The Word Beyond Words - Part Two
Scripture: John 1:6–13
The Word Beyond Words-Part TwoJohn 1:6-13
Sunday, July 7, 2002
Pastor Randy Smith
The opening verses in John's prologue bear much resemblance to the opening verses in the book of Genesis. Both accounts start with, "In the beginning." Both accounts establish the pre-existence of God. Both accounts establish God as the ultimate Creator. And both accounts speak of life and light.
There are many similarities, but one main difference. Moses is speaking of God-Jehovah and His role in creation. But John is speaking specifically of Jesus Christ. He is using terminology reserved only for God Almighty without committing blasphemy, because as we learned two weeks ago, Jesus Christ is none other than God in the flesh.
Specifically in reference to the light, Genesis says, "And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness" (Gen. 1:4). John says, "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it" (Jn. 1:5). In Genesis 1 God said, "Let there be light!" and physical light illumined the darkness. Now in John 1, God again is saying, "Let there be Light!" and spiritual light is illuminating darkness. The world lies in a blackout, but the Light of the world has come to illumine and rescue those held in the shackles of darkness.
The question the writer begs us to ask, how will those in the darkness respond to the Light? This morning we'll answer that question. And that answer, as intended by John, may surprise you.
1. WITNESS OF THE LIGHT (1:6-8)
Let's first examine the witness of the Light. Beginning in verse 6, "There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John (the Baptist). 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." As is common in every gospel account and the sermons recorded in Acts, the ministry of Jesus Christ began with John the Baptist. John the evangelist has already made it abundantly clear that Jesus Christ did not begin with John the Baptist, or the virgin birth, or even creation. For the Word had no beginning. He was pre-existent, always living in glorious fellowship with the triune God.
Nevertheless, just prior to the unveiling of Christ's ministry, verse 6 says God sent a man named John the Baptist. Though truly a prophet of divine origin, John was subordinate to the One who would come after Him. John the evangelist makes that clear in the first 4 words from verse 6. The Baptist "came"…Jesus always "was." The Baptist was only a "man"…Jesus was "God" in the flesh. Even the Baptist makes his role clear in relation to Jesus when he said, "After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals" (Mk. 1:7). And "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn. 3:30).
The role of the Baptist was not to draw attention to himself; rather it was to serve as a forerunner to the Messiah. He was assigned a specific task; namely, it was his divine responsibility to prepare the way, to point men to Christ. Or as verse 7 says, "bear witness of the light."
Remember, John the evangelist's purpose in writing this book is to testify of Jesus Christ so that many will believe in His name for salvation. In Chapter 20, verse 31 we read, "These have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." Look again at verse 7, the Baptist came as a "witness" (the word "testify" also is used twice in verses 7-8). His witness was for the purpose or testimony "that all might believe through him." In staying consistent with his purpose, the evangelist introduces the Baptist as another who bears witness of the truth of Christ. Among the many others in this gospel who bear witness to Jesus Christ, John the Baptist was the first. God sent him for that very purpose. To "bear witness of the Light" so "that all might believe through him."
Jesus Himself spoke very highly of the Baptist. In Matthew 11:11 He said, "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist…" The Baptist was a godly man worthy of much respect. So respected that some were wondering in Luke 3:15, "As to whether he might be the Christ(!)" The evangelist makes it clear in verse 8, "He was not the light." He was a lamp as Jesus referred to Him in John 5:35. His role was not to receive the glory himself, but allow the glory of Christ to shine through His ministry. His purpose was to bear witness to the Light and that purpose would eventually cost him his head in the dark quarters in Herod's prison.
When I think of John the Baptist, I think of a man of humility and perseverance and purpose. There is much we can emulate from the Baptist. May we diligently fulfill the mandate to bear witness to the Light. May our focus be heavenward and our purpose succinct. May we endure persecution, rejection and isolation if it means serving our Savior. May we crucify self and really seek to become less as Christ becomes greater in and through our lives.
2. FUNCTION OF THE LIGHT (1:9)
The Baptist bore witness of the Light. He played an important role in salvation history. But in verse 9 John now turns our attention back on Christ and describes the function of the Light. Verse 9, "There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man."
As I mentioned two weeks ago, there are all kinds of lights in the world seeking your attention and promising to lead you to the green pastures of happiness. Billboards line our highways. Commercials pack the airwaves. Philosophies jam the bookshelves. Religions proselytize the multitudes. Health gurus advocate their secrets. Lights! All over the place seeking to convince you that contentment and joy cannot come until you subscribe to their product. The world chases these lights from one source to another trying to fill the God-created vacuum in their lives, but nothing brings true satisfaction. These lights are only dim and shallow reflections of a lost and fallen world. And ultimately these lights easily escort one down the broad road that leads to destruction. Commentator William Barclay once said, other lights "were flickers of the truth; some were faint glimpses of reality; some were will o' the wisps which men followed, and which led them out into the dark and left them there."
But in contrast to all these false claims, verse 9 says the true Light has come into the world. Jesus Christ is the genuine and ultimate self-disclosure of God to man. None other than God Almighty in the flesh has come into the world, to penetrate and rescue His own creation, bring illumination and help people escape the darkness. He came to transfer those in darkness to the abode of light that transcends this fallen world.
In coming into the world, verse 9 says He "enlightens every man." Jesus Christ brought all the properties of spiritual light to bear on every individual. There no longer will be ground for neutrality. One is either for the Light or against the Light. Some run to the light and joyfully embrace the Light, while others flee from the Light in fear that their deeds will be exposed. They are like rats in a dark ally when the bright headlights appear. Spiritual light divides and makes a clear distinction between two groups of people in the world: those who love the Light and those who love the darkness. Jesus Christ sheds light on the world and through His enlightenment brings out the true quality of each human being. Are you depending on the lights in the world or the Light of the world?
3. REJECTION OF THE LIGHT (1:10-11)
God's own appointed messenger, the Baptist, bore witness of the Light. The Light Himself came from above for the purpose of enlightenment. Logically, we would believe that humankind would recognize the Light, embrace the Light and follow the Light. However the Scriptures sadly record just the opposite. Point 3 is the rejection of the Light. Verses 10-11, "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him."
Jesus Christ, God incarnate took on human flesh and dwelt amongst His creation. He became one of us. Elsewhere John says, "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life-- and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us (1 Jn. 1:1-2). He was the very One who created us for His glory. The very One who sustains us and holds us together. The very One who would suffer on the cross in just a few years to redeem us. This very One came into the world. (vs. 10) "and the world did not know Him." How tragic!
Very few people readily admit that the person of Jesus Christ never existed. Though they may argue that He was not who He claimed to be, the nature of His existence is rarely debated. When John speaks of the world not knowing Him, he is not speaking of those who question His existence. Rather, he is speaking of those who refused to embrace Him with their mind, heart and will. For salvation, beloved, does not solely involve believing that there was an historical Jesus. James 2 says even the demons do that! Intellectual belief is not salvation. Rather, salvation is based on clinging to Christ, depending on Him, prizing Him as your first love, trading all that you have for all that He is.
Christ came looking for these people, people who would wish to have an intimate relationship with Him. The world saw the Light and turned their backs. They rejected the Light in favor of the darkness. The very mouths He created to praise His name uttered blasphemies. The very eyes He created to gaze upon His beauty preferred rubbish. The very ears He created to hearken His call listened to the lies of the evil one.
The fact that the world rejected Him was tragic. Even more tragic is the rejection from those who claimed to be "God's people," Israel. God spent thousands of years giving special revelation (we call it our Old Testament) to the nation of Israel. Jesus said in John 5, "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me." Everything pointed to Christ" an enduring King, a better sacrifice, a greater prophet, an eternal Priest. He was (and is) the clearest and most definitive revelation of God. The long awaited Messiah came only to be rejected. "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him." Literally- "He came to His (idia) own place…He came home" and those in His house rejected Him (c.f. Jer. 7:25). When God sent the greatest prophet, His very Son, they nailed Him to a cross.
A story is told about a poor farming family during the Depression. There was one son in the family and the parents wanted the best for him so they saved every penny in order that he may have a college education. After he was gone for almost a year, his parents who loved him dearly again saved every penny that they might visit him. They arrived on campus, poorly dressed in their farm clothes. Seeing their son with some other boys, the father ran over to him. "Son, son, it's your father," he said. The son looked at his father without showing any sign of recognition. The father said again, "Son, it's your father and mother. We've come to see you." The boy, embarrassed by his parents' poverty turned to the other students and said, "I don't know who this man is, he must be crazy."
Christ came to His own and He was rejected. Today He still comes to those whom He has created. He gives them an opportunity to reject the darkness and embrace the Light. However, today, possibly more than ever, the world has no place for a Savior. He's not welcome in our schools. He's not welcome in our courtrooms. He's not even welcome in polite conversation. All of central Jersey can flock to the beach this week to see Diane Sawyer swoop down in a helicopter, but few care to meet Jesus and accept from Him the message of eternal life.
4. RECEPTION OF THE LIGHT (1:12-13)
Many did and still do reject the Messiah, but John does not want to leave the reader with the impression that nobody responded to the Light. God has preserved a remnant that will believe in His Name and thereby demonstrate themselves to be the true people of God. We close on a high note with the final point, the reception of the Light in verses 11 and 12. "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, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
We have heard thus far about the many that rejected the Messiah. But in verse 12 we read that a few went against the general current of the world and "received Him" and "believe(d) in His name." "Receiving Christ" means to: acknowledge His claims, trust Him completely, and yield in total allegiance to Him. "Believing in His Name" means to: have faith in the whole Person of Christ, and to put aside your own merits and rely on His.
Vs. 12 says that for those who "received Him" and "believe in His name," "to them He gave the right to become children of God." There can be not doubt about it- entrance into the family of God is based solely on faith. It is not based on a baptism, a confirmation, a church you join, or a card you sign. God's family is comprised of those who place total reliance, total dependence and total allegiance in who Jesus is. These are God's children.
Just as every human being has a physical father at some point of their existence, every human being also has a spiritual father as well, either God or Satan. John 8:44 says that those who reject Christ show their father to be the devil. But John 1:12 says that those who receive Christ are given (grace at it fullest) the right (or authority) to become children of God. They are adopted into God's family. God is their spiritual Father, and they are given all the benefits and privileges of sonship.
You say, what are those benefits and privileges? We have a Father we can know in the most intimate way. Galatians 4:6 says we can approach Him as "Abba Father" or dearest daddy. We have a Father who loves us unconditionally and promises to forgive us when we sin. We have a Father who disciplines us in love when we go astray. We have a Father who gives us "abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). And we have a Father whom we can emulate, a role model without hypocrisy to whom we are being conformed into the likeness.
Who could ask for a greater Father than this? What a tremendous blessing! In another letter John said, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is" (1 Jn. 3:1-2).
But lest we believe our spiritual birth is either something we create or something we ultimately decide, John closes in verse 13 by saying that the creation and decision of spiritual children lies in the sovereign hands of God. Verse 13- "who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." The train may make it to the top of the hill by sheer will, but it takes God to enable spiritually dead individuals to come to Him for eternal life. John 3:6-8, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." Physical birth or human volition contributes nothing toward our salvation. We must be "born-again," "born from above" to have spiritual life and become God's children
In review, John the Baptist first came on the scene as a messenger sent from God to bear witness of the Light. When the Light arrived, Jesus illuminated every person, pointed the way to eternal life and forced an allegiance upon every soul. Many rejected the Light, but some received the light by responding to God's call and believing on His name. And these are given the right to become children of God. Those children of God are now given the awesome responsibility to continue the witness by bearing the light of Christ to this dark world.
About 6 years ago my wife and I spent a few nights in Cape Cod. As you know Provincetown is a dark city with rampant homosexuality. Our last evening there we walked the _ mile rock jetty from Provincetown to the end of the cape. As we were walking further from the city the sun began to set. The houses of Provincetown behind us were eventually engulfed in darkness, symbolic of its spiritual state. Nothing was visible. But when the sun was totally set, eventually a few lights began to appear in the shroud of darkness. The few lights were visible and the darkness could not overcome the light. They stood out as distant beacons of illumination without compromise in the midst of generalized confusion.
In the same way, the Light of the world allows His light to shine through His children. We are children of the Light. We are His ambassadors to a dark world. We bear a message that is rejected by most, but received by a few who are enabled to escape the snares of this dark world and be transferred to the Kingdom of Light, the Kingdom of our heavenly Father.