The Lord God said the following concerning the coming Messiah, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). Jesus affirms that He is the Messiah when He announced, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The significance of the concept of “light” is seen in Paul’s words to the Ephesians, “at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). “Darkness” in Scripture is often associated with evil and the condition of the unbelieving (John 12:35; Eph. 5:14; Col. 1:13), whereas “light” is associated with holiness and illumination.
As we continue to work through John’s prologue (1:1-18), we are considering important concepts concerning who Jesus Christ is. These concepts and themes are developed as we see certain historical events that occurred in the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in this Gospel. We saw in the first section that He is the eternal Word (1:1-5). In this second section, we will see that he is the Light of the world (1:6-13). The world is in the domain of darkness, and is in need of being rescued so that they may have their eyes enlightened and receive life. God has appointed a way in which people will come to know the truth – through the witness of the word (cf. Rom. 10:17). This message of truth will either be rejected or received and this is what we will consider in this passage.
THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE LIGHT (John 1:6-8)
Before the word of truth can be believed, it must first be heard. In verses 6-8 we are introduced to “a man sent from God, whose name was John”. This is not the apostle John, but John the Baptist (). John the Baptist was a unique individual. His arrival was in fulfillment to Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 40:3; Mal. 3:1), he was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born (Luke 1:41), and he lived in the wilderness preaching repentance. Jesus said concerning him, “among those born of women none is greater than John” (Luke 7:28; cf. Matt. 11:11). John was a representative and forerunner of the Light.
Concerning his ministry, we glean two lessons that serve as a standard and example for all who would be witnesses for Christ (cf. Col. 4:6). Firstly, John’s message was about Christ and not himself. The text says, “He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light” (1:7a). John made it clear that he was not the Christ (1:20) and that he was unworthy to untie the strap of Christ’s sandal. He boldly declared that Jesus is “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29). As a witness, John made his message about Christ clear. Secondly, the goal of his message was that people would believe in Christ – “that all might believe through him” (1:7b). This is what happened to two of John’s disciples, as Jesus walked by, John declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (1:36), and they then followed Jesus. The goal of his message was that people would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE REJECTION OF THE LIGHT (John 1:9-11)
In verses 9-11, John reveals the devastating rejection by mankind. The reference to “the true light” indicates that Jesus Christ is the genuine light. Despite the claims other religions and individuals may make, Jesus Christ alone is the Light. Upon His “coming into the world”, He alone “gives light to everyone” (1:9). Despite such a gracious provision, there is rejection. He continues, “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” (1:10-11). Throughout this gospel account, we will see example after example of individuals rejecting the Light (John 6:60-69; 12:48).
What is the cause of such a rejection? Those who are in darkness do not see the light because of Satanic blinding, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4) and love of sin, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). This rejection continues today, and only the Lord can open the blind eyes of sinners.
THE RECEPTION OF THE LIGHT (John 1:12-13)
Despite that reality that many rejected (and continue to reject) the Light, John reveals that there are some who received the Light. There were those “who did receive him, who believed in his name” (1:12a). To “receive” means, “to take hold of”. This reception is the belief “in his name” which indicates that this is the faith, trust and dependence on Jesus Christ necessary for salvation. It was these individuals that “he gave the right to become children of God” (1:12b). Notice carefully the wording “he gave the right”. Salvation is a Divine prerogative, not a human achievement.
The basis of this new status (“children of God”) was “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man” says John, “but of God” (1:13). The concept “of blood” (lit. “Bloods”) refers to one’s ancestry, the “will of the flesh” to sexual desire, and “the will of man” to the desire of a husband. Here it is made clear that salvation comes by means of the initiative of God’s sovereign grace (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23). John said in his first epistle, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (1 John 5:1).
Jesus Christ is “the light of the world” and He alone has “the light of life” (John 8:12). All humanity is in darkness, but by means of God’s sovereign grace, people can come and receive Christ by trusting in Him alone for their salvation. Paul said to the converted Colossians, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).