by Mike Ratliff
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 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.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
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.
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.
And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:1-34 ESV)
The New Testament book of John is profound. The thirty-four opening verses (above) set the stage for us by making sure we understand whom Jesus Christ really is. Who is He? He is God! He is the Word, the Logos, who preexisted creation. Notice also, “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.” This is an analogy. “Life” translates ζωὴ or zōē, which is speaking of spiritual life or eternal life (John 3:15; John 17:3; Ephesians 2:5) and John calls it what? It is “the light of men…” which translates the Greek phrase, “τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων.” “Light” translates the word φῶς or phōs and it refers to biblical truth, therefore, what do we have? In Christ, we have eternal life that also bears the fruit within us of God’s truth, which is Biblical truth. Of course, the opposite is true as well. Outside of Christ is spiritual death and those outside of Him are in darkness, which means they are in error or falsehood. Morally, this light refers to holiness and purity (1 John 1:5) while darkness refers to sin or wrongdoing (John 3:19; John 12:35, 46; Romans 13:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-7; 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:8-11).
Darkness has special significance in relation to Satan along with his demonic cohorts in his rule of the present spiritually dark world (1 John 5:19) as the “prince of the power of the air” promoting spiritual darkness and rebellion against God (Ephesians 2:2). John uses the term darkness fourteen times (eight in the Gospel of John and six in 1 John) out of its seventeen occurrences in the New Testament, making it almost an exclusive Johannine word. In John, “light” and “life” have their special significance in relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word (John 1:9; John 9:5; 1 John 1:5-7; 1 John 5:12, 20).
John 1:9 from the ESV (above) reads, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” The ESV gets it close to being right. I prefer this translation; “The true Light coming into the world gives light to every man.” God is sovereign. Even when I confront the most ardent anti-Calvinist with that truth, they pause and admit that He is. Through God’s sovereign power, every person has enough light to be responsible. God has planted His knowledge in man through general revelation in creation and conscience. The result of general revelation, however, does not produce salvation but either leads to complete light of Jesus Christ or produces condemnation in those who reject such “light.” Our Lord’s advent was the fulfillment and embodiment of the light that God had placed inside the heart of man.
Some people have just enough Biblical knowledge to be dangerous. Some of these people are wolves in sheep’s clothing for they teach error and cause harm to the body of Christ leading the sheep astray and causing doubt, et cetera. This is why God gives us discernment and wisdom so we can know the Truth, His Truth, and then are able to spot false teachings and those who are teaching them so we can do two things. The first is to warn the body of Christ about them and the second is to confront the false teacher with the truth and the opportunity to repent. If they do not repent then we proceed with the warnings and Biblically turn from them warning the Church about their false teachings.
In our time, however, there has been a decay in certain areas of doctrine that have been allowed to be overrun by false teachers for as long as I can remember. It probably goes back to the beginnings of the church, but has only become much more apparent in our time. I have actually confronted it many times from many different positions in this ministry and will continue to do so. There are those who hold to a form of “salvation” that is geared to what the person does as some act of the will like walking an aisle, saying a prayer, joining a church, et cetera. From that point on, that person is considered a Christian even if he totally goes apostate. That is the “Once Saved Always Saved Fallacy” that is based not on God’s Grace and Election, and Justification by Faith, but on a salvation by some act of the human will.
These same people who hold to this false doctrine will also attack the very doctrinal truths I shared above about light, life, darkness, and death. Their position is to say that John is not talking about salvation in 1 John when using that terminology in 1 John 1& 2, but only about Christians who are only out of fellowship, living in darkness. To be honest, when I read how those who support this sort of teaching use their Greek word studies I can only come up with one word to describe it, Eisegesis. Context determines how these words are to be defined. For instance, one teacher is saying that to say that the definitions of light and darkness (as I used them above) in John and 1 John are references to being saved or being lost is not Biblically correct. Why? Because that is not how those words are used elsewhere in the Bible. John wrote both books and he was consistent in his usage through both of them. Remember, that is part of our context, therefore, it is Biblically correct and exegetically correct to teach as I did above. Also, nowhere in the New Testament does it teach that a real Christian is able to walk away from the faith and live in darkness. Yes, Christians sin, but they will repent and come back to the faith. John’s examples are not referring to that at all, but to contrasting believers with unbelievers.
Soli Deo Gloria!