John 1:6-13 (ESV)
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
We’re continuing today in our series through the Gospel of John.
The opening paragraphs of this Gospel are very dense with great truths.
John writes things in a way that little children can grasp but will keep the greatest minds contemplating for eternity.
Before I begin to briefly unpack the Scriptures here let me ask you a Trivia question?
Who was the greatest prophet of the Old Covenant.
Matthew 11:11 (ESV)
11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
We often don’t realize how significant John’s ministry was.
He’s even spoken of in histories outside of the New Testament.
Apollos was found in a foreign land who had received John’s baptism.
Yet, John the Apostle labors here to not only introduce the ministry of John but to also contrast his ministry with Jesus.
Let’s not forget that John has already introduced some things about Son of God in verse 1-5.
Let’s compare the two:
|a was (ἦν) from all eternity;
|a came (ἐγένετο);
|b is the Word (ὁ λόγος);
|b is a mere man (ἄνθρωπος);
|c is himself God;
|c is commissioned by God;
|d is the real light;
|d came to testify concerning the real light;
|e is the object of trust.
|e is the agent through whose testimony men come to trust in the real light, even Christ.
We are close to a Marine Base here and many of us understand what it is to be commissioned.
A commissioned officer is one who has been given authority by another person to act within that authority.
I am a retired officer who had an active commission that was from the President of the United States to exercise authority.
My authority was not my own but was given to me by another.
John the Baptist was the same way.
John received authority.
The Son of God, Who is fully God, gave the authority to John.
God sent John.
The Son of God came by the authority He shares with the Father and the Spirit.
It’s important as well to see that John was a witness to the Light.
John was not the Light. Jesus is the Light of the world.
John came to bear witness to it.
Why is this important?
Because many often confuse witnessing as pointing to themselves.
We speak of “witness” as something wonderful that has occurred in our life.
Too often what we call Christian “witness” points people to us: see how happy I am, see what peace I have…
Those are fruits of the light but we must remember that people cannot be saved by our happiness or peace.
We always need to point them to the Light.
Why do I bear fruit?
Let me show you the Light.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
John is speaking of the Son of God – He was in the world.
A world that was made through Him.
John uses the word world in different ways.
Here John is speaking of the world in the sense of all flesh – all people.
We know this because it says that the world did not know Him.
This world of people – they were made through the Son of God.
But they did not know their own Maker.
If you can get this truth of the Gospel in your bloodstream then you will understand it.
The problem with the world of people is that they are in darkness.
This is expressed many different ways in the Scriptures.
Darkness. Death. Enmity, Hostility. Blindness. Slavery.
This must be understood for there to even be a need for Good News.
There must be a bad situation in order for someone to receive good news.
What is that bad situation?
What is the bad news?
That, because of the Fall, we were all plunged into darkness.
The Creator we were born to serve and love…we rebelled against Him.
We want to see not with eyes of faith that trust in God.
We want to see reality as we want it.
We don’t want God to rule over us.
We think we see apart from Him but we are blind to reality.
We think we have life to its fullest but we are dead and dying and will inherit eternal death.
We think we can have it all but the reality is that every blessing in this life will be a curse as we receive the eternal consequences of our rebellion.
We think we are fee to do as we please.
We can construct our own reality and everyone around us must bend to our wills as we fashion our identity to suit our greatest passions.
Even God must bend to our will.
But the Scriptures reveal the reality that we are enslaved to spiritual bondage.
This is the world that the Son of God entered.
Not a hospitable place but a world that did not know Him.
Even His own people did not see their need of Him.
There’s a fascinating article in the recent New York Times where Tim Keller is interviewed by a reporter.
Tim Keller is a minister in oru denomination and his responses are phenomenal.
The reporter keeps probing to the questions: Why this narrow-minded insistence?
The reporter likes the Jesus of his thinking who must have been a decent person who did nice things for people and taught us to be kind to others.
But the reporter chokes on the idea that Jeus has to be born of a virgin or that He was God or that He rose from the grave.
Those all seem like myths to him.
They seem like unnecessary additions to his life because he has a life well-lived.
Jesus is in the world and yet this reporter does not know Him.
He’s a slave but doesn’t believe He needs a Strong Man to deliver him.
He’s blind but does not believe he needs to see.
He’s dead and so he lacks the life to see.
Yet, what if?
What if the Lord, by His Word and Spirit, helps the man to see His true condition?
Dead and dying and enslaved?
He would cry for deliverance and Good News is at hand!
We do not judge such people.
Christ came not to judge for the world is already judged.
Christ came for salvation and deliverance to a people who could not see.
Have you ever thought that Christ had to save us without any cooperation because dead people can’t help with great works?
He had to accomplish righteousness.
He had to orchestrate and provoke His death.
The only thing that we sinful people contributed was our scathing hatred that hurried Him to a Cross.
We thought we had conquered but He was conquering death and sin on behalf of His own.
So they could have life.
So they could have light.
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Here we see the Good News so early.
Although the world of men did not know Him or see Him or care for Him…
He gave the right to become children of God to all who laid hold of Him in faith.
Here we see the solution.
It’s a long sentence but two aspects need to be seen:
- The Son of God saves all who look to Him in faith.
- Those who look to the Son of God in faith have been born of God.
I want to make sure you understand both.
One of the things we must never do is place a barrier in the path of a person coming to Christ.
“Come to Me!” cries Christ.
Do not delay. Never place a barrier between Christ and the sinner.
All who turn from their sin to Christ will be saved.
They do not need to understand why they suddenly recognize their need for Him.
It is enough to know that Christ is a Savior to all who draw near.
Yet, John is also teaching us that our coming to Christ is not born of the flesh.
It is born of the Spirit.
This is a repeated theme in John that those who will not come to Christ are dead and enslaved.
In john 3, Nicodemus visits Christ and Christ teaches Nicodemus that a man must be born from above to see the Kingdom of God.
Nicodemus replies that He cannot “see” what Christ is talking about and asks if he has to crawl back into his mother’s womb.
He thinks that it’s enough to be born of the flesh in order to obey Christ’s call to Himself.
But Christ is teaching that the Spirit must give life so that the sinner can see the Kingdom of God and lay hold of Christ.
In John 6, Jesus loses thousands of disciples who are coming to Him in the flesh and then He tells them they must eat His flesh and drink His blood.
They think He’s talking of flesh.
But Christ is talking about the Spirit and the work of God to be able to feed on Christ and His benefits.
He tells them that they cannot come to Him unless they have been given by the Father.
They must be made children by the Father.
In Galatians 3 and 4, Paul labors to remind Christians that the work of God is not something we do by our flesh – our will power.
It is the work of the Spirit that brings us from death to life – the life of the Spirit that brings us to Christ and His power.
We need both sides of this Truth.
We must fly to Christ.
But we who have laid hold of Christ need to remember that it is the Spirit of God Who so powerfully worked in us.
We were dead and were made alive so we could lay hold of Christ.
We were dead and are now alive and so, in Christ, we can now obey Christ.
We were strangers and hostile to God but we now have the right to call Him Father!
If we just see salvation as something that we do by our own doing and then God blesses us with salvation and adoption then the power was in us all along.
We were not dead.
We were not enslaved.
We were not blind.
We just needed to user our own power – we needed to use our own wills to believe in Christ and then God adopted us as a reward for our good decision.
Where’s the Good News there?
Where’s the Good News if all we needed was moral example – all we needed was some urging to believe harder?
What does that mean for those who don’t believe?
They just need to try harder, in the flesh, like we did.
What’s the difference between us and them?
We believed by our own strength and they refuse to believe by their own strength.
But, beloved, it is plain that what separates us from our neighbors is that we were once dead like them.
We can have compassion on them because we realize that our decision was not an act of pure human will but was an act that began in the love of God.
We were blind like them.
Suddenly we could see and we beheld the Light and He saved us and we were adopted.
What comfort now is there as well?
We are now alive by the power of the Son of God through His Spirit.
We do not strive against sin, the flesh, and the devil in our own power.
We are united to the living Christ – God and Man.
We possess life and light as a gift and so we have confidence in this life and the next that Christ will complete the work that He began in us.
We have been placed in the Son’s hands not by our own strength but were given to the Son by the Father.
And the Son will cast none out who are given to Him.
As we begin this New Year let it be a year where we remember that the Good News is life and light.
We had neither of these.
Everything that we possess and do is rubbish in comparison to the life we have in Christ.
Let us make this year one were we continually remember that we have been given the right to be called the children of God!
Let us pray.