Witness to the Light
26 October 2014
A study in the series on the Gospel of John by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
In the beginning, Jesus, the Word, created everything. He said “Let there be light” and our world had light. But then our first parents disobeyed God’s one command and darkness filled the land. Left to ourselves, there is no hope whatsoever. What a depressing thought!
But as God unfolded history, He created a special people and gave them great promises. He promised that light would once again shine in this darkness. That light would be Messiah. But first, an enemy invasion. Two tribes were the first to fall. These invaders were some of the most hateful people the world had ever seen. Worse even than ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The Assyrians sat around thinking of the most hateful ways to torture the people they conquered. The Assyrian invasion was the beginning of dark times for Israel. Turn with me to Isaiah 9:1-7.
Look also at Isa 42:6 and Isa. 60:1-3 . God promised that one day Messiah would come as a great light for His people. Early in Jesus’ ministry, Matthew pointed out that this is indeed what Isa 9 was talking about [Mt 4:12-17] The light came to a world blinded by darkness.
In many ways, our world is still cloaked in darkness. We groan under the tyranny of sin. People are hateful and hating one another. Nation against nation, one family member against another, friend against friend. The most depressing thought is that this ugliness lurks in our own hearts. We are part of the problem. Men try new ideas. But nothing seems to be able to cut through thick darkness.
Today’s passage has a lot to say to us. Sin brought darkness into our world. But Messiah brought light! In Him, there is great hope! That’s the spirit of Isaiah’s message. It is real hope right now. Let’s read now John 1:1-13.
Darkness did not overcome the Light. Darkness is powerless to stop the light of truth. With that in mind, John tells us now about the Word who is the Light. He tells us how the Light was introduced. He tells us about how the Light operates. And he tells us why the Light cannot be overcome.
Message: John gives us a preview of what it means for Jesus to be the Light.
I. John the Baptist bore witness to the Light (John 1:6-8).
There is no comparison between John the Baptist and Jesus. The writer uses a different verb to describe them. Jesus, you’ll remember, “was”—a verb that reflected His eternal existence. But of John the Baptist he writes that he came–that is, he came into being. He is a creature.
But that doesn’t take away from John’s important mission. He was sent from God. He came with God’s authority to announce the Messiah’s coming. His God-given purpose was to point to someone other than Himself. How true this is of all of us! We are not sent out into the world to call attention to ourselves. John came to bear witness. Witness is an important word for the apostle John. In his writings, the noun and verb make up more than half of the NT uses. This is common courtroom language for a witness providing testimony that something is true. John wants us to know that he gives us reliable evidence by trustworthy and honorable witnesses.
John the Baptist is the first of those witnesses. Other witnesses to Jesus as Messiah: the Samaritan woman, Jesus’ own works, His Father in heaven, the Old Testament, the crowd, the Holy Spirit, the apostles after the Spirit comes upon them and Jesus, who Himself bears witness to the truth that the Father sent Him to proclaim. Do you stand in this fine company of witnesses?
Sinners who live in darkness need someone to show them what the light is. John came to awaken in men, their need of the coming Messiah. The Baptist’s purpose was so that all might believe through him—through his witness. He wanted people to not so much “make a decision for Christ” but to weigh the evidence and conclude that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.
While John the Baptist had an important role to play, yet he was not the light. Jesus will later say that John the Baptist was a lamp shining among men (John 5:35). Lamps shine light, but they aren’t light.
II. Jesus was the Light (John 1:9-13).
A. The Light shines on all men (John 1:9).
True isn’t the opposite of false here. It describes what is ultimate versus something secondary. Manna was bread from heaven and was truly from God (John 6:32). But Jesus is the ultimate Bread from heaven. Jesus is the true light in the sense that He is the ultimate revelation of God (as in Heb 1:1-2).
The world has no light of its own. Light has to come into the world for there to be light. All that the world has to offer is darkness, which is ignorance of any essential information about God and of their need and of His remedy. No one has any spark of light that can be fanned into the flame of faith. All people are all totally in the dark.
When Jesus comes into the world, He enlightens every man. This refers to how the light of Christ shines on each person either in salvation or exposing their sin and coming judgment (John 3:18-21; John 9:39-41; John 16:8-11). We will see in John 3:19-21 that as the light shines upon all men some will love it and turn toward it by faith while others will hate the light and will “not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Some will turn toward it. Others will turn away in judgment. There IS an illumination that does not lead to salvation (Heb 6:4). Illumination is not the same as regeneration (John 1:13). Jesus will teach in Jn 16:8 that the Spirit will convict all people about sin, righteousness and judgment.
B. The Light isn’t received by those in darkness (John 1:10-11).
The world refers to the world of people (society) which is in disobedience to God and under Satan’s rule (John 14:30). Throughout most of this Gospel, world refers to “the created order (especially of human beings and human affairs) in rebellion against its Maker” (Carson, p. 123).
Should we be worried about this evil world system? No. It was made through Jesus. This isn’t just a repetition of John 1:3 “all things were made through Him.” Instead, John shows us that there is no principle of evil outside of Jesus’ sovereign control. All who are opposed to Jesus were created by Jesus. The point is: Jesus as their Creator has absolute control over them.
Even though the Logos came among those whom He had created, they did not know or recognize Him. They did not understand the truth and so wouldn’t acknowledge Him as Messiah. Yahweh lamented in Isa 1:2-3 “Sons I have reared and brought up but they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.”
Verse 11contains both wonder and tragedy. How wonderful that Jesus came to His own property, homeland, creation. But His own [people, the Jews] did not receive Him. How personal and loving was His advent yet how tragic their rejection of Him. Ed Blum says that this is one of the saddest verses in the Bible. Jesus, the Logos, went to His own people and was not welcome.
C. The Light is received by those born spiritually (John 1:12-13).
Fortunately, this rejection of Jesus wasn’t universal. There were some who received Him. To them He gave the right to become children of God. No one naturally becomes a child of God. This right is something granted to them. It is not an inherent ability. This is the point of divine election. No one has a right to make a claim to be God’s child unless God gives them that right.
Those who are given that right, are those who receive Him. Receiving Jesus means that by faith the person yields allegiance to Him, trusts Him completely and confesses Him gladly (Carson, p. 125). John explains that they believe in His name. That is, they have faith in Jesus whose character has been revealed to them. They trust in Jesus’ character as revealed in Scripture.
So, are some people naturally more likely to believe? Is there something in them or their parents that make them good candidates for exercising faith? Think here of how important it was for Jews to have that family line.
Being born into God’s family is entirely different from being born into a human family. There is no human element in regeneration. It is totally God’s work. Faith is not a condition for the new birth as if God looked to see who had faith and then regenerated them. Paul spells it out clearly in Eph 2, showing that regeneration precedes faith (Eph 2:1-10).
This new birth and thus the right to become God’s children, doesn’t come through natural descent as so many Jews assumed. Blood is literally “bloods.” This rules out the necessary role of woman in natural birth. Neither is it the result of human decision (will of the flesh), that is, of the desire to have children, nor of the will of man (husband). Basically, all three together rule out any human role in begetting or fathering spiritual children. God’s children are born from a supernatural work of God when He regenerates them (gives them life).
Jesus shines His light on some people and they turn away because they love darkness. They hate that Jesus’ light exposes their sin. Jesus shines His light on others and they rejoice in that light. What makes the difference? God causes some to be spiritually born. New life gives them the ability to see the light as showing them the way to God. For that, they rejoice! There is hope because Jesus has full control over the evil world. And there is hope because Jesus has given us life so that we can see His light. By His light, He shows us how to trust Him step by step.