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Living for Eternity: A Study in John’s Gospel – “The True Light” Part 2 – Mark Ottaway

Living for Eternity: A Study in John’s Gospel

The True Light (Part #2)

John 1:1-13


Turn to John 1. Last Saturday I watched a little of the coronation of King Charles. Now I didn’t get up in the middle of the night like Joyce did! It did bring back some memories for me, as a young guy in public school every morning we would recite the Lord’s Prayer, then sing, “God save the Queen” and then “O Canada.” I also remember every Christmas morning we watched the Queen give her Christmas address to the Commonwealth @10am. I remember because we had to watch the Queen before we were allowed to open our presents. Now there was a “conservative stability” to Queen Elizabeth especially a number of years ago, as she ruled fairly unscathed for over 70 years, beginning at the age of 25, and had a faithful marriage to Prince Philip for 73 years. Later Saturday we were watching a documentary on Queen Elizabeth. And then it showed parts of Charles’ coronation. We had 3 of our granddaughters with us, and the oldest said when she saw Charles, “He is as old as Queen Elizabeth!” It would be difficult to be King Charles. For how do you ever match up to such a standard? For no matter what he does, he will always be compared to Queen Elizabeth, and likely not quite match up.


In our passage, we too will see a comparison. And one of them is John, John the Baptist, and the comparison is to the Light, Christ. And John, is one of the greatest men to ever live. In fact, Jesus said this about him:

“I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John.”

John 7:28a (LSB)


So, let’s read what is said about John this morning:

“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. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to what was 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.”

John 1:6-13 (LSB)


Now notice (vs 6) John was sent from God. He was specifically called (vs 7) by God to be a witness. To “bear” witness to the Light, so that (vs 7) all might believe. That is a massive privilege for John. Who gets that kind of calling or recognition? John, you are special, I have called you of all the men and women on the earth for this awesome task. But oh, but by the way, you are not the Light. In fact, John was not even “cool” was he? I mean who wants to be a guy who lived in the wilderness? Who called people a “brood of vipers.” He told tax collectors to be honest. He told soldiers to be content with their wages. Obviously, he would not have made a good union leader. And he reproves Herod, so he gets locked up in prison, and eventually gets his head cut off. John, you are special. In fact, no other human has attained the heights that you have attained. That’s a huge commendation from Christ. No one? Not Moses or Job. No, John you are up here, but you are not the Light, for Christ is the Light.


Last week we saw where the Light came into the world. A Light that defeated darkness. And the darkness could not overtake the Light. Don’t forget that. Don’t forget that there is no “losing” for the Christian. Yes, there is sadness at times, heartache, and disappointments today. But that is not your future. Because the Bible promises the Christian eternal bliss. There is no long-term defeat for the Christian. Paul said, “[F]or if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Now last week we saw that:


  1. The Life was the Light of men (vs 4)


That if we have Christ we live, and if we do not have Christ we die. For the Light is the only solution for mankind. There is no other answer. We also saw that:


  1. The Light shines in the darkness (vs 5a)


That even though we live in a dark world, Light shines. And of course:


  1. The darkness cannot overtake the Light (vs 5b)


It is impossible for the darkness to win, for Christ is the ultimate Victor. Now look with me at verse 8:

“He was not the Light, but he came to bear witness about the Light.”

John 1:8 (LSB)


John was not the Light. Christ was the Light.


  1. The Light is Christ (vs 8)


John was not the Light. Christ was the Light. You are not the Light. Christ is the Light. That statement has so many ramifications. You are not the Light, but Christ is the Light. Therefore, my life as a Christian must showcase, not me, not you; but the Light, we must showcase Christ. How do I do that? Or what things might tarnish that Light? A term I often use is that we are to make our great God look good. This is really the same, that we would make the Light shine through us. The list is endless. Therefore, what kind of things ought to be part of our lives that would make Christ shine? Humbleness, purity, a sincere love for those the Lord has placed in my life, contentment, thankfulness, gratitude, a carefulness in what I say, a focus on Christ and others, a strong defense of the truth of Christ, all the truths of Christ, and a love for Christ over self and over sin. Don’t miss the introduction here by John: Christ has always existed; Christ is the Word, in other words, everything He says is true; Christ is the final authority; Christ will always live; and ultimately, Christ will win over sin and death. Now notice:

“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.”

John 1:6-7 (LSB)


John, a man, came to bear witness to the Light. I think we have to be struck with the fact that Jesus did not do this Himself. Admittedly, there was the display of angels in the heavens before the shepherds. But it was only to a small handful of shepherds. Other than that, the coming of Christ was fairly well-hidden. Some wise men knew from the star, but most did not. And he is born in a stable, with no fanfare. In fact, we have more fan-fare for the NBA draft, or the NHL’s Connor Bedard. We might think of the coronation of Charles. The pomp and dress and gold carriage. Yet when the King of the universe comes on the scene, there is basically nothing. Nothing changes in Rome, nothing in Greece, and certainly nothing in Israel. No Jew is rubbing their hands saying, “Oh boy, here we go!” Yet John is given the task. And I might question this. Why John? Matthew 3 tells us:

“Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.”

Matt 3:4 (LSB)


Lord, why would You choose John? Camel’s hair? Eats locusts and wild honey? He seems sort of weird to me! Yet the Bible actually tells us that many in Jerusalem and Judea went out to listen to John, and were being baptised by him and repenting of their sins (Matt 3:6). Later, Jesus chooses His disciples and commissions them to be His witnesses in Matt 28:19-20. And then ultimately, we, you and I are to be the ones who must bear witness to the Light. Jesus told His followers that we are the light of the world. 1 Peter 2:9:

“But you are a chosen family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may [just enjoy yourselves as believers … no, that you may] proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

  • Pet 2:9 (LSB)


We are the ones who have been called by God to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us.


  1. Christians are the Witness to the Light (vs 6-7)


I know that we can be saddened by the lack of Bible, ethical teaching, and godly movement in our society. In fact, we know the culture is not neutral on these things, as the culture is opposed to Christianity. And I know this is hard to think about. Just thinking back to hearing the Queen address the Commonwealth on a Christmas morning. In one of her addresses, she was speaking of the new technology and modern conveniences. But the Queen said this:

“It is not the new inventions which are the difficulty, but the trouble is caused by unthinking people who carelessly throw away ageless ideals as if they were old and outworn machinery. They would have religion thrown aside, morality and personal and public life made meaningless. Honesty counted as foolishness, and self-interest is set up in place of self-restraint.”

Queen Elizabeth II,


The Queen concluded that particular address by reading a portion of the Christian novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress. And I am not preaching here that Queen Elizabeth knew Christ and had a relationship with Christ. She may have. I don’t know. But we pine for that, don’t we? Days like when I was in school when we recited the Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes we desire some kind of support from the world. I was listening to the news the other day and they were talking about abortion. And the newsman said that he was not a church-goer. But he said that he understood why believers are against abortion. He said this, if they believe that abortion is wrong and that it is murder, nobody is going to talk them out of that conviction. He said that he himself was not religious and had no problem with abortion, but said he understood the Christian’s position. We do long for that, don’t we? To at least hear that kind of support from society, even though they might disagree.


Listen, the government has been given the responsibility to govern rightly and fairly, to punish those who do wrong, and praise those who do right. And though we ache for that, here is our responsibility: to bear witness to the Light. For God in His wisdom has chosen not to declare Christ by another means. And He could have. Christ could have come and declared who he was, and threaten to destroy all those who did not bow before Him. But the declaration of the Light. The responsibility for the message of who He is, and why He has come has been given to us. Lord, why us? We can be a little weird like John the Baptist! Some of us might wear leather belts and eat honey! Yet the Lord says, you are the ones! John 20:21:

“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’”

John 20:21 (LSB)


Dallas Willard wrote this:

“[T]he very type of life that could change the course of history … is excluded or at least omitted from the essential message of the church.”

Dallas Willard, The Great Omission 11


What he is suggesting is that the church has been given the responsibility of displaying Christ to the world, yet is failing. When God has declared that men and women who know Him are to be the witness to the Light.

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? And how will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good news of good things!’”

Rom 10:14-15 (LSB)


Christians are to be witnesses to the Light.

“There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens everyone.”

John 1:9 (LSB)


  1. All are Responsible for the Light (vs 9)


I think of the effect of Christ on individuals. The thief on the cross who said, Lord, remember me. The Roman Centurion who said, surely this must have been the Son of God. There is no one that the Light of Christ cannot enlighten. There is no one too sinful, no one too depraved, and no one too far gone. Whether your son, your daughter, your spouse, your Mom or Dad, your friend at work, or the one who did something terrible to you. The liar, the murderer, the sexually immoral, the molester, the homosexual, the proud, the one who is a slave to pornography, the cheater at school, the unfaithful spouse, the gossiper, the hypocrite, the one who loves money and the things of the world, the angry person, or the unthankful one. From the bad to the worst. For there is no other kind. All can receive life from the Light of Christ.


See, what we learn from John 1:9, is that mankind was on a crash course. Mankind was in darkness until the true Light came into the world. You sitting here this morning. do you know Christ? Have you submitted your life to Christ? I didn’t ask you if you had been baptised. I didn’t as if you had said a prayer at one time. I didn’t as you if you come to church regularly. I didn’t ask if you would consider yourself religious. But have you submitted your heart and life to the true Light? Again, John 1:9, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens everyone.” Yet,


  1. The Light is Rejected (vs 10-11)


“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to what was His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.”

John 1:10-11 (LSB)


This is why though men and women can be brilliant in regard to some things, they are unwise in relation to spiritual things. John has just stated that the world began by Christ. And that he has always existed. And therefore, life has always existed because Christ has always been alive. And yet men and women search for the beginning of life. Why? Because they have rejected Christ, they have rejected the source of life. And when the Light is rejected, the darkness is accepted. There are politicians today that may even acknowledge God and a belief in Christianity. Yet they approve of immorality, they approve of the darkness. You and I cannot do that. Because when you receive Jesus Christ, you receive Light not darkness. This is why if we have received Christ we must flee the darkness. 2 Timothy 2:22, “flee from youthful lusts.” 2 Corinthians 6:17, “do not touch what is unclean.” 2 Corinthians 7:1, “cleanse yourself from all defilement of the flesh.” Romans 6:11, “consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God.” 1 John 2:15, “do not love the world.”


Yet most will reject the Light. And this is why they will believe what they will believe. Why? Because they have refused the Light. We speak often in Christianity about the Good News. But here is the bad news: if you reject the Light, you will be lost and in darkness. And this is the dilemma that John has really given to us over these past two weeks. Remember last week we said that though John was speaking of the Light, there were three problems that he presented:

  • Man only possesses physical life; therefore, he will someday die.
  • Man’s life falls far short of God’s requirement.
  • Man cannot defeat the Light; therefore, he must deal with Christ.


And here is a greater problem, that Christ the Light, came unto His own. Christ, as the God-Man, the human, came to His own, the human race and even His own people Israel; and they did not receive Him. So, we could say that the darkness has rejected the Light. Yet remember last week we said that the Light shines in the darkness and that the darkness did not overtake it (vs 5). So, how does God win over the darkness? Or what does God do to keep the darkness from overtaking the Light? I said when we introduced the book of John, that we were going to see some massive tension in the gospel of John. And we get our first dose of this in our final two verses.

“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)


We see the responsibility of man, but as many as received Him. And we could just leave the passage here and teach that a person needs to receive Christ. For receiving Christ accomplishes the following: we become a child of God. And John seems to want to tie in two things here: beginning of the verse, receiving Christ; and the end of the verse, believing in Christ. Now what we did over a number of Sunday nights in our series on the gospel, is to discover that faith and belief are more than just words or an outward acknowledgment. And that both Paul and James overwhelmingly taught that true faith produces a changed life. Paul taught that there is nothing we can do alongside of faith to gain salvation. But he also assumes a quality of our faith. James taught that we are justified by works, not in a direct sense, but because works are evidence of faith (Jas 2:24), as he contrasts between true faith and false faith. To say that the result of faith and belief is not a changed life, a transformed life, misses the teaching of the Scriptures.


And we do not want to misunderstand the Bible. And we do not want to believe in any kind of easy-believism. That a person can say I believe, but that it has no impact on how he lives or that Christ is not the Lord of his life. I trust we all agree with that. Therefore, we must all agree that faith assumes, as Paul did, some kind of “quality of faith.” So, notice (vs 12) that those who received and those who believed, are those who became children of God. But how did that happen? John Piper said that many dead did not receive Jesus. That is not surprising. But that some dead people did receive Jesus, that is surprising! Well notice (vs 13), who were born, we could say were born again, came to that conclusion themselves. No! A thousand times no! Verse 13, were born [born again, as John further describes when we get to John 3]:


  1. It is not of blood.
  • Not just a physical rebirth.
  • This is not some kind of human experience that pertains to our physical salvation.
  • For we could receive Christ this AM and die this afternoon.


  1. It is not of the will of the flesh.
  • The will of the flesh could not figure this out.
  • The flesh would only come up with ideas and thoughts that are contrary to the truth, as our culture does.
  • People in darkness could not do this.


  1. It is not of the will of man.
  • not only are you and I in darkness but we are also by nature against the Light, our wills are against the Light.
  • (Eph 2:3) we were by nature “children of wrath” so don’t believe yourself to be any better than that.
  • and in that same passage Paul will describe us as “dead” spiritually, as John uses the term here “darkness.”


So, it was not by blood, flesh, or man’s will. It is not a natural process, but a supernatural process. Now that’s a major problem. Because we have nothing left. We have no “enlighten” button to press. So, don’t think you do. Don’t think that somehow you figured this one out when others did not. Because there is nothing inside of you that raised your deadness from the grave. And there was nothing inside of you that was able to find a light switch when you were in darkness. Because if you have truly received Christ. If you truly believe in Jesus Christ. And He is your Saviour and Lord and you are following Him. It was not by your own flesh or by your own will. But what does it say (end of vs 13)? But of God! It was God!


  1. New Birth Comes from God (vs 13)

In verse 13, we see the work of God, bringing life from the dead and causing them to be “born again.” And this is something that John will speak about much in his gospel. It is not the act of the flesh, that would be impossible. It is not the act of the will of man, that too would be impossible. But is the act of the will of God.


Folks, here is the convicting part of the passage. That because my salvation is a work of God and not the work of myself or my own flesh. Therefore, I ought to become convicted for everything that this passage states about the Light. Both because I am a human being and therefore bear some responsibility towards other human beings. And because God has done something miraculous in my life that really indebts me to desire that for others. And if it is a true work of God, I will change and desire to be like Him.


One last question. How can I receive Christ when it is not a work of the flesh or the will of man, but is the will of God? In other words, if this is something that God is doing, how do I even participate in this? Let me answer that with another question. Could God resurrect me from the dead so that I can see and believe, and that it is still a real and sincere decision for Christ? The answer I believe to that question is yes. Can I fully explain that to you? No. But can we argue with the Word, who is from everlasting to everlasting? The One whose thoughts are not our thoughts. No, don’t argue that, just believe and be thankful that he opened your eyes!


Let’s pray. Lord, Your Word is timeless. Because the rejection that John speaks about 2,000 years ago is the same rejection today. For we live in a culture that has had Your Word available. It is preached in churches weekly. The same truth that has been preached here at Elim this morning. Lord, we pray that we would see our responsibility as believers to bear witness to the Light. Give us those opportunities and give us that courage. And may the power of Your Spirit work in the hearts of those who hear. That we might have the joy of seeing loved ones, friends, and workmates come to the knowledge of the Light. And all God’s people said, amen.