So far, in the Gospel of John, we’ve seen Jesus Christ described using two words. The first was simply, “the Word,” and the second, “the Light.” The first emphasizes God’s desire to communicate with His creation. The second displays God’s ability to shine in our hearts, reveal our sin and point us in the true way.
Now, in the next verses, we are challenged to respond to the Word and the Light. There are two possible responses—and only two—rejection and reception.
9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9–13)
THE LIGHT REJECTED
John 1:9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
Note how John emphasizes that the Light—Jesus Christ, the Word—is “the true Light.” Many people have tried to say that they have a light that helps mankind or even saves mankind in some fashion.
It might be another religion or a philosophy or even a political ideal. It might be an emphasis on someone’s idea of moral behavior or more education about avoiding bad behaviors like smoking or bullying.
Our nation has tried this education bit for the last several decades. We’re good at teaching about the evils of smoking and discrimination and low self-esteem. That’s not such a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, but how has all that worked out? Not so well. There’s more violence and brokenness than ever before.
As our culture has more and more pulled a shade over the true Light, what has happened? Well, not so much good. Has it? Our culture has, for the most part, rejected the “true Light.”
Even many conservative people have abandoned a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and fellowship at a church. Instead, they use worldly means to fight for their conservative values which may or may not line up with biblical teaching. There isn’t a real and vibrant relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
What we’re seeing is nothing new. From the very beginning of Jesus’s incarnate ministry, people have been rejecting Jesus Christ.
John 1:10 He [the Word, the Light] was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not [did not recognize Him]. John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
Jesus created the world. He made every atom, every molecule, every star, every planet—you would think that when He came to earth that there would be a great reception!
But not even His own people, the Jewish people, welcomed Him. Yes, the shepherds did that night He was born, and many others did as well, but as a whole the Jewish nation and the world rejected Him. In Matthew 13, we find that even Jesus’s hometown had problems accepting Him:
54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? 57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. 58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:54–58)
One of the most dramatic rejections of Jesus came during the time of His birth, in an account that we don’t find repeated often in manger scenes or Christmas plays. It’s found in Matthew 2.
When the wise men from the East arrived to worship the baby Jesus, they quite naturally assumed that He would be in the capital city of Jerusalem. So they asked around Jerusalem where the new “King of the Jews” had been born.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3)
What? No excitement? Herod and the people of Jerusalem were instead deeply disturbed!
This caused the insanely jealous Herod to try to con the wise men into finding the baby Jesus and reporting back to himself so that he also might “worship” the new King. The wise men, warned by God, did not do this and, as a result, one of the horrific massacres of all history occurred.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Beth-lehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. (Matthew 2:16)
Why did Herod and so many others reject Jesus? Why do so many do so today? Because they “knew him not.” The word “knew” [ginōskō] is a very common Greek word, but in this context, it has to do with recognizing something or someone.
Why did Jesus come to earth as a baby instead of a conquering hero? Why did He go through the pain and humility of growing up—of being a teenager? The prime reason is that He identified with us so that He could die for us.
But another reason is that it made Him harder to recognize, which, ironically, is a good thing. If He had come in full glory as the Son of God (like He will in the end), then people would have to accept Him intellectually, even if in their hearts they did not.
There would be no need for faith, just a grudging acceptance of a ruler of whose presence and power that you cannot deny. If you are an atheist today, rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ, then you have God to thank for that freedom! He has designed things so that you can reject Him if you so desire.
God doesn’t want us to bow before Him because we have to. He wants our worship, yes, but He wants us to freely give it. He wants a loving, father-child relationship with us.
But, for that free worship to be possible, God also made it possible for us to reject Him. Many do, in fact, but for those who receive Him, they enter into the most wonderful of relationships. They become children of the Creator of the universe!
THE LIGHT RECEIVED
John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons [children] of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Let’s unpack this wonderful verse:
“But as many as”—Anyone can come to Jesus. This is not limited to Jews or whites or some special class of people only. It’s not limited to those who are morally good. The gospel is for everyone and anyone who comes will not be denied salvation.
“received him”—What does it mean to receive Jesus? John explains it at the end of the verse, “even to them that believe on his name.” Receiving is believing. But the believing here is specific, it’s not just believing anything.
Our culture likes to talk about believing. “Just believe” is a popular saying. You see it on t-shirts, in movies, and it’s giving out as pop-psych advice. But it’s possible to believe and not to be saved (James 2:19). King Agrippa was like that. Turn to Acts 26, which gives us the account of Paul testifying before Festus and Agrippa. Paul explained the gospel to them:
22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: 23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22–23)
26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. (Acts 26:26–28)
John is careful to say that we must believe on “his name,” that is, Jesus’s name. What does it mean to believe in His name? It means to believe in all that Jesus is revealed to be. He is the Lamb, or the substitute sacrifice, for our sins. He rose from the dead. These are important facts about Jesus. But believing (and receiving) is more than just accepting these facts intellectually. Receiving…believing is trusting in those facts.
Have you noticed in the Bible that the word “believe” is normally followed by a preposition like “in” or “on” (e.g., “whosoever believeth in him,” John 3:16)? The reason for that is that it indicates a confidence or reliance on someone. When we say to someone, “I believe in you,” we aren’t indicating that we intellectually acknowledge their existence. We are saying that we trust them. That we have confidence in them.
John Paton was a missionary to islands in the South Pacific in the late 1800s. Part of his ministry was to translate the Bible into the language of the tribes that God had sent him to. He struggled to find a word in the native’s language to use to translate the Greek word for “believe.” These were cannibals and, as such, they had no concept of trust in their language.
One day, either Paton or one of his native helpers (there are conflicting stories) was sitting in a chair when Paton realized that it was like trust because he was “resting his whole weight on the chair.” So he asked his native helper what the word was for sitting in a chair and that was the word Paton used for “believe”—“resting his whole weight upon.”
The synonyms for “believe” in the Bible also demonstrate trust or confidence. For instance,
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)
You don’t call on someone you don’t trust.
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)
You don’t come and take something unless you trust the person giving it. In fact, the word “receive” in John 1:12 illustrates this beautifully. Do you believe that Jesus can save you from your sin? Good. Have you received His gift of salvation? It’s like a Christmas gift—you haven’t really received it until you have opened it! Or, it’s like…
A man is rushed to the hospital where a doctor examines him and informs him that he is critically ill. The patient is told that he will die unless he gets proper treatment. The physician then prescribes medicine for the sick man and says, “If you will take this, I can assure you with absolute certainty that you will get well.”
Now, what should the man do? Should he just lie there on his sickbed and believe that the doctor knows his business, that he has diagnosed his illness correctly, and that the prescription will surely make him well? No, that is not enough. If that is all he does, he will die. To live, he must take the medicine. (Thomas L. Constable, Constable’s Notes on John, n.d)
What happens when you receive Jesus Christ—when you believe in His name—when you trust Him? He gives you the “power to become the sons of God.” The Greek word “sons” [teknon] here is normally translated “children” (e.g., Luke 23:28).
Being a child of God means that you have been born again (cf. John 3:3ff). And, while this happens when you believe in the name of Jesus, it is not any work of your own.
John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood [natural descent], nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
There are three phrases that John uses here. Commentators have differing interpretations of exactly what each means, but the overall picture is very clear: salvation isn’t our work!
You aren’t saved because of the bloodline that you came from (the Jews thought they were saved because they were physically Jews).
In the same way, you aren’t saved because you came from a Christian family. (You know, being in a garage doesn’t make you a car, and being a church attender or coming from a Christian family doesn’t make you a Christian). You aren’t saved because you decided to turn over a new leaf and live a more moral life.
Being born again is like being born the first time. You didn’t have anything to do with it!
How does one become a child of God? It is, John says, because “of God.” It is His work and His gift to us. All we need to do is believe and receive this wonderful gift called salvation.
How does one go about receiving this gift? If you are saved, how do you go about sharing this gift of salvation?
1) You (or the one that you are speaking to) must admit that you, like the world, have not really recognized Who Jesus Christ is. That you have rejected Him. This is what the essence of sin is, rejecting God and His ways.
Have you ever thought that the command God gave to Adam not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree was a little, well, nit-picky? When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, their sin wasn’t just that they disobeyed an odd command from God. Their sin was that they rejected God, they did not trust His way.
2) You must admit that there is no way for you to repair the damage done by your sin yourself. Unlike in human relationships where you can buy flowers to smooth things over, the damage in rejecting God is too great for you to repair. Thatʼs why John says that we are not born again of flesh or man, but of God.
3) You must believe in all Who Christ is—in the name of Jesus. You must understand that He has stepped in to take your place. That He is the only one who can bring God the flowers to smooth things over. You must believe that about Him and you must trust Him to do it. When you do, you will be born again—you will be a true child of God.
Levi Durfey—LDM-43-John 1.9-13-20191215FBCAM-SERMON