We are continuing our study of the Fourth Gospel. Lazarus opens his Gospel with 18 verses that we would call a prologue. In this opening prologue he makes his thesis statement. And the statement is that: Yeshua is Yahweh in human flesh; that Yeshua is the Creator of the universe who has become a part of His creation; He is the eternal God who has become a man. That is Lazarus' message: that Yeshua is not a created man; He is God in human flesh. And that is the most essential doctrine in the Christian faith.
The prologue contains practically all the central ideas contained in the Gospel itself. The first section of the prologue (vv. 1-5) presents the pre-incarnate Word. The second section (vv. 6-8) identifies the forerunner of the Word's earthly ministry. This third section introduces the ministry of the Incarnate Word. Then starting in verse 19 he goes into the narrative part of it in which he starts to tell the story of Yeshua's life in the world. We looked last week at:
There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. John 1:6-8 NASB
These verses are polemic because there were some people in John's day that were wondering if he might be the Messiah—God's Light. So Lazarus makes it clear that John is a man, who came to be a witness, he was not the Light. So Lazarus introduces us to John, not in a sense of all of his biography, which we find in the Synoptics, but here we are introduced to John only in the sense that we get a look at his ministry as a witness to the Light.
In contrast to John, who was merely a lamp, Yeshua was the true Light:
There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. John 1:9 NASB
As we have seen over the past few weeks, the "true Light" is the pre-incarnate Christ, the Second Person of the Godhead, who Lazarus calls "the Word."
If we compare this verse to the KJV we see some interpretive problems:
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. John 1:9 KJV
So we have to ask does "coming into the world" modify "man" as the KJV or does it refer to the Light as in the NASB, ESV, and NIV? Grammatically, it could refer to either. But here it is best seen as referring to the Light because the phrase "coming into the world" is repeatedly used in the Fourth Gospel to refer to Yeshua leaving heaven, the spiritual realm, and entering the physical realm of time and space (6:14; 11:27; 16:28; 18:37). And the next two verses talk about Yeshua being in the world and coming to His own. So I think it is best to see this as the NASB translates it: Yeshua, the Light, comes into the world. "Coming into the world"—in this verse it seems to refer to Yeshua's incarnation. This is one of the common dualisms of what is called "Johanine Literature" (i.e., above vs. below).
The word "true" is one that John used repeatedly in this Gospel. "True" is from the Greek alethinon, which here refers to what is the ultimate form of the genuine article, the real as opposed to the counterfeit:
No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14 NASB
Yeshua is the "true Light." In the Jewish mind that phrase would mean the authentic and dependable Light.
In the Tanakh the prophets make God's "Light" a dominant messianic theme:
The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. Isaiah 9:2 NASB
He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." Isaiah 49:6 NASB
Understanding these texts, the Israelites should have been waiting for the Light that Lazarus is talking about. Isaiah also says:
"Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. "For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. "Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1-3 NASB
As we see here, God's Light came to Israel who was to share that Light with the nations. Abraham saw it in his vision of the smoking oven and the flaming torch, Moses saw it in the burning bush, Israel saw it in the pillar of cloud/fire, and the High Priest saw it in the Shekinah glory over the Ark of the Covenant. So when Lazarus says that Yeshua is the Light he is saying that He is the fulfillment of Israel's hopes, He is the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies.
We know from the New Testament that Yeshua was working in the Tanakh. He was a spiritual rock, for example, that brought water to the children of Israel in the wilderness. We know that He was actually the One on the throne in Isaiah 6 of whom the angelic throne guardian said, "Holy, holy, holy." We know that He is the Savior of Isaiah 52 and 53, the One who would be our substitute. But there's still shadow around that until we come into the New Testament and the Light arriving illuminates Himself:
Then Yeshua again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." John 8:12 NASB
Back to verse 9:
There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. John 1:9 NASB
What does he mean by "enlightens every man"?
Robertson writes, "The Quakers appeal to this phrase for their belief that to every man there is given an inner light that is a sufficient guide; the Quaker's text it is called. But it may only mean that all the real light that men receive comes from Christ, not necessarily that each one receives a special revelation" (Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:9). The Quakers believe a person can elicit that revelation by meditation. This is not general, but special revelation.
Wesleyans argue that this verse teaches that God has given all people "prevenient grace," which gives them the ability to choose or reject salvation. But that view contradicts the many verses that declare fallen man's inability to choose God (Luke 10:22; John 8:43; Rom. 3:10-18; 8:7-8; 9:16; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4); (see Thomas Schreiner, Still Sovereign [Baker], ed. by Thomas Schreiner & Bruce Ware, pp. 229-246).
Some see this verse as talking about general revelation, which they see coming through creation. While others, like Calvin, see this referring to the light of conscience that bears witness of God. To support his view, Calvin uses:
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, Romans 2:14-15 NASB
The misinterpretation of these verses has led to great misunderstanding. Many see these verses as saying that God has written on the heart of every man a basic moral code. That code is similar to the things contained in the Ten Commandments. This universal moral code consists of things like: "Do not steal," "Do not cheat," "Tell the truth," and so on.
The NASB's "instinctively" and the KJV's and NIV's "by nature" are from the Greek word phusis. Paul uses this word to refer to the possession of the Law. So "phusis" goes with the possession of the Law, not with the doing of the Law. That is those who do not have the Law instinctively or by nature—in other words, Gentiles. Paul is here distinguishing between Jews who are born with Torah, and Gentiles who by nature or birth do not have the Law. Yet these Gentiles are doing the things of the Law.
Who are these Gentile Law keepers? They are Gentile Christians! We could translate it: "For when Gentiles who by nature do not have the Law, do what the Law requires, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves." They don't have the Law, but they do the things of the Law. How is that possible? They are Christian Gentiles, they have trusted Christ, and the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in them. How? Verse 15 tells us: "They show the work of the Law written in their hearts"—the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in them because it has been written on their hearts.
"Enlightens every man"—the Greek verb means: "to shed light upon or to make visible." This isn't referring to inner illumination, but to the objective revelation or Light that came into the world through the incarnation (Carson, p. 124; Schreiner, p. 240).
"Every man"—the ancient world was exclusive. The Jew hated the Gentile and the Gentile hated the Jew. The Greek world never dreamed that knowledge was for every man. The Roman world looked down on barbarians. But Yeshua came to be the Light to every man.
Keener writes, "Yet 'every person' could mean 'any person,' indicating universal availability in the relevant cases; given the variation of usage for such common terms, lexical meaning cannot decide the sense of this verse." [ Craig S. Keener, Gospel of John page 394].
We could see this as the Light shines on every man, and divides the race: Those who hate the Light respond as the world does (1:10); they flee lest their deeds should be exposed by this Light:
"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. "But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." John 3:19-21 NASB
But some receive this revelation, and thereby testify that their deeds have been done through God (3:21). In the Fourth Gospel it is repeatedly the case that the Light shines on all, and forces a distinction (e.g. 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:39-41).
"Enlightens every man"—can mean if we are enlightened, we are enlightened only by Christ. Luther gave it that meaning. He said, "There is only one Light that lighteth all men, and no man comes into the world who can possibly be illumined by any other light."
Augustine, who was probably the teacher of Luther, saw the same thing in this text. He said, "Jesus Christ is the only man who ever gives Light to anyone. If anyone is enlightened, it is because of Jesus Christ."
The only Light the world has is Christ. He is the only Light that can enlighten anyone and everyone. His light is the only sufficient light:
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. John 1:10 NASB
Someone has said, "Irony is painted all over verse 10!" "He was in the world," i.e. He who created the world, He in whom everything has its existence, He who is the very life of every man, and He who is the Light of men, He actually came into the world. Yeshua entered "the world" that He had created at the Incarnation.
The word "world" is from the Greek word kosmos, it is used 3 different ways in this Gospel. It can refer to the physical world in which we live. Lazarus uses the word that way twice in the beginning of this verse, "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him." "World" can also refer to the spiritually corrupt world system dominated by Satan. Thirdly, "world" can refer to mankind—the whole human race (Jn 3:16).
Using this third use of "world," Lazarus says, "and the world did not know Him"—because people's minds had become darkened by the Fall and sin (12:37). Even the Light of the World was incomprehensible to them. In Matthew 13:55 the people say, "Is this not the carpenter's son?" They had no idea who He was, they didn't know Him.
As disturbing as verse 10 is, the next phrase is gut wrenching:
He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. John 1:11 NASB
Remember that Lazarus wrote from the perspective of seeing much of the first century having passed, with many of his Jewish friends refusing to believe in the name of Yeshua.
There are two different words employed by John, with a slightly different meaning. The first "His own" is ta idia, which is a neuter plural noun, which means: "the things that belonged to him." Here it probably means: "the entire cultural heritage of Israel." The second "His own," hoi idioi, here a masculine plural noun meaning: "His own people." Young's Literal catches this difference:
to his own things he came, and his own people did not receive him; John 1:11 YLT
What does Lazarus mean by "the things that belonged to Him" and "His own people"?
The specific people whom Yeshua visited in the Incarnation were the Jews. They were "His own" in a double sense. He had not only created them, but had also "bought" them
for Himself out from the nations.
When the Word of God entered the world, He did not come to Rome or to Greece or to Egypt or to the Eastern Empires, He came to Palestine: Palestine was Yahweh's land and the Jews were His people:
"The LORD will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Zechariah 2:12 NASB
They will not remain in the LORD'S land, But Ephraim will return to Egypt, And in Assyria they will eat unclean food. Hosea 9:3 NASB
The Jewish nation is Yahweh's peculiar treasure:
'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; Exodus 19:5 NASB
For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession. Psalms 135:4 NASB
When Lazarus says "the things that belonged to Him" he had to have in the back of his mind Deuteronomy 32:
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 ESV
These two verses are fundamental for understanding the world view of Old Covenant Israel. These verses explain both the existence of the foreign pantheons and their inferiority to Yahweh.
The word "portion" here is cheleq, a noun related to nachal. The word "inheritance" is nachal. Verse 9 clearly presents the nation of Israel (here called "Jacob") as an allotted inheritance of Yahweh. Whereas the inheritance of the nations was the sons of God.
Israel was Yahweh's, they belonged to Him; they were His people, but when He came to them they "did not receive Him"—the verb here can mean "accept," but it also has the sense of receiving a tradition or an inheritance. In other words, the very cultural setting in which He should have been recognized and received had become the darkness that did not understand the Light.
This word "receive" is one of intimate fellowship. It's the word that is used of Joseph when after he is told by the angel that Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit, he receives her into his home as his wife, into the most intimate of relationships, husband and wife. So he came to His own things and His own people did not welcome Him into fellowship.
He came to His own people, born in Bethlehem of the family of David, heir to the Davidic throne; He came to His own things and His own people, His own friends, His own relatives, His own kinsman did not receive Him.
Of all people that should have recognized the Messiah, Israel should have known Him from the start. They had the Law and Prophets that had foretold of the Christ. They sang the Psalms that told of His coming, His suffering, His exaltation, and His rule. It was the very people who claimed to believe in the true God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Tanakh.
Barker writes, "This is the major theme of the Gospel: the Jews did not accept Him and did not recognize Him because they had lost touch with those very temple traditions that would have enabled them to know who He was. Even though they are not mentioned in the nativity stories until the eighth century CE, 31, the ox and the ass of Isaiah's oracle were soon used in Christian art as symbols of the Jews' failure to understand. Justin, in the mid-second century, said this had been prophesied by Isaiah." (King Of The Jews, Temple Theology in John's Gospel, Margaret Barker)
"An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master's manger, But Israel does not know, My people do not understand." Isaiah 1:3 NASB
Yeshua lived and walked among His people for thirty-three years. For thirty years in Nazareth, the people had Him in their neighborhood, and the first time He came back to preach, they tried to kill Him. For three years He ministered in the land of Israel and raised the dead, banished illness, demolished demons, demonstrated His power over nature: controlled storms, walked on water. He showed His creative power. And His peoples' response was, "Crucify Him!"
Our Lord talked about His own rejection in the parable of the "wicked tenant farmers" in Matthew 21:33-46:
"Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. "When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. "The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. "Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. "But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' "But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' "They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. "Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?" They *said to Him, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons." Matthew 21:33-41 NASB
Yeshua came to His own as Yahweh in human flesh, they handed Him over to their Roman enemies, and cried out "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Thank God that is not the end of the story:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, John 1:12 NASB
The word "but" makes a dramatic shift from the previous unbelief. "But as many as received Him," or believed in Him, He gave the privilege to become children of God. Receiving Yeshua consists of believing "in His name." Believing, therefore, equals receiving.
"To them He gave the right to become children of God"—the word "right" is from the Greek exousia, which means: "in the sense of ability or privilege." It meant: "the legal right or the personal ability to accomplish or receive something."
Lindars notes, "John does not mean that those who respond have a mysterious power within themselves, nor does he mean that they have personal rights against God. He means that the way is opened for God's purpose to be fulfilled in them."
The authority to become God's children emphasizes divine authorization to become what no human effort could accomplish.
Cole writes, "The 'right' means a legitimate claim, much like a birth certificate proves that you are the child of your natural father. The fact that those who believe 'become children of God' means that all people are not God's children by natural birth. To become God's child requires a spiritual new birth (1:13; 3:1-8)."
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 1 John 3:1 NASB
Believers, we have the legitimate right to be called the "children of God."
"To become"—is from the Greek word ginomai, which means: "to come to be, to enter into a different form of existence." We were not, but have now become the children of God. So the true nature of a believer is not a follower of somebody in the sense of a student, not a person who is guided by a moral code, or an ethical system, but the true nature of a believer is that he is a new creation, a child of God.
"Even to those who believe in His name"—to "believe in His name" means: "to accept the revelation of who Yeshua is that God has given." The Hebrew word for "name" is shem; this comes from neshemah, which we see in:
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Genesis 2:7 NASB
The word "breath" here is neshemah. Your shem is your breath. In Hebraic thought, your breath is your character, it's what makes you you. It's what makes you different from everybody else. You can replace the word "name" in the Bible with "character."
To the ancients one's name expressed the sum of the qualities that marked the nature or character of that person. To believe in the name of Yeshua is to accept as true the revelation contained in that name: because Yeshua died as a substitute sacrifice in the place of sinners, belief involves relying on Yeshua for salvation rather than on self. It is believing that Yeshua is fully man and fully God come to redeem the world. Thomas Aquinas wrote about this passage: "Those who believe in His name are those who fully hold the name of Christ not in any way lessening His divinity or His humanity." [St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary of St. John, 1:12-13].
Believers were given the means to access what "His own" had rejected. In the Synoptic Gospels, this is expressed in the parable of the vineyard, where the current tenants of the vineyard reject the owner's Son and so lose their right to the vineyard (Mark 12.1- 12 and parallels).
Let me ask you a question: "Can you deny the Trinity and believe in His name?" My answer to that question would be: "It depends on how you deny the Trinity." Someone wrote to me and said, "Here is why I don't believe God is a 'trinity.' Don't get me wrong, I do agree with a lot of concepts of Trinitarians, but I just can't get on board with 'beings/persons' belief of Trinitarians. Here is why: God is one (not 3 in 1-Isaiah 44:6, Deut 6:4). Yeshua is the Word of God, which is God (John 1:1). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God (2 Corinth 3:17, Romans 8:9). There is no separation of beings here. God is the I AM, the Being of All beings. He created beings. He can't have separate beings in Him."
He says that he doesn't believe in the Trinity, but he does believe that Yeshua is God. So to my understanding, he is believing in His name. Because Yeshua is Yahweh. What this man believes would be called Modalism. And as I said earlier in this study, the first verse in John destroys Modalism, which denies the distinction of Persons in the Trinity—"He was with God."
There is a Preterist site that has an article on it that denies the Trinity and deity of Christ (http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/trinity.html). There is no name on the article, but whoever wrote it said, "Jesus was called 'God,' but does that mean Jesus was equal to the Creator Himself?" This writer denies the Trinity and the deity of Christ. This man cannot "believe in His name" because Yeshua is Yahweh and he denies this. His trust is in a man.
Lazarus goes on to say:
who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:13 NASB
The antecedent of "who" is those who believe in Yeshua's name (v. 12). Lazarus defines this supernatural birth into divine son-ship in the negative by listing three ways we were not born into God's Covenant Family.
"Not of blood"—literally, the text reads, "Who were born, not of bloods …" "Bloods" probably indicates the two parents necessary for a human birth, and this verse emphasizes that the birth of the children of God is not a normal physical process. To the ancients all bodily fluids were part of the life force.
Hall Harris writes, "At least some sources in antiquity imply that blood was thought of as being important in the development of the fetus during its time in the womb: thus Wisdom of Solomon 7:1: 'in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh, within the period of 10 months, compacted with blood, from the seed of a man and the pleasure of marriage.' In John 1:13, the plural "bloods" may imply the action of both parents. It may also refer to the 'genetic' contribution of both parents, and so be equivalent to 'human descent.'"(https://Bible.org/series/Commentary-Gospel-John)
Spiritual birth does not come because of their "blood," namely, their physical ancestors (descent). Many of the Jews believed that because they were Abraham's descendants, they were automatically the spiritual children of God (John 8; Rom. 4; Gal. 3).
"Nor of the will of the flesh"—this refers to human sexual impulse, not born by human sexual impulse. That children were conceived in parental passion was a common ancient view. One Greek philosopher remarked that children need not be grateful to their parents for conceiving them; most parents acted from passion rather than forethought.
Flesh here is sarx, and in the Fourth Gospel it does not convey the evil sense common in Pauline usage. Here it is used for the physical nature. This is confirmed in the next verse where it says, "The Word became flesh." The flesh cannot produce children of God. Crossing the boundary from the world's realm to God's realm is possible only by divine agency.
"Nor of the will of man"—the word that John uses here for man is andros, which speaks of a male, not the generic term for mankind. This word is often translated as "husband." The NIV interpreted it properly as "husband" here. This probably refers to the father's authority in deciding to have a child. Spiritual life does not come because of a human decision.
Three different expressions of human reproduction, "of bloods," "will of the flesh," and "will of man," are denied as effective in creating children of God. Rather the children of God are those who are born of (the Greek literally has out of) God.
This verse actually ends with, "Born of God"—which is "Ek theos gennao." The Greek verb gennao is an aorist passive indicative and is placed last in the Greek sentence for emphasis. This emphasizes the initiating and sovereign role of God in the new birth.
God's answer to the deadness and blindness and darkness of the world is the new birth. Do you remember what Yeshua said to Nicodemus in John 3?:
Yeshua answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3 NASB
You can't see it. And so you can't receive it. And so you can't enter it. Everything hangs on being born again.
The question is often asked, "Do we first believe and then are born again, or are we born again and then believe?" Lazarus answers that question in:
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 ESV
"Whoever believes" is present tense and "has been born" is perfect tense. So believing in Christ is evidence of the new birth. You believe because you have life.
John Stott, commenting on this verse, writes,"It shows clearly that believing is the consequence, not the cause, of the new birth. Our present, continuing activity of believing is the result, and therefore the evidence, of our past experience of new birth by which we became and remain God's children." (The Epistles of John, Eerdmans, p. 172).
Spiritual life is ultimately the result of God's choice, not man's:
But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. "For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'" When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. Acts 13:45-48 NASB
Paul tells us plainly in Romans 9, "It's not of him that willeth or him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." Salvation is of the Lord. It's amazing, as often as it is set forth plainly in the Word of God, there are individuals who are still shaped by human philosophy, and they love the idea of free will.
Let me share with you an interesting side note on verse 13. The great majority of the manuscripts of the Fourth Gospel, some of which go back very early, read as the NASB reads, "Who were born," the reference being to the many who have received Him, but some of the ancient manuscripts read not, "Who were born," but "Who was born," singular.
Now if this is correct, then this text becomes a text that is suggestive of the virgin birth of the Lord Yeshua the Christ. However in the light of the fact that the manuscripts are relatively few and not nearly so ancient as some of the others that read the plural, the plural is probably correct.
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