The Word as the Life, Light, and Liberator of Men
Text: John 1:4-5
One of the ancient masters of rhetoric, Aristotle, taught that in organized speech you should use this three-fold formula: tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them. And certainly it seems that John followed at least the first two points of this.
He is presenting a case for who Jesus really is through revealing what Jesus did. His purpose is not to give a full account of all Jesus did, but to give those accounts which bolster his main thrust to reveal His person.
As we dealt with v1-3 last week, we stated that what John is revealing here in the Eternality, Personality, Deity, and Authority of the Word is something he is not just saying, but he is going to substantiate these statements through the gospel.
And the same is true of v4-5 that we’re looking at tonight. John is telling us what he is going to tell us, and then he is going to tell us i.e. he is going to substantiate these statements.
What we find here are three themes he will develop; The Word as the Life, Light, and Liberator of Men.
I. THE WORD AS THE LIFE – “In him was life…”
Life is mentioned more than any other book. And there is logic in his argument. v3 – we stated that He is the ultimate authority over all creation. And since that is the case, it stands to reason that in Him is life.
Having brought all Creation into existence, John now speaks of life. What is Creation without life? You take life out of this world, and you’re left with buildings and structures, etc. You take life out of the world without man’s structures, and you have nothing but a large rock! A huge inanimate object.
John is clarifying that it’s not just that He makes life and upholds life, but that He is life. “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” Jn 5:26. It’s what Paul preaches in Acts 17:28 “in him we live, and move and have our being.”
All life is in the Word. Physical life is in Him. He upholds all things (Heb 1:3). However, John is specifically thinking of spiritual life, and He will discuss this and prove this over and over again.
It is the life of Jn 3:16; Jn 10:10; Jn 14:6, et al. And it is incomparable to anything else. It is not about making this life a bed of roses. It’s about a life sourced in God that joins us to God. A life which brings us into communion with the Triune God, so that we receive the Spirit “whom the world cannot receive” (14:17), as well as what Jesus promised, “…and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (14:23). A life that will hit its eternal apex in glory.
“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” Jn 11:25
And of course, John uses contrasting imagery here to drive home the importance of this life, for he will tell us of it’s opposite; eternal death. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Jn 3:36
So how do we get this life? It is by receiving that which is revealed in the opening verses – the Word. Those who live most, will live mostly in the Word. That’s seen in Ps 1.
II. THE WORD AS THE LIGHT – “and the life was the light of men.”
In the rest of his book, John is largely interested in ‘light’ and ‘life’ as they relate to salvation: the ‘light’ is revelation which people may receive in active faith and be saved, the ‘life’ is either resurrection life or spiritual life that is its foretaste.
This is the first thing we’re told specifically that God spoke into existence in Gen 1. And it’s purpose is obvious. Light is given to aid vision. Without it, vision does not function. We are left in darkness, and might as well be blind. Isaiah speaking of Christ said, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Is 9:2.
Man naturally lives in darkness, and Jesus comes to give sight, as we discover in John 9. And Jesus reveals God by the light He gives, “And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.” Jn 12:45 and “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” Jn 14:9. Without Christ, the landscape of the world is one of complete spiritual darkness.
“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Jn 8:12. “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jn 9:5
“Let your light so shine before men…” Matt 5:16. This is a received light. A reflected light. Christ is the sun, we are the moon. If we don’t abide in the presence of the sun, we can’t reflect its light. But isn’t it a wonder that in relation to Jn 9:5, WE are not the light bearers for God? And thus it is His desire as Rom 8:29 declares, to conform us to the image of his Son. Oh beloved, let us be as true light bearers as is possible for us to be.
There can be no peaceful co-existence between light and darkness. For the child of God who has light, darkness is a constant battle and war. For those who do not battle, but embrace darkness, it is often reflective of the fact that there is no light present at all. Is that you?
III. THE WORD AS THE LIBERATOR
“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
Again we’re made to consider Gen 1. When did the light first shine in darkness? At the beginning. Light and darkness aren’t so much two opposing forces. Rather, darkness is nothing other than the absence of light. However, while that was the case in Creation, that’s not the case in the spiritual realm. Darkness is not merely the absence of light (though it is), it also reflects the rebellion: “Men love darkness, rather than light” Jn 3:19.
Here John reveals another theme that he will work into the gospel. A theme of ignorance and depravity. While light leads guides, darkness is the realm of the lost and the blind. And if light brings life, then darkness brings death.
And in Jn 3:19 we see the true nature of humanity without the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. He went about doing good, and that good exposed the bad in others, e.g. the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the ignorance of the Scribes, and the ruthlessness of the Romans. And the common people were no different, for they gathered as a mob to cry with one voice; crucify him!
And such a response is still the order of the day. Even the religious who call themselves Christians hate the true Christ so much that they make up a Christ of their own imagination. They are like those in John 6 whom Christ rebukes because they saw Him as some welfare benefit, as someone who would do them practical good in this life.
And that’s the kind of Jesus people want today. They want a Jesus that allows them to name it and claim it. They want a Jesus that satisfies their conscience without rebuking their sin. They want a Jesus that will give them prosperity in this life, without any real concern about the next.
Such a Christ is a figment of imagination.