THE GOSPEL OF JOHN Chapter 1 – Part 3
All was not lost in God’s plan because some received Him. All that received Him were granted the right to become adopted children of God. Those who believe in His name, in other words, are those who receive Him.
John 1:9-13 (NKJV)
9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And that is the first (mark verse 12 if you care to), that is, the first expression of The Gospel in John’s account. The first time we see what the definition of saving looks like. That is to believe in the name of Christ, brings eternal life. How did those few who did believe, who did receive Him—how did they find the eyes to see the Light? How did they come to that awareness given so many others did not. In verse 13 John answers that question. But in the process, he introduces yet another of his themes.
John says they were born. Now you and I hear that word and we hear it in light of modern Christian vocabulary. They were born, we pass right over it without any concerns whatsoever. But we have that vocabulary because of John’s Gospel. He’s the one who coins the born again phrase we are now so familiar with. John is saying they were born again and that new birth that gave them eyes to see was not of blood, which means it is not a natural birth. It didn’t come because of their ancestry. They weren’t capable of knowing who Christ was because their father was Abraham, for example. Or because they were born in a Jewish family. Nor does he say it was because of the will of the flesh, meaning it does not come because it is something we earned by our flesh by doing the right thing in the right way, causing God to then find pleasure in us. Therefore, allowing us something we wouldn’t of have. It’s not by works. Nor did it come by the will of man, meaning we didn’t make a choice of our own will to open our eyes and see the Light. No more than the blind man can by his will, decide to suddenly perceive photons of light or the spiritually dead decide to perceive spiritual truth. John says our new birth comes exclusively by the will of God, the One who grants to us the knowledge of Christ. gospel of John
Finally, John ends his prologue introducing the final theme of his gospel, that is the fullness of the Father dwelling in the Son
John 1:14-18 (NKJV)
The Word Becomes Flesh
14 And the Word became 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.
15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”
16 And of His fullness, we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
The incarnation of Christ is another major theme of John’s Gospel. Jesus didn’t just become a man nor did he merely take on the body of a man. John’s words here are very specific and purposeful. He says He became flesh. Because if you say it any other way it leaves room for somebody to claim God merely came down looking like a man or came upon some existing man. That was some of the heresy that was floating around in the church in John’s day. No, He truly became flesh. The thought that the Eternal Creator God could occupy a living body is a concept that has captivated human consciousness ever since God promise it would happen. Even the unbelieving world is fascinated with the idea of God incarnate, although they distort it in ignorance. For example, the Greeks and Romans had mythology, which was gods coming down as men. Hollywood has countless messianic deliverers. Every year there is a new movie out with some messianic character. Even comic book writers and sports teams love to borrow from the incarnation to create demigods that become marketing material or stories. gospel of John
But only once did the true living God take on flesh and dwell among men in the form of Jesus Christ. The word for dwell in Greek is similar to the word in Greek for the tabernacle, they are very similar. Reminding us that God once dwelled among men in the past, among the Israelites in the desert. That tabernacling was incomplete and it was temporary but when Christ took on flesh, He dwelt in a fullness never before seen. A man or woman can look upon the Christ in His day, see Him in the face, see Him live and hear His words. But John says no one has seen the Father. He is Spirit and not visible within His Creation.
Therefore, the Son has explained the Father, not only in words but in His physical incarnation, in the life example that He lived. In fact, the word explained in Greek comes from the same root word from which we get exegesis. It means to interpret scripture. That is the process of explaining scripture. So we have Jesus interpreting the Father for us. John mentions the Law and he mentions Moses. Under the Law, virtually no one witnessed the glory of God. It existed in one place only, the Holy of Holies. Only one man per year walked in there and even then it was covered in the smoke of incense. So it was barely visible even to him. Under those circumstances, how much did anyone truly know of the Father? Apart from what He revealed through what He gave to the patriarchs and to the prophets, glimpses here and there and in the Law. Hebrews summarizes it the best: a gospel of John
Hebrews 1:1-2 (NKJV)
God’s Supreme Revelation
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world;
Notice again, that writer using both the fact He spoke for the Father and the fact He is the Creator and unified the two. That’s the point John is raising, in the past, we had the Law and we had Moses. There was a degree of revelation, a degree of light and truth available in past generations and that minimal dwelling experienced was there lessor covenant and lessor deliverer. But now all the greater things have arrived in fulfillment of God’s promises. The Law has given way to grace and truth. Just as John will record Jesus saying later that men must now worship Him in light of that grace and truth. Men will worship now in truth and spirit as opposed to other ways. This again is John’s point. Now when he refers to John the Baptist again here. He reminds us John the Baptist was playing the part of yet another of those Old Testament prophets, testifying to Christ, but in a limited way. With a limited understanding. He, in fact, was the final man to get one of those portions, one of those partial revelations. And his purpose, in his portion, was to reveal who Messiah would be. Past prophets had revealed the need for The One, the work of The One or the death of The One. He, John the Baptist, was to reveal who it would be. His revelation told men that the fullness of God was now to be found in this particular man, Christ.
John the Baptist’s role was not to compete with Jesus, not to compliment Jesus. In fact, he himself said, “Jesus existed before I did”. Yet if you remember the genealogies out of Luke’s Gospel there’s an interesting comment, for John the Baptist was born six months prior to Jesus from Elizabeth. John the Baptist knew who Christ Jesus was truly and therefore was able to say it matters not when I was physically born, this man existed before all. Jesus was the complete and final expression of God the Father to His Creation. He is the begotten God (later to be called the begotten son by John). And that is also one of John’s unique description of Christ. Begotten (monogenous in Greek), it means literally, the only one to come forth. It does not suggest a literal birth or a creation process. Instead, it speaks to a unique manifestation that has been sent out from God the Father.
But before He was sent out, Christ was in the Father’s bosom, which is a very
unique Jewish idiom. It describes a very intimate and close relationship which existed. Such was the Father and Son. In fact, it’s interesting, later in the gospel, John describes himself as the one who Jesus loved and describes himself reclining in the bosom of Jesus. John has opened the Gospel now in this way. He’s presented Christ as the Creator, the eternal and one God living with the Father from the beginning, the Light, the Truth, the fullness of God and yet flesh living among men. Those are the themes that will reverberate throughout the 21 chapters in John’s Gospel.
Finally, John finishes his prologue by introducing Jesus’ public ministry by explaining the end of John the Baptist’s formal ministry. In other words, it is the case where the hand off took place. John’s end was Jesus’ beginning. And they met in the moment when those two things happened at His baptism.
John 1:19-28 (NKJV)
A Voice in the Wilderness
19 Now, this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
And he answered, “No.”
22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”
23 He said: “I am
‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’
as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”
28 These things were done in Bethabara (Bethany) beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
This encounter is the first of the narratives in the discourses of John’s Gospel. It actually begins what will appear to be the first of a single week of some very important events in the opening of John’s Gospel. In fact, all the way through chapter 2, at the wedding in Cana. All the events between the wedding and what we are seeing happen here happened in the span of seven days. And as we look at the gospel you will see as John says, the next day, the next day, the next day, and he is going to describe seven days of things that show you just how quickly and momentously Jesus’ earthly ministry gets started following the baptism which he doesn’t record. It’s a week for the changing of the guard, in other words.
John the Baptist is leaving the scene while Jesus is entering the scene. John’s disciples are leaving him to join Jesus. And Jesus, Himself is on the brink of revealing Himself in public ministry through miracles and through teaching authority, though He doesn’t want to be pushed into it any sooner than He has to. His mother’s interest notwithstanding (wedding in Cana). As we get to the end of that week we see just where He stands at the beginning of His ministry. Going back to this moment John begins by relating how the end of John the Baptist’s ministry comes about when he’s confronted by men who were sent from Pharisees. These men are sent to question John over his authority and identity. John answers each question without hesitation. First, he denies he is the Christ. Then he denies also he’s Elijah and then there is this question of “the” prophet.
Each of these questions has its roots in the Jewish understanding of the Old Testament
prophecies. The Old Testament told Israel to expect a conquering, reigning Messiah to arrive for their sake one day, a conquering Messiah who would put an end to foreign rule, who would lift Israel up to be the chief nation on the earth and would finally and forevermore put Israel at peace over all her enemies. And who wouldn’t want that in the nation of Israel? That was the man called The Christ. He would rule with a rod of iron they knew. But it also told Israel that there would rise a great prophet one day in their nation and this great prophet would come, speaking the words of God and of healing and of the need for Israel to return to their father’s, etc. And this prophet would end up suffering a great death on behalf of the sins of Israel. The Lamb of God. In addition to those two, there was Malachi who said the prophet Elijah will return before a great and terrible day of the Lord to come upon Israel.
The Pharisees who were the religious authorities of Israel in this day, they’ve come to understand all of what they read in the Old Testament to teach, that there would be
a Christ and that there would be a Prophet and that there would be Elijah and these are three different people. They had no understanding of how, for example, a conquering King can also be a suffering Prophet. They couldn’t reconcile the two so they concluded that there were two Messiahs. But of course, we know there aren’t two Messiahs, just two comings of the same Messiah. The first coming comes in the form of a prophet who suffers and dies for the sake of Israel’s sin and the sins of the world. And then we have the Christ Who will return and rule in a future day. And before each of those arrivals, there is a forerunner who comes to announce their corresponding visit of the Messiah. Before the Second Coming, for example, the Bible says Elijah will return to prepare Israel for their Lord’s return. Malachi is the one who teaches us that. And of course, as we sit here today that is yet to happen. Obviously, the second coming hasn’t happened, neither has Elijah returned.
But before the Messiah’s first coming, there was also to be a different forerunner, John the Baptist. Isaiah said that this forerunner would come to make paths straight
in the wilderness before the Son’s arrival. When the priest and other Levites come to inquire of John, they guessed three of the four possibilities. But they overlooked the one correct one. John the Baptist was the prophet Isaiah said would come before the Messiah and John quotes from Isaiah 40 to explain his identity. The Pharisees would undoubtedly recognize that quote, they knew the Old Testament by heart for the most part. They would have understood what John was saying about himself. He was claiming to be the fulfillment of that prophecy. To be the one who is called upon to announce the arrival of the Messiah. But interestingly, since the Pharisees did not see John the right way, they couldn’t see Jesus the right way either. So when they ask John to explain himself, John’s answer is not focused on himself, look at what he does, his purpose is to direct their attention to the one who is to come. To the mission he has, that is to announce Christ. That is an interesting side-point for anyone who wants to be in public ministry, even as an individual on the street, as you question who you are, your power, your authority, your rights to do what you do. It’s simply the opportunity to declare the power and authority of Christ once again. And if they are not going to receive your word they are not going receive His word either. In other words, you are there on Christ’s behalf to represent Him.
John the Baptist says Jesus brings a baptism far greater than the one he was performing. John was doing water baptism which has no spiritual significance in John’s day except it was a public confession of repentance in anticipation of a Messiah to come soon. It was a way of saying, I believe in the promise and I believe it’s coming. But water having no spiritual purpose had to give way to something that did have a purpose. And the earthly substance of water is replaced by a spiritual baptism that God alone provides through His Son when we believe. We receive the Holy Spirit. That’s the baptism Jesus brought to those who believe in His name. John says I come as a forerunner to prepare hearts for that coming Lord. Then John boldly says to these men, you do not know this Messiah because they were not willing to submit to the baptism of John. They were demonstrating that their hearts were not prepared for the Messiah. In other words, the crooked roads that John was called to prepare, weren’t literal roads, it was a metaphor for crooked, sinful hearts. He was called to get hearts ready for the Messiah. As John declared his call for repentance in preparation for Jesus’ arrival, some men responded and many others did not. A person who challenged John’s authority or refused to submit to His baptism was revealing a heart that was not prepared. That remained crooked. They were not going to follow the Messiah when He appeared. And surely the Pharisees and the Levites and Priests mostly did not follow Him. John rightly said these men did not know the Messiah. Yet, that Messiah was so great, John was not even worthy to untie his sandals.
Are we aware of Jesus in this way? In the way, John is declaring He must be known?
In the deity of God and in the authority of the Lord? Are our hearts prepared to see His Light and hear His truth? Are we still crooked in our sin or have we humbled ourselves and sought the salvation that only comes through Jesus?
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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