The Gospel of John was written last of the Gospels, probably by several decades, where as the other Gospels were written some 30 years after Christ had ascended and became the narrative of the life of Christ, John comes at a different time. It was written by the apostle while he was residing at Ephesus. It was written at a time when the second generation of church members had come into play. Many of the original eye witnesses, many of the original converts, had gone on to be with the Lord, and now it was a generation (in many ways) much like we are.
Those who had received the witness, had received the testimony handed down to them. Some of which had already begun to hear some of the epistles, some of the gospel accounts read to them. That first generation which went off the oral history and the personal eye witness accounts was now being replaced by a generation that was hearing the printed Word of God and hearing the stories God handed to them.
As such, during that time, there arose some false teachers. There arose some false prophets. There arose what would become known as Gnosticism…a word that just simply means knowledge. A group that began to say that you had to have a superior knowledge in order to really understand the things of God, in order to be able to be truly spiritual. In fact, those preconditions, that setting had so infiltrated the churches in Asia where John was residing, that it was certainly part and parcel to his writing this Gospel.
It occurs to John through the leadership of the Holy Spirit that the deity of our Savior was being watered down, was being lost by much of the controversy and the confusion of the day. So he penned together a Gospel like no other, a Gospel not written even primarily to Jews, though it is a very Jewish Gospel written by a Jewish apostle about a Jewish Savior, but really a Gospel written to Gentiles, written to Greeks, written to those for whom philosophy and intellect and knowledge was such a part of their lives and so defined what they would trust and what they considered to be the truth…the logos…the central concept that ruled all the universe.
So we find in the Gospel of John a unique Gospel, and one really that speaks to the western Gentile mind like no other as we look to the Word today. It begins in a unique way, not beginning just with the chronological birth of Christ, much as Luke begins for us. It doesn't begin with a genealogy of the kingship, much as Matthew begins for us. It doesn't start out with the servanthood of Christ, much as the Gospel of Mark begins, but it begins with a very unique phraseology. It says, "In the beginning was the Word..." In the beginning was the Logos.
Now that word logos to the Greek ear was very specific. It was their understanding that at the center of all the truth in the universe was this central truth upon which all the rest of the universe depended which was called logos. From that came all the philosophy, all the understanding that man thought at that time. Now, John was not adopting that philosophy, but he cleverly used that word logos, used that word to show that the centrality of all truth had become flesh and that the centrality of their thinking, the absolute origin of truth itself was what he calls the Word.
So he says, "In the beginning…" Literally, in beginning. Not in the beginning of when the clocks started or in the beginning of the creation of the earth. It sounds very similar to Genesis, but it is so slightly and yet very importantly different. What it is telling us is that in the beginning of eternity, before time began, before there was the counting of seconds…in beginning was the Logos, was the Word. And he says, "…the Word was with God." In other words, the Word, which you will come to find out in verse 14 is Jesus Himself, was in fellowship with God before time began. He was not a first creation of God but that He was in full fellowship with God.
So, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God," and John just hones it down by telling us, "and the Word was God." The theme of all of John is that we might believe Jesus is the Son of God, that He is not a creation of God, but that He is the essence of God Himself. He is the manifestation of all that God is in physical form.
So he says, "…the Word was God." And in case there was any ambiguity left, verse 2 is simply and yet profoundly a repeat of what he just said in summary form. He says, "He [and He is Christ here, the Word here] was in the beginning with God." John, in no uncertain words, in feeling the compulsion to write this Gospel…listen, just understand…these accounts we have were written by people. They were written by people to answer questions.
Here is the aged and last living apostle, and he wants to answer the question about the deity of Christ. It is that that compels him to write… Sure, the Holy Spirit guided his writing so he would superintend into his writing the truth, but this is the heart of the apostle John, and the thing he wants to say first and foremost is that Jesus was in the beginning with God, that He was God.
"All things…," verse 3 tells us, "…were made through Him, and without Him or apart from Him nothing was made that was made." Jesus is not the first creation of God as many cults would like us to believe today. John tells us very clearly there was nothing created that Christ did not create. John, being led by the Holy Spirit of God, would not be so ambiguous if Christ was a first creation, but in fact, he is very specific that Christ was never created, but instead, He is the Creator.
That is exactly what Hebrews also tells us, that through Him all things were made that were made, that Christ is the one who created the heavens and the earth. Christ created the angels. Christ created the universe. Christ created man. He made it all, and apart from Him, nothing was made that has ever been made.
John 14:9 tells us the reasons behind the incarnation. It says there in the middle of that phrase that Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." In other words, it's not that there are two gods. Now I want us to be very clear as we go through John, as we understand there aren't two gods.
If you look at a coin, one side has heads on it, the other side has tails. One side looks like the head of a political figure of some sort, and the other side may be a political building of some sort. But it is the same coin. Whether you look at one side or you look at the other, you don't say, "Well, that is two different coins." God the Father and God the Son are simply two different views of God. Jesus is God.
The apostle John says in his letter of 1 John in the very beginning verses, he speaks of the necessity of bringing God into human flesh. He says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled considering the Word of Life."
John calls it the Word. He calls Christ the Word. It is a word, he says, which we the eye witnesses have seen, we've beheld Him, looked upon Him (that's that word beheld to be used here in today's text), and he says, "We have touched it. We have seen the physical manifestation of God Himself." What he calls the Word of Life.
In verse 2, "The life was manifested…" The life of God, in other words, was revealed in human flesh. "…and we have seen and bear witness and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us." What was manifested? Eternal life.
See, when we talk about eternal life, I think for most of the world, that's just one of those space concepts. We think of flesh and blood. "Seeing is believing." We just let our minds run rampant when we think about eternal life. The thing I want us to notice today is that you're in the body that will go through eternity. I want you to understand that though it will be glorified, if you're a child of God, there isn't some brand new thing waiting for you, some spiritual, some other-worldly thing.
What John says Jesus did is that He brought eternity in the flesh, that He showed us eternal life walking around, that it is not something separate with wings and harps, but that it is the perfect creation of God without sin manifested before us.
So he says, "[We] have handled, concerning the Word of Life and the Life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life..." Oh, the Word of God…Jesus mentioned as the Word. The Word of God is true. That's why it is called Logos, the Truth. And thus the incarnation of Christ reveals truth about God. The incarnation of Christ on this earth reveals the truth about God, and therefore, about Christ Himself, that He was in the beginning with God, not a creation but in fellowship with Him, and that Christ is eternal. He has always been with God. He is the Creator of all things.
With this as the basis, then John begins to describe an element of the coming of Christ that is so important for us to understand there in John 1, in verse 4, "In Him [in Christ, in the Word] was life, and the life was the light of men." Jesus would tell Martha on the day He resurrected Lazarus, in John 11, and in verse 25, he would say to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me though he may die, he shall live."
Well how do you live if you die? If you have eternal life. So when Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life, He is talking, friends, about eternal life. He isn't talking about a good model just for this life. He isn't talking about being a good prophet. He isn't talking about being just being a good role model. He is saying that I am the manifestation of eternal life. Now you might not get that yet, but hang in there with me, because Christ is trying to tell us something here.
John is trying to tell us something here. Eternal life is not this mystery thing that is way off there, and I may or may not know how to get there, but it is very clearly laid out for us how to obtain eternal life and what eternal life and its joy consist of. It is in the manifestation of Christ Himself on this earth.
Jesus would say in John 14, in verse 6, in that most controversial statement of the New Testament, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." The eternal life. See, everybody has life that reads and hears that statement. We aren't talking about physical life. He is talking about life everlasting, and Jesus is the way to eternal life. "He who believes in Me," He said, "though he may die, he shall live."
In John 11:24 and 14:6, He says, "No one comes to the Father but through Me [because I am the Father]. If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father. I and the Father are one." Jesus is life. He is what everyone wants…eternal life. His coming in the flesh became not only the model of eternal life but also the light of that life to men.
By His coming in the flesh, He illuminated the darkness of our hearts, illuminated the darkness of sin, the corruption of false knowledge, and He (Jesus) illuminated the truth and true knowledge and what it takes to become a child of God and to obtain eternal life. You see, the Gnostics in that day, as well as the Gnostics in our day, think you have to have that superior knowledge all the time.
There are Missionary Baptists, there are all kinds of groups where they'll be this little subset that have suddenly learned some kind of super knowledge…you know, they've seen a Greek rendering of half a verse, and then boom, they fly off, and the next thing you know, they have a cult going…I would call it…because they have "superior knowledge."
Pretty soon, unless you have this superior knowledge, you don't have any hope of really knowing what God wants for you in life. John rebels against all of that. He says Christ is the truth. His life is the manifestation of truth, and He is the light that sheds the way to God and the way to truth to everybody.
There is verse 4, "In Him was life and the life [His life, His eternal life] was the light of men." In verse 5 he speaks of that light and says, "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." Literally, and a better translation, I think, is…the darkness does not overcome it. If you take a perfectly black room…tape all the windows shut…and you turn on a light, the darkness is never stronger than the light. Light always overcomes.
The idea of Christ being the light to the world is that His truth overcomes the darkness of our hearts. It overcomes the darkness of man's ways, the darkness of pharisaical religion. Even the darkness of religious thinking is confronted by the light of the truth of Christ. That is exactly what John is telling us here. This light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can't overcome it. The darkness can't comprehend it. It can't deal with this life.
Isaiah would say so many hundred years before…in Isaiah 9:2, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined." Now, nowhere in these verses is the compulsion to follow the light, but everywhere these verses… you have to have the reality that there is no excuse…there is no excuse. All that is left to an individual who sees the revelation of the truths of the Word, the Logos of God, is to accept it or reject it.
You may choose to reject the light. You may choose to hide from the light as John 3 will tell us, but the fact is, the light overcomes the darkness, reveals itself to you, and you have no excuse from it. So Isaiah would say, "Those who dwell in the valley of the shadow of death have seen a great light," and who would want to continue to dwell in the valley of the shadow of death when there is a light that will lead you out of that death valley?
In John 8:12, Jesus would say, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of [eternal] life." When you follow Jesus, when you choose to walk the path He illuminates, when you choose to accept the light He sheds, the truth He sheds upon you, then you leave that darkness, that shadowy walk, and you walk into the light of eternal living.
I tell you, in many ways, Jesus is the manifestation of eternal life. Now, it isn't an alternate reality…eternal life. It's not some spiritual realm alone. It is real. It is physical. It is full of life. Some of you are here today, and you've had no interest in eternal life because you think of that as something you don't even comprehend, you don't even understand, you don't even want, and yet I tell you, the very life you live now, the hopes and dreams God has for you, are the components of eternal life.
It is not that well, man, we're having joy and we're having a lot of great things here…man, I’m a little scared of what eternity is going to be. I'm going to tell you what eternity is going to be. It is going to be joyous, physical life. Not floating around in some vapor but physical, eternal life, and Jesus is the manifestation of what that life is going to be.
Darkness couldn't overcome it. Ignorance is darkness. Revelation is light. You can reject the revelation of truth, but the darkness of sin can never block its appearance; therefore, you have to be confronted with receiving it or rejecting it. Light always wins the battle in the sense that it reveals…always…the darkness of our hearts.
Well, John would go on to speak of a witness to the Light, a role that John the Baptist played and a role that we as His Church need to continue to play today. He says in verse 6, "There was a man sent from God whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light that all through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That [the apostle is talking about in verse 9] was the true light which gives light to every man coming into the world." He may not receive it, but every man coming into the world receives the witness of that true light. The sad thing is with John the Baptist, and we see this a little bit in Acts, John built a following not all of whom received and accepted Jesus as Savior, but all of whom continued to be disciples of John.
In fact, that group exists today just south of Baghdad. They are called the Mandaeans. Mandaean is a word (believe it or not) that in the language means true. It is a group of Gnostic believers who deny the deity of Christ but claim lineage to John the Baptist. Well how can that be? John the Baptist is a witness to the Light. All He did was talk about Jesus Christ. How could he have followers who don't believe in Jesus? How could we? But we do.
We live in a Christian nation, a nation blessed and founded and preserved and protected by a country and principle of laws built (like it or not) upon the principles of Scripture, led by God Himself, and yet, we can't see it as a country. We defer to our own knowledge, and in many ways, we are an agnostic cult in our country today, so to would some of these followers.
So to, even in John's day…just two generations removed from the actual events of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ…John, the aged apostle, finds himself having to tell people that Jesus is God. And we, 2000 years later, see it all the more true today. People deny His very existence, and they certainly, universally, want to deny His deity.
Transcribed by Digital Sermon Transcription