In my last post, I described the prologue of John as the foyer of a great home where we will see many of the important themes that John will use to build his gospel. For John those major themes are 1) The Nature of Jesus 2) The Nature of Man, and 3) The Nature of Salvation. The last post focused on Jesus alone, because quite frankly John has more to say about Jesus and who He is than the themes nature of man, & salvation. This post will focus on the later two themes.
9 The true light,which gives light to everyone,was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 1:9-13 ESV
The Nature of Man
Man was Created
As we saw last time, John opens his gospel with a powerful reference back to the original creation account of Genesis. He reminds us that God, through His powerful word, created all that came into being. John tells us that this Word of God is Jesus himself, and that it was this Word that has created all that has come into being. As I mentioned last time as well, John makes a distinction between Jesus and us. He was; He existed at the beginning. We, however, came into being. There was a time when we were not. It is the life that Jesus has in himself that He used to create us. John makes a particular point of letting us know in verse 3 that He created all things, and there was nothing that came into being that he didn’t create.
So why is this important, and why might it be particularly important for today’s world? If I am a creature this means I have been created by something more powerful than I. It also means that I was made with a purpose determined by my creator, and that He who created me has authority over me to tell me how to live according to that purpose.
This is the exact opposite of what our western culture tells us. It tells us that our autonomy is the highest ideal, and we ought to figure out our own purpose. We are our own gods, and we answer to no one but the state on a select few matters. This, in my mind, is nothing new as it truly is the lie that Adam and Eve first bought into. They wanted to be their own authority.
For our culture this lie is sustained thoroughly by the idea that we evolved from nothing over millions of years. Therefore we have no one to answer to. This message is having disastrous results. It leads to listless men and women who think of nothing but themselves and that which their sinful natures lust after.
The gospel, however, tells us that we are made at the hands of Jesus, and that He can and will recreate us to make us new. It tells us the He has a purpose for our lives that will bring us unspeakable joy and peace. It tells us that our purpose is to believe in Jesus and to love Jesus by following his command of laying down our lives for each other. It fully asserts that Jesus has the power and authority to do and accomplish all this. But if we don’t fully realize first that we are a creatures, we will continue to assert our own deity.
Man has rejected Jesus
In Jewish culture there were two types of people: Jews and Gentiles. In John the word “world” takes on several different connotations. Sometimes it means the earth or physical realm. Sometime it refers to the those outside of the nation of Israel, or the gentiles. Sometimes it stands in for all of humanity. Sometimes it means all those who do not believe, Jew or Gentile. In verse 10 John intends us to understand all four of these meanings I believe, but specifically the last two. In particular he is telling us two things; that Jesus made us all, and we don’t know him. The last phrase in verse 10eq9X of “the world” not knowing him is where I want to focus a bit.
To know Jesus, in John’s theology, is to believe in Jesus. In fact Jesus himself during his prayer in chapter 17 says that to know Him and the Father is itself eternal life. When John says that we didn’t know him, he doesn’t just mean that the world did not recognize him, as you might not know a celebrity when you pass them on the street. He means we do not know him like a friend. This become more apparent later in John’s gospel when Jesus tells those he was in conflict with him the reason they do not listen to him is because they have not known him or his Father who sent him. And for John this not knowing isn’t lack of facts, it is willful rejection. The reason the world does not know Jesus is because it has refused to know Jesus. It has rejected him completely.
So far a Jewish reader might be able to conclude that John simply meant the gentiles. While John certainly means for us to understand that the gentiles have rejected Jesus, however, in verse 11 John doesn’t allow for this interpretation. John tells us that he came to his “own” and his “own” did not receive him, or as the ESV translates “his own people.” The ESV translation is spot on here. John means for us to understand that Jesus came to his own creation in full. He came to the whole created world: Earth, sky, sun, moon, stars, plants, animals and all of humanity. However, He came in particular to the Jewish people, who He led out of Egypt and made them His people. He however did not come to them as they wanted, and therefore would not receive him. Much of the gospel of John concerns itself with the rising conflict between Jesus and the leaders of his own people. They rejected him, and so, John indicts all of humanity as having rejected Jesus.
This is important because it is the heart of salvation in John’s gospel. The question for puts to all of us in his gospel is “will you receive him? Will you seek to know him, and follow him and his Holy Spirit?” That moves us to our last theme of the prologue.
The Nature of Salvation
Whose child are you?
While it is popular to say among the partially religious that all men and women are God’s children this simply is not at all what John would have you understand. John deals with this idea in the prologue and also later in his gospel. Whose child we are becomes a point of contention in John 8. As so many other things in John, there are only two options. Just as you either love the light or love the darkness, so also you are either a child of God or you are a child of the devil. There is no middle ground in John.
The whole prologue structurally is centered on verses 12 and 13. To be a child of God, in John’s view, is to posses eternal life. This is how the Israelites thought of themselves. Since they were God’s people by blood, they thought they were automatically include in eternal life and the coming kingdom of God. However, John doesn’t allow for this in verse 13. Membership in God’s household will not be determined by bloodlines any longer. It also cannot be earned through sheer force of your will or determination. Jesus will tell us in John 3 that we must be born again, and John tells us here that this birth must be from God. It is nothing we can do on our own.
Belief in Jesus
This rebirth, while from God, comes through faith in Jesus by belief in His name. This phrase “believed in His name” means we believe all of the claims Jesus makes about himself that we looked at in the last post. That He is God and our creator who has taken on human flesh and died in our place because of our sin. In particular John wanted his readers to believe that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah who would save God’s people.
This idea of believing in Jesus is so important that John writes about it a little more than 80 times in his Gospel. Belief means more than just agreeing to a set of facts. This belief will change everything. True belief and faith cannot, and will not be simply a set of facts that we agree to in our mind. It will effect the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we act. In chapter 14, Jesus instead of using the word believe, substitutes the word love. He does so because believing in Jesus is more like love than it is like agreeing to a set of facts. Jesus then tells us if we truly love him we will keep his commands to serve others, and to believe in God and himself.
Now here is the glorious truth of the Gospel as revealed to us in John and all of scripture. God has made us, and we have rejected him. We became his enemies. We are children of satan by nature because we have rejected him. This rejection of God has brought us death both in this life, and in the one to come. But God loved us more than we could ever imagine. In fact, Paul in the book of Ephesians tells us this love is so high, so deep, and so wide it surpasses our ability to comprehend it.We can’t take it all in. Since He loves us this much God sent his Son, and if we will accept the Son, we are accepted by the Father. If we believe in His Son, we become His children. When we believe in Jesus, we cross from death to life. Since we love Jesus the Father adopts us as His Children, and gives us the gift of eternal life. Now and Forever.