Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | July 4, 2007

Lesson 2: John 1:6-13

Text: John 1:6-13

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And 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. 15(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.'”) 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God; the only God,[d] who is at the Father’s side,[e] he has made him known.

Brief Commentary on the Text:

The Apostle continues in the introduction of this Gospel building upon the foundation laid in the first five verses.  This foundation established who Christ was, what He has done in creation, what He continues to do for life as we know it and that He was (is) the true Light of men revealing the Gospel to those in darkness.  Certainly, Christ, the Word, was the main character of the previous verses. In this section of the introduction the Apostle brings in another character who is carefully distinguished from the main character.  Although, John the Baptist was an important figure within redemptive history John the Apostle is careful to differentiate him from the Light.  This is to emphasize the superiority that our Lord has over all other men even John the Baptist who was held in high esteem (Matt 11:11).  He then provides a summary of our Lord’s earthly mission, which was to come as the consolation of Israel, the long awaited Messiah from the line of David.  However, He was not received by them being despised and rejected by the tenants of the vineyard.  This was not done out of ignorance since there was at least one who bore witness about this truth.  In fact, despite Israel’s rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah there were some who received the Gospel message.  The Apostle then makes some remarkable statements in verses 12 and 13 of this introductory chapter.  Those that received Him by believing in His name were given “the right to become children of God.”  Contrary to popular belief not everyone can claim to be a child of God.  This may be surprising, but the belief that we (humanity) are all children of God is not a biblical one.  The way that John makes it sound here and in his letter (1 John 3:1) demonstrates how foreign this idea was to the first century mind.  They would not presume to nonchalantly claim such a great privilege as some are inclined to do so today.   Moreover, the Apostle adds to this by stating this benefit is reserved only for those who undergo an extraordinary birth generated by God.  This gracious initiative that God instigates by intruding into our wicked, callous, rebellious hearts to generate faith is indispensable for salvation.

After discussing some complex concepts in the previous verses, John the Apostle here articulates in a compact manner the message of the Gospel.  As foretold for many centuries the voice crying in the wilderness would come to prepare the way of the Lord (Is 40:3).  The virgin with Child (Is 7:14) would bear a Son and He would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace (Is 9).  He would come to His own nation and be rejected; a man of sorrows, smitten, afflicted and suffering greatly for the sins of the many (Is 53).  And it would be those, whose sins were satisfied who would be granted the right to become the children of God and partake in the everlasting life of the age to come.  This is the good news in summary form that would be unpacked in the subsequent chapters of this Gospel by the Apostle.      

Study Questions:

1.  Who was John? And what did he testify about?

2.  Why was the author careful to distinguish that John was not the light?

3.  Why does the author provide emphasis by using the term “true light”? Does the true light enlighten “every” man?  Or is every man that is enlightened, enlightened by Him?

The true light of was:  For as Christ makes us all partakers of his brightness, it must be acknowledged that to him alone belongs strictly this honour of being called light.7The adjective that is used in such statements is not the ordinary form alethes, but the stronger form alethinos.  One might say that the entire supernal sphere is made up of ‘alethinites’.  The objectivity of the concept becomes most apparent by observing that this heavenly truth is, as it were, condensed, incorporated in the heavenly Logos:  He is the truth, not, of course, because He is veracious and reliable, but simply, because He has the reality of heaven in Himself. 8 

4.  Why did the world not recognize Him?

He was in the world:  He accuses men of ingratitude, because of their own accord, as it were, they were so blinded, that the cause of the light which they enjoyed was unknown to them.9 

5.  Why did Israel have this privilege of receiving the Messiah? Why did Israel not recognize Him? 

He came into his own:  Here both the Verb and the Noun are highly emphatic.  He came.  The Evangelist says that the Son of God came to that place where he formerly was; and by this expression he must mean a new and extraordinary kind of presence, by which the Son of God was manifested (revealed), so that men might have a nearer view of him.  Into his own. By this phrase the Evangelist compares the Jews with other nations; because by an extraordinary privilege they had been adopted into the family of God.10 

6.  How do we receive Him? 

Who believe in his name:  Having been ingrafted into Christ by faith, we obtain the right of adoption, so as to be the sons of God.  And, indeed, as he is the only begotten Son of God, it is only so far as we are members of him that this honour at all belongs to us. 11

7.  Why is it significant that we are called children of God?

He gave them power: …Christ gave to the unclean and the uncircumcised what appeared to be impossible; for an incredible change took place when out of stones Christ raised up children to God (Matt 3:9).  The power, therefore, is that fitness (ikanoteys)  which Paul mentions, when he gives thanks to God, who hath made us FIT (or meet) to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints, (Col 1:12).12

8.  What does the author mean that we have to be born of God?  Why does he disqualify certain types of birth?

Who were not born of blood: John, therefore, says, that those among the formerly unclean Gentiles who believe in Christ are not born the sons of God from the womb, but are renewed by God, that they may begin to be his sons.  The reason why he uses the word blood in the plural number appears to have been, that he might express more fully a long succession of lineage; for this was a part of the boasting among the Jews, that they could trace their descent, by an uninterrupted line, upwards to the patriarchs. 13 

9.  Is this excluding any contribution that we can make to our re-birth?  Why or Why not?  If so, does it bother you? 

The will of the flesh and the will of man:  Though he refers directly to the Jews, who gloried in the flesh, yet from this passage a general doctrine may be obtained: that our being reckoned the sons of God does not belong to our nature, and does not proceed from us, but because God begat us WILLINGLY, (James 1:18) that is, from undeserved love.  Hence it follows, first, that faith does not proceed from ourselves, but is the fruit of spiritual regeneration; for the Evangelist affirms that no man can believe, unless he be begotten of God; and therefore faith is a heavenly gift.  It follows, secondly, that faith is not bare or cold knowledge, since no man can believe who has not been renewed by the Spirit of God…For since faith as we have said, receives Christ, it puts us in possession, so to speak, of all his blessings.  Thus so far as respects our sense, it is only after having believed – that we begin to be the sons of God.  But if the inheritance of eternal life is the fruit of adoption, we see how the Evangelist ascribes the whole of our salvation to the grace of Christ alone; and indeed, how closely soever men examine themselves, they will find nothing that is worthy of the children of God except what Christ has bestowed on them. 14

7 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 37

8 Geerhardus Vos (1948) Biblical Theology Old Testament and New Testaments (Banner of Truth Trust, 2000) 356

9 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 38

10 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 39-40

11 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 42

12 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 41-42

13 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 43

14 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 43-44

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