by Mike Ratliff
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”” (Matthew 1:18-21 ESV)
We are in the process of celebrating the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, most people celebrating Christmas are not doing so in light of the coming of our Saviour. However, that should not impede us from doing so should it? The early church did not celebrate the Advent of our Lord. That came later. Therefore, we must keep this in the perspective of who He really is and why He came.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1-2 ESV)
The phrase “in the beginning” tells us that the Word existed before creation. The Greek word for “beginning” here is “arche.” It simply means the most extreme or outermost point of something. John uses this word to refer to the beginning of the universe. This would include time, space, and all matter. The word John used that is translated “Word” here is “logos.” This word is best translated as “intelligence.” It was used in Greek philosophy to signify the rational principle of “divine reason,” “mind,” or “wisdom.” However, John gave this word an O.T. and Christian meaning. For example he obviously is referring back to Genesis 1:3 where God’s Word brought the world into existence. In the Psalms and Proverbs God’s Word is His powerful self-expression in creation, wisdom, revelation, and salvation. John took this understanding and made “Logos” refer to a person, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Word was not a created being subject to time and space. He is outside of creation.
“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:3-5 ESV)
Jesus Christ is God. At creation He was the Father’s agent involved in creating everything. (Colossians 1:16,17; Hebrews 1:2) The Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, contains life. That life is the light of men. It shines into the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. This is a very profound statement. What is this life John is referring to here? The word John used for “life” here is the Greek word “Zoe.” It refers to the principle of life in the spirit and soul. This is spiritual life as opposed to biological life. The spiritual life that that comes from our Lord is the light of men. What does that mean? The Greek word for “light” here is “Phos.” It refers to a light that is never kindled nor quenched by men. In the context of salvation it refers to “biblical truth” coming alive in a believer unto holiness or purity. The word darkness is “skotia.” It refers to unhappiness or ruin. In the spiritual context, “phos” refers to beneficence while “skotia” refers to “unhappiness.” In other words, darkness here is not referring to sin itself, but to the consequences of it. Notice that when the light of Christ’s light shines into a heart, the darkness there cannot overcome it.
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 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 first phrase should be translated thus, “the true Light coming into the world gives light to every man.” In any case, what this means is, through God’s Sovereign power, every many has enough light be responsible before Him. God has planted or given His knowledge in all Men through general revelation in creation and conscience. This does not nor has it ever produced salvation. However, through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel it either leads to the complete and perfect light of our Lord Jesus Christ or it produces condemnation to those who reject it.
The Greek word that John used for “world” in this passage is “kosmos.” This word has several meanings that encompasses the universe as a whole, or the beauty of it, or the sum total of persons living in the world. John uses this word negatively most of the time referring it to mean that which believers are saved out of and must grow in grace be victorious over. Here we see that when our Lord came into the world, the world did not know Him. In v11 we have, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” The first “own” here probably refers to all mankind while the second refers to the Jews. Jesus created the World so it all belonged to Him and that includes all people. The Jews had what we call the Old Testament and had the prophecies about Him, but they rejected Him as Messiah.
What does it mean to receive Him? Those who received Christ are those who believed in His name. This means they acknowledged His claims, placed their faith in Him, and thereby yielded their allegiance to Him. Because of their receiving Him, the Lord gave them the right to become children of God. This is speaking of authority. Those whom the Lord saves are given the authority to claim to be God’s children. The last part of this passage speaks of their quickening. They are Born Again, not of blood nor of the will not of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. In other words, they received Christ, believed on Him by the will and power of God, not by their own abilities.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:14-18 ESV)
The Word who is eternal and has always existed became flesh and dwelt among us. God took on humanity. God, who is infinite, became finite. The Eternal was conformed to time. The invisible became visible. The supernatural One became natural. He never stopped being God, but became God in Human form as a man. The term “dwelt among us” refers to tabernacling or living in a tent. God became a man who lived among us as one of us. John along with his brother James and Peter witnessed our Lord’s Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-8. John is referring to that here, but he is also noting that all who beheld Jesus witnessed His spiritual power. They saw Him display God’s character unto all, full of grace and truth.
Our salvation is the result of God’s grace upon grace. It came from the fullness of Christ. It did not come through the Law, but through the grace and truth from our Lord Jesus Christ. Even though no one has seen God, our Lord made Him known to us. This is why it is imperative that God’s people know their Bibles. It is in His Word that we find Him and learn about Him and come to know Him. This revelation of Himself to us will continue until He takes us home.