John 1:6-18

 

[I think John 1:1-5 and John 1:6-18 should be read as an entire passage because the context is vitally linked, so I will copy the whole John 1:1-18 text here.]  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him: and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (verses 1-5)  “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  [John the Baptist]  The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.  That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.  He came unto his own, and his own received him not.  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.  John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.  And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.  For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.  No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (verses 6-18)

 

“Good morning.  It’s great to see everyone.  Let’s open in our Bibles to John chapter 1.  And I’ll confess to you, emotionally man, I’m all over the place right now, trying to determine what I’m going to say and what I’m not going to say.  And sometimes it’s a struggle because, ah, well I guess sometimes it requires faith.  So, there’s things on my heart and I don’t know how it’s going to come out this morning.  Some of you might think I’m a little goofy when it’s all done, and move onto another church, I’d ask you to be gracious with me [chuckles].  But I’ve got these things on my heart I’d like to, I’m toying with passing on to you.  But let’s say a word of prayer.  ‘Lord I thank you that we can come together and study your Word.  And as we saw last week, the Word is more  than the ink on the pages in our Bibles, it’s your Word and in fact we read that you are the Word, the Logos.  And of course, our goal in Bible study isn’t just to grow in head-knowledge, it is to see you, Jesus.  And I would ask Lord for every man and woman present this morning that in your power you would work that they would have a better perception and understanding, that they would see you more clearly.  I pray that you would do that to all of us.  Of course, when that happens it’s just so drastic in our lives.  So Holy Spirit I’d ask that you’d be upon all of us, be upon me now as I share your Word, in Jesus name, Amen.’

          This morning, as I was driving to church, maybe you’ve seen it, but I drove by the State College.  And I had heard of signs and banners like this, and I think this is the first one that I’ve seen.  But they’re draped along one of the dormitories of the State College, it’s a very large banner.  And the banner says “Bless America”.  Bless America, that’s all it says.  Seems to me it’s missing a word.  It seems to me they’ve taken a statement that has been used a lot in our nation since September 11th, especially, and they’ve shortened it down to just two words.  And of course the question then comes, is that where we’re now at as a nation, is that where we’re coming to?  Just back in September 11th [2001] it was “God Bless America”.  Our nation had really been rattling, and our hearts had been moved, but we’ve made it past September 11th, everything is just fine, it seems anyway.  So now we’re “Bless America.”  Back to the old prideful heart and perspective that it’s all about us, no more “God Bless America”, pretty interesting.  I was thinking about that as I was just praying here before this study.  I believe, and somebody noted this, a pastor noted this to me earlier this week, that what we need is not even “God Bless America”, that’s the problem, really.  We need “Bless God, America” is what we need.  We need a revival, where we’re asking God, and we’re praising God and blessing God and worshipping God, turning our hearts to God, and then from that, asking God to work in our lives.  So, a statement anyway where we are as a nation, and where we’re going, taking God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, now it’s no longer “God Bless America”, it’s not even that “Bless America.”  Well I say that as we get started because of the verses that we’re in.  We’ll see as we continue to talk about Jesus, about who he is, about the power and the love and the grace of God, that even in the context, even here, we’ll see at the very beginning, hearts, and men’s hearts, and women’s hearts were hard and didn’t want to turn to the Lord.  And it’s still the same way today.  But let’s begin with verse 6.

          “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.  This man came for a witness, to bear witness to the Light, that all through him might believe.  He was not that Light, but sent to bear witness of that Light.  That was the true Light that gives light to every man coming into the world.  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 his own did not receive him.   But as many as received him, to them he gave the right [the power] to become children of God, 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.” (verses 6-13)   Well here John, as you remember last week, he taught about the Logos, about the Word, ‘that the Word was in the beginning with God, was God.  He taught also ‘all things through him were made.’ And then he said ‘in him, this Logos, the Word was life, and this life was the light of men.’

 

John the Baptist

 

Verses 6-8, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.”  Well now he continues, and he introduces us to the witness, and this witness is John the Baptist.  John the Baptist, some have said, is one of  the most important persons in the New Testament.  Certainly he played an important role in the history of God’s people, that is for sure.  In fact, he is mentioned 89 times in the New Testament, so that would make him pretty important, the fact that he’s mentioned that often.  John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus, he was the cousin of Jesus.  But this man didn’t have an ordinary life, that is for sure.  His life from the very outset was rather unusual.  If you remember, his birth was announced by the archangel Gabriel.  This angel Gabriel told his father Zacharius that this baby was going to be born and would become this man John the Baptist.  He said ‘Many would rejoice because of his birth.  He would be great in the sight of the Lord, and he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth.’  So right there John the Baptist, man, he started off with an unusual life for a man, that is for sure.  I mean, I don’t know about you, but did many, many rejoice at your birth?  Maybe a few.  Did God say ‘You would be great in the sight of the Lord’?  And to be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth?  Pretty radical, he was also to be a Nazarite, never touching fermented drink.  The angel said ‘he would become a man who would bring back many to the Lord their God.  And he would go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah the Prophet, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous.  And he would make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’  So very unusual, right off from the start, this was the prophecy of his life, that he would be a prophet in the spirit of Elijah, turning people’s hearts, where in such a way families would be healed, and people would be made ready and prepared for the Messiah.  Well, after his birth, his Dad even prophecied about him and said “A prophet of the Most High, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”  So a prophet of the Most High, to give this knowledge of the Gospel.  Jesus himself would say of John the Baptist, he would say that he was more than a prophet.  “Among those born of woman there was not anyone greater than John the Baptist.”  That’s what Jesus said.  And he was the Elijah to come.  So he said he was the greatest man that ever walked the face of this earth other than Jesus himself.  John, though, later would call himself, he would say, ‘Well, I’m the friend of the Bride Groom, I’m the one who attends to the Bride Groom, and waits listening to him, and when I hear the Bride Groom’s voice and see the Bride Groom, that is, the Messiah, my heart is full of joy when that happens.’  Well, finally, as we just noted this man John the Baptist, he was the last Old Testament Prophet. [And his coming and ministry would be prophecied by the very next to last Old Testament Prophets, Malachi, in the very last chapter of Malachi, in the very last two verses, Malachi 4:5-6, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”  Some would say this prophecy points to the 2nd coming of Jesus by the very wording, but in reality it points to both, because Jesus said John was the fulfillment of this prophecy, and it looks like the Church in the end times may be a type of John the Baptist, fulfilling this prophecy just before Jesus, Yeshua’s 2nd coming.]  There hadn’t been a prophet for four hundred years, it had been quiet in the nation of Israel, and now things are really stirring in the nation of Israel, because there is this prophet, John the Baptist.  He lived in the desert until he was publicly presented to the nation of Israel.  And if you remember, he dressed pretty funny, dressed in camel’s hair, he ate locust and wild honey.  Peculiar diet, that is for sure.  And that is because he understood he was a prophet, and that was the prophet’s dress.  And he didn’t care what anybody thought about him, didn’t even care for a moment, he was just bold.  If you thought you were a big deal, he’d let you know that you were prideful, you were a brood of vipers.  If you thought you were all religious and holy, he’d just shred you.  If there was humility in your heart, he recognize that too.  But this man didn’t care, he knew that God was real, he knew that Jesus [Yeshua, as he would have known him as, the Hebrew word for Jesus] was coming, and he had a passion in his heart to witness for the Messiah, he just let it loose, that is for sure.  So verse 7, ‘John was sent from God to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.’ [paraphrase of verses 6-7].  So that’s why he came, that he would share with the nation of Israel, share with people, prepare the way, that any man, any woman would turn and accept the Messiah, receive Jesus as the Lord of their life.  Now the word “witness”, he was a witness, it says, to bear “witness” of the Light.  That word “witness” key in this book.  In fact, the word “witness” is used 14 times in the noun form and 33 times as a verb.  So you’ve got about 50 times the word “witness” appears in the Gospel of John, so it’s key.  And because it’s key, another word that’s very common that you see also in verse 7 is the word “believe”.  The word “believe” is used at least 90 times, excuse me, 100 times.  That’s nine times more frequent than the other Gospels.  So he says the word “believe” 100 times, he talks a lot about “witness”, so  again there’s thrust of evangelism as you read the Gospel of John.  [Don’t forget, John’s writing this in Asia Minor, at Ephesus in the 90’s AD, so it is an evangelistic writing to both the Jews in Asia Minor and the God-fearing Gentiles who attended synagogue with the Jews.]  And this thought of being a witness to the Light.  And I pray as we study this book together, that it would have an effect upon our witness, that we, like John the Baptist, as it says there, we would be witnesses of the Light.  For we are called as Christians [and Messianic believers in Yeshua] to be witnesses of the Light.  “And that everyone”, it says “that all through him might believe”, that is everybody in the North County, and everybody beyond the North County would even hear the Gospel message and have opportunity to receive Jesus Christ into their heart. 

          It says in verse 8, “He [John] was not the Light, but he was sent to bear witness of that Light.”  He was not the Light, he understood that very clearly as we go on, and he pointed to the Light.  And neither are you the Light, neither am I the Light, I’m not the focus, but Jesus is to be the focus, and we’re to be witnesses of that and to point people to him.  Sort of like the moon reflecting the sun, we don’t have the Light, but the Light shines on us and people should look at us and go “Man” you’re just lit up.  [Comment:  he’s technically a little off here.  The Holy Spirit, who sheds the Light of Jesus and the Father, cf. John 14 & 16, Romans 8:15-16, actually dwells within us, so the Light of the Holy Spirit, who brings Jesus and the Father within each believer, actually does shine out of us.  A my first pastor remarked that once when he encountered a demon-possessed person that the demon within that person remarked that he hated the light shining out of believers.  This is merely an observation, but one which Scripture in John 14 and 16 appears to back up.]  And we should say, ‘It’s not because of us, there’s another source of that Light, and the Light is God himself as his Son Jesus Christ.  So, as we get started, the question then to you is, ‘What sort of witness are you, are you a witness of the Light?’  Do you profess to be a believer?  If you do, are you a witness of the Light?  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  We are to be a light.  [In the Millennial Kingdom of God, after Jesus returns, he and all the resurrected saints in Jerusalem will glow brightly, so Jerusalem will be lit up at night from this display of Godly power, the city on the hill, glowing in the dark of night, as a witness to all where the Messiah now lives.]  We are to be a witness, and expression of that Light, and pointing people to God’s Son.  You know, as we comprehend the verses that are here, as I digest those first five verses, and also the verses we’re going to look at today, the more I comprehend those verses, the more I do become an effective witness of Jesus Christ.  The more I see Jesus [Yeshua] for who he is, the more I see God for who he truly is, that he’s not just this Logos, this thought in my mind, that he’s not this God that now and then we have some kind of interaction with, that he saved me and made the world and gave me this life, I’m to do the best that I can do, and in the end we’re going to meet up at that end---but that he’s real, that he’s living, that it’s all about him, and that moment by moment we can walk with him, we can interact with him, we can love him, we can worship him, and there’s truly nothing else that compares to him.  That was John, John knew, John the Baptist knew who Jesus was when he came, and he says ‘This is him.’  When he came upon the scene he understood that the Bride Groom had come, and he knew God, he knew the reality of God.  So he wasn’t afraid of people.  The more that I understand who God is, I am not afraid of people either.  I think that’s one of the greatest hindrances to me in being a witness is that fear, ‘what are they gonna think?’, ‘how are they gonna view me?’.  That fear.  But you know, when you understand who God is, when you see him for who he really is, you don’t care.  You have a different perspective.  They can think whatever they need to think or whatever they’re going to think, but the truth is, they need to hear the Gospel message.  They need to hear that Jesus is coming back any day.  [Comment:  That gets back to the duality of Malachi’s prophecy in Malachi chapter 4, verses 5-6.  It points first to John the Baptist as the Elijah bringing the hearts of the fathers and children together, healing of families, and announcing the Messiah’s 1st coming.  And it, by it’s very wording, also fits into what looks like an Elijah work, announcing the 2nd coming of the Messiah to save the world.  If understood properly, the whole body of Christ has a job assignment here, to cry out and announce the Messiah’s 2nd coming, and to cry out like John the Baptist did, for repentance.  That is what proclaiming the Gospel is all about, what evangelism is all about.  And yes, considering the times we live in, it also can contain a prophetic message of warning, just as Peter’s first sermon did in Acts 2.  Peter’s first evangelistic message in Acts 2 contained a message of evangelism and a prophetic warning as well, all rolled into one powerful evangelistic sermon, a sermon that God used to call 3,000 new believers into the Church.  So there is the Bible pattern, set down for us, right in Acts 2.]   And they’re going to give an account.  If they don’t turn to Christ, the Bible says they’re going to go to hell.  I believe that, I see Jesus for who he is.  So therefore I proclaim the Gospel without any fear.  The more we see Jesus, the more we see him, man, the more we’re going to be witnesses, effective witnesses for him.

 

God, you’re real!  Jesus, you’re real!

 

You know, I was debating, should I even say what I was going to say, but I’m going to say it, so be gracious with me.  But I had an experience in the last week and a half, one of those experiences, that when it was over, and I knew it when it was happening, ‘That God, you’re real!’  ‘Jesus, you’re real!’  And when you have those experiences in your life, the result of those experiences are, you know, my prayer-life changed a little bit.  In fact, my thought-life changed a little bit.  And just my attitude changed a little bit.  Still human, still a big sinner, I had plenty of sins this week for sure---but this sense that he’s real!  And at times [I felt] I could go to the Mall and just let everybody know ‘He’s real!’  Normally I’d be hiding in the corner.  You know what I mean?  I didn’t go to the Mall.  But he’s real.  And I’m going to tell you why, and be gracious with me, but I do believe the Lord has a plan for this church.  And that’s why I need to share it in a way that you guys don’t freak out too much.  [laughter]  But anyway, I’ll tell you the story.  As a congregation, we have taken the step of faith with the second phase of this project, and of course we stepped out, not having finances and trusting that God was going to provide.  And we’ve seen God mightily work and provide, in fact we’re up here as a testimony of what the Lord does.  And we’ve had to trust the Lord for a fair amount.  But as we were doing this, at the same time, a long time ago we as a church made a vow.  In fact, I stood before the church and I shared how God has really pressed it upon my heart that, let’s be a church that’s focused on missions, so we began to give a lot towards missions.  In fact, we determined a few years ago that we would give one offering a month, we wouldn’t tell anybody which one, and it might change per month, but we would give an entire offering of whatever came into the Agape box to the Lord for missions.  [In this denomination the “Agape box” is a nice wooden box with a letter size opening in the top where members contribute their tithes and offerings.  Nobody tracks who gives what or whether members tithe at all---it’s all based on faith, and people’s hearts to give.]  And we would trust the Lord to provide for our bills on the other three offerings that come in a month.  Well at that time we started to do that, I also had the burden on my heart that, hey man, you know, God was faithful, he started a work, but I wondered, as we began to focus on missions, I really began to be burdened for orphans and widows.  And I remember even years ago talking to the church, ‘You know, what if we became radical and gave half our budget to the Lord, and just trusted.  Let’s start as a small church and let’s just trust the Lord with the other half of our budget to pay our bills, and we’ll give half of our budget.’  It seemed pretty radical.  Well we started to do it.  But I really didn’t know what to do with the money.  We really didn’t know as leaders what to do with it.  So if it’s in the bank, you start using it.  Right?  We did….If you’ve been around long enough, I’ve talked to you about this orphans and widows thing, because of what the Scripture says.  Jesus says, man, God says, the orphans and widows.  Right?  Defend them, reach out to them, love them, that’s revival.  Right?  Well anyway, we’ve been doing the building project, and we’ve been giving to missions, but man it’s been such a stretch.  In fact, there’s a couple times where we started to cut back a little bit on missions and then we started to see God cut back on our tithes, you know.  They kind of went together.  So we stopped [cutting back on missions].  But you know we’re just so human, and I reasoned at times, ‘But you know, God knows we need to pay all these bills that are coming in, and he’s paying them…But anyway, there’s this one week a few months ago, there was a lot of need for benevolence in our church, people had desperate needs and there were issues, so we ended up taking care of all these things and in the end we didn’t have our money for missions that one particular month.  So I figured, all right, we’ll make up for it.  But then you know, the next couple of months for different reasons, we had enough to pay our missionaries and we had extra that we normally send along too, but because we had extra and we had bills we paid our bills.  But anyway, we weren’t really being faithful to our vow, and then trying to rationalize it.  Well anyway, what has happened the last couple months, and in an interesting way, we’ve started to fall behind on our bills, on our building project bills.  And God has been gracious in moving things along, but it started to really burden me a lot.  So two weeks ago I started to even pray and fast and seek the Lord, asking “What’s going on Lord?  Why are we behind?  You’ve led us to do this?  And with you, we shouldn’t be behind.  I’m struggling with this, I don’t understand this, this has never happened, you’ve always been faithful.  And if you’ve led us to do this.  And look at the fruit, you’re doing something.  Why are we falling behind?”  So a week and a half ago, I had asked our accountant to give me a list of all things due for the building project, and also how much in that category we were overdue.  But also I had been burdened, once I was teaching a couple months ago, you know, God speaks to you, I was actually teaching on vows, and right as I was teaching, nobody knew this, I felt God say this, “You’re teaching on vows and you’re not being faithful on your vow.”  I felt that!  And I had to struggle through that thought as I was teaching.  Well anyway, I came in and was looking through the billing and this list that the accountant had written up, and there was what we owed, a lot of money, and here’s what we were now behind.  And I’m like, “What’s up with that, Lord?”  But then I noticed in missions we were behind the same amount.  We were behind the same amount as we were on our bills, the exact same dollar figure.  And I said, ‘Go figure.’  Right?  [chuckles]  Isn’t that the way it works?  But what am I supposed to do now?  You know, “Lord, what can I do, we’re behind, and we’re behind?”  I mean, what do you do?  I mean, there’s been times, you know, I’ve had my pay reduced significantly, whatever, because of this season.  The Lord even told me even in the beginning of this year, he was going to test me on that too.  “So Lord I can’t do it with my finances, I mean, what do we do Lord?”  So I began to pray, and this is where you guys might leave the church [laughter], I felt the Lord was pressing it on my heart, testing me on it, “Do you believe I’m real?  You’ve not been faithful to your vow.”  And Malachi and other Scriptures say “You give to me, and watch what I will do.”  [cf. Malachi 3:8-11]  So I wrestled with that, I’m like, ‘Lord, this is a fair amount of money here.’  And this doesn’t make sense, but, so I began to pray and then I read the Scriptures.  They couldn’t have said it any more clearly, where I was in my Bible reading.  So then I got on the phone and I talked to my wife, and my wife says “Look what I just read.”  And she read something to me, and it was like ‘Wow! Unbelievable.  God, are you actually saying to do this?’  Talked to a couple other leaders.  So before the day ended, I felt so strongly the Lord had said something, that before the day ended, we sat down and we wrote checks to pay our missionaries what was due them, even though we were behind.  So now we’re really getting behind.  And I said, “All right Lord, I’m stepping out of the boat on this one because I believe you said to do it.”  Now I wouldn’t try this at home, [why not?] so don’t take this wrong, but God is real, and that’s the truth, and you just have to do what he says to do.  So anyway, next couple days I start to squirm a little as you do.  Right?  You step out of the boat, the waves start to come, or the wind, and you get a little nervous. I was getting nervous.  In fact, there was just strange things going on, just challenging me, confirming to me in a way that I was doing the right thing, and God was just testing me.  But it was getting hard.  In fact, I was up here a few days later in the sanctuary by myself going, “Lord, do you realize, if I was wrong, I’m done with the ministry.  Because what I’ve done is crazy.  I’ve put my head on the chopping block, Lord,  And I’m done.  I can’t lead people after this.  If I am wrong, then I’m done.”  I mean, I was thinking, knowing the passage from the very beginning of the year that’s been on my heart, is Abraham in Genesis 22.  God led him to do something really wild.  In fact, if Abraham was wrong, he would have murdered his son.  Right?  God said ‘Go sacrifice your son.’  That’s what pagans do [back then in that period of time], that doesn’t make sense.  But yet God was testing his heart.  Does he really fear God, does he love his son more?  But of course God wasn’t going to have him do it, but he was testing his heart.  But it says in the Scripture Abraham actually in his heart went that far to obey God.  And the Lord, of course, spared him from doing it, he didn’t actually go all the way and do it.  But I’ve thought about that passage this week in a different way man.  And I said to the Lord, “Lord, if I’m wrong.”  But then I said, “I believe you’ve spoken to me, and if you’ve spoken to me, you have to prove yourself.  And you have to prove yourself soon.”  Well that night after the service, Wednesday night, I met with a of few leaders of the church and I just opened my heart to them, man, and I shared with them, ‘Listen guys, I’m just about done with the ministry here if God doesn’t do something.’  And it’s critical, we were behind, now we’re really behind.  But I want to say, I believe the Lord has led me, and he’s going to come through.  But I’m just asking you to pray for me, because I’m starting to struggle with this test.  I’ve really stepped out of the boat on this one.  Well we’ve got some radical leaders in our church, and I wonder what the Lord’s gonna do, because every one of them said “I believe the Lord has led you, hang in there Steve….”  I mean, they were encouraging me.  Right?  “Don’t get too discourage.”  In fact, they all prayed for me.  Well, there’s one other part of the story.  As this was happening, I believe the Lord really began to minister to my heart about orphans and widows, and he was saying to me, I believe in my heart, “that I’m going to show you that I’m a God that provides.  You just have to trust me, because I want you to step out with these orphans and widows, I want to give you that little boost in your faith so you can get radical and do this, and it’s related to the nation of India.”  So I was even saying, “Lord, I’m excited, I believe you’ve spoken, I believe you want us to do some cool stuff related to Chapel Missions India.”  There are places where there are kids crammed into homes, there’s one particular home right now, they have fifty girls in a home, they’re busting over with [needs], they need houses, they need finances, they need resources to house these orphan kids in India.  They are a ministry associated with this denomination, they’ve asked us if we’d be a part of it.  And of course, it requires faith.  And I saw the vision, and I said “Lord, how exciting to be part of that.  And Lord, if you work now, you’re real, and all we need to do is trust you in the future.”  Well anyway, I met with these leaders and we had our time together.  But don’t you know, as God would work, all along, in the Agape Box, was all the money that was needed, just sitting there.  It just needed to be counted.  And it was even kind of funny, later a couple of us went to check the Agape Box, I didn’t.  Why would there be anything in there?  But there was so much funds in there you could have heard the hootin’ and hollerin’ [laugher] in Lancaster, we were going nuts, I was going nuts.  ‘God you’re real!’  ‘You said to do this.  OK, I want to be a pastor, but I’m done if you’re not real, if you haven’t spoken.  But if you’ve spoken, you have to be true to your Word, you’re bound by your Word.’  So, we did it.  God blessed.  In fact, within just a few days, if you add them all up, the amount of checks, and this is often the way it works, the amount of checks we wrote to our missionaries, God brought back almost double to the dollar.  [applause]  [This website features a tiny little Christian orphanage that supports orphans and widows in southeast India.  This orphanage is about five hours away by train from the one this pastor supports, and receives little or no outside funds at the time of this writing.  Due to lack of sufficient funding, it is currently prevented from expanding, although there are thousands of children in the area that are in need.  To view it, and consider whether you want to step out in faith, log onto: http://www.unityinchrist.com/evangelism/sisterchurches/BlessiOrphanHome.htm.]  But this is my experience, and maybe you don’t relate to my experience, but I hope you have experiences too.  God is real.  I just have to follow his lead, I just have to serve him.  I just have to trust him.  And I can share the Gospel, I don’t have to fear what anybody thinks of me, because Jesus is coming back.  I just have to lay my life down.  And my prayer since then has been “Lord, I truly want to know that abandoned life.  My wife and I, living for you, because you got it all in your hands.  You got it all in your hands.  If I tell you all the details, and I haven’t told you all the details, you would see that what happened this week, there’s no explanation for it, other than God said “Go, watch, believe, and look at what I can do.”  And he did it.  I hope you have experiences like that.  Because the more Jesus is real to you, the more we become like a John the Baptist.  [And the body of Christ right now, as we get closer to Jesus’ 2nd coming, should be becoming more like the work of John the Baptist, heralding his 2nd coming, and soon coming kingdom which will reign on earth.  And also we as believers ought to be treating those in the world, the downtrodden, the way the Lord’s soon-coming Government of God will be treating those under his rulership and reign.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/2ndcoming.htm and http://www.unityinchrist.com/kingdomofgod/kog.htm.]  And he is.  It isn’t like he just gave us salvation and we’re going to meet up with him in the end.  We aren’t to go along and just do our own little thing.  But we’re to walk with him.  Commune with him, worship him, talk to him, pray to him, and open your heart to him.  “John was sent to be a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe”, and we also are to be lights in this dark world.  And I tell you, what’s going to  help, as we comprehend these truths more and more of the Scriptures, and the truth is, this is what John is saying, we can make it very simple, he’s saying ‘Jesus is real, Jesus is God, he is the Messiah, he’s the Creator of the heavens and the earth.’  You can live full guns for him, and live totally abandoned to him, and there is no fear whatsoever.  Well he says, Jesus is the Light.

 

Jesus is the Light that lights everyone that comes into the world

 

Verse 9, he says, That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”  He says he is the true Light.  He’s the genuine Light.  He isn’t the false light.  When he says he’s the true light, he mean’s he’s the dependable light.  He’s a light that when you look at it, when you’re in your boat sailing, he’s the lighthouse the leads you to safety, that keeps you away from those rocky places of destruction that can hurt you.  He’s like that in our lives.  He’s like that for every man and every woman that’s ever lived.  He is the Light.  You lead people to him and you look to him, and he’s going to lead you to safety, he’s going to lead you to good waters, to good pastures.  But if you don’t, and you stay in the darkness, you’re going to be running into things you don’t want to run into.  And there are also false lights out there.  There are beacons that blink and they say things, but man you go and follow them you end up in destruction and emptiness.  There’s all kinds, of the bi-hi faith, the Mormon thing and on and on and on.  [Benny Hinn, let’s not forget him.]  Other lights, other things.  But John says Jesus is the Light.  He is the true light.  And he’s the one that we need to be steering towards and trusting for and following him, and he’s the one we need to be leading people to.  You know, there are all kinds of false beacons out there, and there are groups and churches that are more concerned about themselves than about the Light Jesus, and it’s not the same experience.   I was talking to a pastor this week, and he shared with me about a particular ministry that he has concern about.  This ministry, as I’ve heard others say too, is just all concerned about themselves as an organization, and all they do is say “Come to our church, because we’re better than other churches.”  That’s essentially the heart of this one ministry.  “Come to us and we got all the answers.  You’ve not heard these things in other churches, but you’re going to hear here certain things that you’ll never hear anywhere else.”  Those types of things.  So what’s happened is, and when there’s ministries like that, they are all around the country, people leave [their own] congregations and they go, because they have an “itching ear”.  Well this pastor was sharing with me one experience with this one particular lady who was part of his congregation who was strong in the Lord, was doing well, but has some other types of theological and spiritual desires, and they weren’t that bad, but they were things that his church didn’t participate in, and she was frustrated with that.  And because of that she went to this other place, and this other place said, ‘We’ll allow that here, you want to do that, we’ll do that here too.’  So she went there a year ago.  And he shared with me that, now a year later he’s run into her again.  And this lady isn’t even going to church now.  She’s not even hungry for the Word of God.  She’s gone completely back to the world.  But when she was at a good church, she was doing just fine.  But she got involved in something else that had another emphasis, and now she’s not even, she doesn’t have that passion in her heart anymore.  There are a lot of false lights.  There’s only one light.  And as a congregation, all we need to do is point to Jesus.  Not to us in this congregation, not to any person or any worship team or any man or any song, we point people to Jesus….” [partial transcript of a sermon of John 1:6-18 given somewhere in New England (covering verses 6-8)  The tape ends here, an obvious error in the recording.  I will continue through the assigned verses with comments from F.F. Bruce’s THE GOSPEL & EPISTLES OF JOHN.  The translation of the verses are his own, but don’t worry, F.F. Bruce was an accomplished scholar in Greek and Hebrew.

 

“1:9  The true light, which enlightens every human being, was in the course of coming into the world.  ….It is from this true light that all genuine illumination proceeds.  Whatever measure of truth men and women in all ages have apprehended has been derived from this source.”  This is true when you consider that Paul in 1st Corinthians 2:8-13 explains that man himself would know nothing except for the human spirit God places within all human beings.  And just as normal humans gain their human enlightenment and understanding of things around them, Paul then goes on to show that our higher level spiritual understanding comes in a similar fashion by the very Holy Spirit he places within believers.  In Romans 8:15-16, Paul goes on to explain that for believers this human spirit we all have is intertwined and mixed with the Holy Spirit, which imparts spiritual understanding normal mankind does not possess.  So, in effect, we see two forms of enlightenment that Jesus gives mankind, one through the spirit in man, enlightening mankind with human intelligence and intellect.  The other form of “enlightenment” given by Jesus and the Father is the imparting of the Holy Spirit within believers, “lighting” up their spiritual understanding.  F.F. Bruce goes on to verify this by saying, “Justin Martyr was not wrong when he affirmed that Socrates and the Stoics and others who had lived in conformity with right reason (logos) were really, if unconsciously, directed by the pre-existent Christ.  [But] the illumination that the Evangelist has primarily in mind is that spiritual illumination which dispels the darkness of sin and unbelief; and it was by coming into the world that the true light provided this supreme illumination---and provided it for all mankind.  He is the light ‘which enlightens every human being’ in the sense that the illumination which he has brought is for all without distinction.”  [text in quotation marks F.F. Bruce, THE GOSPEL & EPISTLES OF JOHN, pp. 36-37.]

 

“1:10  He was in the world and the world came into being through him, and the world did not know him.  ….this sentence might be reconstructed thus: ‘He was in the world, although it owed its existence to him, failed nevertheless to recognize him.’  The world (kosmos) is the universe, referred to in verse 3 as ‘all things’….By ‘the world’ the Evangelist understands in particular the world of mankind, alienated from God (Rom. 1:28), even although ‘since the creation of the world (kosmos) his invisible nature, namely, his everlasting power and divinity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made’ (Rom. 1:20)”  I would like to add a quote I recently came across in Christianity Today, which backs up this statement and Romans 1:28:  Creation: The universe, far from being a howling wasteland indifferent to our existence, appears to be finely tuned through its estimated 13.7 billion years of existence to support life on this planet.  Tinker with any one of scores of fundamental physical laws or the initial conditions of the universe---such as gravity or the cosmological constant---and we would not be here.  As physicist Paul Davies has admitted, “I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact.””  [Answering the Atheists, by Stan Guthrie, Christianity Today]  Continuing with FF. Bruce, “Apart from the divine Word, nothing that exists came into being.  If the world as made by God has nevertheless become the ‘godless world’ (as the NEB renders kosmos in appropriate Johannine contexts), that is because of its refusal to acknowledge the revelation of God or respond positively to his overtures.”

 

“1:11 He came to his own place, and his own people did not receive him.  ‘His own place’ translated the neuter plural ta idia; ‘his own people translates the masculine plural hoi idioi.  (The phrase eis ta idia with which this verse opens reappears in the passion narrative in John 19:27, where the beloved disciple takes the mother of Jesus ‘to his own home’; cf. also16:32)….The Word of God, which came to the world of mankind in general, came in the form of special revelation to the people of Israel, in law, prophecy and wisdom, and in mighty acts of mercy and judgment such as no other nation experienced (cf. Deut. 4:7, 8; Ps 147:20).  But repeatedly the testimony of God’s spokesmen to Israel was that his message was ignored: ‘From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day [the eve of the Babylonian exile], I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; yet they did not listen to me, or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck’ (Jer. 7:25 f.).  The Evangelist is thinking not only of what happened in those earlier days of Israel’s history; he has in mind what happened when the Word ‘came to his own place’ in an unprecedented manner, and his plan is to amplify this in the record which follows.  Those who were ‘his own people’ would have none of him when he came.  Stated thus starkly and absolutely, the paradox is grim.  But the grimness is not unrelieved.  Had none at all received him, darkness would have prevailed indeed.  But some did receive him gladly, and showed themselves thus to be truly ‘his own people’.  Over the first main division of the Gospel, to the end of chapter 12, we might write the words ‘his own people did not receive him’, but over the next division (chapters 13-17) we might write the words which immediately follow in our present context: ‘But as for those who did receive him…’---and it is of those that we read at the beginning of chapter 13, ‘He had set his love on his own people who were in the world, and he loved them to the uttermost’.  As in OT times, so now, it is the believing remnant which embodies the true people of God and provides the visible guarantee of the fulfillment of all his promises to them.”  [ibid, pp. 37-38, F.F. Bruce]

 

1:12, 13  But as for those who did receive him, to them all he gave authority to become God’s children—to those who believe in his name, who were born, not from blood nor from the will of the flesh nor from the will of man, but of God.  Spiritual birth and new the new life to which it is the gateway are prominent themes in the Gospel of John.  The remnant which gave the Word a welcome when he came into the world received the birthright to all the blessings and privileges which his coming was designed to impart.  These blessings and privileges are summed up in this, that they were admitted to the membership in the family of God.  To enter God’s family one must receive his Word—in other terms, one must believe in his name.  The ‘name’ is much more than the designation by which a person is known; it means the real character or sometimes, as here, the person himself.  To receive him who is the Word of God, then, means to place one’s faith in him, to yield one’s allegiance to him and thus, in the most practical manner, to acknowledge his claims….It is spiritually irrelevant to be descended from Abraham in the natural order if one is not a child of Abraham in the only sense that matters before God—by reproducing Abraham’s faith.”  [ibid. p. 39]

 

1:14  And the Word became flesh and pitched his tabernacle among us.  We looked on his glory—glory such as an only-begotten son (receives) from a father, full of grace and truth.  It is evident from the first two epistles of John that a form of docetism [heresy] was widespread in the area in which the Johannine literature appeared—a teaching which denied that Jesus Christ had ‘come in the flesh’ and disunited the earthly Jesus from the heavenly Christ (cf. 1 John 4:1-3).  Here and there the Gospel of John betrays awareness of this teaching and uses a form of words which excludes it.  The Evangelist might have declared in the present text that the eternal Word took manhood or assumed a bodily form, but no such declaration would have been so uncompromisingly anti-docetic as the declaration that ‘the Word became flesh’.  The humanity, the ‘flesh’, which was taken by the divine Word at that point in time was and remains as perfect as his divine nature; yet it is our human nature (apart from sin) that he took, and not some ‘heavenly humanity’ of a different order.  (‘Heavenly humanity’ is a proper expression to use of the resurrection life of our Lord and his people, in the light of 1 Cor. 15:44-53, but not of his earthly life.)….’the Word became flesh’, God became man….The further statement that the incarnate Word ‘pitched his tabernacle (eskenosen) among us’ harks back to the tabernacle (skene) of Israel’s wilderness wanderings.  The tabernacle was erected by God’s command in order that his dwelling-place might be established with his people: ‘let them make me a sanctuary’, he said, ‘that I may dwell in their midst’ (Ex. 25:8).  So, it is implied, as God formerly manifested his presence among his people in the tent which Moses pitched, now in a fuller sense he has taken up residence on earth in the Word made flesh.”  [ibid. p. 40, par. 3]  Now here we have an interesting point F.F. Bruce is making.  John makes it plain throughout 1st John chapters 1-5 that Jesus, Yeshua is God the Son, which makes him the pre-existent Yahweh, the very God of the Old Testament that dwelt in the tabernacle set up by Moses, and the One who communed with Moses face to face and dwelt among the Israelites for those 40 years in their desert wanderings.  This was brought out in the previous sermon transcript covering the first five verses of the Gospel of John, but it also fits right in with this verse.  F.F. Bruce continues.

          “Not only so, but among Greek-speaking Jews the noun skene and cognate words, like the verb skenoo, which is used in this clause, were commonly associated with the Hebrew verb shakan (‘dwell’) and its derivatives, such as the biblical mishkan (‘tabernacle’) and the post-biblical shekinah—a word which literally means ‘residence’ but was used more practically of the glorious presence of God which resided in the Mosaic tabernacle and Solomon’s temple.  When the tabernacle was completed, ‘the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord [this would be Yahweh] filled the tabernacle.’  (Ex. 40:34).  Similarly, at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, ‘a cloud filled the house of the Lord….for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.’ (1 Kgs. 8:10 f.)  So, when the Word became flesh, the glorious presence of God was embodied in him, for he is the true Shekinah.  The glory which shone in the tabernacle and temple, veiled in the mysterious cloud [this cloud is often referred to the Shekinah because Yahweh “resided” within it, probably to shield the humans in close proximity to him from getting fried by his brilliance], was but the foreshadow of that excelling glory which shone in the incarnate Word, veiled from those who had no mind to come to the light, but manifested to faith.  The Evangelist looks back and sees how the whole earthly career of the incarnate Word, and pre-eminently the sacrifice of the cross which crowned that career, revealed the glory of God.  ‘We looked on  his glory’….” [ibid. pp.40-41]

 

1:15  John bears witness concerning him and cried aloud: ‘This is he whom I said, ‘He who is coming after me has taken precedence over me, for he existed before me.’”  The present tense, ‘John bares witness’, may indicate that while John [the Baptist] was long dead by the time the Gospel was written, his witness remained (and remains).  Similarly the perfect tense ‘has cried’ implies that while John’s proclamation was a past event, the substance of what he proclaimed is permanently true….As the NEB renders it: ’before I was born, he already was.’  The reader who comes to this after reading the earlier part of the prologue has no difficulty in understanding John’s witness: he is speaking of the Word that existed in the beginning with God [the Father] and in the fullness of time became incarnate among men.  [See previous sermon for explanation]  [Comment:  John the Baptist was physically conceived six months before the supernatural concept of Jesus, and John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus, around Passover time, according to the timing of John’s father’s temple duty assignment.  (Making the time of Jesus physical birth in the fall, around Trumpets/Tabernacles).  So the John in his statement “before I was born, he already was” is most definitely referring to the pre-existent Christ, Yahweh.]

 

“1:16  Because we have all received from his fullness, even grace upon grace.  ‘We all’ probably denotes not only the Evangelist and his original associates, who saw the glory of the Word made flesh, but the readers of the Gospel also, and indeed all who share the blessing pronounced in [John] 20:29 on ‘those who have not seen, and yet have believed’.  This plenitude of divine glory and goodness which resides in Christ (cf. Col. 1:19; 2:9) is an ocean which all his people may draw without ever diminishing its content….What the followers of Christ draw from the ocean of divine fullness is grace upon grace—one wave of grace being constantly replaced by a fresh one.  There is no limit to the supply of grace which God has placed at his people’s disposal in Christ: our Evangelist, like Paul, has proved the truth of the assurance: ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Cor. 12:9). [ibid. p. 42-43]

 

1:17 Because the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  Grace and truth were not absent from God’s ways which he made known to Moses; on the contrary, as we have seen, he revealed himself to Moses as ‘abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex. 34:6), and the same language is repeatedly used throughout the OT as a summary of his character (cf. Ps. 86:15).  But our Evangelist likes to set the old order and the new in antithetical terms.  Even the law which was given through Moses, intimations of grace and truth were not lacking, but all that was manifested of these qualities in OT times was disclosed in concentrated fullness in the incarnate Word.  Here, then, as in Paul’s writings, Christ displaces the law of Moses as the focus of divine revelation and the way to life.  [Comment:  99.9 percent of all who lived under the OT law of Moses did not possess the spiritual ability to keep that law.  But now through Christ, indwelling in the believer by and through the indwelling Holy Spirit, Christ in us, believers are able to fulfill and live the law by Christ in us.  So the focus is Christ, and not the law.  The law is important, but it is more important to have Christ, who within us, helps us and leads us to fulfill the supreme commandment within the law, and that is to love, love God and mankind.  So, as F.F. Bruce points out, the focus is on Christ now.  The law is impossible without Christ in us.  With Christ in us, all things are possible.  Christ is the living Word.]  This Gospel emphasizes in a series of presentations that the new order fulfils, surpasses and replaces the old: the wine of the new creation is better than the water which was used in Jewish religion (John 2:10), the new temple supercedes the old (2:19), and the new birth is the gateway to a sphere of life which cannot be entered by natural birth, even natural birth into membership of the chosen people (John 3:3, 5), the living water of the Spirit which Jesus imparts is far superior both to the water in Jacob’s well and to the water which was ritually poured out in the temple court at the feast of Tabernacles (John 4:13f; 7:37ff.), the bread of heaven is the reality of which the manna in the wilderness was but an adumbration (John 6:32f)….Here, in the statement that ‘grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’, the incarnate Word is given a name for the first time.  Usually in this Gospel ‘Jesus’ is his personal name [Yeshua in Hebrew], while ‘Christ’ [haMeshiach in Hebrew] is a title or designation—‘Messiah’ or ‘Anointed One’—but in this place ‘Jesus Christ’ [Yeshua haMeshiach] appears to be used as the twofold name by which he is commonly known among Greek-speaking Christianity [which at John’s time through to 325AD would be Judeo-Christianity.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm].  [ibid. pp. 43-44]

 

1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten, (himself God), who has his being in the Father’s bosom, is the one who has declared him.  God being pure spirit, is invisible to physical eyesight [I might add, whenever God desires to remain invisible.  Don’t forget, God the Father, and at this period in time, Jesus Christ dwell in the 3rd heaven, wherever that may be].  Not even Abraham, ‘the friend of God’, not even Moses, ‘whom the Lord knew face to face’ (Deut. 34:10) could see the divine glory in its fullness.  When Moses asked that he might see the glory of God, he was told, ‘you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live’ (Ex. 33:20).  He was instructed instead to stand in a hollow in the rocky slope of Sinai while the glory of God passed by, and there, God said, ‘I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen’ (Ex. 33:22).  We should perhaps say….that Moses saw, so to speak, the afterglow of the divine glory….”  “‘Who has seen him and can describe (ekdiegesetai) him?’ asked Ben Sira concerning God (Sir. 43:31).  He left his question unanswered, but now an answer is forthcoming; one who has not only seen him, but has his being in his bosom has declared (exegesato) him….”  [Ben Sira The Wisdom of Ben Sira by Yeshua ben Sira, also known as The Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach or merely Sirach, and known by some Christians as Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), is a work from the 2nd Century BCE, originally written in Hebrew.  Ben Sirah, a Jew had been living in Jerusalem, may have authored the work in Alexandria, Egypt circa 180-175 BC, where he is thought to have established a school….Ben Sira was a scholar, and a scribe thoroughly versed in the Law, and especially in the “Books of Wisdom”.  It is thought that Jesus actually quoted from Ben Sira, found in several passages of the Gospels.]  “The statement that the only-begotten exists in the Father’s bosom may remind us of the description of Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom in Luke 16:22 f., or of the beloved disciple occupying a similar position of nearness to Jesus at the Last Supper in John 13:23….there is also a suggestion of the mutual love and understanding of the Father and the Son and of the Son’s dependence on the Father.  Only one who fully knows the Father can make him fully known.  The same sense is conveyed by….’no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Matt. 11:27; cf. Luke 10:22)….How the Son declared the unseen God to men, functioning thus as the living Word in the world, it is the Evangelist’s purpose to relate in the record to which these eighteen verses form the prologue.”  [ibid. pp. 44-46]

 

F.F. Bruce is a little bit dry and scholarly in his explanation of these verses, but he is right on the mark as well, and accepted by most Bible scholars as such. 

 

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