beyond myself to the One who is the Life. By the way, is that not our mission as well? You truly find your significance in pointing beyond yourself to the One who has utter significance but in understanding that it doesn’t mean you’re a worm. It just means you have a great calling to participate in His life and plans and purpose. You have great significance but the idea is to find your significance in Him. Remember the key to humility is not thinking of how weak you are or how foolish you are or how sinful you are. That’s not going to make you humble, in fact, it will be a perverse form of pride. Humans are very strange that way. The key to humility is a preoccupation with Jesus. The more you’re consumed by His greatness- the more you get your eyes off of yourself.
It’s the same as if you went to a great concert. A concert can be a very humbling experience in the sense that the glory of the instruments and music can so enrapture you that you’re transported and you don’t even think about yourself at all. If it’s a great concert you’re not even aware of your own presence. All you’re doing is enjoying the presence of the music.
So it is with a great scene in nature as well. One of my favorite things to do is go to the park I’d typically spend 10 or sometimes 20 minutes just sitting there and taking it in. Those are the most vivid moments of my trip because I can see them. I can see what everything looked like because I kind of burned it in like a photographic plate gathers light from the stars the longer it’s exposed the more light it gathers. So I received that and what I was doing was basking in the glory. To be frank with you I’d get to the point where it wouldn’t be a matter of looking at it but it would be pure enjoyment itself. Extasis means that you’re outside of yourself, standing outside of yourself so that ecstasy or the idea is a very other-centered notion and the best things that we see we wish to share with another. So we share that beauty with another and enjoy that together.
So it would be as well in this- that this One here created all things then, this community of being. He Himself is the light to whom John points. His role is assigned as to being the forerunner, the one who would prepare His way as Isaiah and Malachi indicated that he would. He’s the one who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah. He said, “I’m not the One.” We’ll see 3 denials in the next section. I’m not the One, He’s the One and he’d point beyond himself. Similarly, we need to do that as well. Our mission would be to point beyond ourselves to the presence and person of Jesus Himself- not to an idea but to a Person. The emphasis on the personhood of the truth is really very, very clear.
Now in verse 9, we move on to the theme of genuine revelation. “There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” Actually, it’s an image here of how natural revelation, written revelation and personal revelation all bear witness to this Light. No one can say that they are totally ignorant because nature itself points beyond itself to spiritual realities in the sense that Romans 1 tells us about God at least in terms of eternal power and divine majesty. It is clearly seen by what’s outside of us and also that testimony is embedded in us. We are also aware of a problem in our lives namely the conscience and how we can try to defend ourselves. In any case, what we have here is this Light that enlightens us.
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him and the world did not know Him.”(John 1:10) Now this kosmos (Cosmos is originally a Greek word, meaning both “order” and “world,” because the ancient Greeks thought that the world was perfectly harmonious and impeccably put in order,) which appears 78 times in this gospel alone, from which we get the words cosmic and so forth, can really mean 3 different things. It can refer in a positive way where God so loves the world- that world would be the people who are in the world. But there’s also a sense in which we could say that it’s neutral- for example, he says, what I have heard from Him I tell the world. But then there’s this mostly negative use of the word where it’s the sphere of creation that lives in rebellion against the person and the purpose of God. If you look at the epistles of Paul you discover the human heart is at enmity with God. Romans 5, Colossians 2, and Ephesians 2 make that very clear. We are dead in our trespasses and sin. We are in fact in rebellion against God. That’s why it says, even when we were His enemies; Christ died for us. It’s not neutrality but there is hostility. The human heart is not bent to receive and respond to light. That requires God’s previous initiative and the grace of illumination so that we would be willing to respond to the light that God gives us.
That’s the picture we have in this book- while some receive the revelation because their deeds are true (John 3:21) many flee because their deeds are evil. John 3:19- 20 says, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” This theme of light and darkness runs through the gospel. It’s interesting that Nicodemus comes by night. It’s also interesting as well that John adds that chilling phrase after Judas departed to do his worst- and it was night. The deeds of evil are done in the dark in that scene. This theme of light and darkness is more than just physical; it is also spiritual.
The light comes on and you scurry for the nooks and crannies because we do not want to be exposed. It’s almost like Adam- who told you that you were naked? The idea here is that he’s been exposed. What’s his first reaction when he realizes that now as a fallen man God’s penetrating gaze exposes His nakedness? It is a wonderful theme that can be traced profitably from Genesis to Revelations- this idea of being naked and being clothed. Adam’s first reaction is to cover up his nakedness but it is inadequate so God Himself is the One who has to cover them with the skins of animals. Hence, the first sacrifice was made by God and not by men. God’s the One who had to bring about the first sacrifice. He sacrificed animals to cover them up which is a powerful picture, is it not, of being covered as well by that animal sacrifice and the later assistance of animal sacrifice we see in the Old Testament. The point here is that this is part of the human condition. John is exposing that very perceptively. We are enlightened, but we have to respond to the light or it will do us no good at all.
It goes on to say in verse 10 and 11, “He was in the world, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” He’s referring to the Jewish people here. That’s a sad picture because there should’ve been readiness and receptivity instead there was only rejection. It reminds me of Isaiah 53 that wonderful song of the Suffering Servant written some seven centuries before the birth of our Lord- specifically in verse 2, “That He grew up before Him like a tender shoot and like a root out of parched ground.” What’s that parched ground? It’s an image here of the spiritual desert that Israel had become at this time. Oh, they had become very orthodox in their practices but it was all externalism and not an internal reality. It was religion without relationship. We’ve all seen this happen. I think its humans’ natural bent. They get religious and get into all these external things but it’s always trying to be outside in and not inside out. It’s religious practices rather than the emphasis on a relationship. You can measure practices, but you can’t quantify relationships. We’re not comfortable with that.
Scripture makes it very clear that He would, in fact, be rejected and despised and forsaken by men. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:3-4) That is to say, they thought He was on the cross because of some evil that He had done. But now it goes on to say, “But He was pierced through for our transgression, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53: 5) You have this wonderful portrait here so prophetic and so clear that’s outlining the response that Israel must make in order for Him to come. The point is that He came to His own people and they rejected Him.
John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God even to those who believe in His name.” It’s the same idea of reception and rejection. You could almost say that chapters 1-12 portrays many who rejected Him and chapter 13 and following focuses on those few who did receive Him. This is like a mini portrait of the theme in this gospel of acceptance and rejection. I want to stress and have you remember the words, received Him. You have a connection between the words believed and received. You’ll notice in your bibles the word, even, is in italics. It should be unless you have a paraphrase but most regular translations will say- become children of God even to those who believe in His name. The word even is actually supplied. That’s why it’s in italics. Actually what we have here in the Greek is apposition. It’s when two things are being called equivalent without a connector. We could say in effect that what is happening here in the structure is to receive Him and to believe Him are being equated as one and the same. Reception here, remember pisteuo, has to do with personal trust not merely intellectual assent. In my opinion, this is the thing that is typically missed in many, many churches. Many churches talk about belief as if it were a cognitive assent to the creeds. I think there are many people who do not know Jesus who recite the creeds. It’s a sad story. It’s very possible to say I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord and affirm it intellectually without ever knowing Jesus. Some of us will bear witness to that experience where we might have had that in our own lives at one time.
The real key here is to grasp that to believe in Him is to receive Him. I always use some kind of a homely illustration if I’m trying to share this message say with a friend. I offer them this pen and they believed I wanted to give it to them; they believed it would be a good thing to have but until they reach out and receive it they don’t have the pen. It’s one thing to know you need it and another thing to receive it. There comes a point of choice where a person then simply does this and it’s not easy. It’s simple in one way but it’s extremely difficult in another when you have to come to the end of your own resources and acknowledge that you don’t clean up your act to come to Jesus and that He actually offers Himself to people who know they can’t clean up their act. That’s the whole point of the message- to receive His gift is to simply invite Him into one’s life and to personally transfer one’s trust from one’s self to Him by your own free will, not by your works but by His. Now you’re inviting Him to come into your heart and transform you from the inside out- make me be the kind of person You want me to be. That is the essence of the good news.
He goes on to say in verse 13, “who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor or the will of man, but of God.” This is not an earthly birth but it is something that is done of God.
One of the most important verses in the entire bible is, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (It’s extremely important. It’s radical. It would stun the Greek mind for who the separation of the divine spirit and the mundane world would be the idea of the complete separation. It would also stun the Jews to claim that this Word actually came among us and became flesh. It’s an incredible and awesome idea that He became flesh. It says He dwelt among us and in effect you could call that- He pitched His tent. skenoo (to occupy) is the word and it means tabernacle. In other words, it speaks of the Old Testament tabernacle. Remember how God manifested Himself there- the glory, the pillar of cloud, the pillar of fire and the Most Holy Place. He pitched His tent in our midst and manifested Himself in a very personal way. This is localized divine presence. “and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1: 14) The idea here is that God displays His actions in grace and truth is displayed in His words. Curiously this word grace only appears here in the prologue four times and then it disappears from the rest of the gospel. He does develop this theme though.
John 1:14 says, “John bore witness of Him, and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” How old was John relative to Jesus? He was six months older yet he says He existed before me. You get an important understanding of the emphasis on the preexistence of Christ. So in chronological years, John was born six months before Him but he affirms this One existed before me. He’s been telling them about the One who was to come and John tells them, this is the One I told you about. He has a higher rank and He existed before me, as Christ said He was even before Abraham the father of the Jews.
Verse 16 says, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” There’s a wonderful portrait here of how it’s lavishing, almost like waves of grace that have been bestowed upon us. I surely do believe that the more we understand about the work of the pre-incarnate Christ and the work of His creation and the work of His redemption and the work of His indwelling presence, the more you grasp that the more I think you’ll realize grace upon grace. You’ll see for example in II Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” I think it’s a process that as we continue to set our eyes and fix our eyes on Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith that we begin to see it’s bigger than we thought. It’s far bigger than you ever guessed. It gives you true dignity, security, and true significance because you are a person of dignity and destiny. The living God who pitched His tent in our midst did so in order that we might have life.
That’s John’s theme, in spite of the darkness of this world we receive life. As we tie our thoughts together he says, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) It’s not to say now that the law was untrue or didn’t have grace, by contrast, it’s like looking at a 60-watt light bulb in the middle of an extremely bright day. You surely had hints of grace, truth and the love and compassion of God but by comparison to the progress of revelation, it’s really now very dim in comparison. The contrast between law and grace are themes, as well that will be picked up especially in Paul and particularly in Galatians.
He concludes, “No man 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) He has explained Him. He’s communicated Him. He has given us an understanding that you don’t see the Father but you see the Son. He said, he who has seen Me has seen the Father, he who hears My words hears the Father’s words, he who believes in Me believes in the Father, he who obeys Me obeys the Father and he who rejects Me rejects the Father. Whatever you attribute to the Son is also going to be associated with your relationship to the Father because Jesus and the Father are One. (John 10) We see this theme here of how He has revealed Him in a powerful way- the One who was in the bosom of the Father.
I want to stress a few thoughts here. I want to stress that this book then is not about an idea. It is about a Person. It is a book that tells us about the way that life truly is. We see certain themes in this gospel that tells us especially about who Jesus Christ is- His true identity and the true meaning of His revelation and redemption.
We see how it tells us as well of the nature of the world. The world is in darkness and the world is not a neutral place. It is not a place of open inquiry and curiosity about God, the new religious synthesis. There is a new religious synthesis redefining Jesus into a therapeutic person and basically reducing Him down not to the Jesus of the gospel but the Jesus of our own time, watering down that message and decontextualizing the gospel. All these then are things that come out of darkness, not out of light.
Fundamentally what comes from God is the light and because people’s deeds are evil, we have a natural disposition like those roaches to hide or like Adam to clothe themselves but even there the clothing is not adequate. The point here is only God can expose your true nakedness but He also is the One who can cover you with the garments of righteousness. Only when you come before the cross, naked with no excuses and come to embrace the wonder of the revealed love of Christ that is now made manifest by His being glorified by His offer of Himself, only then do we discover that He Himself can clothe us with the garments of His own goodness and righteousness. As I like to put it, the One who knows you best loves you most. The One who knows you through and through also is the One who loves you most- which is great. You don’t have anywhere to hide and on the other hand, you’ll discover He lays His hand upon you not to crush you but it is, in fact, to welcome you into the heart of all things. That is a great and glorious good.
Finally, we see about the possibilities, this is the theology of hope and the more you study this gospel, the more you see that it is embedded in a true, real hope- a hope for a form of life that begins now but continues on. This is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. So this life isn’t something in the future but is now a present gift, John 5:24 makes this particularly explicit.
Question: Compare Genisis 1 to John 1?
Answer: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth so Genesis 1 begins with the creation event whereas this speaks about the Word who preexisted the created order. The Greek word arche (designates the source, origin or root of things that exist,) can mean a number of things but essentially it means, in a sense, timelessly. Before all that was this is the beginning of all things. He is preeminent over all creation; all things have been handed over to Him. It’s really very difficult to describe timelessness but what you’re dealing with is before things come into being, understand there was one time when Pantheism was true. Pantheism means God is all and all is God. That was true before He created the world. He was It. There was no other thing than God. When He spoke the world into being there was now the Creator and the creation. I think it’s deliberately alluding to the Genesis account as a beginning of the narrative that we have here. There’s a beginning in a sense without a beginning. It’s a beginning that’s endless because it goes beyond the actual realm of time and space itself. To be frank, it’s incomprehensible to us because we’re bound by time and space.
Let me close with a prayer and next, we’re going to pick up from where we left off and look at the end of this chapter in part 2, then wrap it up in part 3. Study verses 19 to the end of this chapter and please, when you study it, take it in small chunks. Don’t read fast. Most people when they read the bible, they speed through it and get this vague fuzzy idea. Read it slowly and drink it in and take it in bit-by-bit, a little here a little there, and stop and let the Spirit of God make that become a reality in your life and experience.
Lord, we thank You for Your grace and truth. We thank You for the Incarnation and how the Word became flesh and pitched His tent in our midst and how He has overcome the darkness and the spiritual forces of wickedness and for how He has created all things in heaven and on the earth, things that are visible and invisible. He is preeminent over all things and He is, in fact, the One who is in true rule and authority in the heavenly places. We anticipate His coming again. We walk in hope and expectation that we will see Him face to face and thus we pray Lord that Jesus would become more real in our lives and experiences as we come to see Him more and more not as a proposition (a statement or assertion that expresses a judgment or opinion,) but as a Person, a Person to be trusted and loved. We pray in His name, Amen.


Now on to part 3


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