With Dale Ratzlaff
There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 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. 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.
Contrast between Jesus and John the Baptist
The disciple John, the author of this Gospel, was at one time a disciple of John the Baptist. He knew many of the Jews expected John the Baptist might be the Messiah.
Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John [the Baptist], as to whether he was the Christ (Lk. 3:15).
Even many years after the resurrection it appears that there were still many who had been disciples of the Baptist. Even though he was now dead, his movement continued.
Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John (Acts 18:24-25).
Paul found some disciples of the Baptist in Ephesus.
He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus” (Acts 19:2-4).
Because of the continued confusion between Jesus and John the Baptist in the Apostolic Church, the Apostle John, right at the beginning of his Gospel, wants to make a clear contrast.
- Jesus—The Word continually was (Jn 1:1).
- John—There came a man (Jn. 1:6).
- Jesus—The Word was continually God (Jn. 1:1).
- John—There came man (Jn. 1:6).
- Jesus—In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men (Jn. 1:4).
- John—He was not the Light (Jn. 1:8).
Key themes of the gospel of John
In the first few verses of John he sets down many of the key themes that will be developed as we go through this Gospel.
Witness, testify, testimony
As we noted in the first study, John’s purpose in writing this gospel is evangelistic.
…these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (Jn. 20:31).
True belief which includes the idea of faith and trust must be based on evidence; evidence strong enough that would hold up in court. Therefore, John brings many witnesses to support the facts of who Christ is and what he did in order to save believers.
John uses Witness, testify, or testimony some twenty-nine times in this gospel. We will find that John records seven major witnesses and many others who stated their belief that Jesus was the Christ.
Salvation offered to all
John 1:9 can be translated accurately two ways.
There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man (NASB).
That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world (NKJ).
No matter which translation one chooses, the idea is the same. This “light” which is the truth of God’s love manifested in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is directed to “every man”. This theme is repeated over and over again in this Gospel. There is no limited atonement in the Gospel of John.
To Nicodemus, “the teacher in Israel”, Jesus said,
…whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (Jn. 3:15-16).
To the sinning woman of Samaria Jesus said,
whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst (Jn. 4:13).
The tragedy of world
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him (Jn. 1:10).
Read over this verse again. It would be unbelievable if it were not realty—the Creator coming into the world, but the word did not know him! The word “know” used here, refers to a personal knowing, a relational experience.
The meaning of “world” in John must be determined by the context. Jesus, as recorded this Gospel, uses “world” about 80 times.
God Loves the world.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16).
Christ came to take away the sin of the world.
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn. 1:29).
The world hates Christ because Christ testifies of the evil deeds.
The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil (Jn. 7:7).
The world hates Christians because Christ has saved us out of the evil of the world
If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you (Jn. 15:19).
The tragedy of the Jews
He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
The Gospel of John, as well as all the other Gospels, paints a vivid picture of the rejection, often hostile rejection of Jesus.
For not even His brothers were believing in Him (Jn. 7:5).
They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses (Jn. 9:28).
And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read… And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way (Lk. 4:28-30).
So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar” (Jn. 19:15).
Some did believe
The concept of a believing remnant runs through all of Scripture. And we find it in the first few verses of John. Immediately following the statement, “His own did not receive him.” we have,
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 (Jn. 1:12-13).
Here are the three necessities for salvation. First, one must “receive Him”. There must be an understanding of who Christ is and His work as Savior of the world. John’s gospel makes it clear that Jesus is “continually God” (Jn. 1:1). He is the I AM presented to Moses at the burning bush.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple (Jn. 8:58-59).
In our next lesson we will discover that “The Word became flesh”. Jesus was fully God and fully human, yet without sin.
Second, after hearing and understanding the gospel of who Jesus is and his work of saving us form sin by His death and resurrection, there must be a response of belief and trust.
Third, there is the work of the Holy Spirit that is completely a super-natural event.
…who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (Jn. 1:12-13).
We will go more in-depth into this verse when we get to Chapter 3 of John.
In this short section there are a number of conclusions we can reach that apply to us today.
- As shown in these verses, we should never let a human teacher, no matter how charismatic or skilled, take the place of our Lord and His Spirit.
- God does not expect us to have “faith in faith”. Rather, He gives us reasonable evidence upon which to place our faith and trust. We will see more and more of this as we work our way through John.
- Salvation is open and available to all. Whoever will may come.
- There must be a human response to the divine offer of salvation
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 (Jn. 1:12).
- This side of the Coming of Christ, we should not expect to see the majority of humanity following Christ and living out the moral principles of Christianity.
- There is a tragedy connected to the rejection of Christ and His offer of grace. As many of the Israelites who left Egypt rejected the leading of God through Moses, so today we have this warning:
TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME (Heb. 3:15).
Father, thank you for your offer of salvation to “whoever believes”. I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God who came to us in a human body to reveal your grace and arrange for my eternal life with you by his death, burial, and resurrection.