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Living for Eternity: A Study in John’s Gospel – “The True Light” Part 1 – Mark Ottaway

Living for Eternity: A Study in John’s Gospel

The True Light (Part #1)

John 1:1-13


Turn to John 1. Before I pray this morning. I wish to emphasize the great responsibility we have because we have the Word of God. The Bible is full of responsibility. In other words, we cannot read God’s Word and not be overwhelmed with the responsibility that God has given to us. As already, I have found John’s Gospel to be convicting. There are times in the Scriptures when we are given directives on how to live. Yet there are other times when we are told truths. Theology, truths about God, and truths about ourselves. That these truths themselves must be responded to. In other words, you cannot read such truth and walk away. So, we are going to hear truth this morning that must be responded to. In fact, our response actually indicates our faith. For if we truly believe what we hear from God, it must change us, it must. Or we are not who we claim to be. So, let’s pray before we begin. Lord, we love Your Word. It can make us uneasy because when we read it, study it, meditate on it. We cannot but help be overwhelmed with what You have done, of who You are, and how we are to respond. And what would we do without it. For we need its comfort, we need its healing, its assurance. We need its stirring our hearts, its strengthening. “Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” So, give us undivided hearts this morning, focused on Your truth, desiring to do Your will. Amen.


This morning, week #2 in our series in the Gospel of John, John is going to focus on the word Light, capitalized in the Legacy Standard Bible. John 1:1-13 is packed with truth and theology, and a great insight into the battles that we face today. I wish to make eight firm statements from this passage. And we will only cover three this morning, and plan to do the remaining five next Sunday. Also, along the way, I wish to give you some problems for mankind that come up from these verses around this word Light. This is the Greek word phōs which can be translated light, lamp, fire. Anything that emits light or “sheds light.” It is used twenty-two times by John, and six times in our passage this morning. So, let’s look at John’s use of this word phōs.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it. There was a man having been sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to bear witness about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens everyone.”

John 1:19 (LSB)


Now I stated last week that life is the central theme of the Gospel of John, as it is in this passage. “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men” (vs 4). In other words, “In Him was life,” and now he is going to describe that life. It is interesting that when we understand that before creation, there was God. In fact, kids here with us this morning, when you wonder about God, know that he has always existed, no one created God. But God has always been, and He is the Creator of everything. And if we know that God existed, we also know that life existed. For God was alive, as God has always been alive. When Christ died on the cross, God did not die. But Christ as a human died. The humanness of Christ died. His physical body died. But know that God has always been alive, and that God will always be alive. Life existed before anything else existed other than God. In other words, no matter or things existed. No nature, no trees, no universe, no animals, no people. But life existed because God existed.


So, this, young people, is a major difference between what the world would teach and what the Bible teaches, for the world looks for life to have come from matter. Therefore, they look for things such as oxygen or water to have existed at some point, and in some satisfactory place with all the right conditions to be able to produce life. So that if you have this substance, added to this substance, in these conditions it will produce life. Yet the Bible teaches the exact opposite. For the Bible teaches that life has always existed because God has always existed, because (vs 4) tells us, “in Him was life.” So, if in “Him” God existed from eternity past with no beginning, then life has existed from eternity past with no beginning. The human explanation of things begins with matter that somehow produced life. Whereas the biblical explanation of things begins with God, which assumes life, which created matter. In other words, all things, came from God and came from the life of God. Good question young people to ask your science teacher nicely, “Is there a chance that life existed before matter?”


And don’t get me wrong. I admire the intelligence of scientists and teachers. But when they refuse the existence of God, they have to come up with some kind of other explanation for creation. And so far, all they have suggested is the Big Bang. And when you have a universe that is 93 B light years big, that’s traveling at 186,000 miles per second to take 93 B years. That’s quite the Bang! So, without God they must place their faith in their theory. Because there is no proof of their theory. Yet the Bible points to a faith in God who is alive and who created and who extended His life into His creation.

“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.”

John 1:4 (LSB)


  1. The Life is the Light of Men (vs 4)


The life that existed in eternity past. The life that is in God is the direct cause of the life that has been given to men and women. Genesis 1:27, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female.” There is no other kind of human life. They are either male or female. And this is why any other thought on this is an abomination to God, as it rips at the core of God’s creation, at the core of God’s design. That men are men and women are women. This is also why any thought of aborting a baby rips at the core of God’s creation, as God created that child at conception and breathed into that little soul, life. Science actually agrees with this as Christian website Got Questions states:

“Science tells us that human life begins at the time of conception. From the moment fertilization takes place, the child’s genetic makeup is already complete. Its gender has already been determined, along with its height and hair, eye and skin color. The only thing the embryo needs to become a fully-functioning being is the time to grow and develop.”


This too is that any other thought on this is an abomination to God, as it rips at the core of God’s creation, at the core of God’s design, that every child whether born or unborn has obtained life from God. We have no right to determine our sex. We have no right to take the life of an infant, as both are God’s domain. Well that is enough about that as I promised we would move a little quicker through these verses. And though the topic of life is such a fascinating topic, John here is speaking about much more than physical life, though physical life is part of this. Yet the core of John’s point when he says “in Him was life,” is that in Jesus Christ is “eternal life.” I see this from John 5. Turn there.

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word [in the beginning was the Word], and believes Him [capital ‘H’ God] who sent Me [Jesus Christ], has eternal life [not just physical life, but eternal life], and does not come into judgment [because everyone who lives a physical life comes into judgment], but has passed out of death into life [what kind of life here? eternal life].


25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead [those who have died physically] will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live [eternally].


26 For just as the Father has life [the Father does not have physical life, but eternal spiritual life, for God is Spirit] in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself [Jesus Christ is also deity, so too He is Spirit, as well as human];


27 and He [God] gave Him [Jesus] authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.


28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,


29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life [eternal life], those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment [eternal death].


So yes, all life came from God. Life has always existed because God has always existed. But all physical life results in death. Because we all sin, all die. Now we might argue that point, saying that some may have an excuse. Or that some might think that they can rationalize their choices, and therefore believe that some should not have died. For you might be at a funeral and they say that the person who just died was the nicest person who ever lived, and that they were kind and friendly and giving. But they died. Why? Because God has spoken, because God is the Judge. And the “results speak for themselves,” everybody dies. So what John is introducing here is the kind of life that never dies. And the reason that this life does not go out of existence is because of what it tells us in John 5:24. What is it? They believe Him, Christ. If you want a simple gospel message, the Apostle John is going to do that for us. Though the richness of its message has an absolute depth to it, John will make it very black and white for us. 1 John 5:11-12, the same Apostle John:

“And the witness is this, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have that life.

  • John 5:11-12 (LSB)


Everybody get that? If you have Jesus Christ, you have eternal life. And if you do not have Jesus Christ, you do not have eternal life. Young people, did you hear that? Of all the messages that you might hear in life, in school, on the internet, TV, friends; this is what God says, if you have Christ you live, yet if you reject Him, you die. So, everybody is dead without Christ. Now they may be walking around, they may be following the sports scores. They may be doing well financially. They may be raising a great family. But if they do not have Christ, all they have is physical life which leads eventually to death. Because everybody dies: the rich, the poor, the great Dad, the lousy Dad, the sick, the healthy. No exception. My Mom and Dad were both extremely optimistic. And my Dad was in hospital and my sister was with him. And Dad was to fill out a sheet that rated his health, and he checked off excellent health. And Lynne said, “Dad, you have high blood pressure, you have been diagnosed with cancer, and you have to have a knee replacement!” And Dad said, “Well I was in great health until I got sick!” Even people in great physical health die. Eventually my Dad died. Yet what John is emphasizing here in John 1:4 is eternal life. So, let’s go back there.

“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.”

John 1:4 (LSB)


What is John saying here? That this eternal life from God is the Light of men. What does that mean? I would suggest that the life that is given to us as a gift from God enlightens us. It grants to us a spiritual understanding that we would not normally have. I love what John Piper says:

“People are not dead because they cannot walk, they are dead because they cannot see.”

John Piper,


So understand that this life, existing in God, was the Light of men, was personified, was embodied in Christ. It was actually more than that. This life was imaged in Christ, the Light of men. Notice verse 14, “we beheld His glory.” We saw the Light. For this is exactly what we have been talking about. If you miss Christ, you miss the Light. And if you miss the Light, you have no life. Point #1, the life is the Light of men. Problem #1: Man only possesses physical life; therefore, he will someday die.  


  1. The Light Shines in the Darkness (vs 5)


“And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.”

John 1:5 (LSB)


Nothing else shines in the darkness. Nothing but (vs 9) the true Light shines in the darkness. We have a big backyard. And I have told you before that it is not fenced-in. And Ted usually just roams around in the backyard. Now fortunately she is not very rambunctious, so she just slowly walks around. Can be somewhat frustrating. Now sometimes I let her out when it is pitch black outside. And we have a flashlight that we can turn on to keep an eye on her. So, she will be walking around in the pitch black with this spotlight on here. I always wonder what the neighbours are thinking when they see a spotlight on the stupid dog! As if she is some kind of celebrity dog! The Light, Christ, shines in the darkness. What is John referring to here when he uses the term darkness? Well, it will be the exact opposite of the Light. It is in stark contrast to the Light.


The Light has understanding, the Light can see, the Light has life. The darkness has none of those things. It does not have understanding, it cannot see, and it does not have life. Again, John is going to be very black-and-white here, as there is no exception to this. And this is not a very becoming description for mankind. But again, this is not man’s description of us. This is not being careful so that we all have a good self-esteem. No, this is God’s description of us, darkness. The Greek word scotia which means in need of light, ignorant of spiritual things, wicked. Not unlike the wording in the book of Daniel, where Daniel told Belshazzar that he had been weighed in the balances and was found wanting. Point #2, the Light shines in the darkness. Problem #2: Man’s life falls far short of God’s requirement.


  1. The Darkness Cannot Overtake the Light (vs 5)


End of verse 5, “the darkness did not overtake it.” In other words, ultimately the Light wins out. Though man is born in sin. Though he lives in darkness and cannot see. Though his physical life will end in death, Light wins. Now in some of your Bibles you may have the term that the darkness did not understand it or did not comprehend it. While others say did not overcome it, overtake it, grasp it.


Here I want to give you a short lesson on translation, as I would recommend a literal translation, which translates Hebrew and Greek as literally as possible. Sometimes it depends on the actual Greek. As there may be rare times when the manuscript copies we possess have minor word differences or words added. This is rare, and they do not change the message but can alter slightly the meaning of a passage. The issue in the New Testament is that there are over 5,000 New Testament manuscripts. These are not originals, but copies. Many date back to the early 2nd century, and there are minor differences. However, the similarities between these ancient manuscripts are incredible, considering how many and how old they are. Some translations (KJV, ESV, NASB, LSB) will lean more toward certain manuscripts than others. And by studying the manuscripts, translators will suggest that something has been added to the text or taken away. This is why in some of your Bibles it will say things like, “The earliest manuscripts do not include…”


Now we teach that the Word of God is inerrant in its original form. But also understand that we have no original manuscripts. We would not teach that any specific translation is inerrant, though we are grateful for the Lord preserving His Word. The reliable translations we have today enable us to be completely confident that we hold the Word of God! Now the issue here in this passage is not an issue with a difference in manuscripts. But simply trying to decipher what John means by the word katalambanō.

“And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.”

John 1:5 (LSB)


The meaning is not unlike our word grasp, which can mean that the darkness cannot grasp or take hold of the Light. This is why some translations will say, the darkness did not overtake it or overcome it. But also, like our word grasp, it can mean that the darkness was unable to grasp the Light, such as we would today say that someone was unable to grasp the truth. So you and I trying to decipher the exact meaning here is difficult, as Greek scholars have debated over this word’s exact meaning. Piper gives a good argument, saying that darkness is unable to grasp the Light, in the sense of the darkness of this world cannot understand the Light. And this is true, as our world does not understand the gospel, and therefore rejects the gospel. On the other hand, MacArthur, suggests the other meaning, that the darkness cannot overtake the Light. He writes:

“Even a small candle can drive the darkness from a room; the brilliant glorious Light of the Lord Jesus Christ will utterly destroy Satan’s realm of darkness.”

John MacArthur, John 1-11 23


This may better describe what is going on here. The same John writes in 1 John 2:8:

“… because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.”

  • John 2:8b (LSB)


I would suggest that it is the word darkness that we must focus on here, as it not only describes mankind but even more directly Satan and his forces. And in reality, they knew all too much about Him. The darkness knew Him, the demons knew Him. In fact, they knew exactly who He was, as they called Him the Son of God. They oppose Him, they despise Him, but they will not overtake Him. As Jesus wins, as Christ will defeat every one of His enemies. Light will win over darkness!

Problem #3: Man cannot defeat the Light; therefore, he must deal with Christ. See, God does not look down at the world and sort of say, come on you guys, you can do this. Come on, just focus! No, it says that the Light shines in the darkness. In other words, the presence of Christ is in complete contrast, distinct, poles apart from the world. The world is not in line with Christ. The world is not in line with the Light. Even in eternity when men are in hell, they must still deal with the Light. As they will still be enemies of the Light. They will still shake their fists at the Light. Why? Because the Light will not go away and will always prevail. Well, there is much more that needs to be said regarding this passage, as we will continue to work through it next Sunday. Let’s pray. Lord, such importance is placed upon the Light that has been revealed. We praise You for the Light. A Light that even all the forces of evil, cannot overcome. For Lord, You are victorious. Because greater is He that is in us as believers, than he that is in the world. So, may we live that all the time. For we ask this in the name of Christ, the Light. Amen.


We said this morning that there were three problems with man. All men and women, the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Problem #1 – Man only possesses physical life; therefore, he will someday die.  

 Does anyone want to argue that one? Maybe Enoch might or Elijah. Men who were transcended up into heaven without dying. Only two exceptions. When the Word of God says that it is appointed unto man once to die. This is why some have suggested that the two witnesses that come back in Revelation 11 and are killed will be Enoch and Elijah. We will have to wait on that one to find out and maybe know the rest of the story.


Problem #2 – Man’s life falls far short of God’s requirement.

God does not give man a raving review of his life, as God has declared that every man and woman has fallen short of the glory of God. Short of God’s requirement for entering heaven. That is an even worse problem than problem #1, because the world pretty much teaches now that yes, man will die, and has become fairly content with the idea of dying and going out of existence. Yes, some secular funerals still speak about some kind of heaven, but it is not mentioned too much anymore. So, we can have our funerals. Sort of comfort ourselves in the fact that Gramma and Grampa no longer have pain and we can just enjoy their memories. But then there is another problem we noticed.


Problem #3 – Man cannot defeat the Light; therefore, he must deal with Christ. 

This is a worse problem again, as we spoke about this two weeks ago. Because having to deal with Christ is an issue, because Christ is the final authority. Therefore, every soul that has ever existed will be judged by Christ. It does not just out of existence, as Christ has the final say regarding the destiny of every person who will ever live. Therefore, it is Jesus’ final word that will declare, “Well done thou good and faithful servant,” or His final word, “Depart from Me for I never knew you.” We said that on average, 158,000 people die every day. 158,000 people must stand before Christ sometime today, where Christ will give His declaration.


So where are each of you this day? Do you have a relationship with Christ? For all of us must give an account to Christ someday. And God has been saying this to us this morning that if you have Christ you live, yet if you reject Him, you die and are condemned in hell. John will go on to tell us how to have a relationship with Christ.

“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.”

John 1:12 (LSB)


Do you believe Him today? Let’s pray. Lord, You have been clear, we need Christ to live. May each one be certain about that decision in their own life. That if you do not know Him, Christ, that you would say in your heart: Lord, forgive my sin, I repent of all the wrong I have done; I now receive You as the Lord and Saviour of my life; and I desire to serve You all the days of my life. If that is your prayer this morning, come and speak with me, to one of the elders, or to someone that loves you. As that is a prayer that you cannot keep secret. Because Jesus said:

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

Matt 10:32-33 (LSB)


Because Jesus has the final say. For He is the true Light and will shed the truth on every heart. And all God people said, amen.